Mr. Speaker, as I started saying before question period, for me and my constituents, and I believe many Canadians, this boils down to a matter of trust in the government, trust in what it says it will do.
For example, during an election period, we make certain commitments. People either vote for us based on those commitments or they do not. In this specific case, the Prime Minister, at that time a candidate for prime minister, campaigned in Newfoundland and Labrador. Some of his campaign literature and the Conservative Party campaign literature made several commitments. One of those commitments was not to touch income trusts.
Many people, especially seniors, believed that commitment and they voted in support of the Prime Minister because they trusted him. The key words are “believed” and “trusted” him. Seniors believed he would not touch income trusts. Decades ago these people invested in a certain venue, so come retirement they could assure themselves of an X amount of money on a monthly basis for their golden years.
The Prime Minister has won two minority governments. This shows that Canadians were not fully comfortable with electing a Conservative government. In fact, three out of five Canadians did not vote for the Conservatives. Nevertheless, they had enough numbers to form a minority government.
What was one of the first things the Prime Minister did? He reneged. He went back on his word. He chose to go after income trusts and increase taxes 31.5%, the highest in Canadian history. These people were disillusioned. They were going to lose income.
We have to understand that seniors are not income generators. They are income dependents. They depend on the fixed income they had planned decades ago. All of a sudden, that income became less by x%. They had to adjust their lifestyle downward, and that was totally unfair. That was the result of the Prime Minister going back on a commitment he made. The Prime Minister's literature stated “There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept”. In the Prime Minister's own words, he committed, in essence, fraud, because he did not keep his promise.
Commenting on the Prime Minister's words about no greater fraud than a promise not kept, Progressive Conservative, and I emphasize those words, Premier Danny Williams of the beautiful province of Newfoundland said in one of his speeches:
He used these words as he successfully attempted to woo voters from this province to not vote for the opposing party. Naively we trusted him. He rewarded that trust with a broken promise. According to his own brochure—he is a fraud.
The theme of my presentation is all about trust. Canadians trusted the Prime Minister to keep his word, and he did not.
I will quote again from the speech of Danny Williams. He said:
His own candidates and MPs admit that the promise was broken, but we should forgive and forget. Well folks, forgiveness may be a virtue; but forgetting is just plain fool hardy.
A year ago the Prime Minister's own candidate in St. John's East said, “Given his handling of equalization, who can trust the Prime Minister anyway?” Again, this is what I have been saying all along. It is a matter of trust.
The Conservatives stand and give us different figures. All Canadians need to do is look at the records. They can google things. The technology of today permits people to do research and come up with stats for themselves. The Conservatives have neglected, over and over, to point out that when they took office in 2006, they were left with a surplus of $13.2 billion and there was a zero deficit. The unemployment rate was at 6.1% or 6.2%. Today we all know where it is. It has skyrocketed, according to the national figures, and when we plug in youth unemployment and the unofficial numbers, I believe it is well over 12%.
I will refer to the government's own action plan, “Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth” and use the figures from its budget book, because if I were to say something, the Conservatives would say that I was a bit biased and that I will say it the way I want to.
On employment insurance, the figures in its own graph, going back to 2000 and right up to 2010, show is that under a Liberal government, we started lowering the EI premiums going back to 1997. After we balanced the books, year after year, EI premiums were being lowered. At the time when we took office, it was $3.05 per $100. When we left office, it was $1.75 or $1.76, and then it was frozen.
I will use a quote, as I did earlier, from the current finance minister who said, “It's one of those job-killing taxes, a direct tax on employers and employees”. We agree with him. What happened pre-1993 is that employers told us that they would like to hire and if payroll taxes were lower they would invest in hiring. We listened very carefully, we implemented such a program and we saw job creation unfold.
I would point out that these figures are Liberal figures, not Conservative figures. What was one of the first things the Conservatives did when they took over government? They started to jack up the payroll taxes. As a matter of fact, technically speaking, they were going to jack them up so much and then they lowered them and said that they were lowering taxes. For example, instead of paying $90, people will pay $30, but that is still a tax increase. Instead of hitting them with a $17 billion increase, the government will only hit them with a $6.5 billion increase. Nevertheless, it is still an increase.
I would just like to quote some comments here on payroll taxes that the Prime Minister and the finance minister have said. For example, in January of 2009, the finance minister said, “For many businesses, an increase in payroll taxes would make it harder to sustain existing jobs”. We agree with him. The question is: why is he increasing taxes?
On March 29, 2009, in the Toronto Star, the Prime Minister said:
So there is no need in Canada to raise taxes. We have not got the structural budgetary deficit that exists in the United States and obviously limits the administration's options.
