Mr. Speaker, as I rise in the House for the first time, I would like to thank the good people of Edmonton—Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan for trusting me to represent them here in the House of Commons.
I would also like to thank my family for their support over the years, and my campaign team, who fought a very tough battle.
I would also like to recognize the member who previously represented this riding, Mr. Ken Epp. He worked tirelessly in the House and is well respected among his peers because of that. I am honoured to follow in Mr. Epp's footsteps, representing the great people of Edmonton—Sherwood Park. I am very proud to have been voted into a Conservative government led by the right hon. Prime Minister.
The people of my riding of Edmonton—Sherwood Park and across Canada voted for us not in spite of the economic turmoil, but because of it. Canadians want a prime minister and a government they can trust to guide them through these very difficult global economic times.
Now is the time for strong, determined leadership. The Prime Minister has led Canada on a balanced, prudent path for the last two and a half years and should continue to lead our country.
There has been an unprecedented deterioration in the global economy in a very short period of time. Nobody could have predicted the full force of this economic crisis. The effects of the international credit crisis were sudden and devastating. Canada has not been immune to this economic slowdown, but our Conservative government made choices to help put Canada in a stronger position.
The measures we have already taken to stimulate the economy are substantial and permanent. Since 2006, we have reduced the federal debt by $37 billion. This translates to more than $1,500 for each and every Canadian. We have reduced taxes by almost $200 billion over 2007-08 and the following five years. We are reducing the tax rate on new business investment to the lowest level in the G7 by 2010. This alone will help Canada weather these tough times as companies choose to relocate to Canada as a cost-cutting measure. We made a historic investment in job creating infrastructure, and invested in science and technology, education and training.
Todd Banks, the executive director of the Sherwood Park and District Chamber of Commerce, told me that along with low business taxes, the most important thing small and medium size businesses need right now is access to credit. These businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we must give them access to the tools they need to be sustainable and to grow.
Last weekend one such small business had its grand opening in Fort Saskatchewan in my riding. Adorable Baby opened its doors last weekend. It was able to do so because of access to business loans and credit. This was only possible because of the actions of our government in the last two and a half years.
We have taken steps to free up liquidity so the financial institutions can continue lending to consumers, homebuyers and businesses at an affordable rate. Our measures maintain the availability of long-term credit through the purchase of mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation at no cost to taxpayers.
We are standing up for businesses, such as ABS Trucking in my riding. The owners and many drivers will benefit from the billions injected into infrastructure and the reduction in the tax on diesel fuel.
We have been working since we took office to become the number one destination for companies in the G7, and we have succeeded. With our tax cuts we will have the lowest taxes in the G7, which will result in more jobs as companies relocate to Canada because of its low taxes and skilled labour workforce.
This Conservative government is also protecting seniors. Our seniors built this country. They deserve to live with dignity and respect and with financial security. We share their concerns about the impact of the economic downturn on their retirement savings.
Seniors in Edmonton—Sherwood Park have raised two key concerns with me: the impression that assets and RRIFs must be sold to meet withdrawal requirements and the recent steep drop in market value of some of those assets. There are no requirements under tax rules to sell assets and RRIFs to meet withdrawal requirements. Instead, individuals can transfer their assets outside of their RRIF to satisfy their minimal withdrawal requirement.
To relieve the pressure on seniors to withdraw assets at a time when they are at a low point in their market value, the economic statement proposes a one-time change that would allow RRIF holders to reduce their required minimum withdrawal by 25% for this tax year. If our government is defeated, the change to RRIF withdrawals for this year will disappear.
We must remember that Canada is not an island or in a bubble such that we cannot be affected by the global economic downturn. However, we can and have reduced the effects of the global downturn on Canada.
In my riding the mayor of Sherwood Park, Cathy Olesen, has raised concerns over the loss of major projects in the area. As recently as six months ago, we were slated to host as much as $90 billion worth in heavy oil upgrader projects. This projection is now closer to just $30 billion. I know these are still very big numbers, but at the end of the day those lost or stalled projects means jobs in my riding. I am committed to ensuring that Edmonton—Sherwood Park continues to create jobs for my constituents.
