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House of Commons Hansard #13 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.

Topics

Business of SupplyRoutine Proceedings

June 22nd, 2011 / 3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Today being the last allotted day for the supply period ending June 23, 2011, the House will proceed as usual to the consideration and passage of the appropriation bills. In view of recent procedures, do hon. members agree to have the bills distributed now?

Business of SupplyRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Unparliamentary Language--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I am now prepared to give a ruling on a point of order raised yesterday by the hon. member for Toronto Centre regarding a statement made by the Minister of Public Safety in the course of debate on Bill C-4.

When the point of order was raised, I undertook to review the transcript and, if necessary, return to the House with a ruling on that matter. Having done so, the Chair finds that the words used by the minister were unparliamentary.

However, the Chair notes that the minister did rise to clarify his remarks, stating that he “certainly did not mean any intention to commit a criminal offence by this member or any other member”. Given this clarification by the minister, the Chair is prepared to take him at his word and consider the matter closed.

However, let me take this opportunity, in these early days of the 41st Parliament, to remind the minister and all members that this kind of statement will not be tolerated.

I enjoin all members to avoid all statements that impute unworthy motives to members.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the important role Canadian small businesses play in creating employment in their communities by lowering the small business income tax rate in order to encourage job creation.

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to this important NDP motion, to reduce the income taxes of millions of small businesses across Canada.

This is the first time that I am giving a speech in the House since the election, so before I speak to our motion, I would be remiss if I did not thank some of the many people who helped me to represent my constituents in this place again.

I would like to thank many people from mayors to businesspeople, seniors, students, teachers, nurses, families, and all the ones who came out to my town hall meetings, who met me over coffee, and who spoke with me at their doorstep. Without their input and their support, I would not be here to work for them.

I want to express my thanks to my campaign team, led by a very talented and experienced Chris Mockler, and the hundreds of tireless volunteers who gave so much of their time and energy to make democracy work.

I also owe a debt to my dedicated office staff, in both Ottawa and Thunder Bay—Superior North, whose tireless work helped thousands of constituents over the past several years. That has made a real difference in those people's lives.

As everyone knows in this House, many of our families have to make real sacrifices in order to allow us as MPs to represent our constituents here. So deep thanks go to my wife, Margaret, and my son, Michael, for their understanding and support over the years.

Most of all, I would like to let the constituents of my big, beautiful riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North know that it is a huge honour for me to represent them once again here in this place. All of them, no matter how they voted. I accept that honour with humility, and I will do my very best to serve them faithfully.

Today's motion is about recognizing how vital small businesses are to communities across our country of Canada. It is about how they play an important role in creating jobs for millions for people. It is about supporting them to grow and to generate more employment by cutting their small business income taxes, so they can reinvest in their businesses to help them to grow and reinvest right here in Canada and right in their own communities, in our own communities.

Small and medium-sized businesses already employ 56% of all workers in Canada. That is close to eight million Canadians. Small businesses are very resilient when times get tough. They do not downsize their workforce as much in recessions.

For example, in the five quarters of the recent downturn, the private sector lost close to half a million jobs. Of those, large firms let go about 6% of their payroll employment, while small businesses lost only about 2%. One reason is they cannot just shut down a branch plant in Canada and retrench in their home country. This is their home country.

So it makes sense to support more nimble small businesses if we want to encourage sustainable employment growth. It also makes sense from a community investment perspective. The funds that small businesses save in taxes are largely invested, saved, and consumed locally because small businesses spend locally. They do not ship their jobs or profits overseas because they are based right here in our communities.

Eighty per cent of small businesses earn less than $100,000 a year. Their profits do no go toward padding CEO bonuses or being invested outside of Canada. In fact, a report to be released next month by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses will show that successful small businesses that grew during the last recession prefer reinvesting any windfall in their businesses and in hiring more Canadians.