Here is another declaration from the Conservative election policy declaration of 2008:
We believe that payroll taxes should not exceed the amount necessary to properly fund Employment Insurance because unnecessarily high payroll taxes are a tax on job creation. Lower payroll taxes encourage hiring and business expansion.
We agree, and that is why, if we look at the Liberal record, year after year after year, those payroll taxes were consistently coming down, until of course now, where it is a repeat of what Brian Mulroney did. When unemployment was going up, he was increasing the payroll taxes.
Twenty years down the road and we are back to the future. The Conservatives are now repeating exactly what the Brian Mulroney administration did. We are encouraging them not to do it.
The business community has made some positive statements. Of course, when they were going to jack it up by 15% and now they are lowering it down and saying that they are not increasing it by yea much, that they are giving us a break, of course the business community is happy. That is why some statements are coming back from the business community sounding positive.
They talk about research and development and investing in the economy. We agree. When we took office, one of the areas that we invested in was in the knowledge-based economy. However, in order to move ahead in that new area, we need to make investments.
On page 86 of the Conservatives' own book, it states:
Canada invests more directly in public R and D than any other G7 country.
What figures are they using? The figures end in 2006, which has Canada, indeed, first. That was from our budget of 2005-06. It states here that the data is for 2007, which is the latest year for which they are available for all G7 countries. What happened after 2007? We have become the lowest.
China, for example, as was mentioned earlier by the critic for finance, the member for Kings—Hants, has invested much more than we have. The United States has done so as well and it is moving forward with the green economy and bringing forth new jobs.
On the debt side, there is an interesting graph on page 167 of their literature which shows the debt to GDP ratio in 2004-05 and then their projection of 2013-14 brings it back to the same level as it was in 2004-05. That is taking us a decade back, according to their figures.
The graph very clearly outlines the debt to GDP ratio. It starts from 2008. I will admit that when they took office they took all that surplus money that was left over from our government and just plunged it into debt retirement. Was that a good move? As it turns out today, it was not a good move because, if members will recall, at that time we also had a contingency plan of $3 billion. If we did not use that money for an emergency, it went right to debt retirement.
I have often used the finances of the nation to draw a parallel with the average home. When the paycheque comes home every week, we do not put it all toward the mortgage. We need to put some toward groceries, some toward gas, some toward clothes, some toward the mortgage and maybe a little aside for a rainy day. At the end of the year, if we do not use that money, it is wise to pay down that mortgage as quickly as possible, as the Liberal administration did. Slowly, we ended up saving, according to the figures then, almost $3 billion in interest payments. So, Canadians were benefiting from that $3 billion because the money was going into programs such as health care, post-secondary education, the military, et cetera.
In this graph, I would like to point out that the debt to GDP ratio in 2008-09 was 29%. It goes up to 33.9% and 35.4%. Then, in 2012-13, it starts to decline to 35.2% and levels off. Hopefully, in 2014-15 it will drop to 31.9%.
However, we cannot trust those figures because, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the finance department is quoting one figure and the Parliamentary Budget Officer is quoting different figures.
We all know that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is Mr. Kevin Page and that he is not someone we Liberals appointed. He is an appointee of the Prime Minister and the Conservative government. He was supposed to be someone who would be kind. He is a fair person and he called it as he saw it.
The moment he made statements about these figures I am about to bring forth, the Prime Minister and the Conservative government were not happy so they started to eliminate his budget. They started to take away the tools that he needed to do his work and, of course, he was not able to bring forth the information, not that we needed to have but that Canadians needed to have.
For example, “Budget predictions for 2012-13, $17.5 billion deficit”. The Parliamentary Budget Officer's prediction was a $20.6 billion deficit. For 2013-14, the government says that it will be a $8.5 billion deficit. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that it will be a $16.3 billion deficit. For 2014-15, the current government says that it will be a $1.8 billion deficit. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that it will be a $12.3 billion deficit. It goes on, which is why I keep referring to the word “trust”. It is a matter of trust.
Given the statement I made, which I chose not to repeat during the campaign, we cannot trust the Prime Minister and the government. We cannot trust their figures. It is not something that we are saying. It is something the figures show.
When I am out there speaking to my constituents, they tell me that they have great concerns because of what is happening in the world economy. Earlier today, government members were comparing the crisis in different countries. I was shocked to learn that the average debt-load per household in Canada is about $42,000. We know Greece is having some difficulties and the average debt-load there is just over $30,000. Who is worse off, I ask?
The Conservatives have mortgaged our future, our children's future and our grandchildren's future. All I am saying is that if they want to recapture the trust of Canadians, they need to come out with figures that can be substantiated, figures that are accurate and figures that we can talk about and realistically work with the international community. The OECD, for example, this is their figures, not ours. It is an embarrassment for us to go on the international stage and say how wonderful we are when, in essence, beneath that thin membrane things are not looking good.