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House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was taxes.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 25th, 2007 / 10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, while reducing personal taxes and significantly reducing corporate taxes to make the economy more competitive, and reducing debt, the government must also drive greater Canadian productivity by making investments in things such as:

physical infrastructure, new technologies, research and development, better access to post-secondary education, making it easier for immigrants to use their skills and increasing the number of skilled workers in Canada; and the government must avoid making mistakes such as breaking its promise not to tax income trusts, eliminating interest deductibility and proposing to end prudence from the federal budgeting process.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would remind hon. members that when a motion is being read, members are not to make any noise or disturbance in the House. There is a standing order to that effect.

On debate, the hon. member for Markham--Unionville.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this motion. I would like to share my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Kings—Hants.

What I would like to do in my time is tell members about what I believe to be the core of Liberal economic policy as expressed in the motion and compare that with the economic approach of the Conservatives and the NDP.

In a nutshell, I would state that the Liberal position on economic policy is to build a richer Canada in the medium term.

Why a richer Canada? In part, because our citizens and their families want a better quality of life. And in order to create social justice, we must also create wealth. Thus, wealth must be created in the medium term.

Why in the medium term? Because, even though the economy may be doing quite well today, for reasons totally unrelated to that government, things will not necessarily always be that way and we need to focus on the medium term in a hugely competitive world that does not owe Canada a living.

Our position is to develop a series of policies to create a richer Canada in the medium term. There are basically two elements in that strategy. On the one hand, competitive and appropriate levels of taxation and, on the other hand, investments in order to bring about this richer Canada.

On the tax side, our position is that we need broad based reductions in personal and corporate income taxes, but balanced by the need for government investment to promote that growth and balanced as well by our commitment to a greener and fairer Canada. Our leader has stressed, in particular, the importance of deeper corporate tax cuts as a primary means of achieving the investment, the rising living standards and the jobs, jobs, jobs that we all want for ourselves and our children.

In particular, now that our currency is at par, now that we do not have the crutch of a weak currency to attract investment into this country, we need to create a new Canadian advantage. The new Canadian advantage in the Liberal vision, somewhat reminiscent of the Irish experience, is to tell investors that if they invest in Canada they will pay a whole lot less corporate tax than if they invest south of the border.

The second part of the Liberal approach is not only competitive taxes but investments in research and development, access to post-secondary education, infrastructure, commercialization and skills development. Those are the two planks of the Liberal vision of how to create a richer Canada in the medium term.

I will turn to the Conservatives. Whereas our focus is on a richer Canada in the medium term, they see everything through a short term electoral lens, influenced as well by a good dose of ideology. I will give a few examples to illustrate this point.

Whereas we believe in broad based tax cuts, the Conservatives, for electoral reasons, believe in narrowly defined, boutique social engineering tax credits. They, for example, would give credits and benefits to young hockey players but would deprive young violin players of those benefits. It is our view that the decision between hockey and violin playing should rest in the family and should not be determined by the government. That is why we would give tax relief to all and not just to a select few for electoral purposes. It is they, not we, who are the social engineers in this country.

The second example is that the Conservatives, for obvious electoral purposes, decided to cut the GST and to raise income tax to do that. Just today in the Globe and Mail, 20 out of 20 economists surveyed said that this was the worst thing to do, and we concur in that, but the Conservatives did it purely because they felt they would get electoral gain. I question that too. I think most Canadians would rather have a tax cut, giving them a better paycheque, than a penny off the price of coffee at Tim Horton's.

My last example is investment. We believe in investment as an important component of our growth strategy. The Conservatives do not. We believe in supporting research and innovation in universities. They slashed that in their almost two years in power. Why did they slash it? I guess they thought there were not many votes in it. However, we think it is the right thing to do for the country.

On post-secondary education, we would put $6,000 per post-secondary student into the pockets of the students. What did the Conservatives do? A paltry, demeaning, insulting, maximum $80 tax credit for textbooks. That illustrates the differences. We are driven by the medium term creation of wealth in this country and they are driven by short term electoral considerations.

