Mr. Speaker, I guess I was expecting comments but I think everybody was pleasantly surprised that my hon. colleague, who shares a seat at the finance committee, has decided to support Bill C-51. I would encourage, under his leadership, all members of the opposition to do as he has suggested because that was another wise decision from that member.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the House today in support of the economic recovery act, a key piece of legislation that would enact essential portions of Canada's economic action plan, along with other important initiatives.
The economic recovery act is part of our Conservative government's comprehensive response to the global economic crisis that has impacted nearly every country in the world since it began a little over a year ago, a downturn whose underlying triggers did not originate in Canada and, as such, cannot be solely resolved in Canada.
I underline for the opposition, seemingly determined to finger out government for the economic ills of the global marketplace, that this was and remains a global recession, one largely originating from the United States. This is not a made in Canada recession.
As a BBC report noted:
...the world economy crashed. The [American] sub-prime crisis lit a fuse that went from California or Southern Florida via New York to Iceland, Hungary and Japan.
The virus spread through the intricate arteries of the world's financial bloodstream.
While conceding this has been a global recession, we all recognize its epicentre is and continues to be our neighbour to the south, our largest trading partner, the United States.
Even as the green shoots of recovery begin their slow ascent in that country and around the world, the enormity of the great recession continues to ravage the American economy. Last week we learned that over a quarter million Americans lost their jobs in September. Unemployment is nearing double digits there. These are stunning numbers. They are sad reminders of the nearly 8 million men and women who have seen their jobs vanish since the start of this great American downturn.
As President Barack Obama noted, the U.S. September job report was:
...a "sobering reminder" that "progress comes in fits and starts and that we're going to need to grind out this recovery step by step.
He went on to say that it “will not happen overnight”.
Budget implementation act 2 is an important part of this step for Canadians.
As I alluded to earlier, green shoots are appearing in the American economy. In the Canadian economy and those around the word, recovery is on the horizon.
This global recovery has largely been driven by the injection of fiscal stimulus by governments, stimulus unprecedented for both its sheer magnitude and for its coordinated global scale. However, this is a recovery that remains as fragile, as it is tentative. Governments must stay the course. Their focus must not waver from the economy. As the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors noted in a communiqué following their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, this weekend:
In recent months, we have started to see signs of a global economic recovery and continued improvement in financial market conditions. However, there is no room for complacency since the prospects for growth remain fragile and labor market conditions are not yet improving. We will keep in place our support measures until recovery is assured.
We cannot become complacent and we cannot allow a recovery to be jeopardized with some opportunistic political games here at home, political games like those that the Liberal leader has shamefully engaged in over the past few weeks. Maybe the Liberal leader has not noticed that rising unemployment continues to be a challenge around the world. Maybe he has not noticed that all governments around the world made the decision to run deficits to fight the recession and fight unemployment.
Our Conservative government, too, has made the decision to fight the recession and has done so through Canada's economic action plan. While this meant we made the difficult decision to run a multi-year deficit, it was the right decision, right for our economy and right for Canadians, for Canada's economic action plan is working.
Our economic action plan is helping to create and maintain jobs. It is extending benefits to the unemployed. It is helping those who need retraining and helping those individuals and industries undergoing a transformation, such as the auto and forestry sectors and so many others.
While our plan is achieving results, the job is not done. We need to stay on track. We need to provide the stability needed to secure recovery. Stability is not achieved by throwing Canada back into an unnecessary election but by following through on our plan and keeping our focus on the economy. That is exactly what we are doing with the ambitious economic recovery act.
Through the economic recovery act, we are cutting taxes for individuals and businesses by implementing the temporary home renovation tax credit and the first time homebuyers tax credit. We are fighting protectionism by relaxing tariffs on shipping containers. We are strengthening the Canada pension plan by allowing increased flexibility in how Canadians live, work and retire, as unanimously recommended by federal, provincial and territorial governments last May.
We are promoting global growth and cooperation by giving small and low income countries a bigger voice at the IMF, and strengthening our commitment to debt relief. We are ensuring dependability for public broadcasting by increasing the CBC's borrowing authority.
Additionally, to ensure that Canadian taxpayers can better keep track of the spending of their tax dollars, we are improving government transparency and accountability by requiring all federal departments and crown corporations to prepare and publish quarterly financial reports.
The economic recovery act also concludes the crown share saga for the people of Nova Scotia after decades of neglect from previous Liberal governments. As former Nova Scotia premier, John Buchanan, declared, “What happened then with the federal Liberal government under Jean Chrétien, they just refused to talk about the Crown share. They would not talk about it all”.
In contrast, not only have we talked about the crown share with Nova Scotia, our Conservative government worked in conjunction with the province to resolve the issue.
