Mr. Speaker, it is obviously a great opportunity to speak today in support of the economic recovery act, an important piece of legislation to enact key parts of Canada's economic action plan, along with other crucial initiatives.
I understand the Liberal Party will vote against this legislation, sight unseen, for no reason other than to force an unnecessary election which no Canadian wants. It is my hope in today's debate, along with colleagues on this side of the House, to show that now is not the time for that sort of self-serving opportunism.
The stakes for Canadians and their families are high. The member for Scarborough—Guildwood does not understand that the stakes for his constituents are high. He mentioned a moment ago that he is surprised I spent so much time on the finance committee and did not get it. He has been on the finance committee a lot longer than I have, in fact he is a former parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance, and he still does not get it. So I guess I still have some time by his scale to get it. Maybe I will catch up, I do not know.
We simply cannot play political games because we cannot jeopardize a recovery with an unnecessary election. Catherine Swift, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, warned recently:
We've got some good news.... [W]e've been seeing three months of good recovery...we got the highest confidence level in over two years.... All we need is a stupid election to put things right back in the tank. What we need is certainty. Elections do not produce certainty.
I am going to digress for a minute. I mentioned the Liberal green shift. The Liberal green shift means anything but certainty for business.
Catherine Swift said that what we need is certainty and that elections do not produce certainty. With the economy turning right now, this is a bad time to have it. She said that we are just seeing things come back, that we are just seeing confidence come back.
It is clear that we must stand together with our global partners and stay the course. We must keep our focus squarely on protecting our economy and building on the success of Canada's economic action plan and stabilizing our economy.
As declared in the G20 leaders' statement following the Pittsburgh summit:
Our forceful response helped stop the dangerous, sharp decline in global activity and stabilize financial markets.
A sense of normalcy should not lead to complacency.
The process of recovery and repair remains incomplete. In many countries, unemployment remains unacceptably high. The conditions for a recovery of private demand are not yet fully in place. We cannot rest until the global economy is restored to full health, and hard-working families all over the world can find decent jobs.
Clearly, Canada must stay on track by continuing to implement our economic action plan and its related components, like the economic recovery act. This is fundamental to securing Canada's success in the face of ongoing economic challenges.
As expected, to date, Canadians have risen to face these challenges head on and allowed our economy to outperform where others have struggled. This has lessened the recession's relative impact. A sentiment shared by private sector economists, CIBC World Markets forecast that Canada will lead all industrialized nations in economic growth next year, while RBC economists expect that Canada's recession will turn out to be the least severe of the past three.
Our Conservative government has supported the efforts of Canadians with an unprecedented and timely stimulus contained in Canada's economic action plan, representing $61 billion in effective targeted measures.
Only last week we confirmed in the third report to Canadians on the implementation of the action plan that 90% of its 2009-10 funding is now committed. Canadians will continue to benefit from what is proportionately the largest fiscal stimulus package among all G7 partners with a projected 220,000 jobs being created or maintained by the end of 2010.
As Scotia Capital economist Aron Gampel points out:
The substantial stimulus injected into the economy from both monetary and fiscal measures is beginning to show more signs that the economy is regaining traction, but the full impact will become more visible in the months ahead.
Contrary to the views of the doom and gloom Liberals, there are more encouraging signs that Canada is leading the recovery with our strong fundamentals intact. Indeed, last week the International Monetary Fund, IMF, forecast that Canada will be the least affected by the global downturn and that our recovery will be the strongest in the G7.
Contrast that with what we are hearing from the Liberal members. We are not hearing these things. They are talking down the Canadian recovery. They are talking down the Canadian economy. For whatever reason, they do not want to see things recover in Canada because they think that hurts their political fortunes. Canadians do not care about the Liberals' political fortunes. What they care about is their families and their jobs. They want Canada to work. They want parties working together provincially and federally. They want municipalities to be engaged. That is what our government is doing. It is not what the Liberal Party supports, by the way.
Nevertheless, Canada and the global economy will continue to be challenged. As noted in the G20 leaders' statement, we have yet to sustain a full private sector supported recovery. Likewise, as IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn conceded recently, even though we are seeing tentative signs of recovery it remains fragile. I quote, “I want to be crystal clear. Until unemployment will decrease, it is difficult to say the crisis is over. It is too early to crow victory”.
Without a doubt we are at a critical juncture. If we hope to stabilize our economy and secure this recovery, we must stay the course and stay focused on the economy. Parliamentarians of all stripes can accomplish that, not by throwing Canada into an unnecessary election, but by passing the economic recovery act into law on a timely basis.
The economic recovery act is a complex and multifaceted piece of legislation with many components that have been highlighted by previous speakers.
For the remainder of my allotted time, I would like to focus on the reforms to strengthen the Canada pension plan, or CPP, that are included in the economic recovery act. However, before continuing, I should point out that the CPP is a jointly managed federal-provincial plan. Neither the federal government nor provincial governments can unilaterally alter the CPP.
The reforms laid out in the legislation were unanimously agreed to by federal, provincial and territorial governments this past May as part of a mandated triennial review of the Canada pension plan. Moreover, these reforms were made public at that time, available for all to review.
Before these reforms can take place, they must be officially approved, not only by Parliament, but by two-thirds of the provinces with two-thirds of the population of Canada. Moreover, the approved changes will start to take effect in 2011 and will be gradually implemented with all the changes expected to be in effect fully by 2016.
In short, the reforms agreed to by federal, provincial and territorial governments are intended to modernize the CPP to better reflect the many different paths people take to retirement today.
As Patricia Lovett-Reid, host of Money Talk, a popular Canadian personal finance television show and senior vice-president with TD Waterhouse Canada, noted that the CPP reforms speak “to the fact that we are living healthier and longer”.
Increased flexibility will be offered through the removal of work cessation tests that require individuals who apply to take their CPP benefit early, i.e., before age 65, to either stop work or reduce their earnings. The economic recovery act will remove the work cessation test in 2012 so that individuals will be able to take their benefit as early as age 60 without any work interruption or reduction in hours worked or earnings. This change will benefit those who would like to take their CPP pension while continuing to work either full or part time and could help individuals to use income from their CPP to phase in retirement or supplement their earnings.
Such a proposed reform has been particularly welcomed, as an Edmonton Journal editorial applauding it noted:
--the prospect that thousands will be able to discern a horizon when they can not only choose to be gainfully employed but also collect on a pension they paid into for years must come as some relief....
Older Canadians are healthier than ever and getting even fitter. If they want or need to continue to make a material contribution to the nation's productivity, they mustn't be discouraged.
Increased CPP benefits for a number of Canadians will continue through an increase in general lowering dropout which currently allows for 15% of the years where earnings are low or nil for whatever reason, to be dropped from calculations used to determine an individual's CPP retirement pension amount. The economic recovery act will gradually enhance the retirement pension calculation to allow up to an additional year of low earnings to be dropped from the pension calculation. By 2014, it will allow a maximum of eight years to be dropped.
This will benefit virtually all CPP contributors and improve their basic retirement pensions. It will also increase the average CPP disability and survivor pensions, as a calculation of these benefits would be based on the retirement benefit calculation.
It would be particularly helpful to those whose careers suffer more work interruptions for a variety of reasons like those who pursue post-secondary studies or other educational opportunities, those who reduce their participation in the labour force to provide care to a family member, or those who immigrate to Canada as adults.
Respected Sun media financial advice columnist Alan Caplan approved this reform noting:
It's intended to smooth out the earnings history for each pensioner who stopped working. The reasons vary, but may include job loss, further education, illness or care giving and child rearing. Almost everyone benefits from the provision.