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House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

The House resumed from March 4 consideration of the motion.

The EconomyGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with my colleague, the member for Mississauga South.

The first thing I would like to say is the fact that we are having this debate really underlines the fact that prorogation was not necessary.

While of course the economy is important, this issue that we are debating now in a kind of take note debate is not something that leads anywhere. It was originally started as a fill-in between the throne speech and the budget. Now because the government apparently has nothing better to do, no legislation, no real agenda, we are continuing on this merry path.

It looks as if the government has no legislation, no ideas, and just a well rested government after three months of holiday. Otherwise we would have legislation; we would have something meaty. All this recalibration and what does it lead to? A debate that right now leads nowhere.

I do not understand why the government had to prorogue. I do not understand why this recalibration led to nothing whatsoever in terms of any new agenda.

Nevertheless, as finance critic I would not deny that the economy is important. Indeed, it is probably job one. Therefore, I am happy to discuss it even though, as I said, a government which really had recalibrated, a government that really had anything in the way of new ideas would have some legislation and something more substantial before the House at this time.

I thought I would begin, because it is timely, with the release yesterday of the report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the amazing reaction of the Minister of Finance in the House in question period yesterday.

I have the report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. On the very first page he says that his budget projections are based on the same private sector economic forecasts that the budget was based on. He takes those forecasts as a given and from there devises the budget projections.

What did the finance minister say in the House yesterday? He said that this Parliamentary Budget Officer did not believe these 50 eminent economists who made their private sector forecasts, which was absolutely totally wrong because as the Parliamentary Budget Officer himself said on page 1, his forecasts of the budget were based on precisely the same private sector GDP forecasts, as the finance minister used. He attacked virulently the Parliamentary Budget Officer, but on precisely the wrong erroneous grounds.

Let me talk about the substance of this report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, not the fictitious allegation that he did not accept the private sector forecasts. He did.

This is a two-step process. In step one we take the economic forecasts, and the finance minister and the Parliamentary Budget Officer are on precisely the same page in that respect. In step two we translate those economic forecasts into the budget forecasts. There are many steps between the economic forecasts and the budget forecasts.

One of the complaints of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is that there is a lack of transparency on the part of the finance minister because he does not tell us what is inside that black box, what assumptions he makes in translating the economic forecasts into the budget forecasts. There is all sorts of room for little tricks and we do not know what he is up to.

That is one of the problems the Parliamentary Budget Officer had and that is why he asked for greater transparency on the part of the government and the Department of Finance, so that people would know how they get from the economic forecasts to the budget forecasts.

In general terms, the Parliamentary Budget Officer made three points, all of which indicate that the government looks at these matters with rose coloured spectacles.

Point number one, how many times have we heard the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance say that Canada is leading the way, Canada did much less badly than any other country? That happens not to be true. The Parliamentary Budget Officer took data from the IMF, he looked at the severity of the recession in all G7 countries, and he found that Canada was in the middle of the pack.

Canada is not leading the way. We all want Canada to lead the way, but we on this side, as well as the Parliamentary Budget Officer, also want to be telling the truth. The truth is that we are not leading the way. We are in the middle of the pack and so it is time the government stopped boasting and telling things that are not true with regard to Canada's position compared to other G7 countries.

The second point the Parliamentary Budget Officer made was that it was not true that the risk was way down. He used various methods to show that the risk to the forecasts going forward remained high. The risk has not diminished immensely since some months ago. So contrary to what the government says, there is still a huge amount of risk out there and a huge amount of uncertainty with regard to the forecast for the budget.

The third way in which the government is excessively rosy according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer is that the Conservatives are being too rosy in making their deficit forecasts. Even though he accepts the same private sector forecasts as the government, the deficit after year four is not $2 billion as the government says, but is more likely to be $12 billion according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Also Don Drummond, chief economist at TD Bank, on television yesterday concurred. He said he was much closer to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's number than he was to the government's number.

In other words, according to the government's own planning, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, according to Don Drummond, the government is lowballing the deficit estimates and it is much closer to $12 billion than it is to $2 billion.

