Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate this opportunity to address my hon. colleague's motion. However, from the outset, I want to point out to my colleagues across the way that the economy remains priority one for our Conservative government.
With the economic recovery still fragile, we remain focused on ensuring Canada offers the right environment to attract the best business investment necessary to create more and better-paying jobs and improve the living standard of Canadians. Ironically, one of the most effective ways to achieve this is through action opposed by the other side, to give job creators means to hire more workers by lowering their taxes, which is exactly what this government has done. Rest assured that our Conservative government understands that it is lower taxes that help stimulate job growth and that it is expanding markets for Canadian businesses that will help our economy thrive.
The fact is that we have a strong economic record, one that Canadians can look to and trust, as we once again face the economic headwinds emanating from abroad. In short, thanks to the prudent fiscal and economic decisions made before the downturn hit, Canada's economic and fiscal health today is stronger than that of most other developed nations.
When faced with the unprecedented global crisis, our government responded with Canada's economic action plan, which stimulated the economy, protected Canadian jobs during the recession and invested in long-term growth. The results have been both positively received and widely recognized. For example, the Canadian economy's performance on jobs and economic growth has been among the best in the G7. While we would like to see more progress, it is important to note that we have recovered and exceeded all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession.
Since July 2009, more than 820,000 net new jobs have been created, the strongest growth in the G7 by far. Certainly in my riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, we have seen a dramatic drop in the unemployment rate in our particular community. Virtually all of those jobs have been full-time positions. However, that is not all. Canada has the distinction of having the world's soundest banking system for the fifth year in a row, as affirmed two weeks ago by the World Economic Forum. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in its annual review of the best countries for business.
Five Canadian financial institutes were named to Bloomberg's list of the world's strongest banks, more than any other country. Three credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poor's, have all recently reaffirmed Canada's top-tier, AAA credit rating. What is more, our $3 billion U.S. bond issue earlier this year was widely subscribed, with EuroWeek magazine concluding that the fact that Canada is
able to do a trade like that…cements its status as a true Treasury alternative and the best credit in the world.
Clearly, Canada's fiscal fundamentals are solid, and people are noticing. In fact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised Canada's economic record, saying:
Canada's path of great budgetary discipline and a very heavy emphasis on growth and overcoming the crisis, not living on borrowed money, can be an example for the way in which problems on the other side of the Atlantic can be addressed.... This is also the right solution for Europe.
While Canada's economic achievements are encouraging, our government understands that now is not the time to become complacent. There are international risks that can affect our outlook: the crisis in Europe and the slowing recovery in the U.S.
I would like to draw everyone's attention to the enduring sovereign and banking crisis in Europe. As the Prime Minister has observed, “The risks to the global economy stemming from the euro zone remain considerably elevated, with the capacity to affect all of us”.
In the eurozone, real GDP contracted in the fourth quarter of 2011, was virtually flat in the first quarter of 2012 and then contracted again in the second quarter of 2012. In addition, current indicators show little improvement, suggesting that the euro area economy is unlikely to see a sharp rebound in the near future.
Many nations, even those oceans away, are concerned about the impact of the eurozone crisis on their own economies. We are all obviously concerned about the situation there, but European leaders need to address their economic problems directly.
The recent announcement by the European Central Bank that it would support European sovereign bond markets is a step in the right direction. However, as the Minister of Finance has noted, we continue to wait for intentions to become actions.
Another serious issue of concern for the world economy is the long-term fiscal challenges of the U.S. This also has a short-term dynamic. Without a political agreement, a number of tax increases and spending reduction measures, representing about 4% of U.S. GDP, are scheduled to come into force at the beginning of 2013. This has been labelled the “fiscal cliff”. The U.S. needs to reduce its fiscal deficit over time. This point is clear. However, it also needs to ensure that there is certainty in the short term, so that markets and investors can be confident that its economic growth will not be interrupted.
Interestingly enough, it is Americans who are suggesting that the United States should emulate Canada's policies to improve their own economic situation. Indeed, just last year the finance committee travelled to the U.S. and met with congressmen and senators. At every meeting we went into, there was so much appreciation and people said we were so lucky to come from Canada.
Just a month ago, we received the highest praise from our American friends when Tom Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said:
We've got a strong example of the positive effect of good policies...—Canada. Why has our northern neighbor recovered faster and more robustly from the global recession than nearly all the other major economies? Due to a series of smart policy decisions.
... Canada has transformed its economy while other nations continue to struggle. ...it is growing faster than many of its competitors. It has recovered all the jobs lost in the recession...
Let's take a lesson from the north and tackle these priorities now.
What a great quote from our American friends.
It is our Conservative government that understands what type of economic policies Canada will need to weather the storms beyond our borders. What better place to find examples of policies that create jobs, stimulate economic growth and secure Canada's long-term prosperity than economic action plan 2012?
