Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand here as a member of the finance committee to talk at third reading of Bill C-9, the jobs and economic growth plan. It follows up on our economic action plan, which this government implemented over a two-year period to tackle the economic situation that this country was facing, as other countries were around the world.
It has been a very difficult economic time and we in this country have been fortunate enough to have a banking system, financial system and Conservative government vision that have paid down debt and put our House in order to be able to manage through that economic crisis. We have seen some really positive numbers over the last number of weeks, whether it was our GDP growth at 6.1% or the job creation numbers that we have seen over the last few weeks.
I think we are on the road to recovery. We are doing much better, as was even admitted by our Liberal opposition today, than most countries around the world. The OECD indicates that we are number one in terms of our ability to come out of this recession. It is the deepest recession that we have had in this country since the Great Depression. We had the foresight, vision and ability to take action and make things happen.
We were able to create jobs, generate wealth and resume the economic growth that this country needs and has been able to maintain over the last number of years. We are getting back on track and I think it is very much in light of this government's ability to see what is going to happen, take action and put the economic action plan in place.
The action plan was a two-year process for us to ensure that we kept our economy rolling. It will come to an end in March 2011 in terms of the stimulus funding and people are aware of that. People understand that it was a one-time opportunity for us to put money into the marketplace to create the long-term infrastructure to make our country a solid place to grow, live and raise a family for many years to come.
Before I really get started, it has been an honour for me to be on the finance committee over the last three to four years. To show the kind of commitment that the committee has to working on issues that are facing Canada and Canadians from an economic perspective on a daily basis, I want to congratulate three of my colleagues on the committee.
First, I want to congratulate the parliamentary secretary from Macleod. Based on a Maclean's survey, a survey done by our peers indicating who we think is the hardest-working member of Parliament, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, the gentleman I work with every day, won that award and it was well deserved.
Another individual on our committee who I also want to congratulate is the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar. She won the rising star award through the Maclean's survey. We in the House voted on who we thought was making a contribution, not just in Parliament but on committee and to their constituents. Both of those constituencies should be very proud of their members and I am honoured to serve on the finance committee with them.
Finally, the other person who needs some recognition is the chair of the finance committee, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, who runs an excellent committee. We often hear in the paper about some of the committees on the Hill that are not working that well, but these are big, tough issues that we deal with. He gets some recognition in the newspaper on occasion but I want to publicly do it here in the House.
We have lots of people who come to see us asking for money and having lots of suggestions. I congratulate and thank the chair of that committee for the excellent work he does on keeping us focused, for keeping an eye on the ball, for knowing the issues we are facing as a committee and for being able to deliver reports, suggestions and recommendations back through the House.
The jobs and economic growth plan that we have in Bill C-9 will come to third reading and hopefully will pass this evening and be off to the other place for its consultation and vote.
I will talk about a number of areas in it and then highlight a few that are of particular interest to me. First, it would eliminate tariffs on manufacturing inputs on machinery and equipment. We have heard often that this is a big bill. It is actually 24 sections, but one of the additional pieces is the hundreds of pages of tariffs that exist affecting business in this country every day. These are tariffs for input costs that our manufacturing sector has to pay. It has to understand that there is paperwork involved and then there is the cost of doing business.
There has been a lot of discussion and I think there will be more in the future on the productivity of Canada and where we are in comparison to our competitors around the world. We do not just compete within Canada. We need to compete on the world stage with the productivity levels of other manufacturers and other service providers around the world. Canadians need to be as productive as possible to ensure we can get the economic benefit from being a productive economy.
These hundreds and hundreds of tariffs have been and continue to be a barrier to many manufacturers, and I am not talking about large manufacturers. These are smaller organizations with 10, 15, 20, 30 employees. This burden placed on them is a job killer and prevents them from being competitive on the world market. I am glad that Bill C-9 is finally removing these barriers.
Bill C-9 would also eliminate the need for tax reporting under section 116 of the Income Tax Act for many investors by narrowing the definition of taxable Canadian property. It is technical but I will give some facts. I will go a little further on this later. We are making it easier for venture capital money to come to Canada. The venture capital marketplace in this country is very small and, for our businesses to grow and attract capital, one of the barriers is in the Income Tax Act on the paper burden for someone to invest in a Canadian company. I will go further if I have time into this issue, but it will remove that barrier.
I was not aware of this issue until relatively recently in the fall. A number of members of Parliament had a meeting with Canada's Venture Capital & Private Equity Association and it was clear that this section of the Income Tax Act was a real barrier for it to be able to attract money from other parts of the world to invest in Canadian companies. This is not a takeover. This is to get companies from one level of a being small organization, where most of the investment that has happened thus far is either from the pockets of the owners, their friends, their family or other angel investors they may have found, and move them to the next level where they can compete on a world scale and attract investment to help them to invest in people, equipment and machinery to make the best products and services so they can be the number one company in the world.
We are implementing important changes to strengthen the pension plans which were announced in the fall. Bill C-9 would implement those changes, which I will talk about later. It would authorize over $500 million in transfer protection payments. What does that mean? There have been changes to the formulas in terms of transfers to the provinces. For those who do not know, there are three basic transfers to provinces: the health transfer, the social transfer and the equalization payments. There have been some changes to the formula and we wanted to ensure the provinces were treated equitably through these changes. For some provinces, because of the formula, there was going to be a reduction in the transfer.
This government came to the plate, stood up for the provinces and said that we know there are some issues in the changes and that we will honour the amount of money the provinces received in previous years. That is what that $500 million is for.