In summary, the government is exaggerating Canada's relative position in terms of doing well. The government is exaggerating the reduction and uncertainty over past months, and is lowballing the deficit according to what a prudent, rational forecaster or economist would conclude.

One should acknowledge that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has enormously more credibility on anything to do with economic forecasts than does our finance minister. We just have to go back to November 2008 when with that highly discredited economic statement by the government, we may recall that the finance minister was predicting nothing but surpluses; surpluses forever and then he went to a $25 billion, $32 billion, $56 billion deficit.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer, and I must say virtually every other economist in the land, knew full well in November of 2008, when the recession had already begun, that we were heading into deficits. So the forecasting record of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is far superior to that of the Minister of Finance and therefore he should take note. He should listen to what the Parliamentary Budget Officer says rather than lashing out at him on the basis of arguments that are simply erroneous.

I would conclude by saying that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is a great asset to our country in order to ensure the government is honest in its economic prognostications. Rather than lashing out at this person, similar to the way the government lashed out at Linda Keen, the head of the Nuclear Safety Commission, the way the government lashed out at Richard Colvin, the civil servant, the way the government lashes out at any public servant, any officer of Parliament who dares to disagree with it in any regard, instead of that the government should take note of the wisdom of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The EconomyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was quite surprised that the finance critic for the Liberals started off by chastising the government for not having something better to debate today than Canada's economy, but I was glad that he did come around to acknowledging that the economy actually is important. It is certainly important to Canadians, many of whom are looking for jobs right now and we are doing our best to help them with that.

Is the finance critic annoyed about having to debate the economy because it is Friday and he had something better to do, or is he annoyed about having to debate the economy because the Liberals have no idea how to improve the economy other than to raise taxes and spend, spend, spend?

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10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure it helps the unemployed people and those suffering from a weak economy to hear such ridiculous questions. That does not really get to the bottom of the issue.

My point was, of course, I am happy to debate the economy. I am an economist; that is my subject. It is important. But my point is that if the government had really done anything substantive in its so-called recalibration, we would not just be standing here on a Friday debating, we would be debating actual actions taken by the government, legislation.

With a three month holiday, we would think that the government would have had time to produce a plan and action that it could put before Parliament and debate rather than listening to these silly questions which will not do any good whatsoever to the economy. It would have been much better if the government really had, during this period of prorogation, developed a plan such that there were concrete measures before the House today.

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10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government maintains that the economy is strong, but try telling that to the 800,000 workers who are on EI and are about to run out of benefits. There are no jobs for those people to go to.

The government says the economy is going to grow by 2.6% this year. It has to do at least that because the working age population is growing by over 1% a year. So in fact, the budget's own unemployment projections show the jobless rates are actually going to increase this year from 8.2% to 8.5%. The government's solution is further tax cuts. The government thinks that somehow is going to grow the economy and create jobs.

I would like to ask the hon. member this. How effective does he think the tax cuts are going to be?

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10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, Liberal members are on record as saying we would certainly not raise taxes. We believe that the current tax situation is favourable.

I would point out that the hon. member mentioned jobs. Does the hon. member know that in May 2006, just a couple of months after the government came to power, there were more private sector employee jobs than there are today, after today's job numbers? In the four years since the government has been in power, we have lost net private sector employee jobs.

I know the government is very happy because there has been a surge in public sector jobs, but we on this side of the House, and I would say most economists, think that private sector jobs are essential for the sustained growth of this economy. The government should be aware that as of today there are fewer private sector employee jobs than there were just a couple of months after it took power.

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10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member from Markham—Unionville gave us a brilliant analysis of Canada's current economic situation, pointing out that both it and the future are much less rosy than the Conservatives would have us believe.

I generally agree with his intelligent criticism of the Conservatives' positions. I would, however, like to know where the Liberals' ideas, figures and agenda are to combat the crisis.

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10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments.

As I told the House a number of times, we have concrete proposals and ideas. I will mention only two.

First, we proposed three measures to boost employment among young people in the manufacturing, forestry and high-tech industries. We made these proposals, but the Conservatives did not listen.