Members will know that New Democrats are no strangers to supporting small businesses. The NDP government in Manitoba has cut small business income taxes in that province, reducing it over time when it was affordable to do so. Last year, they dropped the tax rate to zero, eliminating small business income taxes completely.

During the federal election, my party had a platform that called for a reduction in small business taxes. We also called for a job creation tax credit that would give up to $4,500 to businesses for each new employee.

However, in the government's recent budget there is no tax reduction for small businesses. In fact, this budget was a huge missed opportunity to support small businesses here in Canada. I have noticed that many members on the other side of the House have been crowing about a hiring tax credit in the budget. If we look at this credit closely, we will see that small businesses will be no further ahead with it than before. It is a temporary measure that will only exist for one year. All it does is defray the increases in EI premiums that businesses have to pay, starting this year.

The government is hiking EI premiums for everyone and then introducing a small credit to delay this payroll tax hike for a year. It is crowing about this like it is some great help for small businesses. As a small-business owner myself with a payroll to meet, I know that giving with one hand and taking with another really is not any help at all. However, far worse, these increased employment insurance premiums will make it more expensive to hire people after this year. It is especially outrageous considering the premium hike is so unnecessary.

The government still owes the $57 billion it raided from the EI fund. That is money that workers and employers have already paid and now they are being told to pay it twice. This payroll tax increase is expected to result in a $15 billion surplus in the EI fund over the next five years. Therefore, is this really necessary?

Until now, the government has been focused on helping its friends in the banking and oil company industries to reap record profits through blanket tax handouts that make our large corporate tax rate less than half of that in the United States of America. There is still $1.4 billion in tax subsidies going to the oil and gas sector every year, when it obviously does not need it.

Further, blanket tax handouts without conditions for investment do not help create jobs here in Canada. They might generate fat CEO bonuses or investment outside of Canada, but there is simply no evidence that they generate employment here. Instead of spending billions on ineffective policies, we need to be more selective in how we use our precious taxpayer dollars. We need more targeted investments that will result in real job creation.

The government must start supporting small businesses with more than gimmicks that camouflage tax increases. A tax cut for the local retailer down the street, the mom and pop store on the corner, or the start-up in the garage next door will help those small businesses re-invest in their communities and our communities, and create local employment.

New Democrats are trying to change the direction the government has been taking. We are trying to lead it to the light about how important small businesses are to our economy, now and in the future, and we are trying to get more value for taxpayers' money than wasting it on ineffective, across-the-board tax handouts without criteria for success.

I appeal to all the parties in this House to support today's New Democrat motion to cut small-business taxes here in Canada.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I am glad to see that the hon. member has now become such a champion of small businesses and he talked about the small businesses, such as mom and pop-type businesses and small retailers. I happen to come from a small-business background and I know the challenges that a business has.

Is the hon. member aware that there is a threshold at which a small-business does not have to pay any federal tax? I am not sure that the NDP members understand that.

As well, I am interested in whether the hon. member knows what this government has done in terms of the employment insurance system to ensure that it becomes accountable and self-funded. He mentioned the surplus that had been built up in previous times when the former government had built it up and used that money for other purposes.

I would be interested to hear what the hon. member has to say. I am delighted that he has now come around to support small businesses which are really the backbone of the economy here in Canada.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Those were very encouraging comments, Madam Speaker, and I appreciate them.

There was a previous party and government that raided $57 billion from the EI fund, but given the opportunity to correct that egregious and, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, illegal activity, that government chose not to make financial amends to that fund and has, in the last budget and this budget, increased EI premiums for small and large businesses and for the workers themselves. That is a job killer, if there ever were one.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, we in the Liberal Party recognize that the small businesses of Canada are the backbone of our economy, and when we look to the future we are looking to small businesses to continue to bring us into the world economy in new and wonderful ways.

The member seemed to have endorsed the NDP in Manitoba. I do not know if the member is aware, but the NDP government of Manitoba also has a payroll tax. It also gave significant corporate tax cuts, which seem to be in a contradiction to the federal wing of the party

Maybe the member could comment on whether or not he endorses all of the business tax breaks that have been given, and would he encourage the NDP in Manitoba to get rid of the payroll tax currently there?