Alberta's oil sands are a key driver of the economy within Alberta and contributes nationally to Canada's GDP. Approximately 145,000 Albertans are employed in the mining and oil extraction industry and thousands more work in the services sector that supports energy exploration and production.
Our Conservative government acknowledges the great contribution of Albertans and our oil sands to our country's economy. Revoking our mandate would cripple the state of this industry, damaging one of our nation's greatest economic contributors. How can the NDP-Liberal-Bloc coalition claim to represent the interests of Albertans when they only have one member from that province? How can they claim to represent Saskatchewan where they only have one or Nunavut where they have none?
With Canadian values focused on innovative technology, oil sands provide stimulus to economic prosperity. Maintaining Alberta's oil sands is imperative for propelling Canada's economy out of this time of crisis.
Second only to Saudi Arabia's reserves, Alberta's oil sands deposits have the potential to satisfy the world's demand for petroleum for the next century. Every dollar invested in the oil sands creates about $9 worth of economic activity globally and $6 in direct and indirect activity in the Alberta economy.
Alberta's industry has developed unique heavy oil expertise, including services, equipment and special technologies that can be exported throughout the world. More than $1 billion has been invested in oil sands research. This coalition would have us turn our backs on the people of Alberta.
The Conservative government has created 200,000 net new jobs this year alone. Since taking office, we have created 900,000 new jobs. It is because of the global economic downturn and the real effects it is having on the hard-working people of my riding and across the country that the news of the opposition's backroom deals is so troubling.
Alberta and the prairie provinces are home not only to the oil sands, but also to countless farmers and farm suppliers. How can the coalition hope to represent them with no rural prairie seats?
I speak for the farmers of my community and for agribusinesses like the Keg River Chemical Corp. and Westco Fertilizer. These businesses are trying to grow to support the farmers of our nation. These businesses need a strong Conservative government that will help them become global players in their markets, as the Keg River Chemical Corp. is attempting to do.
The government has made pledges to farmers that we will continue to work with western Canadian grain farmers to ensure that the results of the barley plebiscite are respected, that they are given the freedom to choose whether to sell grain on the open market or through the Canadian Wheat Board and that we will set aside $500 million over the next four years to work co-operatively with provinces and territories to implement an agricultural flexibility program that will allow them to cope with the costs of production pressures, promote innovation, ensure environmental sustainability and respond to market challenges and opportunities important to each province and territory.
The Conservative Party is a party of the western farmer. We are the only true national party and the voters of the country made that clear less than two months ago. I cannot stand by the presumptions of the coalition parties that they know what is best for people who they do not even understand.
I would like to stress that the people of Canada chose the Conservative Party to lead the country through these rough economic times. People realize that what is happening in the rest of the world is not happening in Canada. We have not had a huge market crash specifically because of the actions taken by the Conservative government in the past two and a half years. We were chosen to lead the country precisely because we were taking action on the economy. We anticipated the economic slowdown, and we are ahead of the curve in injecting billions in tax cuts stimulus, actions that are now being replicated in other countries.
The opposition wants to create a coalition so it can throw money at the problem. We are taking a more prudent approach to the economic crisis by realizing that Canada is not in dire straits like the rest of the world. We have the time and ability to make a prudent, smart plan for this stimulus package. We have moved up the fiscal budget specifically because we are ready to act on the economy.
The entire world economic downturn began with the housing market in the United States. As a result, the United States government had to step in and save huge financial institutions throughout the country by buying bad mortgages. The American taxpayer saw nothing in return for his or her money except saving financial institutions, which caused the problem in the first place.