Now I will turn to the NDP. The fundamental point about the NDP is that those members do not understand economics. They never understood economics and they never will understand economics. In effect, the NDP is mired in a time warp in the 1960s. The NDP today is like the British Labour Party in the 1960s. The NDP has never had the courage or the leadership to find its own Tony Blair to lead it out of the 1960s into at least the 1970s or perhaps it could get to the 1980s, the 1990s or the new millennium, but it has not. It is mired in the 1960s. It has no vision of wealth creation and no clue how to go about it should that be its desire, which is why that party will remain a marginal protest party.

I will concede that the NDP members, like us, favour a greener, fairer Canada, but where they fall down is that they do not have a clue about how to create a richer Canada and, arguably, they do not even want one. Canadians require a governing party that can manage the economy competently, and the NDP is back in the 1960s on that topic.

I will give the House one example. At the latest NDP convention, a motion was put forward by the leader's riding association that Canada should get out of NAFTA and out of the WTO. Those members also want Canada to get out of Norad, by the way. The NDP's official policy since 1997 has been that Canada should get out of NAFTA. That was delusional, clueless, irresponsible policy and it is still characterized in the neanderthal economic thinking of the New Democratic Party.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Globophobic, socialist Luddites.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Exactly, Mr. Speaker.

I remember well the debates in the late 1980s about the free trade agreement and I remember the NDP position. The NDP members would have constructed a wall around Canada to keep everything out, a wall so high that it would be reminiscent of the wall then prevailing in communist Albania.

Canadians can see through this. The vast majority of Canadians want nothing to do with a party of economic Luddites, which is why that party is marginal, why it will remain marginal and why it is not taken seriously by the people of Canada.

If a Tony Blair were to emerge and lead the NDP to sanity, then it might be a force. However, until that day comes, it is the Liberal Party and not the New Democratic Party that is and will remain the party of choice, the natural habitat for progressive Canadians.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the comments from the member for Markham—Unionville but I would point out to him that it is time for him to read budget 2007. I know he is on the finance committee and I am sure he looked at it, at least at the front cover, but I am not sure he read it. Pages 22, 23 and 24 talk about our knowledge advantage, the things he talked about in terms of research.

I will give the House some examples. We are providing $800 million in additional money to universities. When I was knocking on doors in my own riding in July, a graduate student asked me why we were not shouting from the rooftops about the $35 million we were providing over two years and the $27 million after that to help graduate students with their work in graduate school.

We have increased people's ability to invest in RESPs. We are providing $510 million to the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. We have $120 million in CA*net , which helps connect research institutions, including universities and research hospitals, through the Internet.

There are three pages on what we are doing to help our knowledge based economy to improve our productivity. Why on earth did the member across vote against all these good things in the area of research and development in this country?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is typical Conservative hot air.

What the Conservatives did was cut all the Liberal programs on research and innovation and then brought back miserly little versions of the things they cut, re-labelled them and boasted about them.

I have spent more time in the university world than I have in politics. I have spoken to people at universities and university presidents and they are extremely depressed at the sad state of finances and support for research in which they have found themselves since the election of the Conservative government. They recall a speech given to them by the former prime minister, Mr. Chrétien, who said, “We're putting billions into research in universities. There is probably not a vote there but we're doing it because it is right for Canada”.

The new Prime Minister comes along and makes the same calculation. He sees that there are not too many votes in supporting research in universities so he cuts it all. It is right for Canada but since there are no immediate votes, the government cuts it, which is typical of its short-sighted, purely electoral approach to all things financial.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments because that means that at least he realizes we are a force in Canada. Often, when people are not being criticized, they are ignored. I thank him for at least acknowledging our presence.

Is the hon. member aware of the studies done showing that of all the political parties in Canada, the NDP has the best fiscal record and the least amount of deficit budgets?

Would the hon. member comment on the fact that when Tommy Douglas took power in Saskatchewan, he ran 17 successful balanced budgets and brought the province up from a have not province to a prosperous province?

