That, in the opinion of the House, the government should:
(a) recognize that improved competitiveness will continue to stimulate economic growth and create jobs for Canadians; and
(b) continue to diversify and expand markets for Canadian goods and services by encouraging investment in Canada through lower corporate tax rates, maintaining a stable economy and the signing of free trade agreements.
Mr. Speaker, in support of this motion I would like to highlight a number of the government's initiatives to support a competitive, innovative economy as set out in “Advantage Canada” and as supported by Canada's economic action plan and budget 2010.
The government is committed to improving competitiveness, stimulating economic growth, creating jobs for Canadians, and diversifying and expanding markets for Canadian goods and services particularly in difficult times. It is the right thing to do. It is not enough to have the right idea or the right strategy, it is about implementation, getting it done, and in this regard Canada has made remarkable progress.
Even before the recession, the government laid the foundation for future prosperity through “Advantage Canada”, a strategic long-term economic plan designed to improve our economic prosperity. “Advantage Canada” focused on reducing taxes, paying down debt, fostering skills development, investing in roads, bridges, waterways and other vital infrastructure. The government also improved business conditions by implementing corporate tax reductions that are making Canada a more competitive country in which to do business.
In response to the global recession, the government acted quickly to support Canada's economy by introducing new measures under Canada's economic action plan; a comprehensive stimulus package to spur growth, create jobs and contribute to Canada's long-term competitiveness. Our opposition screamed “it's taking too long, you're not spending enough”. Now members are saying we spent too much.
It is important to find the right balance and it appear we have, better than other country because the long-term implication of too much state intervention is renewed inflation, rising interest rates, crowding out of investments, and prolonged sluggish economic performance. Our approach is working, demonstrated by the creation of 12,000 infrastructure programs begun or completed and nearly 285,000 jobs created in Canada in the last 10 months.
Budget 2010 follows through on the economic action plan and introduces new measures to create an environment that promotes investment and innovation, and contributes to enhanced competitiveness. Combined, the economic action plan and budget 2010 support measures to ensure that the conditions are in place for sustained growth. We will continue to deliver results for business. We have enhanced our access to finance through additional resources for the Export Development Corporation and the Business Development Bank of Canada. We have reduced the cost of doing business by eliminating all remaining tariffs on manufactured inputs, machinery and equipment by moving to cut red tape for businesses.
We are also on track to have the lowest statutory corporate income tax in the G7 by 2012. Through budget 2010 and previously introduced measures, we are also striving to improve Canada's appeal as a place for foreign investment. We are also conscious of the need to create the best educated, highest skilled, and most flexible workforce in the world. We are doing so by supporting skills development training and by helping to prepare our citizens for the labour market of today and for the future.
Our plan is the right plan and it is having the desired effect.
Our stimulus plan helped slow the decline in Canada's real GDP in the second quarter of 2009, after two consecutive quarters in recession. In the last quarter of 2009 we had 5% real GDP growth and today Statistics Canada announced that Canada's economy grew 6.1% in the first quarter of 2010. This represents the strongest quarterly rate of growth in a decade.
I am happy to report that our growth forecasts are better than many other countries. Since the worst days of the crisis, we have managed a turnaround.
That turnaround was aided in part by the strength of our financial sector. The World Economic Forum says that Canada has the soundest banking system in the world. In contrast to many other countries, none of Canada's banks required any bailout or any taxpayers' money. Even during the worst days of the credit crisis, the health of our financial institutions allowed them to continue to raise equity capital. Our top five banks are among the top 50 in the world. Using capitalization numbers, our three largest insurance companies are among the top 10 in the world. So we should not be glib about the importance of the strength of our financial sector in Canada which is increasingly recognized around the world.
A number of leaders, including President Obama, have praised the Canadian financial system for others to emulate. What is more, the OECD recently singled out our country for praise saying, “Canada looks good--it shines, actually” as did a major CIBC report stating that, “stronger long-term fundamentals of Canada's economy could see the second decade of the 21st century be this country's time to shine”.
Our government understands that a competitive Canadian economy depends on enhanced competitiveness, investing in skills and innovation, and getting the domestic framework right. But, it also requires reaching out to partners around the world, as we always have.
When it comes to creating the economy of tomorrow one thing is clear, we are not going to beat China, India or Brazil on wages. We are going to do it through raising productivity standards and through the development of higher-end products and services. In other words, through innovation and by opening new markets for Canadian companies. That is why the government has introduced new measures to diversify and expand markets for Canadian goods and services.
As outlined in the global commerce strategy and the recent Speech from the Throne, the government is pursuing an ambitious international trade agenda aimed at creating jobs and promoting investment for the economy of tomorrow by attracting foreign direct investment from key markets by focusing on priority sectors where Canada has competitive advantages.
When we talk about free trade and expanding markets, we do so because opening doors to trade is in the best interest of Canadians. It is also in the best interest because Canadian businesses, firms and investors are the engines that drive our economy. When businesses succeed, Canadians succeed through jobs, prosperity and a quality of life upon which we all depend.
In addition to improving the climate for business and investing in innovation, the government is expanding market opportunities to move Canada's economy forward. We are doing so by implementing free trade agreements with Peru, the European Free Trade Association, Colombia, Jordan, and Panama, despite some obstructionist opposition and delay tactics of the socialist parties. The isolationist policies of the Bloc and the NDP are the policies of failed economies. Growth in global trade has been largely responsible for the creation of wealth worldwide. Enhancing trade and resisting protectionism are both essential to the new world economy.
We are also doing so by continuing trade negotiations with the European Union, the Republic of Korea, the Caribbean community and other countries of the Americas, while also building our position in Canada's most important market, the United states; by launching free trade negotiations with the Ukraine; by launching a joint study with India to explore the parameters of a possible comprehensive economic partnership; by seeking to become a member of the trans-Pacific partnership negotiations; by pursuing additional air service agreements to achieve more competition, more choice for Canadians and more economic growth; by working to conclude foreign direct investment promotion and protection agreements with a number of countries beyond the existing 23 agreements; by building upon the recent agreement reached on regarding buy American that gives Canadian companies permanent access to state and government procurement in the United States and by tackling remaining impediments to trade such as border delays and regulatory differences; and by opening new offices and adding personnel abroad in key emerging markets, as well as domestically within our own borders.
To put it in straightforward terms, by bringing down barriers to trade and investment, the government will help Canadian businesses compete in an increasingly competitive world while also providing stimulus to the Canadian economy.
This will allow us to innovate and to compete globally. These measures will continue to fuel our economy from the global recession, forge a competitive advantage, support growth and prosperity, and help create the economy of tomorrow.
The next 30 days are going to be remarkable for our country. It is a great time to be a Canadian. The Olympics in Vancouver earlier this year were spectacular and noticed around the world. In June we will host the G8 summit in Muskoka and the G20 summit in Toronto. To quote the Prime Minister from March 2009:
Notwithstanding all the troubles around us, Canada has real advantages, real assets, and we should not hesitate to remind investors, partners and leaders around the world of the comparative strengths of our country.
In this regard, we have been and will continue to implement the strategies to ensure economic recovery and sustainable growth.