Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget.
It is always interesting in a context to hear what the governing Conservatives have to say. The member who just spoke was quite interesting at the end. He said, “This is how we are going to get out of this economy”. I think he is quite right. We once had a balanced economy in Canada and the Conservatives have been taking us out of that balanced economy.
I believe what he was trying to say is that this is how we will get ourselves out of these economic problems. But in fact, what the Conservatives are doing with the Americans is a continuation of a series of mistakes that they have made in international trade over the years.
The North American Free Trade Agreement was supposed to set a certain standard for reciprocity. Instead, when the Americans came to rough times, they established for themselves buy America programs, which is a flagrant violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, the governing Conservatives have turned out to be a bunch of pushovers. They do not even stand up for what has already been signed that would have been in Canada's interests.
Last week, we had another example, with the Keystone pipeline. Instead of providing that we would apply the normal rules of sustainable developments, such as internalization of costs and polluter pay, they are going to export jobs without adding any value here. It hearkens back to a day when we used to export raw logs to the United States and then import furniture. That is the same kind of economy that they want us to have today. That is their lack of vision.
Governing is about vision. Governing is about establishing choices. We have heard them have a series of consultations over the past three years about pensions. We often hear them say that it is not fair that people in trade unions should have good pensions. It is what we call in French “le nivellement vers le bas”, we are going to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator instead of bringing everyone up.
A country as rich as Canada should not let people who have worked all their lives arrive at retirement age without a proper pension. Instead of removing the pensions, as they are now doing and fighting case by case to remove pensions as collective agreements come up for negotiation, we should, together, be fighting for a fair deal for all Canadians and a proper decent pension, because that is also part of sustainable development. Otherwise, the young generation of today is going to be stuck with that bill also.
The Conservatives, by their choices, are now leaving the largest environmental, economic and social debt in our history, and they are leaving it in the packsacks of the young people who are in university now and telling them that they do not have a choice, that they cannot do anything about it, and that is the only way things are going to be.
They have provided tens of billions of dollars in tax reductions to Canada's richest corporations, in particular, the chartered banks and the oil companies, and they have so little to show for it. They have this little piecemeal approach: they are going to announce this thing here and this thing there. Overall, their approach to the economy has been damaging.
What they have done, and it has been documented well by Statistics Canada, is the same mistake that has been done in other countries over the years. In Holland, in the 1960s, when large sources of gas were found off the coast, it was quite pleased. The Dutch said, “This is going to bring in a lot of money from other countries”. They were never so right. However, at the same time, the guilder went through the roof and their exports dropped because other countries could not afford to buy their products.
That is the same thing that we are doing now. We are bringing in an artificially high number of U.S. dollars into Canada. Why artificially high? Simply because we have never internalized the environmental costs; a basic principle of sustainable development.
By doing that, we have brought the Canadian dollar to heights that it has not seen in decades, and that has killed off our manufacturing sector. Just in Ontario, over 250,000 good paying manufacturing jobs have been killed by the choices of the Conservatives. In Canada, the total number is closer to 500,000 manufacturing jobs lost.
That is why we say that they have destabilized the balanced economy that Canada had built up since the second world war, with the different sectors: the primary sector, with our forests and our mines, the manufacturing and processing secondary sector, and of course an important service sector.
However, as those good paying manufacturing jobs are being killed off, not only are we leaving, because of the errors of the Conservatives, the biggest debt in our history, in terms of the ecology and the environment, we are also leaving year by year, now, the largest economic debt.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to be splitting my time with my friend and colleague, the member for London—Fanshawe.
That is the essential error that the Conservatives have committed since they came to power nigh six years ago. They have had nothing but concern for how quickly they could exploit the tar sands.
Let us not make the mistake of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. No one who realizes the importance of that industry in our economy would say we should ever shut it down outright. People who are calling for that are not thinking any further than the end of their noses. We cannot say we will stop an industry that represents such an important part of our GDP.
What we can do is apply basic principles of sustainable development to that industry. It would have a salutary effect on what we just described, in other words, this artificially high Canadian dollar because of the large number of U.S. greenbacks that we have taken in. That is artificially high, as I say, because we have not included the real costs. We are leaving the costs for cleaning up the soil, the water and the air to future generations. That is the environmental debt, and the tar sands is but one example.
When we realize that Keystone is but one of several pipelines that have been rapidly approved by the Conservatives, others would be the Alberta Clipper, Southern Lights, there are several that have been approved, each of those pipelines is exporting at the same time tens of thousands of jobs. We are in such a rush to get the raw bitumen into the pipeline that we do not even realize that all the processing, manufacturing and transformation will take place south of the border. They will be making more money and getting more jobs from our raw resources than we are ourselves.
That is a fundamental economic error that the current government is making and one that shows where the its priorities are. The concrete result of that is a little bill like Bill C-13, where we have a sprinkling here and a sprinkling there. It is trying to show that there is some activity.
The real world is that an existing infrastructure, a federal obligation, a federal infrastructure like the Champlain Bridge in Montreal, we learned today, will now be a toll bridge. This is the same bridge that is used in an agglomeration of over four million people. It is not just important as part of the lifeblood of the island of Montreal and the greater Montreal area, it is extremely important for all of eastern Canada. When trucks come through from Toronto or points west going to the Maritimes, they all go through Montreal, through the island and over the Champlain Bridge. That infrastructure is a crucial economic infrastructure for all of Canada.
We found out today that because the Conservatives have given away tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money to the banks and the oil companies, hard-strapped families who have trouble making ends meet, who have trouble getting to the end of the month with what they have, will now have a new bill, a bill that will be slapped on them by the Conservatives because there is no money left. They will have to pay for something that was a public infrastructure that will become a private property. It will become for profit and the public will again be stuck with the bill. Again, the result of choices by the Conservatives.
This is a clear illustration of the errors committed by the Conservatives. They have been committing the same error for six years. The failure to apply basic principles of sustainable development has caused us to import an artificially high number of U.S. dollars. As a result, the value of the Canadian dollar has increased and it is more difficult for our manufacturing companies to export because our exports have become too expensive.
We are in the process of committing a well-documented error made in the Netherlands in the 1960s, when they discovered large gas deposits. The term “Dutch disease” is used to describe what happened.
The Conservatives preferred—it was their choice, their priority—to give tens of billions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations and the clear result of that is that families who are already unable to make ends meet are being taxed again in the form of a royalty that would be paid to the private partners who are going to build the new Champlain Bridge, when that infrastructure, which is vital to the economy in eastern Canada, is currently being used free of charge by the people who live on Montreal's south shore.
That is the Conservative approach at work. The Conservatives can stand up and pat themselves on the back and claim that their Minister of Finance—just listen to what the Conservative member who spoke before me said—was voted the greatest minister. Get real. That does not exist.
We believe that the Conservatives have made serious mistakes in the choices they have made and their choices are having an adverse effect on the Canadian economy.