Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear the Bloc Québécois support the Conservative government's budget policies, but it is also a little surprising. In fact, we have often stood alongside the Bloc to denounce, for example, the theft from the employment insurance fund. Bills C-9 and C-47 are spinoffs of this. The employment insurance fund is in there. For example, they are imposing new airline security taxes, which are inflating airline ticket prices in Canada. The Bloc is supporting that. There is a new regulation concerning the harmonized sales tax. The Bloc has not done anything to obtain compensation for Quebec for the harmonization it has already undertaken in this area. We are very surprised to hear the member for Holchega kowtow to the Conservatives once again and support the government's budget policies. We are very surprised by that.
Let us take a look at what is in Bill C-47, which the Bloc is supporting, and in the Conservative government's economic policy. Everything that happen in politics happens in a certain context. I would like to read a Reuters article from today, which was written by business journalist, Louise Egan.
I will read from this article from Reuters entitled “Canada record-high current account gap spurs worry”.
Louise Egan says this on behalf of Reuters:
Canada entered the club of countries with oversized current account deficits in the third quarter, posting the biggest shortfall on record as its worsening trade profile heralded a further slowdown in economic growth.
That is today.
Statistics Canada said on Monday:
The country's eighth consecutive quarterly shortfall in the current account--a measure of transactions in goods, services and investment income--totaled C$17.54 billion...compared with a revised second-quarter gap of C$12.98 billion.
Analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast $15 billion.
What is interesting to note is that we are getting observations from people like Doug Porter at BMO Capital Markets, who said “Canada suddenly finds its broadest trade deficit in the company of countries that have typically been cited as extravagant over-spenders/under-savers”. He also said, “This may prove to be a passing phase but it is in fact an early warning that the country may be living beyond its means”.
In the days leading up to the G20 summit of the world's leading emerging and advanced economies, the U.S. treasury proposed capping current account surpluses and deficits at 4% as a way of achieving a better balance between surplus nations like China and debt ridden importers like the United States. We are above that 4% right now.
What we have to look at is how this fits into the overall budgetary plan of the Conservatives, such as it is. That is probably more of a compliment than they deserve to even mention the word plan when discussing the tragedy that has been visited upon the Canadian economy in the past five years since the Conservatives came to power.
We occupy the second largest land mass in the world and we have only 35 million people to try to give that value. That has always required the understanding of a government that placed value on the creation of jobs, on the creation of long-term growth and on the idea that we would try to go into those sectors of the economy that were the most forward-looking and the most productive. The Conservatives will have none of that.
The Conservative ideology is that anyone who seeks to have the government take a look at the economy, to balance it out and to have it grow long-term and make sense in some way is trying to pick winners. Their central thesis is a pristine marketplace that effectuates the best choices in all circumstances.
What we have had is an across the board tax cut being proposed by the Conservatives since they arrived in power. That is their panacea. That will solve all the problems. There is one slight difficulty with that. Any company, especially in the manufacturing field, that was not making a profit had not paid any taxes, so they did not get anything from the Conservatives tax decreases. The most profitable companies received those tax decreases, companies in the oil sector. The banking sector saw the same thing.
We will see a bit later this week the most recent quarter of bank profits, but for the first nine months of this year, Canada's chartered banks made $15 billion in profit. That is not because they are clever managers. It is because they have a quasi monopoly and they can charge people basically whatever they want, especially since the Conservatives came into power. Paying 25% on a credit card is no problem. Banks gouge customers every time they go to the banking machine. No problem. Why not? As far as the Conservatives are concerned it is normal to give a tip to the bank president every time someone accesses money at an ATM.
The real problem is the Conservatives have been destabilizing the erstwhile balanced economy that Canada had so painstakingly built up since the second world war. They are doing it by giving these across the board tax cuts, blind to any notion of productivity, blind to any notion of the creation of stable, long-term jobs which would allow people to raise a family. That is a thing of the past. As far as Conservatives are concerned, the market can decide.
