Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Markham—Unionville.
Throughout the country, growth is slowing down, jobs are being lost and there is record unemployment among youth. A government's main task is to ensure prosperity, not only for our country, but also for every Canadian. No one should be forgotten.
The Prime Minister believes his plan to rebuild our economy is very easy. It involves cutting corporate taxes and reducing the government's role. This means cuts and job losses, but the government should be focusing on preserving and creating jobs.
As the party that put the Canadian economy back on track on the heels of poor Conservative fiscal management, we know what it takes to deal with a debt crisis and a deficit. It takes fiscal discipline along with growth and healthy revenues. In other words, people need to be working.
How do the Conservatives respond to all of this? They cut corporate taxes and the government's role. If you are worried about losing your job, the government thinks it is your problem. If you have already lost your job and cannot find another one, the government thinks it is your fault.
Unlike this government, the Liberals are focusing on policies that ensure prosperity, growth and jobs. We are here to say, as has been said in other eras when unemployment was high and times were tough, that it is the government's responsibility to work with companies, large or small, to increase business opportunities, give hope, and provide more opportunities for change and development.
Canada's economic prosperity has always depended on strong international trade. Under the Conservative government, Canada is now seriously lagging behind on the international scene. A significant rise in job creation will not come without a serious effort focused on international trade.
Canada's trade deficit with the rest of the world was $753 million in July 2011. That was our fifth consecutive month with a trade deficit. Since January 2009, Canada has only had nine months of trade surpluses, but 22 months of trade deficits.
The Conservatives' failure to act has led to a contraction of the Canadian economy at a time when we simply cannot afford it. Our real gross domestic product fell by 0.1% in the second quarter. This latest decline in the GDP is a good indication of the ineffectiveness of the Conservative plan, which focuses too much on corporate handouts that are not reinvested, instead of focusing on Canadians and their needs, such as job creation, education, professional training and health care.
Young people are especially affected by the government's failures and its inaction when it comes to the things that matter the most. Statistics on the high youth unemployment rate this summer prove that this government did nothing to create the jobs students needed precisely when they were trying to save money for the upcoming school year.
This summer, for instance, the average unemployment rate for students aged 15 to 24 was 17.2%, up from 16.9% in the summer of 2010. As a point of comparison, the unemployment rate in the summers from 2006 to 2008 was below 14%.
Another sector that suffered this summer was tourism, which this Conservative government consistently neglected. Worse still, this government even made decisions that were extremely detrimental to the tourism industry. We are already going through very tough economic times, and the Canadian industry cannot survive if this government brings in policies that undermine entrepreneurs.
From eliminating the GST visitor’s rebate, to hiking the air travellers’ security tax by 55% for foreign flights, to refusing to send a Canadian pavilion to Expo 2012, this government has done nothing but hurt Canada’s tourism Industry. Foreign tourism is a very lucrative source of revenue on which the various levels of government in Canada and hundreds of Canadian communities rely, and those communities deserve federal leadership to help bring tourists to our shores.
But the Conservatives' attack on employment extends far beyond tourism and young people. Small businesses have also been completely ignored by the Conservative government. Small and medium-sized business owners and municipal leaders are absolutely shocked that Canada will not have a presence in South Korea for Expo 2012, when South Korea is such an important trade partner for Canada. Our 2010 Expo pavilion in Shanghai saw over 6.4 million visitors and facilitated 46 high-level business meetings that generated many agreements and partnerships.
The Conservatives prefer to ignore all that because making cuts is more important to them than maintaining and creating jobs. The lack of skilled workers, the need for more investment in infrastructure and the increasing burden of red tape are a constant source of frustration for small business owners. The only thing holding a number of them back from expanding is that they cannot find the skilled labour they need. What is more, after three years of promising to cut red tape, all this government has done is conduct another study. We need measures right now because Canadians need jobs right now.
Since this government is more concerned with its ideological beliefs than the needs of Canadians, it is not surprising that the Conservatives have completely shirked their responsibilities in a number of recent developments with our trade partners, which could have an adverse effect on Canadian businesses and workers.
The government was asleep at the switch when President Obama announced the provisions of his “Buy American” policy in his economic recovery plan earlier this month. It was taken by surprise even though, in two speeches before the bill was tabled, the President clearly indicated where his administration was headed. The so-called exemption for Canada in 2009 was clearly ignored in the $400 billion plan proposed by President Obama. The consequences for Canada will be serious and the Conservatives' incompetence in this matter is unacceptable.
With the “Buy American” policy promoting the purchase of American products, country-of-origin labelling for agri-food products, and the Canada-U.S. tax treaty, Canadian interests have been systematically ignored by the Americans and the Conservative government has not done its job.
It is high time to focus on what is important: jobs. No miracle will save Canada from the troubling economic situation in which it finds itself. The government must invest in people, in our infrastructure, and in our capacity for research and development. The government must invest in helping needy Canadians rather than wasting taxpayers' money on punitive laws that will not make our streets safer and on fighter jets that Canadians do not need.