Mr. Speaker, here we are having returned to the House. We have had a throne speech. We have had a budget announcement, and now we are discussing the budget implementation bill. Like other budgets before it, I was hopeful about this budget. I was hopeful that it would be bold and visionary and that it would actually steer Canada toward a position of strength, but unfortunately, like other budgets, I was left disappointed.
The piece I am maybe the most disappointed with is the disconnect between the throne speech and the budget. In the throne speech, we actually saw some pretty interesting language about an innovation and productivity agenda. That really caught my eye. I was pretty excited about that language, but to even take that language at face value, we would have to ignore recent history.
If we just think about the Nortel experience very recently, the government essentially allowed Nortel to collapse before our very eyes. That company did the bulk of private sector research and development. It made Canada a leader in telecommunications. We just stood by and watched it fold and watched all of that research, all of that knowledge, all of that innovation get bought up by other countries.
That knowledge was our knowledge. That knowledge is our knowledge and now it is gone. If we add to that the fact that the government has utterly failed at least to try to protect the pensions of those knowledge-based workers, it does not bode well for any future innovation and productivity agenda the government purports to have.
Despite that recent example, in thinking about the future I was still optimistic about this productivity and innovation agenda. If we think about how best to accomplish that agenda, the moment was the stimulus budget and it was another lost opportunity. Innovation requires basic infrastructure such as broadband Internet access and investments in energy infrastructure. Last year's stimulus budget was the perfect time to invest in those infrastructure basics. It would have created jobs. It would have laid the groundwork for a real innovation and productivity agenda, but the government did not act then and this budget actually makes things worse.
The government's strategy is not to build infrastructure but actually to deregulate. Deregulation has proven to stifle innovation, whereas investment has proven to boost it.
We are on the wrong track. Members might wonder why. What I see is that the government has its head stuck in the tar sands and is unable to look beyond a tar sands growth strategy. This is what is going to impede any innovation agenda no matter how strong it is.
Canada has a history of resource dependency which has led to a tendency toward lower rates of productivity and innovation. Canada has done fairly well as a hewer of wood, drawer of water and pumper of oil, but we have paid the price with a less productive economy. This is an economic history that is catching up to Canada.
We have an ageing population. Add to that the growing importance of innovation to participate in a world economy, as well as the ecological cost of a resource-dependent economy, and we find ourselves in a very difficult position when considering the future. It is one that demands vision and bold action, but sadly, the government's economic strategy thus far has been to get rich off the tar sands.
We still offer subsidies to these companies, making the Canadian dollar a petrocurrency that fluctuates. These fluctuations make long-term value-added investments very difficult. That does not sound like very much of an innovation strategy to me.
We have been told the problem is that Canada's business class was lazy and that reducing the tariffs through free trade would whip them into shape. Free trade, corporate tax cuts and deregulation were supposed to solve our productivity problem, but they have not. What they have done is reinforced our nation's dependence on resource exports. It has hampered the government's ability to facilitate real innovation strategy.
Innovation almost by definition means doing something different. It means experimenting. It means promoting diversification of our economy. A laissez-faire approach will actually do the opposite. Giving tax cuts will increase profits to sectors that are not a part of the cutting edge, but they are actually a part of Canada's resource track.
A real strategy would provide direct support to entrepreneurs in the communities they are a part of. It would nurture them in early experimentation. It would help them network with other sectors and industries to facilitate knowledge exchange. It would give them basic infrastructure, and this does include social infrastructure, such as access to family security and strategies to gain community support for their endeavours.
An innovation strategy for Canada needs to include social infrastructure that will support communities and support hubs of knowledge sharing and innovation. This basic infrastructure must include housing. We are a country in desperate need of a national housing strategy. We are the only G8 country not to have this strategy.
My colleague from Vancouver East has introduced Bill C-304. This would create a national housing strategy for this country, a strategy that would also incorporate the very latest environmental and energy efficiency standards into this framework. We could transform communities across Canada, by providing not just stable and affordable housing, but sustainable and energy efficient housing as well. A stable community, a housed community, a community that has the means to survive: this is a productive community and yet the overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs do not support our housing bill.
While the U.K. is committing to retrofit all homes by 2030 with firm interim targets, our government just announced that it is going to cancel the very successful eco-energy home retrofit program. According to Green Communities Canada, which was actually the first organization to deliver the national home energy efficiency program, this program has stimulated hundreds of millions of dollars in energy savings for Canadians. A program like this generates huge savings. It also creates green jobs and improves our competitiveness, yet the program is being cancelled.
We are fed the line that the answer is to cut taxes, that if we cut taxes, we will instantly become productive and competitive. I recently attended a showing of Poor No More, a Canadian documentary. It was shown here on the Hill. It did a great job of dispelling this myth. It took a look at Ireland.
Ireland is often held up as being an example of a country that cut all of its corporate taxes and then succeeded economically, providing a model to follow. However, the example of Ireland is much more complex and nuanced than that. One piece of the puzzle is that Ireland has free post-secondary education. Ireland is committed to educating its citizens, inspiring them and creating a strong competitive and knowledgeable workforce that is the perfect breeding ground for innovation and productivity.
We need to take that kind of bold action in Canada. We need to ensure that every generation of Canadians has access to training and education in order to maximize the nation's productivity and responsiveness to new trends in research. We need to remove barriers to post-secondary education and stop the year-to-year increases in debt that graduates are laden with.
As the NDP critic for first nations, Inuit and Métis affairs focusing on urban aboriginal issues, it is of particular interest to me that aboriginal friendship centres have again been left out of this budget. Friendship centres need increased funding to provide services, to renovate their crumbling buildings and to better their technological capabilities. They are the heart of the urban aboriginal community. We have learned that about half of our first nations people live in urban centres. The friendship centres are vital to Canadian urban centres. They are a hub of activity and culturally appropriate programming and community collaboration. They deserve a fair shake. They are an economically sound investment.
If we invest in social infrastructure and add to that investment in other infrastructures that will specifically support innovation, we can start to piece together an innovation strategy for Canada. Imagine that. It can be done.
We know historically that certain technologies have created waves of innovation and that nations can position themselves strategically within these dynamics to achieve economic performance. In the last century we saw growth position around oil, and automobile and mass production, as well as a move toward an economy based on information and communications technologies.
Last year we found ourselves in a recession. Well, this was an opportunity because typically recessions are periods of change, when new periods of technology break through. This is why the Conservatives' scattershot stimulus spending was so short-sighted. They have run up a deficit, with nothing to show for it, and they failed to position Canada for the next wave of innovation, and the next wave is very likely to be one based on ecologically friendly technologies, and it needs to be if we are going to avoid catastrophic climate change. This is where Canada should be building new knowledge and expertise and encouraging entrepreneurship.
The NDP has already fostered successful co-operation with our green car industrial strategy. The Conservatives, on the other hand, are pushing against this wave, as we have seen in their attempts to--