Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak in opposition to today's motion.
This House is going to hear a lot of rhetoric from the NDP during the course of today, a lot of skewed statistics, in fact we have already heard some, and a lot of misinformation.
Before continuing, I would like to refute something we have heard repeatedly from the NDP. If one were to only listen to that party on the issue of the Canadian economy, one would think we were in the midst of the Great Depression with double digit unemployment. It is disappointing the NDP would paint such a pessimistic picture for Canadians, especially when we consider the actual state of our economy and the job market.
We all acknowledge that certain sectors of the economy, like manufacturing, are having trouble adjusting to Canada's changing economy. We have unfortunately seen some job losses specifically in these sectors. This must be truly difficult for those directly affected. We need perspective here, however. The Canadian job market has remained exceedingly healthy under our Conservative government and let us review some of the facts.
Over the past 12 months, 325,000 net new jobs have been created, 100,000 plus net new jobs in this year alone. What is more, the unemployment rate is near a 33 year low with the share of the adults working at a record high rate. Overall, net employment is up over three-quarters of a million since we took office in 2006 in all regions of this country, with full time jobs accounting for 80% of that increase.
One would hope that even the NDP would recognize that the robust job creation we are seeing in Canada is good and the best way to ensure that our economic prosperity is broadened. If they do not believe me, they should listen to their NDP colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, who we need to recognize this morning. I think he may actually be at the hospital getting a cast on his wrist as a result of one of the page's trying very actively to score a goal on him in a soccer game last night. Our thoughts are with that member.
I will quote the hon. member who, during an exchange in this very House in February last year with the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, stated the following:
He said that the best social program is a job; that the best thing we can give Canadians is a full time job. He was absolutely right. When Canadians have jobs that they like and can depend on to look after their families, they have pride and dignity.
I could not agree more with the NDP member. I further want to briefly clarify something we will also hear today about new net job growth in Canada. Often, observers on the left, when trying to paint a doom and gloom scenario, will dismiss positive job numbers, claiming new jobs being created are in sectors of the economy that are not as high paying or as high quality. Let us be clear. That is not the case. New jobs being created today are largely equivalent to or are of greater quality than those being lost. Listen to CIBC economist Benjamin Tal, who said:
Not only did the Canadian economy generate close to 400,000 new jobs in 2007, but the vast majority of them were in high-paying sectors...in Canada the loss of manufacturing jobs is being offset by job gains in sectors with equivalent and higher employment quality.
However, as I mentioned previously, we are seeing specific sectors of the economy bearing the brunt of this economic volatility.
As a trading nation fully emerged in the global economy and international financial markets, it is only natural that we would be facing economic challenges from outside our borders. As the United States is our largest trading partner, we are bound to feel the impact of its economic slowdown, especially on our exports. Additionally, the weak U.S. dollar has caused the value of the Canadian dollar to appreciate thus challenging the manufacturing, tourism and forestry sectors.
We are further seeing increasing economic competition from abroad, especially emerging economies like China, Brazil and India. Unfortunately, this is leading to job losses in Canada. We recognize that and we are taking real concrete action to assist those workers in communities that are affected.
That is why we are investing $1 billion in the community development trust. This money will support provincial and territorial initiatives that help communities, as well as help workers transitioning from the economic challenges of today into the opportunities of tomorrow. The fund will provide for job training and community transition plans that foster economic development and create new jobs, and infrastructure development to promote economic diversification.
I would note the reaction to our initiative has been overwhelmingly positive. It was unanimously endorsed in Parliament through Bill C-41. It was also supported by provincial premiers of all political stripes across Canada. New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham was “pleased that the Prime Minister and his government have made this commitment”. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty applauded it as well saying that it is “good for the people of Ontario. The Prime Minister has done something which we've been asking of him”. Even Manitoba's NDP Premier Gary Doer has praised our initiative by stating, “I also believe that this is very, very important to the regions and the communities in Canada and the money will be very, very helpful and important”.
