Mr. Speaker, it is truly a great honour to start debate on today's legislation, the jobs and growth act, 2012, to implement key provisions of economic action plan 2012.
I am proud to be part of a Conservative government that is absolutely focused on the economy, focused on jobs and squarely focused on securing a better future for our children and our grandchildren. That is exactly what Canadians elected our government to do, as it is exactly what matters to them, especially when we are faced with a global economy that has been exceedingly volatile in recent months.
Economic action plan 2012 and the jobs and growth act, 2012, which implements it, is comprehensive and ambitious because it responds to the magnitude of the challenges that we face. In a fast-changing global economy that remains uncertain and where we face increasing competition from emerging economies such as China and India, delay is not an option in the face of needed economic reform. When promoting Canada around the world, our strong, stable government is consistently praised for its ability to enact needed economic reform and stay focused on the economy.
To completely comprehend the vital importance of our government's economic strength, look no further than the U.S. or Europe, places where narrow-minded political gridlock and instability have too often threatened or delayed vital economic and fiscal reforms. Now is not the time for political gridlock and instability. We must remain focused on the economy.
We are very proud of the steps we are taking in economic action plan 2012, and as we have said, we have absolutely nothing to hide. That is why we want an open, public and timely study.
As always, we have provided a technical briefing directly to officials for all MPs and senators, and I would like to applaud the members for Red Deer, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo and Brossard—La Prairie for staying to the end of the very thorough briefing, which lasted until 1:30 in the morning.
As always, we will provide detailed background notes to all MPs and senators, which are now also available online for all Canadians. As always, there will be detailed committee studies in the House and Senate. Additionally, I am proposing that along with the finance committee in the House, the government side will recommend even further study.
As with previous budget legislation under our government and as we did last spring with the special subcommittee on the first budget implementation act, we will be asking the following 10 committees to look at portions of the bill: health; transport, infrastructure and communities; aboriginal affairs and northern development; agriculture and agri-food; environment and sustainable development; fisheries and oceans; justice and human rights; public safety and national security; human resources, skills and social development and the status of persons with disabilities; and citizenship and immigration.
I will be moving a motion at finance committee to invite those other committees to provide feedback through subject matter studies should the House endorse the legislation at second reading. I really hope the opposition members will give their support at second reading if they genuinely want these committees to study the legislation, instead of just playing political games.
Returning to the debate on the jobs and growth act, Canadians watching at home will witness some very clear differences between our Conservative government and the opposition, and especially the NDP, when it comes to the priorities of Canadians and the direction of the Canadian economy.
From the opposition members, we will hear a lot of talk about process and procedure, or what some would call “inside baseball”, that appeals to a small number of Canadians, mostly located in Ottawa. They talk about process to dictate the exact length of the debate, procedure for the formatted legislation, process for a timeline for a committee study, and on and on.
This talk will be short on facts, big on exaggeration and heavy on partisan spin. In other words, it is really meaningless to the everyday lives of the vast majority of Canadians, especially those Canadians worried about the economy, worried about how global economic uncertainty will impact Canada and how their government is planning to respond.
Instead of debating the issues around the economy, the opposition members would rather debate about debate. While it is disappointing, it is just as well. On the rare occasion when the opposition, especially the NDP, finally gets around to talking about the economy, it is either to badmouth Canadian business or to complain that Canadians are not paying enough taxes.
Canadians should recognize that our Conservative government and the NDP, Liberals, Bloc and the Green Party have fundamentally different views about taxes and the economy. The NDP and its allies believe in bigger governments and higher taxes. That is why those members oppose the over 140 tax cuts we have introduced since coming to power. They opposed reducing the GST. They opposed reducing personal income taxes. They opposed lowering small business taxes. They opposed creating the tax-free savings account. The list goes on and on.
This speaks to a basic and fundamental difference between us. The NDP sees no issue with taking more of the hard-earned money of Canadian families to fund government initiatives, while our Conservative government believes that after a long hard week of work for that construction worker or dental hygienist or police officer, their paycheque is actually their paycheque and it belongs in their pockets, not in the mail to Ottawa to fund the latest NDP big government scheme.
