Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to report stage debate on this vital piece of legislation that is so incredibly important for the continued economic strength of Canada, Bill C-45, jobs and growth act, 2012, which we all know implements key portions of economic action plan 2012.
As Canadians know, in the midst of global economic turbulence, Canada's economy, with the help of our government's pro-growth agenda, has performed relatively well compared to our international peers. Whether it be job creation, economic growth, or our fiscal position, Canada is actually leading the way.
Canadians can take pride that we have seen the strongest job creation record over the G7 in recent years, with more than 820,000 net new jobs that have been created since the recession. The vast majority of those jobs are full-time. Canadians can take pride that we have the best finances in the G7 with the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio by far. The list goes on and on.
It is little wonder that more and more third-party and international observers have applauded our government's economic record. Why do we not listen to some of those observers?
Listen to Finn Poschmann of the C.D. Howe Institute who had this to say: “The economic outlook for Canada is a lot stronger than the rest of the world”.
What about Pier Carlo Padoan, the chief economist of the OECD who declared, “The Canadian economy is doing well. ...the Canadian economy...is doing much better than most of the other advanced economies”?
However, we cannot be complacent, especially at this time. We must remain vigilant and focused on the economy, as we know all too well that the global economy continues to face considerable challenges, especially when we look to the United States and Europe, two of Canada's most important trading partners.
That is exactly what our government is doing with economic action plan 2012, as demonstrated with today's important legislation. Canadians expect their government to be working on and moving forward with exactly this type of targeted, pro-growth and job-creating legislation.
Canadians, who are cautious about the state of the global economy and its possible impact on Canada, want to know that their Parliament is taking the situation equally as seriously. They would be incredibly disappointed if they were to witness their politicians use this opportunity to play partisan games with the Canadian economy. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Liberal Party did at the finance committee, engaging in a costly, multi-day filibuster. Instead of moving forward with key economic reforms, the Liberal Party decided to play partisan political games, moving thousands of frivolous amendments, mainly only serving to delay economic action plan 2012.
I should note that the Liberals did move a handful of substantive amendments at finance committee and actually argued quite forcefully for them. However, and shockingly, the vast majority of the amendments the Liberal Party actually chose to discuss surrounded tax loopholes.
In fact, in a rare moment of agreement between the government and the NDP, we both expressed our stunned collective disbelief as the Liberal finance critic time and again spoke to demand that we actually leave tax loopholes open and turn our backs on the basic principles of tax fairness. I am still scratching my head trying to figure out why the Liberal finance critic was so adamant that we leave these tax loopholes in place so that a select privileged few could avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
I am proud that our Conservative members stood up to the Liberal Party and voted down every attempt it made at committee stage to leave tax loopholes open. I am also very proud that our Conservative members stood strong for days on end, night and day, and stopped the partisan Liberal attempt to block economic action plan 2012 and its support for the Canadian economy.
As I mentioned earlier, our plan and its elements legislated through the jobs and growth act 2012 is a positive plan for the economy and Canadian families. Indeed, I want to share with Canadians many of the initiatives in this legislation that will assist them and their communities, initiatives that the opposition opposes and is trying to stop.
For instance, our Conservative government is helping build a stronger economy and creating jobs in today's legislation by extending for one year the job-creating hiring tax credit for small business, promoting interprovincial trade, improving the legislative framework governing Canada's financial institutions, facilitating cross-border travel, removing red tape and reducing fees for Canada's grain farmers, supporting Canada's commercial aviation sector and much more.
Today's legislation also helps support families and communities by improving registered disability savings plans, helping Canadians save for retirement by implementing a tax framework for pooled registered pension plans, improving the administration of the Canada pension plan and, again, much more.
The jobs and growth act, 2012 also takes concrete action to promote clean energy and enhanced neutrality of the tax system by, for instance, expanding tax relief for investment in clean energy generation equipment and phasing out tax preferences for the mining, oil and gas sectors.
Furthermore, today's legislation also works to better respect taxpayer dollars by taking landmark action to ensure the pension plans for federal public sector employees are sustainable and financially responsible. We are also closing tax loopholes. We are eliminating duplication and much more.
With all these positive pro-growth initiatives to help the Canadian economy and Canadian families, why would the opposition parties stand in their way and try to block them?
In my time remaining today I would like to focus on one very important initiative in particular that will really support economics in local communities right across Canada by supporting small businesses, especially in my home riding of Saint Boniface.
We all know the importance of small businesses, from the local hairdresser shop to the small manufacturer and more. Canada's small and medium-size enterprises account for 99% of companies. They employ 60% of working Canadians and they contribute about 40% to Canada's GDP, proving to be economic drivers and important sources of job creation.
That is why I am very pleased that economic action plan 2012, through today's legislation, extends the hiring credit for small business, making it easier for businesses to hire more Canadians and growth. By extending the temporary hiring credit for small business, today's legislation will make available a credit up to $1,000 against the small employer's increase in its 2012 EI premiums. This credit would be available to about 536,000 employers whose total EI premiums were at or below $10,000 in 2011, thus reducing their 2012 payroll costs by about $205 million. That is $205 million that our small businesses were able to keep in their pockets thanks to this temporary hiring credit.
This and many other positive initiatives in economic action plan 2012 will help Canadians and the Canadian economy. That is why Canadians support this plan and today's legislation. That is why the opposition should really stop trying to block it and stop the political games. I call on members to put political games aside, focus on the economy and help support the timely passage of today's legislation and economic action plan 2012.
Now on a personal note, as many Canadians know, parliamentarians are here sometimes five days a week and we miss special moments back home. As a result, I was unable to attend a funeral for a friend and I would like to take a moment to talk about Peter O'Kane who died suddenly in an accident at 42 years of age, a police officer I worked with very closely, a friend and a colleague that I admired quite a bit. In memory of Peter, I would like to read a special poem called “Final Inspection”:
The Policeman stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining as brightly as his brass.
“Step forward now, officer. How shall I deal with You?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my Church have you been true?”
The officer squared his shoulders and said,
“No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Cause those of us who carry badges can't always be a saint.
But I never took a penny that wasn't mine to keep,
Though I worked a lot of overtime when the bills just got too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help, though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God forgive me, I wept an unmanly tear.
I know I don't deserve a place among the people here.
They never wanted me around except to calm their fear.
If you've a place for me here, Lord, it needn't be so grand.
I've never expected or had too much.
But if you don't, I'll understand”.
There was silence all around the throne where the saints had often trod.
As the officer waited quietly for the answer of his God.
“Step forward now, Officer, you've borne your burdens well.
Come walk a beat on Heaven's Streets. You've done you time in Hell”.
This is an ode for Peter O'Kane who died recently and I am very apologetic I could not be at the funeral.