Second, we proposed three concrete policies for pensions; a supplement for the Canada Pension Plan, among other things.

I have other examples, but I do not have the time. I gave two concrete examples, namely, jobs and pensions.

We have ideas and proposals to offer.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, we initially came to the House to debate the first piece of legislation the government put on the table, which it re-calibrated, the Canada-Colombia free trade bill, a bill that we will not be debating today because the government is not ready to deal with a straightforward trade bill and start talking about how we will move forward in terms of advancing the economy.

It goes to the question of whether Canadians can believe that it was necessary to prorogue Parliament so the government could renew and refresh the agenda. Apparently not because only one bill, other than the budget document, is on the table, and the budget was coming anyway. It was no surprise that this had to happen. It goes to the question of whether we can believe what the government says. Canadians were very upset about the prorogation and I do not think the government really gets it.

Accountability is a very important aspect and trait of people with honesty and integrity. Without honesty and integrity there can be no accountability. In my profession as a chartered accountant, one is accountable when one can explain or justify one's actions or decisions in a manner which is truthful and plain, as well as clear, concise and correct. If one adopts that definition of accountability, one will find that the government does not meet the test and has not met the test in so many ways.

I will give an example. On page 5 of the throne speech, which can also be found in his budget speech to Parliament, the finance minister stated:

Balancing the nation’s books will not come at the expense of pensioners...or by raising taxes on hard-working Canadians.

That is kind of interesting. Just two days ago in this place, the transport minister said, “Cutting taxes creates jobs, more hope and more opportunity”. However, if the government raises taxes—

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10:15 a.m.

Richard Harris

It kills jobs.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

The member is quite right, it kills jobs.

We know what the government said. It said that it would not raise taxes or penalize pensioners, but what did it do? Starting April 1, a couple of weeks from now, employment insurance premiums for employers and employees will increase by almost 9%.

I remember being in this place when a direct question was asked about the raising of taxes and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said that EI premiums were not taxes. The government does not think they are taxes. I think Canadians know that a payroll tax is a tax. They know it is money coming out of their pockets.

There will be an immediate 9% increase, 15¢ on the current $1.73 per $100 of earnings, and it will continue. In fact, cumulatively over the five years of this budget, it is projected to be about $19 billion. Can anyone imagine? That is quite a large number to suggest that it is doing wonderful things without raising taxes but it represents more than a third of the deficit that it is trying to erase.

What else did the government do? On January 1, 2011, it will be imposing a 31.5% punitive tax on income distributions to income trust holders. That decision was made after it had promised in the 2006 election not to tax income trusts. People believed and trusted the government and yet on the following October 31 the finance minister said that this 31.5% tax would be imposed, that it would be delayed somewhat but that it would happen. That is a 31.5% punitive tax on hard-working Canadians, mostly pensioners.

Do members know what that did to the value of their investments? In one short week it wiped out $35 billion of the hard-earned retirement nest egg of Canadians. What did the government say? It said that it would bring in pension income splitting and that would take care of it.

It sort of sounded like that might work, except that I did a little a homework and found out that only about 25% of seniors have defined benefit pension plans. Only those kinds of pension plans qualify for pension income splitting. However, of those 25%, if we take out those who do not have a partner to split with and take out those who already are at the lowest marginal tax rate, the percentage of seniors who actually can benefit from pension income splitting is 14.2%. Only 14.2% of seniors will be able benefit even one iota from pension income splitting.

Why was the government not honest with Canadians? Why did it not tell them the truth, that it was going to tax 2.5 million seniors, pensioners, people who have their retirement nest egg all set up and cannot take any more risk, people who do not have pensions, people for whom the income trust was a instrument to allow people to make an investment that would provide them with a monthly cash flow that would emulate a pension?

Those people have been destroyed. Fifteen percent of the income trusts have now been bought by foreign interests. It has cost us $1.5 billion in annual tax revenue because of that. Before the end of this calendar year, many more, if not all of the other income trusts, will be dissolved. That instrument disappears. This is pretty serious stuff. This has to do with integrity and accountability.