We on this side of the House believe that Canadians pay too much tax. The latest high-tax NDP scheme, its $21 billion carbon tax, is the latest in a string of examples that would dramatically reduce the take-home pay of Canadian families.
Canadians are concerned about the NDP carbon tax proposal. In the words of respected Saskatoon StarPhoenix columnist Les MacPherson from this past March:
[The NDP leader] favours a carbon tax to put a price on so-called greenhouse gas emissions. It would amount to something like a second GST applied on fuel for transportation and heating. In terms of the costs imposed on consumers, it is not far different from [the Liberal] Green Shift plan, widely mocked as the Green Shaft and resoundingly rejected by voters in the 2008 election.
He goes on:
If Canadians four years later now are yearning for higher taxes on gasoline and heating bills, [the NDP leader] could have a winner here.
Or listen to a recent Calgary Herald editorial, which said:
A carbon tax is, quite simply, placing a price on carbon.... Call it what you will—a rose, a daisy, a levy, or a penalty—most reasonable people would call it a tax.... In other words, it’s a tax, and by any other name, the cost will be passed on to consumers.
I could go on and on with these concerns but I will not, because Canadians trust our Conservative government not to tolerate a carbon tax and they know we will vigorously oppose anyone who would try to force a tax scheme such as that onto Canadians.
They also know that our Conservative government will implement low-tax pro-growth initiatives such as economic action plan 2012 to help the economy grow in their communities and help attract jobs, just like the measures contained in today's legislation.
The jobs and growth act, 2012, implements key initiatives of the economic action plan 2012 to help the Canadian economy grow, encourage job creation and ensure Canada's long-term prosperity. This will keep the Canadian economy on the right track and guarantee its strong position.
According to the World Economic Forum, Canada has the soundest banking sector in the world. Forbes magazine says that Canada is the best place in the world in which to do business. The OECD and the IMF predict that our economy will be among the leaders in the industrialized world over the next few years. Our debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far.
In Canada, approximately 820,000 jobs have been created since July 2009, which is the best job growth record in the entire G7. Furthermore, the three major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard and Poor's, have reaffirmed our top credit rating.
However, we cannot rest on our laurels. There are many global challenges and uncertainties still facing our economy, especially from Europe. The international recovery is not complete and challenges remain. The global economy remains fragile, and any potential setback would have an impact on Canada. That is why we continue to focus on supporting the economy with our economic action plan 2012, which gives priority to growth.
The jobs and growth act, 2012 strengthens the economy and creates jobs by extending for one more year the hiring credit for small businesses that create jobs.
Over 530,000 employers benefited from this measure last year. The jobs and growth act, 2012 promotes interprovincial trade, improves the legislative framework governing Canada’s financial institutions, facilitates cross-border travel, removes red tape, reduces fees for Canada’s grain farmers and supports Canada’s commercial aviation sector.
The jobs and growth act, 2012 supports families and communities by improving registered disability savings plans, helping Canadians save for retirement by implementing the tax framework for pooled registered pension plans, improving the administration of the Canada pension plan and strengthening the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The jobs and growth act, 2012 promotes clean energy and enhances neutrality of the tax system by expanding tax relief for investment in clean energy generation equipment and phasing out tax preferences for the mining and oil and gas sectors.
The jobs and growth act, 2012 respects taxpayers’ dollars by taking landmark action to ensure the pension plans for federal public sector employees are sustainable, financially responsible and broadly consistent with the pension products offered in the private sector, and by eliminating tax loopholes and duplication.
Without a doubt, the initiatives I highlighted here, as well as others included in the jobs and growth act, 2012, are positive steps to help Canadians and grow our economy.
In my time remaining, I would like to highlight one of these initiatives and remind Canadians exactly what the NDP and the opposition will be voting against.
This particular measure is aimed at supporting the true engine of job creation in Canada, which is our small businesses. From the local corner store, to the dry cleaner or furniture repair shop, we all know and rely upon local small business for their friendly service.