The third question I would like to ask the member is whether he is aware that today the province of Saskatchewan was brought into prosperity because of the current NDP government.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a purely theoretical proposition that the federal NDP would run balanced budgets because it has never formed a government and never will. Therefore, that proposition will never be put to the test.

I am aware of the NDP's provincial cousins in Saskatchewan. I have a very high opinion of some of them, Allan Blakeney and others, through the history, and Tommy Douglas, yes, but the federal NDP keep invoking those people in Saskatchewan at the provincial level who have absolutely nothing to do with this lot here in Ottawa. Yes, they did a great job in Saskatchewan but no thanks to this lot in the NDP. They have never been in government as the Saskatchewan people have and they never will be, thank goodness for Canadians. Therefore, any comparison to the Saskatchewan provincial NDP and the federal NDP is utterly and totally irrelevant.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure today to speak to the motion put forward by the member for Markham—Unionville. I am always inspired by his erudite words on economic issues. It makes a big difference for our party to have him leading us on economic policy but it also informs the thinking of the House. I am certain that if the Conservatives opposite listened closely, they could learn a great deal from members on this side about economic mantra in general.

The history of tax policy goes back quite a bit. In 1678, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister of finance to Louis XIV of France, said, “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing”.

I would hope that over the last 400 years or so we have actually evolved from that and we can actually see tax policy for what it really is in the modern world: an opportunity, through reforming our tax system, to create economic growth, prosperity and a richer, fairer, cleaner and greener Canada.

There is a tremendous opportunity for governments in a large surplus position to actually reform the tax system to attract capital, to attract talent and to make Canada a global leader in what will be the fastest growing area of the global economy, that of clean energy and environmental technology.

I would like to discuss our capacity and our responsibility to reform our tax system in order to create a more open, richer and fairer economy.

The fact is there are many prescriptives that are being provided to the government by economists within Canada and outside of Canada as to what ought to be done with the taxes. We have not had meaningful tax reform in Canada since 1971 with the Carter commission. Since then, in fact the Canadian economy and the global economy have changed remarkably.

We need to reform our tax system. We need to lower taxes on investment and capital. In the old days capital was not as mobile as it is today. In the old days the tax system was used to redistribute income. Today it redistributes capital.

The fact is a country like Canada during an age of free trade and freer trade cannot afford to have higher capital taxes, higher taxes on investment and ultimately on productivity, and higher corporate taxes than our trading partners. Other countries have reformed their tax systems.

The hon. member mentioned Ireland. Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands have all reformed their tax system to create more economic growth and prosperity. The reason I mention some of the Scandinavian examples is for my friends in the New Democratic Party to recognize that in fact progressive social policy can coexist with innovative, forward thinking economic policy. It is not a zero sum game. It is not: if we cut corporate taxes somehow we are going to hurt education.

In fact, it is to the contrary. If we reform the corporate tax system and reform taxes on investment, we create more economic growth, attract more capital, build greater productivity so that we can invest in social programs that can help to have a fairer and more just society.

For my friends in the Conservative Party, I would like to speak to the importance of social investment. The OECD is one of the greatest organizations in the world on economic policy. It advises on economic, fiscal and broad based social policy. One of the prescriptives that it recommended in its 2006 report on Canada included improving the overall business environment by reducing taxes on corporate investment, fostering innovation, and ensuring fiscal arrangements are efficient, but it also put in its economic recommendations for Canada that it should tackle disadvantage and strengthen social development. It pointed specifically to the importance of early learning and child care not simply as a social policy but as an economic policy. This is what the OECD had to say:

Moving toward free early education for all three and four year-olds may also pay social and economic dividends in the longer run. This could be complemented by more affordable access to child care, especially for lower-wage working parents.

Therefore, as much as the NDP members do not recognize the importance of forward thinking economic policy to create a more just society, the Conservatives do not recognize the importance of a more just society and better social programs to create a more vigorous economy. This leaves one party, the Liberal Party, that actually understands that we need good social investment to have a competitive economy and we need a competitive economy to be able to afford good social investment.