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, I cannot comment on the payroll tax. I am not familiar with the details of it but would be happy to look into it and comment to the member later.

I do not agree with the large corporate tax cuts given in Manitoba, but when I have spoken to members of the Manitoba legislature I have found that they are in agreement that it has been a huge job creator, a huge stimulus to employment and the economy, and that they have recouped their lost income to small businesses from the increases in taxes in other areas gained from increased economic growth.

The cut in taxes that really concerns me and that should concern us as federal members is the fact that for some bizarre reason our corporate tax rate is less than half the tax rate for large corporations in the United States. It is approximately 36% in the United States and soon to be 15% in Canada. I can see it being a few percentage points lower to be competitive, but my goodness, why is it less than half the U.S. rate?

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, as it is the first time I am speaking in the House, I would like to thank the voters of Edmonton—Strathcona for electing me. I am raising attention to that because there are many small businesses in my riding who have been fighting to get the federal government to support them in building their energy efficiency small businesses.

I would like to clarify for the record that the hon. member has long been a spokesperson for small business in this House. It is not a new interest that he is raising, and he is the appropriate person to raise the matter.

As the member has also spoken about that area of enterprise, I wonder if he thinks it is appropriate for us to also get the government to support the continuity of the energy efficiency sector, including reducing its taxes.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for raising the issue of investing in industries, large or small, that will lead to conservation and new directions in energy production in Canada. We know it is time to shift from yesterday's technologies and yesterday's energy sources to conservation and new sustainable forms of energy.

I feel confident that NDP members will be proposing many suggestions, and the hon. member, I am sure, will be among them.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in favour of my colleague's motion today. First, I would like to thank my constituents in Beauport—Limoilou for their support on May 2. I am proud to represent them in this House and I am well aware of the responsibility that I have been given.

I would also like to pay tribute to my leader, because this victory in Beauport—Limoilou was also his victory. Since our first meeting in Cap-Rouge, in the summer of 2005, I have had the pleasure of working with my friend to build a better future for our families. We have compared our visions of society and agree on the Canada we want. I sincerely appreciate the privilege of having his attention to present my ideas for moving our society forward.

My leader has placed a great deal of trust in me by offering me the position of official opposition critic for small business and tourism. I am honoured and will honour that trust.

Small businesses are the foundation of our local economies. They are part of our everyday lives. The owners of these businesses are our neighbours, our loved ones. They employ our family members, friends and fellow citizens.

Our entrepreneurs have the same concerns as our workers. They want a place in society; they want to earn an honest living and be able to pass something worthwhile on to their descendants, a legacy that makes them proud.

To reach that goal, our entrepreneurs need optimal, competitive conditions. They must be able to rely on strong social programs when it comes to health care and pensions so that they and their employees are protected from twists of fate. They must be on a level playing field with larger competitors, foreign competitors who benefit from cheap labour and a lack of basic services in health care, education and public safety, which Canadians enjoy.

We need to ensure that they have the means to develop and offer their clients, all of us, the best product and the best service.

Our entrepreneurs are the people like the baker whom I buy my bread from, just steps away from my house in Limoilou. Or my three barbers, whom I have been going to for years and who know me by name; the owner of the restaurant on the corner where I go to eat because my workload forces me to grab something and I get service with a smile; or the independent owner of the convenience store where I go to buy beer and other treats, who takes the time to say hello and chat about my life.

And I have not even mentioned the pharmacist, the independent gas station owner, or the cleaner on the corner who takes care of my everyday needs. None of these honest business owners, none of these entrepreneurs, benefit from the very generous tax measures that this government is doling out to the big banks and oil companies, whose profits are mind-boggling.

It gets worse. In an article in the Globe and Mail on April 6, journalist Karen Howlett demonstrated that the massive tax cuts for big business did not prevent a significant drop in investment in machinery and equipment. In reality, these businesses built up $83 billion in additional reserves, money that has been sitting outside our country since 2008, the start of the recession.

