Mr. Speaker, rising to speak to this motion is an extremely important task for me, because it speaks very much to what is a vision for this country.
When we talk about economic policy and economic vision, there is more to it than decreasing taxes or bringing in tax credit programs--especially if one does not pay taxes in the first place because one does not get the benefit of that program--or reducing corporate taxes or reducing debt. These are important pieces obviously in looking at economic growth, looking at the economy, and as a basis for good economic policy, but economic policy is not only about that. One needs to invest in the things that would improve productivity and competitiveness in a nation. This is what Liberals have understood.
The Conservative government inherited an extremely sound economy from the Liberal Party which was in government for 13 years. The debt decreased. We had nine balanced budgets in a row. We went from being a second world nation to being the number one nation in the world in terms of economic growth and economic strength.
The Conservatives were handed this gift and now we know there is a huge surplus, but the question is, are they going fritter it away or are they going to use it to invest wisely in creating a vision for Canada that in a global economy actually will deal with the greatest challenge that we face? That would be the challenge of productivity and competitiveness. How do we not just sustain an economy but how do we build one in a world in which the economy is now globally driven? Given that we are competing against China, India, the European Union and the United States and we only have 31.5 million people in this country, we have to think about being smart.
In order to deal with productivity and competiveness, there are investments that need to be made in Canadians that I have not heard about from the Conservative government at all. I want to touch on three of them.
One of them has to do with the fact that in this post-industrial era, and we are in a post-industrial era. At least I hope Canada is and that Canada does not want to go back to the old industrial era and try to compete against the countries that are actually developing themselves now. If we want to deal in the post-industrial era, we need to think about it as an era of innovation and creativity, an era in which human capital is going to be one of the most important investments that we can make.
So we have to have the best and the brightest in this country. We want people to come to Canada because they know that they are going to find the workforce they want. They are going to find it here. We have to be bright. We are going to be the ones who have well-trained and well-educated people in this country. This is going to be our most important tool.
The second most important thing that we need to do is to know that one can come to a country, and that this country is going to be functioning in the era of innovation. It means that we need to invest in people, in skills, in training and in post-secondary education.
Liberals understood that. We invested. In 2005 we made labour market agreements with the provinces totalling $3.5 billion. That has disappeared under the Conservative government. It is gone. No one knows where it is. We had actually developed a 50:50 program to assist students who were getting a bachelor's degree in paying for their first year and their fourth year, paying for it, not lending it, but giving it, the first year so that the young person would be encouraged to go into post-secondary training and the final year to encourage the young person to stay until the training was over. This was a 50% reduction in the cost of post-secondary education. Again, it was about access to education, skills and training.
Statistics Canada tells us that by 2011 we will be dependent for 100% of our net labour force on immigration and on new workers. We know that the Conservatives have done little. The Conservative government has done little to deal with that issue.
The Liberal government in 2005 put in $263 million to deal with the issue of the internationally trained worker who was trained somewhere else and needed to work in this country. In 2006 we had earmarked another $290 million for that as well.
The 2005 fund of $263 million was cut by the government to $13 million over two years. The 2006 fund of $290 million was cut to $23 million over two years.
What do we do when internationally trained workers, who are underemployed and unemployed with regard to their skills and training, are unable to find credential recognition, which albeit is a provincial jurisdiction, and are unable to find first jobs? They go into the three big cities of the country. They need language training.
The first job given to me by the last prime minister was to develop a medium and long term strategy to allow for all internationally trained workers in Canada to work and find jobs commensurate with their skills.
It was a very complex issue. We had to deal with the five challenges that they faced. We had to work with provinces. We had to develop relationships between municipalities. We had to work with credentialing bodies. We set out this complex plan. With the money the we had 2005 and 2006, we started to work with the private sector and all our partners. That money has disappeared.
We now have an information kiosk. People who are internationally trained and cannot find work can go to this kiosk to get information. They do not need information. They need assistance in learning the language, in doing their exams and in finding jobs. Businesses need assistance and infrastructure money to help to pay for them to come into their businesses as apprentices. A number of initiatives need to be done. There is nothing is there.
We do not understand. If we do not have a trained population, we will not make it. All they are doing is treading water for the next two or three years by just making tax cuts.
The second thing that I wanted to talk about was the era of innovation and creativity. We are now hearing from places in the United States, from Harvard, MIT and Stanford University. They are incorporating in their business schools arts and culture. They are beginning to realize that innovation, science and technology, business and arts and culture are now all merging, in this new era of information and of innovation and creativity, to become the bulwark of a 21st century economy that is going to be competitive.
Nothing in the Speech from the Throne spoke of investments in arts and culture. It is seen as a warm fuzzy, whereas the Liberals began by investing in innovation when we came into government. In 1997 Canada was at the bottom of the barrel in the world in terms of investment in innovation and in research and development. Since then, we have invested over $13 billion, which in turn has generated equivalent amounts of money from the private sector to create what is today one of the top five countries in the world from which people believe Nobel Prize laureates will come.
Eighteen hundred brains had left Canada to go somewhere else. They returned, bringing with them the brains from other countries. Canada is now seen as a country where innovation, creativity, research and development is happening. We are on the cusp of new discoveries all the time.
In arts and culture, we have just discovered something very important that has huge value to the world. I do not know how many members saw the film 300, but that whole film was made on a green screen. Everyone thinks there were millions of people running around and doing things in the background. Yet it is a piece of technology developed by Canada that will change the film industry in the world.
That is money in our bank. That is creativity. That is innovation. There is nothing here about investing in that.
Finally, there is infrastructure. We have to help people to get an education. We need innovation and creativity. Finally, we need the physical and the digital infrastructure in the country to make it move.
We started by working with the municipalities. Municipalities today have a $100 billion deficit. If we to be a trading nation and move on trade with Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world, we need the physical railroads, bridges and infrastructure. The Liberals started a Pacific gateway infrastructure. We began to build it. By now we would have finished it. Yet it was lengthened and expanded to 2013 by the Conservative government. By the time we get to Asia-Pacific, everyone else will have come and gone.
There is no vision. Nothing in the Speech from the Throne speaks about a future for this country or that will make us competitive and productive and really strengthen our economic future.