That was the Liberal record in the 20th century but today the world has actually changed to the point that we recognize the need for environmental stewardship as a core mantra for public policy here in Canada and around the world.

A few months ago I attended a conference in Dalian, China. The World Economic Forum held for the first time in its 36 year history a summer Davos conference this year in China. At that conference the sessions included venture capital investment in clean tech, the growth of biofuels as an investment opportunity, and how to compete and succeed in a global carbon constrained economy.

If one just looked at the topics and did not know the nature of the conference, one would think one was at a Greenpeace or a Sierra Club conference, but no, these were the top CEOs from around the world, of the biggest companies in the world, gathering to talk about why investments in clean technology were going to lead to greater profits for their companies.

Many of these CEOs were not necessarily that progressive a few years ago on environmental policy. They have come to the conclusion that whether or not one believes in the science of climate change, whether or not one supports Kyoto, a CEO has a vested interest, but also a pecuniary responsibility to the shareholders, to prepare his or her company for what is becoming a globally carbon constrained economy.

Around the world, countries are individually, bilaterally and multilaterally putting a price on carbon because they recognize the importance of addressing the environmental mistakes of the past. As that occurs, environmental laggards will become economic laggards.

Canada has a huge capacity to compete and succeed in a globally carbon constrained economy if we put the right public policy measures in now. We need to not only reform our tax system to be more competitive in the short term, but in the long term we need to green our tax system. That means more than simply putting a price on carbon. That means putting in place incentives for consumers to invest in green technologies, to buy green technologies, and to basically make Canada not only a greener country but also more competitive.

One of the questions we should be asking ourselves is what tax reform, what economic reform, what policies should we be implementing as a country now to become a global leader in what will be the fastest growing area of the 21st century economy: the area of green tech, clean tech and environmental technologies.

Business leaders globally are ahead of governments on this and they are particularly ahead of this current government. I knew this government was not socially progressive. When I look at its budgets, I see it is not even economically conservative but, beyond that, the fact that it does not really take seriously environmental issues is actually creating an economic risk for Canada as other countries embrace environmental stewardship not only as a moral imperative but also as an economic opportunity.

Countries like Denmark are growing in fact because of past environmental responsibility and foresight to put in place the measures required to reduce carbon consumption, to reduce the environmental externalities of their economy. Today it is more competitive as a result of that foresight.

I would urge the Conservatives to recognize that in fact environmental responsibility brings with it economic opportunity. I would urge the NDP to recognize that in fact environmental responsibility can create the economic opportunity but that corporate profits are not necessarily a bad thing. We need the market engaged and we need the private sector engaged. Government cannot do it alone. We need all members of Canadian society, through the tax system, to play a role and build a richer, fairer and greener Canada.

Liberals believe in making the long term decisions that are in the interests of Canadians and reducing personal and business income taxes. The Conservative government cut the GST to raise income taxes, particularly on the poorest of Canadians. We need to cut taxes particularly for low income Canadians. We need to reduce marginal income taxes and we need to help all Canadians, particularly middle class and low income Canadians, to have the opportunity to compete and succeed, which they deserve, and to see the benefits for their hard work.

The Conservative government is the only government in the world that is cutting consumption taxes to raise income taxes. It is wrong. It is going in the wrong direction. It is trying to buy votes and that is at the long term economic--

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I guess I have to cut the hon. member off. The hon. member for Peterborough.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting day in the House. I would like to begin by acknowledging the Prime Minister of Canada because he has really moved the debate in Canada to the point where all parties are starting to recognize what my party has been saying for years, that Canadians pay too much tax, and that is great.

However, I will forgive the hon. member. He was very busy last year running for leadership and has probably missed a number of things that the Conservative party did in the last several budgets. In fact, we have reduced personal income taxes, corporate incomes taxes, and we have reduced the GST.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberal Richmond, BC

They didn't. No, no.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Yes, we have because you just do not understand how it works. You look at a straight line rate. I know that is simple, but it is just not that simple, as the member knows.