Our Conservative government firmly believes in the importance of small business. That is why, since forming government in 2006, we have taken important steps to support them: steps that the NDP, with its high-tax, big-government agenda, voted against.
For instance, in recent years we reduced the small business tax to 11%, and increased, for the first time since 1988, the lifetime capital gains exemption to $750,000, to allow capital gains and qualified small business shares to be realized tax free.
However, like all Canadian businesses, small businesses across the country have felt, and continue to feel, the trickle-down effect of the global economic turbulence.
In recognition of these challenges, economic action plan 2012 announced a temporary hiring credit for small business of up to $1,000 per employer. This credit proved wildly successful, providing important relief to small businesses by helping defray the costs of hiring new workers and allowing them to thrive while providing employment in their communities.
Amid continuing global economic uncertainty, and with the urging of small businesses across Canada, our Conservative government moved to extend the temporary hiring credit for small business in economic action plan 2012. Specifically, a credit of up to $1,000 against a small employer's increase in its 2012 EI premiums over those paid in 2011 would be provided. It is estimated that the hiring credit for small business would be available to approximately 536,000 employers whose total EI premiums were at or below $10,000 in 2011, reducing small business 2012 payroll costs by about $205 million.
As I mentioned earlier, this credit has been extremely popular with small businesses across Canada.
As the NDP is looking to vote against this credit, let me share a small sample of that feedback, to help my opposition colleagues fully understand just exactly what they are opposing.
The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce welcomed the credit's extension, noting:
Yellowknife has a lot of small businesses and one of the most expensive features for any small business owner is labour, and if you could cut down on that cost then you've given them a chance that they can grow their business. We're well in favour of that.
Or listen to the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, which heralded the credit this way. “It helps to provide our owners with resources to keep their businesses more often and for longer hours. Convenience stores provide a unique opportunity for many new Canadians and entrepreneurs to realize their dreams of owning a business, and this credit increases opportunities for them to start employment in the convenience store industry.”
Finally, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business praised the credit as “making it easier for small business to continue to support Canada's economic recovery by creating jobs”.
While I know the NDP does not support low taxes, I must confess my disappointment at the NDP's reaction to the inclusion of this very item in the jobs and growth act, 2012. Just last week, shortly after the introduction of the bill and its provision to extend the job-creating hiring credit for small business, the NDP finance critic blasted this tax relief for small business and our government's record of supporting small business. The NDP finance critic said: “It is yet again an across-the-board cut for small business”.
As I mentioned, the hiring credit will benefit approximately 536,000 small businesses, which is why I am frankly shocked that the NDP would bemoan it, along with tax relief for small business and the Canadians they employ.
Much like the NDP plan to impose a job-killing $21 billion carbon tax scheme on small businesses, this is part and parcel of the NDP's high-tax agenda that would impose higher, crippling taxes on Canadian business and our economy.
That is the fundamental difference between our Conservative government and the NDP and their opposition allies. They have a particular view of how to manage the economy. They want to impose high taxes. They want to close our borders to trade. They want to inflate government bureaucracies. That is fundamentally and absolutely contrary to the principles of this Conservative government. I am proud to be part of a government that feels those are not values that Canadians want to see.
That is why the NDP opposes today's legislation. That is why the NDP opposes economic action plan 2012, despite whatever reasons they may use as a smokescreen to suggest otherwise.
Canadians can rest assured that our Conservative government will move ahead with today's legislation, economic action plan 2012 and our low-tax, pro-growth, job-creating agenda.
I would implore opposition members to listen to what is in the second budget implementation act, because it does exactly what I have just mentioned. It does create jobs. It does help Canadians to prosper. It does make us a better country, and it really does affect every single thing that we do to help Canadians do better.
If the NDP and the Liberal Party, along with the independents and the Green Party member, continue to say they intend to vote against this, I would ask Canadians to start asking their members of Parliament from the opposition benches why in fact they are doing so. I do not understand it. I cannot believe it. I am sure Canadians are just as shocked as I am. I would invite Canadians to write to their members of Parliament to voice their opinions.