We, the Conservative government, chose to buy mortgages as well, however, we bought good mortgages which will be repaid with interest. In October the government announced a $25 billion effort for shoring up Canada's financial system by purchasing mortgage-backed securities. This was at a time when the fundamentals of the Canadian economy were, and I note still are, solid compared to the United States and many other nations.
We did this because we saw what was to come and we acted before it was a crisis. We used tax dollars to invest in mortgages to reassure the financial community and to give taxpayers a return on their money. This is just one example of smart, prudent action taken by this Conservative government.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the solution to problems in the global economy was found not through stimulus packages, but through the creation of infrastructure. These nation-building projects not only create jobs and boost the economy but will support Canada in the coming decades. The government has not only pledged to speed up the investment of $200 billion in our infrastructure. This money will go toward creating and maintaining roads, bridges and railroads. It will create thousands of jobs. It will boost the Canadian economy and it will help commerce struggling to deal with the downturn in the global economy by making it easier to do business.
This is the kind of boost to the economy Canada needs. We need to help small and medium size businesses achieve their goals because they are the backbone of our economy. We need to assist businesses such as the Ashland chemical company in my riding of Edmonton--Sherwood Park, businesses that are trying to forge ahead and become global competitors in difficult economic times. To do this, we must provide them with access to credit, something that this government has done.
The Conservative government has made major new investments in leading edge science and technology over the past three budgets, which will increase support for science and technology by $850 million.
We have injected billions into the market in the form of liquidity, ensuring that growing businesses can easily and safely gain access to the loan that they need to thrive.
We have ensured that our banks are some of the safest and most regulated in the world. We have done so well that across the planet nations are attempting to model their banks after ours. They are calling it “Brand Canada”.
Other countries, those affected by the global economic crisis, are mirroring the steps of the Conservative government in other ways as well.
Britain recently cut its sales tax, a move that the Conservative government implemented in its first term when it cut the GST. This was a reduction that the opposition fought, yet it is proving to be a huge boost to the economy.
The government has been ahead of the curve on the economy.
Meanwhile the opposition plans to create an instantaneous stimulus package without coordinating it with our neighbours to the south, who will not put forward their own for a number of months.
For the opposition, I put forward the words of German finance minister Peer Steinbrück, “I think it is not candid to give the impression that we can fight this recession with state cash” he said in a magazine interview published Saturday. He further said, “The Germans do not have to commit to every European proposal whose capability to support the economy is questionable.”
I think Canadians, too, do not have to agree to questionable proposals from this opposition, proposals that run counter to the economy's interest, counter to the democracy and counter to the views that Canadians made clear just two months ago.
We need to provide the means for businesses to achieve their goals. Construction companies, like Brenex construction of Sherwood Park, are relying on us to manage the economy properly, to lower their diesel taxes and make it easier for them to do business, to cut job killing corporate taxes and allow them to take on bigger projects, hire more employees and nurture their entrepreneurial spirit.
We have also pledged to help emerging, innovative businesses to create a new $75 million venture capital fund, to be administered by the Business Development Bank of Canada, which would allow late stage technology companies to move from research and development to commercialization stages of business.
A multi-billion dollar stimulus package cannot be sprung in a matter of days like the opposition is planning. That is a waste of taxpayer dollars. We have proven that we can lead Canada through these though economic times and the opposition should respect the wishes of the voters.
Our government is the only rightful government in Canada. Any plans to defeat the government and create a coalition of opposition parties would go against democracy in Canada. Canadians voted for the right hon. Prime Minister and the Conservative team and soundly rejected the Liberals. Yet, presently, the Liberals and the NDP are creating a coalition with the Bloc, a party that wants to destroy Canada.
I cannot stand idly by while the opposition unites with a separatist party to bring down the government. The opposition parties have a right to oppose and bring down the government, but they do not have the right to create a government out of parties that were rejected by voters only two months ago. The Liberals and the NDP were soundly rejected in the last election. If the opposition parties do not have confidence in the government, it should be up to the voters to decide who they want to lead the country.
Government cannot be taken; it must be earned.