With our largest historical trading partners, the United States and Europe, going through a prolonged period of economic uncertainty, we know this will put downward pressure on Canada's economic growth. We will not be able to rely on these trading partners to the same extent we did in the past. We must develop new markets and create new opportunities in dynamic parts of the world if we are going to keep raising our standard of living.
Our government is committed to increasing Canada's exports and creating conditions necessary for our homegrown businesses to compete in the global marketplace. Increasing Canadian export is key to our future growth. Our government believes that the sustainable growth agenda involves structural reforms, including trade liberalization that allows for Canadian businesses and their workers to fully compete in the global market.
Our government has already made Canada one of the most open and globally engaged economies in the world. In six years we have reached trade agreements with nine countries and are negotiating with many more. We have also concluded foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with 11 countries and are in active negotiations with 14 others. We are optimistic that our negotiations with the European Union will soon produce an ambitious trade agreement that facilitates increased Canadian exports to Europe. Recently, our Prime Minister met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Ottawa to strengthen dialogue on this key initiative.
However, it does not end there. Combined with the government's commitment to increasing Canadian exports is our continued tariff relief to enhance the competitiveness of Canada's manufacturers and importers. In all, our government has eliminated more than 1,800 tariff items and provided more than $435 million in annual tariff relief to Canadian businesses. As a result, Canada is now the first tariff-free manufacturing zone in the G20.
Our government continues to create the right conditions to enable Canadians and Canadian businesses to feel confident to invest, to create jobs, to participate in the global marketplace and to grow our economy.
In fact, just last week the Minister of Finance announced new tariff relief for Canadian manufacturers to help create jobs and economic growth and enhance their competitiveness in the domestic and international markets.
Let me stress this point. Trade has long been a powerful engine for Canada's economy, driving it forward through some pretty tough times. It demonstrates the government firmly believes and our record demonstrates that.
Unfortunately, not all the parties represented in the House share that view. If the NDP had its way, we know that our economy would falter under its protectionist policies. That party has opposed almost every trade agreement that has come before the House. The Liberal Party just let the trade file languish during its time in government. Fortunately, on this side of the House, we take action.
Deepening Canada's trade investment relationships in large and fast-growing export markets around the world is integral to jobs and growth. In the past few years, our government has been aggressively expanding commercial relationships in the Asia-Pacific region to create jobs and economic benefit. The opportunities for Canada in this dynamic region are vast, with an economic growth rate that is two to three times the global average.
By 2040, China and India are predicted to be the number two and number four destinations for Canada's merchandise exports, with South Korea and Japan in the top ten as well. That is why we are pursuing a whole host of trade initiatives with Asia.
Let us consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example. The TPP's current membership represents a market of 510 million people and a GDP of $17.6 trillion.
At the G20 leaders summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, TPP partners announced their support for Canada joining this partnership and, indeed, it was an historic opportunity.
However, this trade effort in this region has some company. In addition to the TPP, Canada is pursuing a number of similar initiatives, including continuing trade negotiations with Japan and continuing exploratory discussions toward trade negotiations with Thailand.
Our government continues to take action to increase Canadian exports to China. China is the second largest two-way trading partner, after the United States, and bilateral trade is expanding rapidly. Fuelled by a 27% boost in Canadian exports to China, two-way merchandise trade reached $65 billion in 2011, accounting for 7.3% of Canada's trade.
Again, on a local note, I look at our forestry industry in British Columbia. That expansion into China in terms of its product has been absolutely critical in terms of its continuation.
More specific, from 2006 to 2011, Canadian exports to China rose from $7.8 billion to $16.8 billion, an increase of 115%. During the same period, Canadian imports from China rose from $34.5 billion to $48.2 billion, an increase of 40%.
Canada has a strong network of trade commissioners throughout China who can help Canadian businesses to asses the potential of the Chinese market, find qualified contacts and resolve any problems that might come along the way. This network was expanded in 2009, when Canada opened six regional trade offices to expand our presence to second-tier cities, the new drivers of the Chinese economic growth. Our country now has 11 points of contact for Canadian businesses in China.
To increase protection for Canadian business in China, earlier this month, we signed the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. This landmark agreement will provide a more stable and secure environment for Canadian businesses in China.
I could easily go on for another 20 minutes, highlighting our government's economic action plan initiatives to strengthen business competitiveness, for example, in resource development, immigration reform, cutting red tape. It is pretty clear that when it comes to creating the kinds of economic growth that will mean a brighter future for Canadians and their families, this side of the House knows the best route to getting there. Why? Because, unlike the Liberals, our government has a plan for jobs and growth and will continue to stick with it.
I urge my colleagues across the floor to stop voting against a plan that would create jobs, generate economic growth and secure Canada's long-term prosperity. Our Conservative government is creating the right conditions for Canadian businesses to compete around the world. Our government is absolutely committed to keeping Canada strong and prosperous, even in a volatile and uncertain economy. Maybe for a change the Liberals will get on board.