What else will the government do? It will raise the air travellers transport tax. Two days ago, the transport minister said that cutting taxes creates jobs, provides more hope and more opportunity but we are raising the taxes on travelling for Canadians.

This goes to a question of character and a question of accountability. The government says that it has a $54 billion deficit that it needs to deal with. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that the government is being too rosy on its growth rates and on the performance of the labour markets. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's analysis, the government will still be short over $10 billion to balance the budget, and yet it is focused primarily on a fiscal deficit. What the government does not mention is that concurrently we have a social deficit.

One of the immediate reactions to the budget came from Alex Himelfarb, the former head of the Privy Council who ran the civil service. He was here a long time. Just to paraphrase his statements, he said that no one can be very clear about what is going to happen over the next five years with regard to eliminating the deficit and that nobody knows whether the budget will succeed over the next three, four or five years. However, what we do know, he says, is that Canada faces huge challenges, for example, the impact of an aging population, social and economic programs, health programs and the tax system. He says that those things will make the numbers really problematic. He is concerned that it will be very problematic for the government to achieve fiscal balance again, which the Conservatives squander every time they get in government. They squander surpluses that are passed on to them.

Mr. Himelfarb went on to say that smaller government and lower taxes were not the answers to meeting the challenges. He said that if we are going to meet our challenges on the environment, climate change and deepening inequities, we will need to do other things.

Will the government meet the challenges on creating a competitive economy? Apparently not. To meet those challenges, Mr. Himelfarb concludes that smaller government and lower taxes will not do it.

We could debate this all we want but the critical issue is that the government said that it would not raise taxes. It has clearly misled Canadians and Parliament because it is in fact raising income taxes on the backs of pensioners and hard-working Canadians.

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy the member for Mississauga South ended on that note. He has been here as long as I have and he remembers very well what happened when former Liberal government under Prime Minister Chrétien decided to balance its budget. The first thing it did was slash $25 billion from transfers to the provinces in support of health care and social programs. The Liberals balanced their budget on the backs of the poor and the infirm, and they will never get rid of that shame. I am embarrassed that the member would stand up and act so sanctimonious after the devastating thing that his former prime minister and government did to the poor and infirm in this country. He should be ashamed of himself.

Out of the masses of people who said that this budget was a budget for our time and that it would help lead us out of the recession, it is amazing how the Liberals picked one person who opposed it, as opposed to 25 who gave us rave reviews. I am surprised those members did not use the CBC as one of their supporters.

Is the member prepared to go to the 14% of seniors who are income splitting and tell them that they do not deserve it? Is that what he is saying?

The EconomyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that Canadians have come to know is that every time the government gets put on its heels it tries to switch the channel.

The EconomyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Hey, we are doing fine.

The EconomyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the loudmouth member over there would simply--

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10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I think that statement prompted a negative reaction from the House, so I would ask the member for Mississauga South to withdraw the word that he just used to describe the member for Cariboo—Prince George.

The EconomyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

I withdraw the comment, Mr. Speaker, but I do have the floor and he is still talking. It is difficult for me to respond to the question that I sat and listened to that he is not allowing me to answer. I would ask him to just listen and cool his jets.

There is one element that the member forgot to mention, which the finance minister mentioned many times in this place. The debt to GDP now is very modest compared to back when the Liberals took over the $42.5 billion deficit from Brian Mulroney. The debt to GDP made us a basket case. We were the laughing stock of the world in terms of our economic position. That is the difference.

An impossible situation requires making tough decisions. We cleaned it up and we passed on big surpluses to the Conservative government.

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member talked a lot about accountability during his speech. The government should be accountable to the people of Canada but the official opposition should also be accountable to the people of Canada.

The budget will raise EI premiums. It has a transport tax and it has the HST that people in Ontario and B.C. will need to pay. The member for Markham—Unionville said that the Liberals were against these tax increases.

I would like to ask the member for Mississauga South why his party did not show up to vote against the budget. That would have nullified these tax increases. If the Liberals want the government to be accountable, how come they are not accountable?

The EconomyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue here is what is in the best interests of Canadians and what is in the best interests of our economy. All of the examples that I gave in my speech go to the issue of character.