When companies like Encana and Enbridge get millions of dollars in windfall because they have had a reduction in their taxes, we are still hollowing out the manufacturing sector. We are superheating the petroleum sector, bringing in an artificially high number of U.S. dollars, putting increasing pressure on the Canadian dollar, something that the textbooks refer to as “the Dutch disease”. This was after the situation that existed in Holland in the 1960s where the discovery of gas meant that a large number of foreign currencies were coming into the country, pushing the guilder ever higher. All of a sudden the Dutch realized that what was supposed to be manna from heaven was in fact destroying their economy because they could no longer afford to export their goods.
When we look at today's StatsCan figures, we realize the only thing that Canadian companies are spending is on equipment coming in from other countries. We can no longer produce on a competitive basis. Our manufacturing sector is being hollowed out. It is interesting to note that StatsCan, shortly after the Conservatives came to power, almost in a defensive statement, which I have never seen anything like it from StatsCan, said Canada was not suffering from the “Dutch disease”. When somebody bothers to use a term like that and then to affirm that it does not apply, my radar is automatically starting to ping. Why is it even mentioning it if it is not the case? That statement was made in 2006.
Between 2004 and 2008, in other words in 2008 before the current crisis hit, StatsCan put out new figures that showed precisely the opposite of what it had affirmed two years earlier. Between 2004 and 2008, Canada, mostly in Ontario and Quebec the industrial heartland, had bled off 322,000 good paying manufacturing jobs. The prime reason for that was we failed to internalize the costs of the oil sands. Instead of taking the fiscal space that was available and trying to help those sectors of the economy that needed it the most, we were giving the money to those sectors of the economy that were already making the largest profits.
How did we create the fiscal space for the $60 billion in tax increases that had been given to Canada's most profitable corporations? It is not very complicated. The Conservatives finished off the job started by the Liberals. They took $57 billion out of the employment insurance account and transferred it to general revenues of the government. A lot of people would look at that and say “so what, who cares”, that it was government money before and it government money after, but there is a huge difference. Every company, whether they were making money or losing money, had paid into that EI account as had every employee. We had that $57 billion purpose built, dedicated to take care of the inevitable cyclical aspect of the job market in Canada and when the recession hit, there would be money there to pay people employment insurance benefits.
The Conservatives cleaned out the account and now there was no more money there. There is going to be a $15 billion deficit that is going to have to be paid back again by all companies. Whether they are making profits or not or whether they are paying taxes or not, they are going to have this payroll tax for every job in their companies. That is what the Conservatives did. They created that fiscal space to give the tax decreases to the most profitable corporations by looting the employment insurance account, by taking the money that was there to create the fiscal space to do it.
When we talk about sustainable development, the notion that comes most immediately to mind is the environmental aspect. That is after all the driving force behind the United Nations report by Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway. He put together this important report with a view to the Rio summit in 1992. That was a way of saying every time the government had to come to a decision with regard to a problem, it had to look at not only the environmental but also at the social and economic aspects.
As we have cleaned out the manufacturing sector in Canada, we have shovelled forward onto the backs of future generations not only the environmental debt, which I will talk about in a minute with regard to the tar sands, but we have shovelled the financial and fiscal burden onto their backs. Hundreds of thousands of people will be coming to retirement in the next decades. They will no longer have a proper pension plan. At least in the manufacturing sectors those used to be provided for. We have seen what has happened to companies like Nortel, but more generally, employers that take over companies in Canada with the complicit attitude of the Liberals especially and the Conservatives, the first thing they go after is the pension plan of their employees. That is for the social aspect.
However, let us look now at the long-term deficit with regard to the environment and how that is continuing to cause one of the biggest problems in the Canadian economy. One of the basic principles of sustainable development is we have to internalize the costs of the environment. These are basic principles like user pay, polluter pay. We have to ensure we look at the life cycle analysis of anything that is put on the market.
Right now we are as guilty as a company that is manufacturing a product that is pushing all of its garbage into a river and claiming that it is making a good profit because it can sell cheaper, the way we are developing the tar sands. Right now we have a way of developing them which means we are not cleaning up the mess, we are not including it in the price. We are not even including the price of attempts to go after carbon capture and storage. That is being left on the general tax burden on the backs of every Canadian.
