Mr. Speaker, I would like to add a bit of reality to this debate following on the hon. member opposite.
Let me begin with a recent report published in Toronto, Canada's largest city. It is a report called “Vital Signs”. It documents the transformation that is taking place in many Canadian cities but especially in Canada's largest city.
The report talks about a dramatic reduction in quality of life which could affect almost half the population of the city over the next 10 to 15 years. It does offer some good news. It claims that the quality of life for Torontonians is improving when it comes to the environment. Toronto is a healthier city. Its crime rates are lower than ever before, which is significant. However, it indicates that there are huge challenges which range from affordable housing to public transit.
I want to share a significant point with the members opposite: the gap between the rich and the poor in Toronto and in many other cities is growing. As well, skilled immigrants are twice as likely to face unemployment than workers born in Canada and when skilled immigrants are hired they usually receive about half the annual salary of other workers. During the period of growth from 1998 to 2007, one-third of the income growth across Canada went to 1% of the wealthiest Canadians, those averaging incomes of more than $400,000 a year. The country is becoming increasingly divided and that is what is playing out in our largest city.
Child poverty rates have increased by more than 40% in one year. As a result of the lack of investment in urban transit and transit infrastructure, lower income residents in Toronto live in what is being called transit deserts. They spend an hour a day on average trying to get from one part of the city to another and spend a greater portion of their income trying to get there.
Canadians need governments for affordable housing, transit, social connections, to get to jobs and for opportunities. Journalist Royson James reported that just when they need it most, our civic institutions and governments are looking to withdraw from the field. In other words, governments are withdrawing money. I use that as an introduction to my remarks.
In spite of the member opposite's glowing report on Bill C-13, this legislation represents what I assume are the government's best efforts to cope with Canada's current economic dilemma, but it is a disturbingly inadequate effort. I want to enter a few facts into this argument.
The government likes to pretend that we are in a recovery, but as this report indicates, two million Canadians would work if there were jobs available for them. The report makes it clear that talk of recovery not only is misleading but is dishonest when it comes to these Canadians who are unemployed or underemployed.
We have a continuing recession in the jobs market. Unemployment is far above what it was in the last recession. Job creation is well below what is needed just to maintain a steady employment. The government claims to have created 600,000 net new jobs, and it keeps repeating that number, but the facts clearly indicate otherwise.
We have seen the addition of barely 200,000 new jobs since before the recession in May 2008, but the labour force has grown by 450,000 since then. Therefore, we are short a quarter of a million jobs just to keep employment steady. This is nothing to brag about, but the government, instead, misleads Canadians rather than have an honest, open debate about where we need to go and how we put plans in place to get people back to work.
It is a fact that the job market is currently more fragile than it was before the October 2008 crisis. The unemployment rate has risen to 7.3%, while the number of part-time workers and the number of workers looking for full-time employment have increased very rapidly.
Quality, full-time jobs that allow families to make a living are very hard to find in many regions of the country.
Moreover, the actual unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers who have left the labour force and part-time workers who would like to be working full-time, was 11.1% in July 2011, a very significant increase over the July 2009 rate of 9.4%.
Youth employment really is a disaster in this country. It really is quite shocking. The fact is that at the high point in May 2008 before the recession, 2.6 million Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 had jobs, the participation rate was about 67.6% and the official unemployment rate about 11.9%. However, in August 2011, there were only 2.4 million 15 to 24-year-olds employed, the participation rate had fallen three percentage points and unemployment was at 14%.
This means there are almost 127,000 fewer jobs for 15 to 24-year-olds, 127,000 fewer jobs than before the recession. If we take the lower participation rate into account, in other words, a lot of people have just stopped looking, we would recognize that there are about 134,000 fewer jobs at the same participation rate.
Another fact is that the true measure of the jobs deficit for young people compared to May 2008 is about 260,000 jobs that were missing. Of course, another 85,000 young people have joined the labour force since May 2008, so there are even more young people looking for work. There are no net new jobs here, contrary to what the government says, just a gaping hole for young people to fall into and an enormous short and long-term loss to the economy.
The IMF recently predicted that Canada's unemployment rate will rise this year and in 2012 because our economy is growing far more slowly than anticipated.
In reality, real GDP growth of 2.5% annually is needed just to maintain the status quo, and growth has been much weaker since the start of the great recession.
It is a fact that economists everywhere have lowered their forecasts with regard to Canada's economic growth. Scotiabank economists have stated that we are facing a very real possibility that the Canadian economy could be the first to fall into a recession.
The BMO deputy chief economist has noted that even if Canada and the U.S. are able to avoid another recession, Ottawa will not achieve the rate of economic growth projected in the budget.