I want to quote the Leader of the Opposition in his speech yesterday to this place in response to a question asked of him. He said:

The issue that goes to character is that the Conservatives will not stand up in the House of Commons before Canadians and admit they have increased taxes. That is the issue of character. That is the issue that undermines confidence and trust in the government, and that is why we will continually oppose the Conservatives when they seek to tell Canadians things that are simply not true.

The EconomyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, in budget 2009, we presented Canada's economic action plan to stabilize and protect our economy for the short term, while taking steps to improve Canada's long-term economic growth and prosperity. The plan was designed to boost confidence and economic growth and to support Canadians and their families during a period of severe global economic weakness. Budget 2010 builds on these goals. The measures presented in budget 2010 will contribute to Canada's recovery and sustain our economic advantage now and for the future.

Canada has weathered the global recession better than all major industrialized countries and we are returning to economic growth following the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. However, we do not yet have a firmly established recovery. As such, Canada's economic action plan will continue to provide unprecedented support for the Canadian economy through 2010 by going beyond the immediate crisis and building on strategic advantages set out in advantage Canada in order to create a more competitive economy.

Year two of the action plan delivers $19 billion in federal stimulus spending, augmented by $6 billion in stimulus from provinces, territories, municipalities and other partners, for a total of $25 billion. Over 90% of year two funding is committed and ready to be delivered. This includes $3.2 billion in personal income tax relief, more than $4 billion in actions to create and protect jobs, $7.7 billion to modernize infrastructure and improve housing across Canada, $1.9 billion to create the economy of tomorrow and $2.2 billion to support industries and communities.

The action plan gives Canadians more flexibility to improve their quality of life even when times are tough. Our plan leaves more money in their pockets. It makes permanent tax reductions that build a strong foundation for future economic growth and higher living standards for Canadians.

Reducing the tax burden on Canadians has been a key element of getting through the global recession while setting the foundation for future growth. Tax relief and the economic action plan benefit all taxpayers, especially lower and middle income Canadians. For example, Canada's low and middle income seniors are benefiting from an increase in the age credit amount. As a result of this increase, the amount of tax relief provided by the age credit for this year alone is up to $967. As well, the working income tax benefit has been enhanced so that it now provides tax relief of $1.1 billion annually to reduce thereby the welfare wall and strengthen work incentives for low income working Canadians.

Indeed, even before the introduction of Canada's economic action plan, Canadians were benefiting from the tax relief introduced by this government. A key example is the two percentage point reduction in the goods and services tax rate. This is a tax break for all Canadians, even those who do not earn enough to pay personal income tax.

Canadians deserve praise for their ability to persevere during this global recession. The economic situation has taken a toll on workers and their families, and Canadians need to have faith that their government is there to assist them. Through Canada's economic action plan, the government is giving Canadians the security and support they require.

The budget is helping workers and their families by strengthening benefits and enhancing the availability of training while the economy moves into recovery. Under the action plan, $1.6 billion will be available to strengthen benefits for Canadian workers in 2010-11, including up to five extra weeks of EI regular benefits, to a maximum of 50 weeks, for all eligible claimants.

The economic action plan is also providing an additional $1 billion in 2010-11 to enhance training opportunities for Canadian workers. These measures will not only assist workers in need now, but will also give them the opportunity to have more meaningful jobs in the future. Canada's economic action plan includes provincial and territorial actions, and is expected to create or maintain approximately 220,000 jobs by the end of 2010.

Traditional industries, including the forest sector and manufacturing industries, have been hit hard by declining sales in the slowing economy. The communities where these industries are located need assistance as they adjust to cyclical and structural changes in the economy.

To promote clean energy generation in the forest industry, budget 2010 creates the next generation renewable power initiative, with $100 million over the next four years to support the introduction of advanced clean energy technologies in the forest sector.

Budget 2010 also provides $135 million in funding over two years for the National Research Council's technology cluster initiatives. The clusters accelerate regional innovation by fostering research collaboration among governments, businesses and academic institutions and by promoting the development of knowledge-intensive companies in key areas.

