Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-15. I would call the title of the bill “the bill with no real plan to create jobs”. Why do I say that? It has been extremely disappointing to see the tremendous disconnect between the Conservative government's policies and the tough realities that people face in urban and rural communities alike.
Given the global economic uncertainty and the fact that 1.4 million Canadians are out of work, one would have thought that when the government introduced its budget implementation bill, it would have had one priority focus economically, and that being to create jobs. This is not the case. Unfortunately, there is no plan to create jobs in the bill.
Today we have over 500,000 fewer net full-time jobs than we had before the recession. The government's continual crowing about having created jobs is false. It measured from the trough of the recession to today. However, we have to look at where we were in August 2008. Today we have 525,000 fewer net full-time jobs than we had before. That is a crisis. It is a real human crisis for the constituencies of many of my colleagues across the aisle. For example, Nanaimo has an unemployment rate of 16%. For youth, unemployment is far too high.
On top of this net loss of jobs, we have a million new Canadians in our country since that time. Therefore, there are a far greater number of people looking for work with no plan to recover those jobs.
Instead of helping to create jobs, the government's budget is helping to kill jobs. I am referring to the increased EI payroll taxes that have increased by $600 million in 2011 and will increase by another $600 million in 2012. Everyone knows these taxes placed on both the employees and the employers kill job creation. Yet that is what the government is doing, despite repeated requests from the Liberal caucus to hold off on that EI payroll tax increase.
The Conservatives know payroll tax increases kill jobs. In January 2009 the Minister of Finance said, “For many businesses, an increase in payroll taxes would make it harder to sustain existing jobs”.
In May 2009 the current Minister of Foreign Affairs said, “That is what Canadians do not want, a job-killing payroll tax increase. Those of us on this side of the House will not...raise taxes”.
The last quote is from the Conservative government's 2008 election policy declaration, which states, “unnecessarily high payroll taxes are a tax on job creation. Lower payroll taxes encourage hiring and business expansion“.
Why is the Conservative government and its members ignoring their own wisdom? Let us think about it.
The Liberals and the economists have both said that this is not the time to raise EI payroll taxes. The government has claimed that it has no control over the EI tax increases. Therefore, one would assume it recognizes that is a negative factor for which it has claimed to have no control.
Recently the government actually appeared to have control over this and it reduced the proposed increase by 50% for 2012. That is a good thing. However, if it can reduce it by 50%, why not by 100% and just hold off on EI payroll tax increases? Why does it claim it has no control over something that it does have control over? It speaks to the heart of citizens' trust in what their government has to say. This is a government that has been repeatedly undermining that trust.
The members opposite have been crowing about the hiring credit for small businesses worth $165 million, which in fact is small change when the increases are costing $1.2 billion. That is an insult, not a policy.
Canada has about one million small businesses, but over 600,000 would not qualify for this credit. Therefore, I hope the government would continue to make the reductions in the EI payroll tax increase that we have asked for and bring it down to a zero increase.
Also, there is nothing in the budget that reflects the concerns of female business owners. Here is some information from the Taskforce for Women's Business Growth.
In 2007 women retained ownership in almost half of Canada's small and medium-sized enterprises. In 16% of our SMEs, women were majority owners. That is a major force in the small business landscape. However, 37% of the majority female-owned businesses are considered high growth, while 63% of majority male-owned small businesses are considered high growth. Why that discrepancy?
There are some historical and structural factors that make it tougher for women to grow their businesses. Therefore, the task force and its members have asked for some very reasonable support from the government to facilitate the job growth in small and medium-sized businesses owned by women. They are not asking for a handout. They are asking for some assistance in coordinating, consolidating and communicating.
The task force wants the government to: consolidate existing small business program information and target it to women; improve financial and technology literacy for women business owners; increase access to growth capital, grants and other resources, which women historically have found more difficult to access; and, report on the economic contributions of women to the Canadian economy.
These are very reasonable requests, but I do not see them anywhere in the government's budget. These individuals are struggling where they could be contributing $2 billion a year to the Canadian economy simply through a 20% increase in total revenues in majority female-owned enterprises. That is doable. The government should provide some framework for assistance.
Speaking of individuals, a huge concern that Liberals have is the deliberate exclusion of low-income Canadians in the budget. By that I am referring to the non-refundable tax credits, and there are several of them such as the family caregiver, volunteer firefighter and children's art tax credit. Since these are non-refundable tax credits, it means they would only apply to taxes owing. Therefore, those families and children who are in households without a taxable income, the very people who need assistance the most, are cut out. These programs would not increase the number of people engaged in these good and worthwhile activities because it is targeted at families that already have the means to do that.
In fact, this kind of program increases inequality in our country. We know that income inequality leads to many decreases in social well-being. A lot of evidence has proven that. Increased income inequality leads to higher crime rates, worse health and mental health outcomes, greater child mortality and a whole host of social ills.
We need to work toward income equality. However, this is not the direction Canada is going in and the gap in income is increasing. These non-refundable tax credits are simply unbelievable and will increase income inequality.
I had a meeting with small businesses in Vancouver Quadra. A number of measures were requested, but they are nowhere to be seen in the government's budget. I consider it a failure and I will vote against Bill C-13. The government has no real plan to create jobs.