Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak to the third reading of Bill C-13. This is not the first time I have encountered Bill C-13. In the Standing Committee on Finance we reviewed it reasonably thoroughly and I am critic for finance in the area of pensions, although I will speak in broader terms here today.
On this side of the House, we believe that Bill C-13 is a major missed opportunity. The obvious question that follows is: What would we do in the official opposition if we were making the same decisions that the government is facing at this point?
New Democrats have been proposing job creation types of proposals such as shelving the planned corporate tax cut for January 1, 2012. This would create $3 billion to $4 billion a year that could be used in job creation. We hear from the other side that somehow this would raise taxes. No, it would not. It would be a continuation of the tax that exists at the present time.
Next, we would have offered a new-hire tax credit for every new hire who stays in the job a full year. New Democrats would also help small businesses by providing a 2% tax cut for them, to encourage job creation. The previous speaker just talked about the environment needed for small business. Considering the dire warnings from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for at least the last five years regarding the huge deficit of infrastructure needs in this country, we would put aside moneys and set forth a plan to address the $130 billion in infrastructure deficit.
It is very important to have long-range planning and that is what seems to be missing here today. New Democrats believe Canada should be in the lead in investing in green infrastructure and renewable energy, but we lag far behind the United States and other countries. The message from this side of the House is that it is time for the government to invest now.
Workers from the boomer generation are retiring. Canada has a zero birthrate. We must invest in skills training for current workers, for those workers who will replace the ones who retire and for the future needs of this country in leading-edge industries of tomorrow.
During our finance committee's recent pre-budget hearings for the 2012 budget, I stressed the following.
Canadians are too indebted to stimulate the economy. Business is holding on to some $500 billion in cash because of the fear of another freezing of bank lending as happened in the last recession. This leaves only the governments to stimulate our economy. The government should seriously consider the options put forward by New Democrats.
At our pre-budget hearings, Glen Hodgson, senior vice-president and chief economist of the Conference Board of Canada, at one of our public meetings, stated the following:
We believe we're severely under-invested as a country in infrastructure. We haven't done the numbers, but others have, including engineers and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and I think their number going back five years was of a deficit of about $130 billion in terms of infrastructure investment.
He went on to say:
That tells me there is huge scope for realigning government spending priorities and making sure we're making adequate investments in roads, ports, and bridges to ensure that the Montreal economy, for example, works well. Could you imagine if the Champlain Bridge actually broke...? That would be a huge loss to Montreal's GDP and to Canada's GDP.
Sylvain Schetagne, senior economist, social and economic policy department, Canadian Labour Congress, said:
Corporations benefit from the kind of infrastructure they have around them. So a bridge that is falling apart is not good.
That is an understatement. He further said:
Having enough workers who have skills and education needed in order to provide productive work is also needed.
That is in line with the suggestion that came from the New Democrats. He said:
There are other things we can do. For instance, in social infrastructure we are facing an aging workforce, and we would like to see more Canadians working... more women and more aboriginals working. There are programs such as child care that we can put in place to allow more women to go back to work, to improve labour force participation, and to make sure that companies have workers when they need them.
Glen Hodgson said:
As part of our globalization, sadly inequality is growing in most countries around the world and in Canada. The rate of growth of inequality, as we measured it, was actually greater than in the United States, which is a bit of a surprising result.
He closed his statement by saying:
We are asking questions about whether we're doing enough as a country to ensure that all Canadians are benefiting from the economic growth--