During this time of continuing global economic uncertainty, Canadians can be assured that our government will never stand by and allow communities in Canada to suffer from threats beyond their borders. Canada's economic action plan accelerated and expanded federal investments in infrastructure. The immediate actions we took have helped Canada come out of the economic crisis with more modern and greener infrastructure. Moreover, for the 2009-10 construction seasons, the government has committed close to $5.5 billion in stimulus funding to over 7,000 projects. Of that amount, almost $4 billion is expected to be spent in 2010.

Investments have moved quickly. We have shortened the time needed to provide federal approval for major projects. We have partnered with the provinces, territories and municipalities, not only to identify ready to go projects but also to leverage their funding contributions. For example, the economic action plan included $500 million over two years for the recreational infrastructure Canada initiative. The initiative is being delivered by the regional development agencies in their respective areas to promote the construction of new community recreational facilities and to upgrade existing facilities across Canada. Investments in infrastructure are paving roads, fixing sewers, repairing bridges and creating jobs.

Provinces and territories should also be assured that they will be able to continue to count on long-term, growing support from this government. In 2010-2011, major federal transfers to provinces and territories will total an all time high of nearly $53.6 billion, an increase of $2.1 billion over 2009-10. In 2010-11, the support includes an addition $1.4 billion in the Canada health transfer, $321 million in the Canada social transfer, $187 million in equalization and $166 million in territorial formula financing. In addition, $525 million will be provided through one time payments to ensure that provinces are protected from any decline in their total transfers in 2010-11, in recognition of the short-term challenges being faced by provinces as we emerge from the global recession.

We are ensuring that all provinces receive at least as much support through major transfers this year as they did last year. The government's role in building a more competitive economy includes creating an environment that enables its visionaries to excel and that does not stand in the way of their success. Any competitive economy requires competitive taxes, and tax relief supports businesses and jobs in the short term by providing up-front stimulus, which helps businesses weather challenging economic times while creating a long-term advantage for sustained economic and employment growth.

Since 2006 the government has implemented bold tax reductions and tax changes to provide businesses with a competitive business environment that encourages new investment, growth and job creation in Canada. Canada's economic action plan introduced temporary measures to make computers, as well as machinery and equipment for manufacturing and processing, more affordable for Canadian businesses. Our economic action plan also included a permanent increase in the amount of small business income eligible for the reduced federal income tax rate.

This year, as a result of federal and provincial business tax changes since 2006, Canada will have the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7 and below the average of the OECD. By 2012, Canada will also have the lowest statutory corporate income tax rate in the G7.

The tax relief actions our government has taken are positioning Canadian businesses to emerge stronger and better equipped to compete globally as the economy recovers. These measures to reduce the tax burden on Canadian businesses are complemented by the elimination of remaining tariffs on machinery and equipment and inputs. This will lower operating costs for Canadian manufacturers and encourage innovation. This means that Canadian manufacturers will be able to import goods for further production in Canada without the burden of tariffs and the cost of complying with certain customs rules such as rules of origin.

Together, these will give Canadian manufacturers a competitive advantage in the global marketplace by lowering production costs, increasing competitiveness and enhancing innovation and productivity. Manufacturers have stated during consultations that such a measure will help them maintain and increase production and employment in Canada and expand their exports. Budget 2010 delivers.

A competitive advantage also requires support for the pursuit of knowledge. Our government recognizes that research and development is an important driver of long-term economic growth and that discoveries stemming from research help improve the quality of life of Canadians. Canada ranks first among the G7 countries in terms of expenditures on research and development in the higher education sector as a share of the economy.

Building on this leadership position, the economic action plan includes an unprecedented $4 billion in additional funding for research infrastructure, knowledge and commercialization. Budget 2010 continues this momentum by providing additional funding to support world class research and researchers, including $32 million per year to the federal research granting councils to sustain their overall support for researchers at Canadian universities, colleges and hospitals and to strengthen commercialization.

Budget 2010 also doubles the budget of the college and community innovation program, providing an additional $15 million per year to promote research collaboration between colleges and companies in all parts of Canada. In addition, the budget announced a new small and medium size enterprise innovation commercialization program, with $40 million over two years for federal departments and agencies to demonstrate the use of innovative prototype products and technologies developed by small and medium size businesses.

