Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-13, the government's second implementation bill for the 2011 budget.
My comments will generally focus on two themes: first, there has been a growth in unemployment under the Conservative government; and second, there has been a deliberate decision by the Conservatives to exclude low income Canadians from many of the measures of budget 2011.
The first point is the growth in the number of Canadians looking for work. The Conservatives have been patting themselves on the back about the job situation in Canada. However, the fact is that today the job situation is worse than it was when the Conservatives took office and it is worse than it was before the fall of 2008.
Today, Canada has over 525,000 fewer net full-time jobs than in August 2008. In August 2008, there were 14,631,300 Canadians who had full-time jobs. Today, that number is down to 14,106,100 Canadians who have full-time jobs. There are more than half a million fewer Canadians with good, full-time jobs today than in August 2008.
The Conservatives like to claim credit for creating jobs, but the fact is that all of the net new jobs created since the recession have been in part-time work. Today, there are more than 1.3 million Canadians who are unemployed and looking for work, and the number of jobless Canadians has been growing. Even when we factor in part-time work, there are over 310,000 more jobless Canadians today than before the downturn in October 2008.
Job growth in Canada has simply failed to keep up with population growth, so it is harder for people who are out of work to actually find a job today. This is the reality that is faced by Canadians across the country, including in my riding of Kings—Hants and the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.
There is also a very uneven recovery, if any recovery, in Canada. If we look at provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan, provinces that have the wealth of natural resources of oil, gas, potash and minerals, there is a very different economic story from that which exists in provinces like Ontario, Quebec and the maritime provinces.
The reality is that if there has been any recovery, it has been a very uneven recovery, and the macro numbers in terms of employment figures in Canada simply do not reflect the disparity within Canada, and the growing gap between haves and have nots, including have provinces and have not provinces.
The economic region of the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia is made up of Annapolis county, Kings county and Hants county. In this House of Commons it is represented by two members of Parliament, the member for West Nova, a Conservative MP, and myself.
This region is one of many across Canada that has not recovered from the last recession. We have seen massive layoffs at Fundy Gypsum, Eastern Protein, Maple Leaf Foods in Canard, and the Larsen's Plant. We have seen people who have worked at these companies, in some cases for 20 or 30 years or longer, who have watched their good full-time jobs disappear. Now they are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table with part-time work, if they are actually able to find it.
In an area with a population of just under 100,000, the Annapolis Valley now has 5,800 fewer net jobs today than in August 2008. The unemployment rate in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia has grown from 5% to 8% since the fall of 2008.
The number of people without jobs who are looking for work has grown by 1,700, and more than twice as many as that have simply stopped looking for work and have left the labour force completely.
The local population has declined by 600 people, as people give up and, in many cases, move away. The region is struggling to pay for local services with an aging population and a shrinking tax base.
This is not an isolated example. We can see this happening across large parts of Ontario and Quebec, across the Maritimes. The population we see in a lot of rural Canada is aging disproportionately. The proportion of people paying taxes is shrinking, while demand for government programs, health care, education and social assistance continues to grow.
There is a growing number of unemployed Canadians who are looking for work but have become discouraged under the Conservative government. They want their government to develop a real plan to create real jobs, but we see nothing, no imagination, no long-term thinking from the Conservatives.
In fact, the Conservatives are moving in the opposite direction. They are endangering Canadian jobs with their reckless increase in EI premiums.
In January, the Conservatives will hike EI premiums by 5.6% even though they know that payroll taxes like EI premiums are known job killers. This increase in January follows last January's increase by the Conservatives. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that the 2011 EI payroll tax increase will cost small businesses about $600 million and the 2012 increase will cost $1.2 billion. Are jobs created by increasing job killing payroll taxes? I do not think so.
The Conservatives claim that their small business hiring tax credit will create jobs. This is only a tax credit of $165 million when the Conservatives are actually increasing premiums by almost $2 billion. Most small businesses in Canada will not even qualify for the hiring credit for small businesses because they already pay too much in EI premiums. For the small businesses that do qualify, the Conservatives are giving with one hand and taking away with the other. They are treating the credit as business income and then they are taxing it.
The Conservatives hiring credit for small business is too small to make a significant impact on the economy. It will not even come close to matching the negative impact of the massive increase in EI premiums that they are imposing on Canadian employers. Only the Conservatives could claim that a tax credit that only increases EI premiums by over $1.6 billion instead of $1.8 billion is actually a measure to increase Canadian jobs.
The truth is that these EI premium increases will cost Canadian jobs at a time when unemployment numbers are up and our economy is teetering on the edge of recession. By refusing to act and present a real plan to create jobs, the Conservatives are failing the more than 1.3 million Canadians who are unemployed and looking for work.
The second issue that I want to comment on is the decision by the Conservatives to exclude low income Canadians from many of the benefits in budget 2011.
The Conservatives are deliberately excluding many low-income Canadian families from programs such as the family caregiver tax credit, the volunteer firefighters tax credit, and the children's art tax credit. The fact is if someone quits a job to take care of a sick family member at home, in a lot of cases that individual will not qualify for a dime under the family caregiver tax credit.
By making these benefits non-refundable, the Conservatives are excluding a lot of low-income families from receiving these benefits, so perversely, the families that need the help the most will not qualify for these boutique tax benefits because they do not have a high enough minimum income level to actually qualify, so, the person who quits a job to take care of a loved one at home, who is not making enough money, will not benefit from the Conservative family caregiver tax credit.
My riding has an aging population. Family members are taking a lot of their time away from work to help loved ones. In my own family, my sister, as an example, by day is a VON. She is taking a lot of time to help take care of my parents who are in their eighties and at home. A lot of these families do not make enough to qualify to benefit from the family caregiver tax credit. It is the same thing with the volunteer firefighters tax credit. In many cases rural Canadian volunteer firefighters in low-income families need the help to serve their communities.
It is fundamentally unfair for the Conservatives to not make these tax credits fully refundable in order to benefit all Canadian families, but particularly unfair to deny benefits to those low-income Canadian families who need the help the most.