In the meantime, family businesses and workers are suffering because of the economic slowdown. They are constrained by financial decisions that do not concern them. In the past few years, we have come to understand that the financial economy has been given disproportionate weight compared to the real economy, that of our industries, services, agricultural production and households.

This disproportion is seen in part in the recent sudden downslide in the S&P/TSX index, which has fallen by 10% since the beginning of 2011.

Everyone is paying the price right now, because the performance requirements of companies listed on the stock exchange are disproportionate to their real and tangible activities. Even when they are profitable, companies listed on the stock exchange have to “restructure”, in other words, make sweeping layoffs of their employees, the lifeblood of a company, with no good reason. Publicly traded companies have to record huge profits and pay large dividends to their shareholders. I am not talking about the obscene bonuses paid to senior executives, which goes against all performance logic and against the needs of the very company involved.

What will this government do? It will feed the tyrannical performance monster I just described at all costs by making massive tax cuts that will do nothing for the family businesses that are part of our daily lives.

The Conservative government is contributing to the economic instability that is hurting us all right now. The Toronto Stock Exchange will look even more like a roller coaster with the measures contained in this budget. There will be more grief because of the fluctuating markets and the fluctuating prices of gas and daily essentials, and we will see more job losses in many regions in Canada.

We have a job creation plan that was rolled out during the last election campaign. We want to reduce the tax rate on a company's first $500,000 of net income from 11% to 9%, which would make a huge difference to millions of small business owners and their employees. This measure would give family businesses more room to manoeuvre, which would in turn ensure their survival and continued development.

In addition, we are proposing a job creation tax credit of up to $4,500, a measure that could create 200,000 jobs. Our entrepreneurs would benefit from a reduction in Canada pension plan and employment insurance premiums for new hires, a great help in these difficult times for many sectors of economic activity, with the exception of oil development and banking, of course.

How does this government intend to create jobs? Through massive tax cuts that will not create jobs in big businesses, but will lead to greater economic instability that will hurt all Canadians. This government boasts that it has created 540,000 jobs since July 2009, mostly temporary and part-time jobs. During that same period, the Canadian population increased by 700,000 to 800,000. It would have been shameful had fewer jobs been created, given that a large number of quality jobs have been lost and businesses have closed since 2008.

This government could do much more by agreeing to implement a real job creation plan, one that would support family businesses that are part of our daily lives, a plan that would create 200,000 stable, good-quality jobs for Canadians.

We need this plan.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague.

The issue between the New Democratic vision of a functioning economy and the neo-con agenda of the Conservative Party is that we understand that if someone is going to run a business, money has to be coming in, which are taxes, and money has to be put out in investments to ensure the business. The Conservative government does not want to make the investments in the key areas. However, the Conservatives government is certainly planning on giving massive corporate tax cuts across the board that serve no useful purpose.

In Ontario, for example, from the switch in taxes, the average citizen now has to pay the share that the banks should be paying and is now paying as a result an extra $800 million a year at the gas pumps from the HST, and yet the banks in Canada enjoyed over $1 billion in tax breaks. How many jobs did those bankers create? Probably zero, because we see them shutting down banks across the country.

It is by shifting tax breaks to where people create jobs that an economy is built.

If the Conservatives are just giving money to the richest companies, which are shipping them overseas and from which we are not getting any return, what does my colleague think the return would be if tax incentives were actually targeted toward the small- and medium-size businesses that are actually investing in communities and creating jobs?

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for this question.

If we really invest in small business, we will have much greater stability in terms of employment for all our constituents.

The phenomenon of employment in small business can be described as follows. In general, we see that, proportionately, approximately two to three times fewer jobs are lost in small companies during a recession than in much larger companies.