The budget was based on growth projections that are no longer realistic.
Another claim that the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister tend to make is that the economic fundamentals of the Canadian economy are great. Let us examine that.
An economy depends on four key economic drivers for growth: private business spending and investment, consumer spending, exports, and the public sector.
The government has pinned all of its hopes on the private sector, spending billions of public revenues on rolling back corporate taxes. The result: very little investment, very little job creation. In fact, Canadian corporations are sitting on $500 billion in cash rather than spend or invest it. Of that, $120 billion has come from the government's no strings attached corporate tax cuts. That is $120 billion.
It is a fact that the combined federal and Ontario corporate tax rates were slashed from 45% in 1999 to 30% in 2010. That is a drop of 15%. Over the same period, investment in machinery and equipment fell from just over 8% to just over 5% of the province's gross domestic product. Therefore, a measure designed to increase investment and productivity in machinery failed. In fact, investment fell even though taxes were cut and we were shovelling over $100 billion back into corporate profits.
So much for the claim that corporate income tax giveaways boost business investment and job creation. Worse still, the government's response, illogical as it seems, it to just stay the course and waste more money on further tax cuts. Brilliant.
Instead of patting itself on the back because we are doing relatively better than some very sick economies, the government must put in place policies that encourage private sector investment in our economy here at home over the long-term. This budget is full of temporary half measures when long-term strategic action is needed.
We all know what happened to the second economic driver, consumer spending. There is a growing inequality in the distribution of income in this country, and I just cited one study. This is an inequality the government does not seem to worry or care about, but it means that Canadians have had to borrow to spend on essentials, and borrow they have. Canadians have never been more indebted; an average household owes 150% of its income.
We cannot count on overstrapped consumers to get us out of this mess. Consumer spending is tapped out. That is not the solution.
This summer the IMF published a study on inequality. It found that the more equitably incomes are distributed, the longer and more stable are periods of economic growth. The more equality, the longer the periods of economic growth. Even so, this budget does nothing to address inequality in Canada.
As for exports, the third driver, the IMF projects that Canada's balance of payments, deficit, as a percentage of GDP is on its way to becoming one of the worst among advanced economies; worse than that of the U.S. and soon to be worse than Italy or Spain.
The IMF predicts that our current account deficit will reach almost 4% of GDP in 2012. That is a major negative on our economy. However, we would never hear the government mention this piece of bad news.
With business, consumers and exports on the sidelines as drivers of economic growth, that leaves only the public sector. Once again, the government is doing the illogical thing in pursuing austerity, cutting back public services and missing the opportunity of a lifetime to invest in Canada and Canadians.
The Minister of Finance is accusing my party of recommending spending—according to him, that is why the European economies are bordering on ruin—without taking into account the role that private sector financial institutions, which are overenthusiastic, played in the impoverishment of our larger trading partners.
However, although the Minister of Finance must be aware of it, he does not seem to understand the difference between investments and expenditures. The NDP is not talking about expenditures; it is talking about investments in targeted sectors to promote job creation and in infrastructure, including roads, bridges, public transit and high-speed Internet. We are talking about investing to train our workers so that they are productive in the new economy, investing in housing, and investing in our children's education.
I attended a meeting recently where a former deputy minister of finance called for a division on the government's books to help overcome the failure to distinguish between investments, investments that create assets and lead to significant returns in the economy, productivity, employment, competitiveness and the public purse, the difference between these investments and spending on things like the government's beloved gazebos and fake lakes that are of little economic value.
The fact is that the Toronto Board of Trade emphasizes that a strong infrastructure foundation is a top priority in ensuring economic competitiveness now and in the future.
In fact, the OECD has concluded that Toronto's lack of transportation infrastructure is the leading drag on the region's global competitiveness. Yet, the bill contains no new investments in infrastructure. It is really shocking.
The Conservatives often like to compare the government to a business, as though that were a good thing. However, rare is the business that would cast aside the opportunities available to the government, such as the availability of a qualified workforce, a desperate need for infrastructure across the country, infrastructure that would earn a generous return on investment, and capital available at a rate that is at an almost record low. In similar circumstances, any self-respecting business person would invest extensively, but not this government. The Conservatives do not know how to recognize a good deal.
What we get are missed opportunities to build a world competitive economy with infrastructure second to none to attract new capital investment and to give our homegrown industries a permanent advantage over our competitors, and public policies that would only make the recession and the labour market more severe.
The Conservatives call themselves economic managers. It is a cruel joke.
Here is a bill that they claim would address the problems our economy faces. It would fall so far short of what is needed, it is really embarrassing.
Mr. Flaherty admitted yesterday the Conservatives would maintain their do-nothing approach to the economy. The New--