In any event, we have increased investment right across the board. It is sad that the hon. member thinks that increasing transfer payments to places like Nova Scotia is not fiscally conservative because we also reduced taxes broadly. We reduced the corporate surtax. We reduced the landing fee for immigrants coming to Canada.

These are all tax reductions that the former government did not have the courage to do. In Advantage Canada we signalled going to the lowest corporate taxes in the G-7. That is good for Canada.

I would like to ask the hon. member specifically about Bill C-288. The Liberal Party thinks it is the champion of the economy. Unfortunately, Bill C-288 would drive this country into the deepest recession that it has probably ever seen. You supported that and that is too bad, Scott.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. The hon. member should know better than that.

The hon. member for Kings—Hants.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely aware of the Conservatives' economic policies. In fact, I would draw the member's attention to the cover of today's Report on Business if he is not completely aware of his own government's policies. The headline of today's Globe and Mail Report on Business is: “Tories rebuked on GST. A poll of top economists finds unanimous opposition to the government's plan to reduce the goods and services tax”.

Even the tax fighting Fraser Institute, that bastion of progressive social policy, says Ottawa should have other priorities like cutting personal income taxes, cutting corporate income tax, and making better investments in research and development. So it is not a question of whether I am aware of his government's economic policy, the question is really, is he aware of his own government's economic policy?

If he is not, I would urge him to go to the Globe and Mail's website which only made one error. It said “Tories rebuked on GST”. These people are not Tories. These are deep-nailed Conservatives, Reform, Alliance, United Alternative, Reform Conservatives. In fact, if the Globe and Mail is looking for a name to shorten the Conservative brand, instead of Tories, just call them “cons”.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, two days ago the Minister of Finance stood in the House and said that he would continue the Liberal tradition of giving deep corporate tax cuts to the most profitable big corporations like the banks that have just made somewhere near $19 billion worth of profit last year.

In fact, the Liberals since 2000 have reduced the corporate tax rate from 28% to 21%. One would think that would help the manufacturing industry, but no, it did not. Why? Because the manufacturing industry already has a 21% rate. It did not help small businesses whatsoever. Why? Because small businesses only pay a 12% corporate tax rate anyway.

Therefore, these huge corporate tax cuts during those years have actually had no impact on the manufacturing industry or small businesses which is one of the reasons why we see the manufacturing industry suffering right now. Over those 10 years we have seen close to $60 billion worth of tax revenue that this country has forgone and that is really shameful.

Since the Liberal economic policy is so similar to that of the Conservatives, is that why every member of the Liberal Party chose to not vote against the throne speech yesterday?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the hon. member should recognize that Canada has the 11th highest corporate taxes out of 80 industrialized countries and we cannot increase corporate taxes without losing corporate investment. If we lose corporate investment, we have a less productive economy. That means lower paying jobs. That means fewer jobs. That means more poverty.

Now on the contrary, if we reduce corporate taxes, attract capital and improve productivity, better paying jobs are created.

The hon. member represents a riding in Toronto. She attacks the banks. That is pretty easy to do, it is like attacking politicians. I do not know who is less popular. But a lot of employees of those banks would be living in her riding and I would urge her to consider corporate tax policy and tax policy in general as an economic driver and the impact those jobs have on Toronto. She represents a Toronto riding. I represent a riding in rural Nova Scotia and I can see the importance of Toronto--

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry but the hon. member's time has expired.

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, with your approval, I would like to split my time with the hon. member for Burlington.

I rise today to address the motion presented by the member for Markham—Unionville. The motion of the member for Markham—Unionville starts off rather well; it is surprising, but it does start off rather well. As I was reading this motion over initially, I was actually rather proud of him, at the start.

He advocates the lowering of taxes. This government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the finance minister, has lowered taxes by a whopping $41 billion.

My colleague calls for a reduction of the debt. Our government has managed to pay down an astounding $27.4 billion in less than two years.