Despite all this, the Liberal leader and his party vowed, essentially sight unseen, to oppose all these measures and vote against the economic recovery act. Why? To be blunt, to end Canada's economic recovery appears to be secondary to his obsession with forcing an election. The Liberal rallying cry is simply corrosive to Canada, “No matter what this Conservative government proposes, no matter who it benefits, it must be stopped, it must be defeated.”
Canadians deserve better than that. Canadians deserve elected representatives willing to work together during this global recession, willing to do what is best for the Canadian economy not merely for the Liberal Party of Canada.
I would ask the Liberal leader to stop playing games, stop the obsession and scheming to force an unnecessary election. Sadly, I have no confidence he will listen for he has not even listened to his own Liberal caucus on that matter.
Liberals, like the member for York West who, in early September, pleaded with her leader to drop his maddening election obsession, telling the Globe and Mail that this was not the time for an election and that instead Parliament should “try to do the right thing for Canadians overall. We're in a difficult time. We want to focus on employment and getting people back to work and all of that”.
The Liberal leader has ignored the Liberal member for York West and likely a great deal of his own Liberal caucus to continue with a single-minded obsession to force an election at all costs.
As the Liberal leader continues his quest to force an unnecessary election, he continues to attack our Conservative government's economic management and initiatives such as this economic recovery act. He also continues to gleefully denigrate and talk down our Canadian economy.
This is how he slammed Canada's economy in a speech this past September proudly posted on the Liberal website for the online world to see. He smeared Canada and said that Canada had “the worst performing economy in the G7”. He then lectured by saying that “We've got to make Canada a world leader again, and we've got to do it now”.
Not only are comments like those at the height of self-serving political arrogance, but they are factually wrong and do a disservice to the tireless work and sacrifices of the men and women who have made Canada's economy what it is today.
That is something all Canadians should be proud of, and they should be cheered regardless of partisan affiliation.
I am going to take a moment now to speak not to the present but to the future, and to set the historical record straight, to speak to the readers of this edition of Hansard, the Canadian Parliament's most enduring tradition in a time far removed from today, be it 25, 50 or 100 years from now.
Even though we were in the midst of what has been labelled the great recession of this time, this was an especially proud moment to be a Canadian for one reason. Due to the inherent sense of humility in the Canadian character we downplayed that reason. Canada's economy and financial system during this challenging time was among the strongest and the most envied in the world. From Ireland, to France, to the United States, the Canadian model was the model that all others sought to replicate.
However, do not take my words as proof. Listen to what the world was saying about Canada, our country. Listen to how Ireland's largest daily newspaper, The Irish Times, praised our financial regulatory framework:
...Canada has attracted more attention recently as a paradigm for creating and regulating a banking system that has been stable, and even profitable, through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression...Canada's reputation for fiscal conservatism may have been boring during the boom times, but being boring has left the country's banking system in a rare position of strength in the financial world.
Listen to the French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, who after a meeting of the world's top finance ministers remarked:
I think...we can be inspired by...the Canadian situation. There were some people who said, “I want to be Canadian”.
Listen to what the Institute of International Finance and the world association of banks proclaimed about this country:
Canada is in a position today to punch above [its] weight. Why? Because [it has] come through this better than virtually any other financial system in a mature market, so [it] must be doing something right... [Canada] is viewed in many quarters as having incredible financial and of course political leadership, but also is somewhat of an honest broker.
World Bank president Robert Zoellick described our country this way:
Canada's experience offers lessons to others, especially its strong financial and regulatory environment that is helping it manage the shocks of the downturn.
He also went on to declare that by global standards, Canada' position was enviable:
I think a lot of people would like to change places with Canada.
The President of the United States, Barack Obama, said:
...in the midst of this enormous economic crisis, I think Canada has shown itself to be a pretty good manager of the financial system in the economy in ways that we haven't always been here in the United States. And I think that's important for us to take note of.
Or finally, the IMF, as reported in the Globe and Mail forecasted that:
Canada is on track to lead the world's wealthiest countries out of recession next year, a testament to sound economic policy...reinforc[ing that the] Prime Minister...and the Finance minister['s] policies have helped the Canadian economy weather the financial crisis better than most.
To the future I say with pride that this is how our country was viewed at this moment in time. I would also say that our Conservative government was not merely content to rest on its laurels. That is why we brought forward important legislation in the economic recovery act to help lay the ground work for a stronger economy as we fought off this great recession and built a more prosperous Canada for generations to come for all Canadians.
Speaking to the present, I ask for the support of the House, for members to do the right thing in the interests of what is their country. We share in it across the aisle, and Canadians at home trust us to act in their best interests.
Pass this budget implementation act to help keep Canada strong and keep this beautiful country the envy of the world well into the future.