Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-13, the second budget implementation act for the budget 2011.
While I agree that some of the topics covered in Bill C-13 are also subjects that we on this side of the House feel are important, I feel that this bill misses the mark widely and would not deliver what Canadians need, and I think my colleagues would agree. The topics are important but the content is weak.
While the government has entitled the bill, “keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act”, I feel, and we feel on this side of the House, that it would do little to grow jobs or the economy.and suffice it to say that I support the title but, unfortunately, not the content.
While I will return to the specificsof the bill in a moment, I feel that it is important to discuss the context in which the bill has been tabled and to talk about what I see are a few very alarming trends, both with our own economy and internationally.
As both sides of this House will recognize, the world economy has become increasingly unpredictable and, due to the now globalized trading network, it is very hard for governments to insulate themselves from shocks, such as we are seeing in Greece, Italy and other European countries.
The mood of this uncertainty is often reflected in the moods shown by members opposite during these unpredictable times. On one day we see the members of the government thumping their desks and on the next day they almost seem to be in a panic about current events. The global waves seem to washing over on the government. One day it is boasting and the next day it is not sure what to do and it is wringing its hands.
What is most perplexing to me is that, while the government often wants the public to believe we are helpless in the face of these global forces, we hear over and over again that while there is really nothing we can do, these are economic shocks coming from elsewhere that we have no control over and, in the same breath, the government has single-handedly created hundreds of thousands of jobs within the economy. I think this is very inconsistent and it is something that the government has to remedy.
The government cannot have it both ways. It cannot say on the hand that it absolves itself from any responsibility for our current economic woes while, at the same time, taking the entire credit saying that the government itself creates these jobs, when it is clearly not true.
To be fair, this practice of double standards is a very bad habit, which most governments undertake, but, it is much better to be honest with Canadians and to really own up to what is going on within our economy and internationally. The government needs to tell Canadians the truth about what lies ahead for Canada and how the government plans to help Canadians maximize their potential in these uncertain economic times.
The government, for example, made a good start, or a small start, when the finance minister warned Canadians about reducing their personal debt loads. This is something that I think was honest and from the heart. It was not rhetoric. It was a genuine concern that I think we all share in this House, that Canadians are massively over-leveraged with their own budgets and they need to do something to reduce them. The government made a good start when it admitted this and it tried to warn Canadians about what is coming and what needs to happen in the future.
However, after that slight warning, the government seemed to go back to the rhetoric and now all we hear is that the world economy is in flux and that there is nothing the government can do about it. However, when there is any kind of report of job creation, the government takes credit for it.
The government needs to be honest, stick with being honest with Canadians and acknowledge the extent to which the global economy is shifting. European and North American economic dominance is being replaced with an Asian dominance. This is a trend that all Canadians see and it is something that the government needs to recognize and adapt to.
If we just look at GDP growth rates, that is what says it all. World Bank data shows that Canada's GDP growth rate was around 3% in 2010, where China's was around 10%. In 2009, we actually had a negative GDP growth rate of -2.5%, where China's economy continued to grow at a rate of 9%. While we went through a huge shock in 2008, China's growth was business as usual.
As one of my colleagues at Simon Fraser University, noted economist, John Richards, once said to me, “We've had our run. Now it's Asia's turn to dominate”. This is something that we need to recognize in this House and adapt to it.
It does look like times will increasingly get tough. The IMF has slashed our growth projections to 2.1% this year and just 1.7% next year. We can compare that again with China, which will be at a projected rate of about 9% or 10%. We can see that this is not a one-time, one-off event. This is a consistent happening where the GDP growth rate in Canada is shrinking while China's is growing.
We need to be honest with Canadians about where we are headed and what we can do to weather these economic times.
Bill C-13 and other measures taken by the government indicate to me that the government does not have much of a plan for the Canadian economy. It seems the government is content to encourage massive foreign investment in our resource industry, ram pipelines through to ship unconventional crude from the Alberta oil sands to Asian markets, roll back regulation in the north and mine it for all its worth, and then continue to ship unrefined products to foreign markets.
The problem is, that is yesterday's approach to managing the Canadian economy and it really lacks vision. The government needs s to stop relying on yesterday's flawed solutions to Canada's economic problems or Canada will be swamped by the global economy. It needs to recognize where we stand in relation to the rest of the world and plan accordingly.
Now that the major portion of this so-called budget bill centres on removing a relatively small amount of money from political parties does not show me that the government is serious about the major challenges that lie ahead for Canada, but rather that it is immersed in petty politics. This shines through in the rhetoric that we cannot do anything, that it is an international crisis and yet the government still takes credit for any kind of job creation in Canada.
Bill C-13 should include a vision for Canada that does not rely on hoping foreign companies and governments will pillage our natural resources, ship them to their shores, add value and then ship them back to us. This is yesterday's way of running the Canadian economy and we do not need that any more. In fact, we will not grow or flourish if we continue with this approach.
Bill C-13 would instill much more confidence in Canadians if it contained real measures to grow a secondary industry in this country. For example, in recent meetings I have had with petroleum producers in this country, with individual industries and their associations, they have revealed to me that the number of refineries in Canada has dramatically declined from almost 50 to under 20, with others under serious threat of closure. The bill has no plan to maintain this valuable refinery industry. It appears that the Conservatives would be happy to fade it away, and these refineries will fade away. We have seen them closed in Quebec, as has been mentioned here today in the House.
However, to put this in context, the largest refinery in Canada produces 300,000 barrels per day, which was a massive refinery when it was built many decades ago. India has recently built a complex that refines 1.2 million barrels per day. That number is sometimes hard to get one's head around but that is a massive refinery and more of these are on the horizon both in China and India.
We need to take stock of where we stand, not just in this industry but in other industries as well, in relation to our secondary production. We need to come up with a real plan to save these industries and ensure we think about how to grow them, if we can. We need a closely targeted investment to help these industries survive and thrive. Other countries have done it and we need to follow their lead. To simply throw up one's hands and say that the market will do this or that foreign investment will come in and save us is not the way forward.
The challenge for the government is to be honest with Canadians and provide an economic vision for the country that does more than rely on shipping raw resources to foreign countries. The bill does nothing to reassure me that the government has such a vision and I doubt that it does much to convince Canadians of this either.
It is worth reviewing a few facts and figures in my remaining minute or so to show where we stand.
Official unemployment in the country shows 1.4 million people out of work. However, if we include all of those who are discouraged and unemployed, it pushes that number to two million unemployed. This number may be structural. I have asked the government in the House to reveal what it thinks the natural rate of unemployment is. The U.S. tells us every month what its natural rate of unemployment is. The Conservative government will not do this. In fact, sometimes I wonder if it even knows what that statistic means. Is their plan to maintain our unemployment rate at 7% or to move forward and try to reduce that rate?
We need a vision but we do not have one.