Also, and in a fashion that only a Liberal could in this place, he calls for increased funding for programs like education and infrastructure, but we all remember, and this is what makes this so striking, that his Liberal government was the one that gutted the social transfer in the early 1990s. The Liberals are the only ones in this House who have ever taken a penny from these important programs, and in doing so often have set federal-provincial relations so terribly back to dangerous levels.

If the member does not believe me, maybe he should talk to some of his current Liberal colleagues, such as the Liberal member for Kings—Hants, who once said that the Liberal government created a “tremendous vacuum in funding for universities throughout the country”, or the Liberal member for Newmarket—Aurora, who remarked that it was the “lack of federal leadership that has made post-secondary education the poor second cousin in public policy and the country will pay a price for that lack of vision”.

Is that the proud Liberal record on supporting post-secondary education that the member is talking about? Under the Liberals, Canada, despite the hard work of its citizens, began lagging behind many nations in the world in social and economic categories.

We are not making those mistakes. If the member opposite had read the budget or Advantage Canada, he would have seen that this government is involved in the most ambitious infrastructure initiative in Canada's history. It is no wonder the Canadian Urban Transit Association said our recent actions represented “welcome new investment in Canada's infrastructure”, or why the NDP premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer, called our infrastructure initiative “a very positive announcement”.

Under the Liberals' watch, the bridges became unsafe and the roadways were not maintained, yet they call upon this government to do even better. And that we are doing, and that is the best that can be done.

That is rich, but from my hon. colleague's motion it is clear that he is unfamiliar with budget 2007 and Advantage Canada, so let us take some time to highlight some of the work our government is undertaking to provide Canadians with an entrepreneurial advantage, a knowledge advantage and an infrastructure advantage. Hopefully this will serve to enlighten and make sure none of my learned colleagues in this House make the mistake of supporting this motion.

Last fall we launched a long term economic plan for Canada called Advantage Canada. It was designed to improve our quality of life and to make Canada a world leader for today and for future generations. Advantage Canada promotes five competitive economic advantages that we need in order to succeed in today's global economy: a fiscal advantage, a tax advantage, a knowledge advantage, an entrepreneurial advantage, and an infrastructure advantage.

I will talk about the last three advantages and how they help create the right conditions for Canadians and Canadian businesses and organizations to thrive.

Canada's entrepreneurial advantage is about putting in place the conditions for our businesses and entrepreneurs to invest, creating more and better jobs. This includes improving regulatory efficiency and reducing red tape and efforts to create a more competitive business environment. Strong and effective regulations safeguard Canadians and help preserve the environment. Overlapping regulations and unnecessary regulatory requirements put Canada at a competitive disadvantage.

We are committed to increasing market competition. A competitive marketplace meets the needs of consumers by providing them with more choices at lower prices. It also spurs investments by firms as they adjust to meet evolving consumer demands.

On July 12, 2007 we launched an independent competition policy review panel. The panel is studying Canada's competition and investment policies and will report by June 2008 on how these policies could be strengthened, helping ensure that Canada is well positioned to compete globally and attract investment.

We have also placed a priority on further strengthening Canada's economic union to better position our companies for success in the fiercely competitive global economy.

We are also working to help create a knowledge advantage for Canada. First and foremost this means building the best educated, most skilled and flexible workforce in the world.

The government has taken action by introducing a new labour market training architecture that will help Canadians get the training and skills upgrading they need and that employers want. In particular, the government has allocated $500 million per year to address the gap in labour market programming for those who do not currently qualify for training under the employment insurance program.

Building a knowledge advantage also means creating more effective linkages between immigration and future labour market shortages. This is why in budget 2007 we invested $1.3 billion over five years to help improve the economic and social integration of immigrants. We are making it possible for foreign students trained in Canada and skilled temporary foreign workers to apply for permanent residence without leaving the country.

Just as important, we are strengthening post-secondary education and making it more affordable for students and their families. We will increase support for post-secondary education by $800 million per year starting in 2008-09 through the Canada social transfer. This will bring total cash support for post-secondary education to $3.2 billion per year and it will grow by 3% per year thereafter. This significant increase in support will allow provinces and territories to invest according to their priorities in building a stronger and more affordable post-secondary system and ensure that it contributes to Canada's future economic success.