As a result, investing in small business is basically like buying insurance for the future for all our workers and for our communities.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Madam Speaker, I must admit that, this afternoon, I have been completely amazed to hear the NDP members recommending that we lower taxes for businesses, specifically small businesses, when this same party has been voting against our budget proposals regarding small businesses since we were elected in 2006.

I would just like to remind the member of the opposition of our proposals to reduce the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, increase the small business earnings limit from $300,000 to $500,000, and increase the lifetime maximum capital gains exemption for small business from $500,000 to $750,000. During those years, the NDP voted against these proposals.

How is it that today the NDP has seen the beauty of capitalism, the beauty of a system that creates jobs? I would like to know where this new-found desire to finally promote free enterprise came from. I am very happy to see their proposal. I would like to tell him that the Conservatives will vote in favour of his party's motion but I would like to know where this idea in favour of small business came from.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his comment and for his support of the motion. It is very nice to hear.

We have long been interested in helping families and local economic activity. However, using previous budgets as examples, I think my speech gave a clear picture of the devastating effects of tax cuts as well as abuses by big corporations and their shareholders and what that has meant for Canadians.

We absolutely could not approve measures that we could see would have harmful consequences, despite the few little measures that were proposed and buried in the budgets.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to the motion moved by my NDP colleagues concerning the taxation of small businesses in Canada.

Everyone knows that I come from a region that promotes entrepreneurship. I am very proud to represent the people of Beauce. Beauce is a haven for SMEs. At one time, the people there were called the Japanese of Quebec because they are entrepreneurs who do not wait for government help to create wealth. They are resourceful and independent and like to take calculated risks.

I feel very comfortable voting in favour of the motion before us today because it reflects the position of our government as well. As I was saying earlier, over the last few years, our government has always supported small businesses and small business owners, since we know that they create wealth and drive the economy. A big, intrusive government will not create wealth, as the NDP likes to say during election campaigns and even here in the House, always proposing state involvement in response to a problem in society, either through regulations on individuals or businesses or an increase in their costs. We promote economic freedom and entrepreneurship. That is what creates jobs.

That is the best recipe. If we look at the past, we can see that that is the only recipe that has produced results. Canada came out better than all the G7 countries during the latest global economic crisis, which, I must point out, originated in the United States. Canada did not create this global crisis. It originated in the United States with the subprime mortgage crisis, as members will recall. This snowballed and affected Canada, Europe and many other countries in the world. Canada was the last to enter this economic crisis and the first to emerge. Why? Because we have adopted policies that enable creators of wealth to do what they do best, which is to create wealth.

I can say that the economic indicators are positive today, but they are also uncertain. There is a problem in Europe, with the debt of various European countries that favoured socialist measures, government measures, requiring heavy government spending. In the end, it hurt the creation of wealth in their countries. We see that the global recovery is tentative. We must continue to reduce business taxes, create wealth and ensure that there is greater freedom. When I speak of freedom, I am referring to individual and economic freedom. Politicians do not create jobs. I would like to repeat that because sometimes the people here believe that we create jobs. We depend on entrepreneurs. They pay our salaries and we should remember that. The real creators of wealth are the people who work day and night, who work continually to ensure that their families have the necessary comforts of life. They are big business owners as well as small business owners.

I do not like the fact that my opposition colleagues make a distinction between small and big business. The NDP's economic policy contains contradictions. This afternoon, the NDP is promoting tax cuts for small business, but it is also promoting tax hikes for big business. If the economic logic applies to the creation of wealth by small business, then the same economic logic should apply to big business. There is a blatant contradiction in what the NDP is saying, and I invite my colleagues to examine other countries' economic policies for creating wealth. That is what ensures that countries do better.

With our emergence from the economic crisis and through the efforts of all Canadians, 368,000 jobs were created in 2010. Canada has one of the best results of all the G7 countries. However, we must continue to promote entrepreneurship. For that reason we created and put in place various measures in this budget, including an important measure to balance the budget and thus ensure that Canadians live within their means and that entrepreneurs can continue to create wealth.