The government's plan is to ensure that our country will emerge from the recession with a stronger economic advantage than ever before. There is no question that our country has come through the global economic storm in an enviable position. As Canadians we should be proud of what we have accomplished during a time when other nations were struggling with far greater economic challenges.

That Canada endured recent global turbulence with such resilience is a testament to our economic action plan. It was one of the most comprehensive stimulus packages in the industrialized world, an approach endorsed by the G20 and the G7. As I indicated earlier, the impact of the recession on Canada's economy has been less severe than it has been on virtually all other major industrialized economies, and Canada is expected to have the strongest recovery in the G7 in 2010.

The world can learn a lot from Canada. As Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winner in economics, recently said:

the quiet success stories deserve at least as much attention as the spectacular failures. We need to learn from those countries that evidently did it right. And leading that list is our neighbor to the north. Right now, Canada is a very important role model.

As host of this summer's G20 summit, Canada can serve as an example of how to prepare for and prevent a crisis, and an example of the global contributions that must be made to overcome it. While we are seeing some signs of recovery from the serious global recession, the situation remains fragile. Thanks to our strong economic and fiscal foundation, as well as the timely implementation of our economic action plan, Canada is in relatively good shape compared with other advanced economies.

Based on this position of strength, I can assure members that our country will be a vital part of the long-term solutions, as well as a meeting place for a number of key international events this year that will help transform a world in crisis into one of unparalleled long-term stability.

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened to what the hon. member said.

I know there are quite a number of urban people in the government's caucus, and there are also quite a number of rural people. One of the sad points in terms of the budget is that there is a glaring neglect in the agricultural arena.

The hon. member talked about jobs and the economy, and manufacturing and exports. The problem is that Canada, in terms of its exports in the agricultural sector, is losing its own market share in Canada because of American farm policy. It is not that our farmers cannot be competitive. Our farmers are competitive, but what they lack is competitive policy.

With the livestock industry, the hog and beef industries in terrible financial trouble, there is not one new dime in the budget for primary producers. There is a little bit of recalculation on agri-flex, but not a new dime in the budget.

I ask the hon. member, seeing as he is a member of the total caucus, what happens over there? Do farmers just not rate? Does the government just not care about the farm community in terms of its prosperity?

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10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that of our 145 members, about 100 have rural constituencies, but the hon. member's party is essentially a Toronto-Vancouver-Montreal party. It has very few agricultural members. That is because our policies have been very solid as we look toward the agricultural community.

If the hon. member would check the records, he would find that we have spent more on agriculture than the previous Liberal governments did. We will continue to support the agricultural community, which we consider vital to our economy.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it quite interesting that we are talking about the economy and jobs. I come from a riding that has seen a phenomenal number of jobs lost in the riding, especially in regard to our resource industry.

I want to ask the hon. member about corporate tax cuts. The fact is that the former Liberal government believed that corporate tax cuts were the answer and the Conservative government has followed in its footsteps. The Liberal government started reducing the rate from 28% to 21%, and then under the Conservative government it went from 21% to 18%, and now it is going to 15%. Across the board, provincially and federally, we have seen a 36% reduction in corporate tax cuts, and yet business productivity has not increased.

Why is it that the Conservative government continues to go down the road of corporate tax cuts and increases the taxes on workers? The Conservatives are going to tell us that they are not increasing taxes on workers and families, but they are. The HST is coming in, and there will be tax increases on workers with regard to the EI increases starting in 2011, some $19 billion.

Instead of all of these big corporate tax cuts, does the hon. member not think that the government should be investing in people in general?

The EconomyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I can keep track, our government has cut about $200 billion in taxes, both for individuals and corporations. We believe that the source of wealth in the economy is in the private sector.

We live in a time when economic stimulus is required by federal, provincial, and territorial governments to help the economy recover, and that causes the economy to grow because of government infusions. We are now at the transition point. We want the private economy to take over and drive this economy. We believe the best way to do that is to reduce barriers to business and reduce taxes so that more people can be employed.