The bill would allow for the regulation of the national payment card network and its operators. With respect to the credit card and debit card industry, the minister has been very clear that some changes have to be made. The consumer has to be respected. This bill would put in place what the minister has said is voluntary at this point, but if the voluntary program is not followed, the government will make it mandatory.
However, the Minister of Finance did not have the authority to make it mandatory. Many people do not know that. A lot of people believe that the federal government has a magic wand and it can do whatever it wants. That is really not the case. The law has to be followed and the law did not allow it to happen. Bill C-9 allows the finance minister to make mandatory any changes to credit card and debit card operations that would benefit consumers.
Another aspect I am very excited about is that Bill C-9 would provide credit unions in each province the ability to have a national charter. What does that really mean? There are a number of very successful credit unions across the country. They are all run and regulated by the provinces. The bill would allow for a broader opportunity.
Just a few minutes ago the banks were mentioned. Canadians are thankful for our banking system. Our banking system is much more robust and got us through this recession in much better shape than many other countries. However, we still believe in competition and that is why we think the credit union system can play a role in being competitive in the financial services marketplace.
Now it is not possible for credit unions to have a national charter. The bill would allow them to have a national charter so that a credit union that is successful, say, in British Columbia, could expand in other provinces. Credit unions would need permission from the provinces. It would be a partnership. It is not the federal government overruling the provincial regulations, but it is a partnership that would allow it to happen. That is included in Bill C-9.
We are doing a number of other things. My colleague spoke earlier about the extension of the mining and exploration tax credit for another year, which helps the mining industry remain competitive. A member talked about the tax fairness between single and two-parent families with respect to claiming universal child care, which is putting money in families' pockets.
We are also hearing, particularly in southern Ontario and some areas of British Columbia, about the difficulties with contraband tobacco. Bill C-9 would deal with that issue. We have come up with a new system to identify which packaging is legal tender and which packaging is not. Consumers and law authorities would be able to tell what is a legal package of cigarettes and what is illegal. Those who are producing contraband tobacco products and selling them mostly to young people would not have access to this new system and it would be possible to prosecute them based on that.
We have to take the lead on these issues in this tough economic time. I am hoping the majority votes for Bill C-9 tonight to move it to the other place and allow us to move ahead on some of these issues.
One of the issues is the freezing of allowances and salaries of parliamentarians and reducing governor in council appointments to federal institutions. For clarification, there is a whole slew of governor in council appointments available to the government. Many of them go unfilled because the positions are not needed or the organization has fulfilled its mandate in terms of what it was set up for. However, each department that makes these appointments has to budget for them and put aside Canadian taxpayers' money to fund those positions, year after year, just in case the government of the day decides to make the appointment. It cannot make the appointment if there is no financial support for the position.
Our finance minister, through Bill C-9, has removed a tremendous number of these appointments. This in turn allows the departments and the government to take that money out of funding those positions that were never going to be filled.
In the last few minutes that I have for debate I want to talk about venture capital. Our Conservative government believes that Canadians and Canadian businesses should keep their hard-earned money where it belongs and not in others' pockets.
We are committed to making Canada a great place and to creating jobs for Canadians to earn a living. It is done through private investment in companies so they can grow, create jobs and compete in the world market. That is why the jobs and economic growth bill includes a key tax reform to strengthen Canada's entrepreneurial advantage, supporting greater venture capital investments.
During the finance committee's cross-country prebudget consultations, which happen every year in the fall, we heard witness after witness stress the significance of venture capital as a key source of financing for new companies and for the growth of companies that already exist. Indeed, venture capital provides critical financing to promising pioneer start-up firms to give them the ability to introduce new technologies, invest in new capacity and create new, high quality jobs.
That is why our all-party finance committee made an important recommendation in our recent prebudget consultations. I will quote directly from the report that was brought to the House:
In the Committee’s opinion, financing is critical for organizational success....Consequently, the Committee recommends that: The federal government work with the venture capital industry to identify new sources of financing and examine the effectiveness of existing tax incentives related to financing.
I am proud of what we are doing in budget 2010. I am proud of what we are doing with the jobs and economic growth act, Bill C-9. Specifically this legislation proposes a narrow definition of the tax on Canadian property to eliminate the need for tax reporting. It does not sound like much, but it is a tax reporting system that is very burdensome to those who have venture capital to invest. Why would people invest money in a marketplace that made it difficult for them to do so?
The demand for venture capital is not just here in Canada. It is around the world. It is a global marketplace. We need to be competitive to make sure that we are able to attract people with an interest in the growth in Canada and Canadian companies, with their capital, their cash to be frank, to be able to make those investments so we can improve our productivity, improve our delivery of service, improve our delivery of products.
That is what Canadian companies want. That is what Canadian companies need. That is what this government heard and it is what this government is delivering. This will enhance the ability of Canadian businesses, including innovative high-growth companies that want to contribute to job creation and growth in this country.
I have highlighted our government's actions here today with respect to venture capital, helping families with the universal child benefit, improving and making sure that the credit card system is serving consumers, and the credit unions' ability to compete with the banks and provide competition and consumer options. This is what Bill C-9 actually does.
As a result, our Conservative government has taken unprecedented action to help Canadians through this difficult time. We are continuing to see signs of recovery. We are seeing better job numbers, strong positive GDP growth, and signs that the Canadian economy is recovering from the worst global recession since the 1930s.