But I would like to take a few minutes to explain corporate income tax. I think that many people here probably do not realize that taxing a company means taxing individuals and Canadians. A business is simply a collection of contracts. Businesses enter into contracts with their clients and their managers, as well as employment contracts with their employees, as the NDP members well know, since they like to defend only the one side. Thus, a business is a fiscal invention. It is a cluster of contracts that have been negotiated with employers, clients and investors.

For the business owner, taxes add to the cost of wealth creation. When a small business or large corporation is taxed, that puts an additional burden on the company, and this prevents it from creating wealth and the necessary jobs. What is important to understand is that this burden is always passed on to individuals, because the business, in a capitalist system, must be profitable. Profitability is a good thing, and I am not afraid to say that businesses should make as much profit as they can, because that profit can be reinvested in wage increases for their employees, in equipment to increase productivity and in the creation of new products. Profit is a good thing in a capitalist system, and I do not understand how the people in the NDP can be against the profits made by a small or large business owner.

When a business is taxed, this imposes an additional cost on the business owner and that cost must be passed on to real individuals. Ordinary people are the ones who pay the price. The cost is passed on to consumers, because it increases the retail price of the product, and this becomes a sort of consumption tax. So when a business is taxed, this becomes a consumption tax when the business passes the cost on to the consumer. The business can also pass it on to investors, the owners of the business, and then it becomes a tax on capital, and at the end of the day, it is the business owner, the investor, who pays the tax. The business can also pass it on to the workers, whom the NDP claims to defend. Workers are also taxed when a business is taxed. This cost is passed on to the workers, who then get a lower wage increase and therefore have less wealth.

Depending on the competitive environment the company works in, it will transfer this cost one of those three ways and at the end of the day, Canadians will pay this tax. There is therefore no distinction between corporate tax and individual tax. It is a false distinction. Everyday Canadians are the ones who pay taxes. Corporations do not pay taxes. They transfer them to consumers. We are all consumers. They transfer them to workers. We are all workers. They transfer them to investors. We are all investors through the shares we hold in our pension funds.

We are the ones who always pay taxes. When the NDP wants to increase corporate taxes, it does not tell Canadians it wants to indirectly increase individual taxes. Taxing corporations indirectly taxes individuals, and that is why we have to continue down this path. That is the mandate the Canadian public gave us. We campaigned on cutting corporate taxes from 16.5% to 15%. The NDP argued in favour of increasing corporate taxes to 19%. It argued against the workers it claims to defend, consumers and small business owners.

It is worrisome to see the NDP's economic logic. It worries me to see the opposition MPs have such a biased economic logic and no understanding of basic economics. Everything I was just talking about is taught in first-year university courses. That is what economics is all about.

The economy is individuals. When we seek to control the economy, we seek to control the actions of individuals. That is why our party advocates for personal freedom. We believe that individuals, people, the public, Canadians know better than we do what is good for them. We believe that they should be able to keep their money in their pockets since they are the ones who will create wealth.

Have members ever seen a scandal in a company that creates wealth? Scandals stem from big-spending governments. If we look at the history of Canada, the Liberals bequeathed us a long list of scandals by wanting to regulate everything and spend freely.

I think that we need to have confidence in entrepreneurs. They are the ones who create wealth. That is why I and all of my colleagues feel very comfortable today standing up for entrepreneurs because, when all is said and done, we are standing up for Canadians.

I also said that taxing businesses means taxing individuals, but it also means putting an additional burden on our businesses because entrepreneurs become tax collectors for the government. While they are collecting taxes to jump through all the administrative hoops imposed on them by the bureaucracy, they are not doing what they should be doing, and that is making their dreams come true, creating wealth and working for themselves. By being self-centred and working for themselves, they are working for society because they are creating wealth and hiring individuals. When we tax businesses, we undermine their creative freedom. We restrict their freedom by asking them to be agents of the state.