We are increasing by 1,000 the number of scholarships available to our best graduate students so that they can acquire the advanced skills so important to our companies.

To compete and win in the global economy, Canada must also be a leader in generating and applying new knowledge, research and technologies. This is why we have released a comprehensive science and technology strategy. The strategy recognizes the important contribution that all sectors of Canadian society can make by creating and using knowledge to address challenges and pursue new opportunities.

Canada is starting from a strong foundation of knowledge. For example, we are the G-7 leader in terms of research taking place in our public sector as a share of our economy. The strategy commits to maintaining this leadership position and building on it to create economic and social benefits for Canadians.

In budget 2007 the government put in place significant investments to strengthen our capacity for world leading research and translate it into competitive advantage. In particular, we have provided $350 million over three years to support centres of excellence in commercialization and research. These centres place Canada at the leading edge in key areas of research, including health, energy, the environment and information communications technologies. Together these measures will help ensure that Canada has the skilled workforce and the supply of new ideas necessary to compete in the rapidly changing global economy.

Through our building Canada plan we are taking decisive action in order to create an infrastructure advantage. This includes a federal investment of $33 billion in Canada's infrastructure, an unprecedented amount.

The significant stable and predictable funding for municipal infrastructure is being provided through an extended gas tax fund and maintaining the increased rebate in the goods and services tax that municipalities pay. The government is moving forward on implementing its infrastructure initiatives quickly in cooperation with provinces and territories. This is paving the way toward realization of key infrastructure projects.

As we can see, today's motion is based on such a flawed premise that the government will not be able to support it. It is likely even too far gone for a friendly amendment, so my friend may wish to consider changing his motion to more represent reality. For example, in the opinion of this House, the Liberals did not get it done. They may even wish that--

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry, but the reality is that the member's time has expired. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was interested to hear the member talk about the importance of education and training in terms of having a skilled labour force and an acknowledgement that there is a looming labour shortage.

In Canada one of the fastest growing populations is in the first nations, Métis and Inuit communities. We have a situation with the current government, and previous governments, I might add. In 2004 federal funding for the First Nations Technical Institute in Ontario was cut by 50% under the Liberals. This year the budget for the First Nations Technical Institute will be slashed by an additional 65%. That institute has a very, very strong track record in terms of turning out successful graduates.

I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that as post-secondary education for first nations is a federal responsibility, how can the government justify cutting funding to such an important institute that contributes to a trained, skilled, educated, successful aboriginal workforce?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, certainly that is a priority with this government. There is no doubt in the mind of anyone who sits in the House that was exemplified by the 2007 budget which set aside $300 million for first nations for development of the social programs, including education, on first nations reserves.

In my riding of Macleod I represent five first nations reserves. I deal with them on a regular basis. Talking about education, I have visited the schools. I have spoken in classrooms. I see the potential in these children. The last thing that this Conservative government would do would be to slow down and inhibit the opportunities for those young Canadians to gain an advantage through a better education to participate in the Canadian economy.

We talk about the benefits that we have provided. Certainly this government wants to talk a lot about cutting taxes. It is very important. It is a message I hear from my constituents every time I go home. But I also hear from the seniors that they are happy that we have been able to provide benefits to seniors. The working families tax removed 230,000 low income earners from the tax rolls. That is a tax relief benefit to them, but it gives them more money to stimulate the economy.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the danger of practising retail politics à la Conservatives is that they are only looking at the immediate situation that the country faces and they lack the foresight to address key issues like skills shortages as well as Canada's aging society. Nothing illustrates that more than the lack of understanding the government has in reference to immigration. Statistics show that within the next 20 years, immigration will account for all of Canada's net labour force and population growth.

The question I have for the hon. member, who I know cares about the future of Canada, is why has the government reduced spending on foreign credential recognition by $145 million when immigration is such an important element of any future strategy of a G-7 country?