This Conservative government's approach has been to encourage economic growth and job creation while simultaneously assisting those facing economic downturns. It has been an approach of balance. I am not merely referring to balanced budgets, although we have of course three of those already completed. I am also referring to a prudent, long term approach addressing the priorities of Canadians. That includes lowering taxes, reducing debt and carefully managing government spending. That approach will allow Canada the ability to face the upcoming economic challenges.
Indeed, our solid economic and fiscal situation has put Canada in a position of strength, well prepared to meet future challenges head on. However, we cannot rise to a strong position like this in a hit and miss fashion. In times of economic uncertainty, Canadians cannot afford leaders who would advocate panicky, band-aid and ultimately short term solutions. These are not solutions but rather, irresponsible attempts at public policy that would lead to deficits and higher taxation that would only drive businesses and jobs away, in effect only exacerbating the economic downturn it has attempted to correct and further disadvantaging those Canadians for whom today's motion purports to speak.
The sponsor of today's motion, the member for Sault Ste. Marie, should know that better than most members in this House. In the early 1990s he served provincially as a member in Ontario's disastrous NDP government under the leadership of the then premier, the current Liberal member for Toronto Centre. That NDP government in Ontario reacted to economic turbulence not through prudence but through panic, and panic at a price. The NDP government's first budget alone tripled Ontario's deficit to $9.7 billion, and increased to $10.1 billion in its final year. The damage was long term, leaving future generations to pay the price.
As Sun Media columnist Lorrie Goldstein reminded us earlier this week, the NDP government, which the member for Sault Ste. Marie belonged to:
--ended up doubling the province's debt in five years.
What that disastrous experiment showed is what nanny states forget--they can't command the economy to do what they want and when they try, the usually make things worse.
Even the member for Toronto Centre has acknowledged the fiscal havoc wrought by his government noting, “I'll admit I ran a deficit during the worst recession since the 1930s”. Regrettably, it would appear neither the sponsor of today's motion nor the member for Toronto Centre has learned from their experience. They both still advocate panicky, short term, band-aid measures, measures that would max out the national credit card with billions and billions in reckless deficit spending, leading to massive tax hikes and a greater debt burden for future generations.
We must ask ourselves then, if we are talking about ensuring the economic prosperity of typical Canadians, why do the Liberals and the NDP persist on tax and spend ideology along with short term, panicky reactionary measures that would do absolutely nothing but ensure such prosperity is never fully achieved?
Contrast that with our Conservative government's prudent action to ensure Canada has strong economic fundamentals through our long term economic growth plan Advantage Canada. That plan seeks to provide Canada with global advantages through lower taxation, to reduce net debt, and to provide more entrepreneurial freedom, the best educated and most skilled workforce and modern infrastructure.
We are making steady progress toward reaching the objectives of that plan, and we have very solid economic fundamentals to help us do it. Our budget is balanced and it will remain balanced. We have the fastest growth in employment and living standards in the G-7. Interest rates are low and inflation remains low and stable. Canadians have countless reasons to remain confident and optimistic.
The true power of our strong economic and fiscal fundamentals, however, lies in their ability to make constructive choices possible. Thanks to these solid economic fundamentals and long term economic planning, we have made the kinds of choices that put Canada ahead of the curve. While others have only recently begun grappling with the effects of global uncertainty, our Conservative government saw signs of an economic slowdown coming well in advance. We knew we had to act, and under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the finance minister, we did.
Our strong fiscal position provided Canada with an opportunity that few other countries have to make broad based tax reductions that will strengthen our economy, stimulate investment and create more and better jobs. That is why in last October's economic statement we announced bold new steps to build a better Canada by reducing taxes for Canadians, including a reduction in the GST, by establishing a new era of declining business taxation, and by reducing federal debt by $10 billion this year.
In total, actions taken by the government since 2006 are providing $21 billion in tax relief to Canadians this year. This is equivalent to 1.4% of Canada's GDP. As a share of the economy, this is significantly greater than the stimulus package just now reaching U.S. households.