I would prefer if entrepreneurs could be true entrepreneurs and focus on what they do best—creating wealth for themselves—because, in the end, this also creates wealth for all of society. The western world's economic and political history has shown that more wealth is generated in the countries with the most economic freedom.

I am pleased to see that my speech has struck my opponents in the NDP, but I do not think I am surprising them. If they can at least think about economic theory tonight, then that will be something. I encourage them to read Bastiat or Hayek and learn about this. Hayek received the Nobel Prize in economic sciences, as members are aware. His peers nominated Hayek for this award. I would like my colleagues to read Hayek and to also read our budget.

Our government's budget was written by the best finance minister in the G7. We must remember that because of our Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Canada is the best country in the world. Canada is a great country because it believes in individuals and it has a very good budget. A number of measures in this budget are pro-business, and therefore pro-individual and pro-Canadian.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

And pro-worker.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

And pro-worker, as my colleague just mentioned. He is right, and he understands the economic logic that applies: we reduce corporate taxes and employees can receive larger wage increases, since we have taken that burden from the entrepreneur.

I was also talking about red tape. I am pleased to announce to opposition members that we have reduced the red tape that the federal bureaucracy imposes on business owners by 20%. That is a start. We can and must do better, but we have reduced it by 20%. That is why I serve on the Red Tape Reduction Commission with my colleagues. We will continue our hearings across Canada, listening to wealth creators and Canadians, to continue to reduce red tape so that they can focus on what they do best: creating wealth.

I urge my colleagues to have a close look at the report of the Red Tape Reduction Commission in November. They will see that we will have some good ideas. They will be the ideas of Canadians. These should be reflected in upcoming budgets, because we are focused on creating wealth in Canada. We must continue to create wealth.

We have done well on this front and we need to keep on. We will continue to reduce the administrative burden imposed on these entrepreneurs because, as I said earlier, they must continue to create wealth. It is not the government that creates wealth. We leave that up to entrepreneurs, and they know how to do it better than we do.

I have a few minutes left to say that I am both pleased and surprised today. I am pleased to see that the NDP is starting to show some concern for entrepreneurs. It is a good first step, and that is why we will encourage them to keep moving in the same direction. However, I am a bit disappointed that they saw the light after they voted against the budget. Still, I am confident that in 2012, with the next budget, they will stay on this new path and will continue to promote entrepreneurs to ensure the creation of wealth in Canada. They will have an opportunity to redeem themselves. At least it is a good start that gives us a glimmer of hope in terms of understanding the NDP's economic logic.

The Liberals have never understood economic logic, but I can see that my NDP colleagues are on the right track. I invite them to read Hayek and Bastiat. They are interesting books that truly reflect reality. It is encouraging. I am very pleased to be here today and speak because I also come from Beauce, a region known for entrepreneurship. I will tell the people of Beauce that, while taking part in a debate here in the House, I saw a glimmer of hope that Mr. Layton's NDP was beginning to understand entrepreneurs. I will take great pleasure in announcing that to the people of Beauce. But still—

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I must ask the hon. minister to refrain from using the name of a member in this House. The minister has two minutes remaining to complete his speech.

Since he has finished, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for questions and comments.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, thank you for allowing me to ask a question.

It appears that the minister went to the wrong class in university. Instead of taking economics 101, he took wasteful spending 101. It is unbelievable to me that he would even try to tell us, although he really seems to believe, that his government is not an interventionist government. Give me a break. His government's budget just gave mortgage companies a $300 billion credit. Is that not interventionist? Not only did the minister go to the wrong class, he did not learn anything. This $300 billion credit did not go to small businesses. And $300 billion is a lot of money.

Now, regarding the 65 fighter jets, no one knows how much this is going to cost. We are told it will be between $15 billion and $30 billion. So the government is handing out a possible $30 billion without a contract. Not a single small business could hope for even a $5,000 payment from this government without a contract. But it has no problem giving $30 billion to big business, no problem at all.