We have an unusual situation. We claim that we have the strategic resource that we are exploiting in the public interest, but in fact we are leaving a huge environmental burden on the back of future generations in addition to the fiscal and financial burden.
I talked about the $57 billion looted from the EI account. I talked about the $60 billion in tax reductions for Canada's richest corporations. It is no coincidence that Conservatives have also racked up the largest deficit in Canadian history also to the tune of $60 billion, and the three are related.
If we continue like this, we will have hollowed out manufacturing sector, we will have become, for all intents and purposes, a third world country relying almost exclusively on the exploitation and extraction of resources that we pump to our neighbours as quickly as possible. That is not a figure of speech, that is literally the case.
Let us look at what we have done with the tar sands. There are projects like Keystone, Alberta Clipper, Southern Lights and we are putting in these pipelines. The Conservatives had them approved rapidly since they became government. They have scrapped the Navigable Waters Protection Act since they came to power. Just recently, they scrapped the whole environmental assessment process in Canada to send it over to the National Energy Board, which has no experience or expertise in the matter, to ensure these large energy projects get approved as quickly as possible.
Then the North American Free Trade Agreement moved in to provide its impetus in all of this. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, there is a proportionality clause that means, essentially, that once we have started exporting the raw bitumen in such large quantities to the United States, we cannot reduce the quantities we export unless we reduce what we send to ourselves.
An independent outside analysis of just one of those projects, the Keystone project, concluded that there were 18,000 jobs being exported to the U.S. at the same time. Like a third world country, we do not even add the value here. There is no processing. Nothing is added. There is no refining. We are not doing anything with it to create permanent, long-term jobs here. It is a shameful way of destabilizing the balanced economy that we have built up since the second world war.
The government has always argued that it is not what is really happening, that those of us who say that the government can and should play a role in building a stable economy are trying to pick winners. The Conservatives have chosen their winners and it is the oil companies and the banks. People are going to pay for those lousy choices. Instead of looking at the most productive jobs and the most forward-looking parts of the economy, things that could be helping us for the future, creating a system of green renewables across the country, that is all going to be lost.
We have had an extraordinary occasion for the past five years to do something for future generations, but the vituperative, closed, narrow-minded attitude of the Conservatives has meant that they spew their venom at those who want the government to do something right with the economy. They claim to be doing a good job, but today's Reuters article, which will be in various forms in all of the economic papers across Canada tomorrow, prove just the contrary, that what the NDP has been saying for years in the House, that the Conservatives are destroying the balanced economy that Canada built up since the second world war, is in fact true.
The NDP is not alone in saying that Canada is suffering from the Conservatives' political and economic choices. It is now proven by today's statistics from Statistics Canada. That is why the NDP has no issues with saying that Bill C-47 will never receive our support, no more than Bill C-9 will, because it reflects the Conservatives' overall budget policy.
Earlier, I listened patiently to the member for Hochelaga, who said that the NDP was going to vote against, but he did not know why. I will return the compliment to my friend and colleague, the member for Hochelaga, by saying that, aside from general remarks about Bill C-47—he seems to have plenty to draw on—it would have been nice if he had told us exactly which clauses in Bill C-9 he likes. Furthermore, with everything we now know about the awful consequences of emptying the employment insurance fund, how can he support a bill that deals yet another blow to employment insurance? How can he support a bill that imposes yet more taxes on people who buy airplane tickets? How can he stand there and vote on the harmonized value-added tax without saying a word about how Quebec was the first province to harmonize its taxes? I was in the National Assembly when that happened. When the maritime provinces later did the same thing, I was there, and I saw how Bernard Landry reacted, with good reason, by saying that Quebec had already harmonized its taxes and was entitled to the same compensation the maritime provinces received.
They said the rules had changed. Even though Quebec was the first, its harmonization was not the same as theirs, so only the maritime provinces would receive compensation. It just so happens that the maritime provinces were about to vote in a federal election, and the Liberals really needed their support.
Then the same thing happened in British Columbia and Ontario. We have already spoken out against that, and we know how the story played out. Still, they said that the rules had changed again.
For all of these reasons, the NDP will once again vote against the Conservative government's budget policies.