Moreover, our tax relief is sustainable, backed by a track record of balanced budgets, and this tax relief is permanent. This proactive aggressive action to support the Canadian economy has been praised by prestigious non-partisan international and domestic economic organizations for its foresight and effectiveness.
The University of Toronto's Institute for Policy Analysis declared, “helping offset the weakness here will be the 'fortuitous' injection of stimulus from the tax cuts...announced” in the October economic statement. BMO economist Doug Porter congratulated our government for our economic statement that was “brilliantly timed. Just as the economy was running into serious heavy weather”, Canada has some “serious fiscal stimulus”. Most impressively, the distinguished IMF World Economic Outlook released this April praised the measures, “A package of tax cuts has provided a timely fiscal stimulus”. The Canadian government's “structural policy agenda should help increase competitiveness and productivity growth to underpin long term projects”.
Since coming to office, this Conservative government has taken action to reduce the overall tax burden for Canadians and businesses by nearly $200 billion.
Overall, we are bringing taxes to their lowest level as a percentage of the economy in nearly 50 years. Canadians are getting back their own money in increasing amounts, more money in their pockets where it belongs, which means our economy will benefit from consumers with thicker wallets and every reason to be confident about their future.
As for those who suggest that our economic leadership and tax reductions are not benefiting low income Canadians, I ask them to consider the facts.
Statistics Canada reported this week that in 2006, the first year of our Conservative government, the rich did not get richer but lower income Canadians did. Families at the bottom of the income ladder saw strong growth in their earnings in 2006. I will quote from the report:
After-tax income improved for families in all five income groups, except for those at the top, where it remained stable.
Why? Consider that approximately 700,000 low income Canadians will be removed from the tax rolls by 2009 because of our actions. Consider that since coming to office, our tax cuts have disproportionately benefited the bottom two income tax brackets. Indeed, over three-quarters of personal income tax relief is being provided for Canadians in the lowest two tax brackets with people in the lowest bracket alone realizing almost 30% of all annual personal income tax relief. Most important, we cut the GST, the only tax cut benefiting the one-third of low income Canadians not paying income tax.
Accordingly, it is somewhat odd that the NDP and their colleagues on the left have been so adamantly opposed to this reduction. Even Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom is puzzled. I will quote him at length:
The New Democrats say the [GST] cut favours the rich....
And yet...were equally outraged...by a new study pointing out that the tax system has become less fair since 1990 because (wait for it) governments have been relying too much on regressive sales taxes, like the GST.
The reason that sales taxes are unfair is that those toward the bottom tend to spend more of what they earn (and hence pay more in sales tax as a proportion of their income) than those at the top.
He further noted:
Economist Marc Lee, who authored the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study, calculated that roughly half of the increased tax burden borne by the poor between 1990 and 2005 came from small hikes in regressive levies such as sales taxes....
So in this context, it could be argued that [the Prime Minister] struck a small blow for social justice by reducing Canada's most notorious regressive tax. Indeed, it could be said that he took a small step towards rectifying the tax unfairness created by former prime minister Jean Chrétien's Liberals...
I find the left's attack on the GST cuts both baffling and sadly indicative.
Nevertheless, unlike the Liberals, we are taking concrete action to help low income Canadians through tax measures like the landmark working income tax benefit ensuring people are better off as a result of taking a job. Taxes, reduced income support and loss of benefits often discourage individuals receiving social assistance from working, clawing back nearly 80% of their income. This benefit, a first step we hope to build on, will increase income support while simultaneously strengthening work incentives. This is a move that has also been praised across the political spectrum.
The Caledon Institute of Social Policy acknowledged it was a “welcome addition to Canadian social policy. It fills a long recognized gap in Canada's income security system”. The NDP member for Winnipeg North approved our measure as an “important program that goes in the right direction”. Even Ontario's Liberal finance minister called it a progressive move saying, “I think that will help those at the lower end of the income ladder and I think”--the Conservative government--“has taken a good step.”
Clearly today's motion ignores what this government has accomplished and will be defeated accordingly. For that I applaud the Liberal opposition for once again expressing its unwavering confidence and approval of our Conservative government.