Third, regarding postal services, is that not interventionism? The government is intervening in a labour dispute and the Conservatives are saying they had nothing to do with the lockout scheme that is forcing the employees back to work. They intervened after just three days. It was the same with Air Canada. They intervened, and as a final point, Madam Speaker, regarding the Canadian Wheat Board, which—

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I will give the minister a chance to answer the hon. member's questions.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Madam Speaker, I am in politics for real things, to deal with the facts, and I am pleased to be able to do so today. Further debate on other issues would be necessary because I do not have enough time to explain everything the hon. member has just raised.

He spoke of the Government of Canada's monetary policy. I invite the hon. member to read a very fine speech on monetary policy that was delivered by the hon. member for Beauce a few months ago. This speech will give the hon. member an overview of how well Canada is doing. We have one of the best monetary policies in Canada and I want to thank the Governor of the Bank of Canada and the Minister of Finance—without naming him, and the Speaker will please excuse me for the error I made earlier—for doing such an excellent job. That is why Canada is doing so well.

As far as the fighter jets are concerned, let me reiterate what I said during the election campaign. A request for proposals was indeed issued a few years ago with all the large countries. It was done under the Liberal government and I hope a Liberal MP will rise in the House to confirm that fact. Canada then awarded the contract to the best company. We are working with all our partners on having a fighter jet that meets NATO and United Nations mission criteria.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, first of all I want to thank my colleague. I have worked with him before on the defence committee. I do not necessarily agree with him on the idea of a tendered contract when it comes to fighter jets, but I will leave that for another time.

The member does tell it like it is, there is no doubt about it. I have heard him say many things in the past that certainly come through as honesty. Maybe he got into a bit of trouble for it, but he certainly was honest and to the point.

However, the member does turn this idea of corporate taxes into an academic exercise that I am not sure I totally agree with. One of the things is comparing the corporate tax to something akin to the GST or a consumption tax. I am not quite sure if that really relates when it comes to all the major exports that we use here.

I would like to zero in on two particular industries. If the corporate tax rates that have fallen over the past two or three years have been so great, why is the forest industry in Quebec having so much trouble? The corporate tax drop did not save my mill. It had to do with a lot of factors outside of that.

If corporate tax rates were so wonderful, why do we give money to auto companies to save them? It is a direct payment to them to save them.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Madam Speaker, my honourable colleague is right. Forestry is a very competitive industry, governed by supply and demand. In my area, Beauce, there is also a forestry industry. It is struggling because the market has dried up. Beauce business owners exported their lumber to the United States and I imagine that was also the case in the member's riding. The state cannot create a market. Markets dry up and that is a fact. What can the state do when the market in a sector no longer exists? It must continue to decrease corporate taxes so that when the economy does turn around, the businesses can reinvest in equipment and materials or conquer new markets, such as the European or Japanese markets.

Beauce businesses realized that the American market was no longer viable. As innovative entrepreneurs who want to survive, they developed new markets in Japan and China to which they export their lumber. I am sure that entrepreneurs in the member's area do the same thing. True entrepreneurs do not wait for the government. They take action and ask the government to get out of the way.

Opposition Motion—Small BusinessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for that very passionate speech and I also want to congratulate him on his re-appointment to cabinet. It is one that I think we were all very pleased to see.

I would also like to say that the member is a very good, strong representative of the people of Beauce. I knew very little of the area, but this gentleman is a strong advocate for it.

Most of us in the House have received letters from different groups and organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. This group that represents small- and medium-size business has come forward with certain recommendations, the first one being the freezing of payroll taxes. This group recognizes that increasing CPP and those small payroll taxes are huge disincentives to business to allow them to expand and grow. That was the number one priority.

Its second priority was reducing red tape. The member has spoken a bit about that, but the third one is what I want to mention very quickly, and that is where the organization talks about controlling spending. This government, even through the stimulus spending, was prompted by the opposition to spend more. When we talk about coming back to balanced budgets, the opposition members say that we need to spend more.

Could the member tell us the dangers in that for all of the economy, especially small- and medium-size business?