Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Calgary Centre-North, and I am very happy to do that.
There will be nothing hidden about what I have to say today.
I listened with interest to the last speaker, and I have to say that I cannot get over the kind of small-minded, narrow ability that the NDP members have as they view trade and investment. It is actually really embarrassing. The only problem is that, in places where they have been able to apply it, like my home province of Saskatchewan, it has been devastating to the economy. They need do no more than take a look at Saskatchewan and where it sat for decades as they applied their principles. They come with many disguises, but the reality is that they always come back to being anti-trade and anti-development, and we certainly see that here today as well.
I kind of got a kick out of the member opposite saying that Canadians get nothing out of this investment in Alberta. I do not know if he checked the employment figures last week, but I think Alberta is at 4.2% unemployment rate right now, which is basically full employment. There are people across this country who need jobs. Saskatchewan is going to need 90,000 workers here in the next few years.
The suggestion by NDP members that there are no benefits to energy development in western Canada is just absolutely ludicrous. When they did have their chance with the potash industry in Saskatchewan, they did everything they could to destroy it. It took decades for it to recover.
I am glad to be able to be here today to talk about our approach to foreign investment. I want to remind hon. members that there is extreme importance to maintaining a strong focus on the economy. That, of course, is a priority for many of the hard-working Canadians who continue to work, as time goes on. It is also a priority for our government that we create jobs, create growth in this country and develop long-term prosperity for Canadians.
Canadians, we know, are open to investment. They love to have investment in this country. As of 2011, not only did Canadians want investment in this country, but they were very generous with investing around the world as well. This, I assume, is something the NDP would oppose as well.
As of 2011, investment by Canadian firms outside of Canada had reached $685 billion, while foreign investment in Canada amounted to $610 billion. We have a huge involvement in other countries, and other countries come and spend their money in Canada and develop our economy.
This is why we think we need to make a clear distinction between free-market, private investment and entities that are controlled or influenced by foreign governments. We believe that the right kind of inward investment can play a significant role in creating jobs and prosperity for Canadians, particularly when it comes from private investors on free market terms.
We know that all foreign investments are not equal. There are investors from the private sector coming with private money that has been raised on the markets. They have transparency and accountability in their structures. There are also state-owned enterprises, some of which seem to be transparent, but some may not be and may not operate by normal accounting principles. Some may not be served and directed by profit, as the market would expect companies to be. Some are often under the control of political influence.
When it comes to foreign investment and foreign governments, our government is going to make sure that Canada's best interests are protected. As we announced on Friday, foreign government entities will not be permitted to acquire control of a Canadian oil sands business unless there are exceptional circumstances. Outside of the oil sands, there will be strengthened scrutiny of investment proposals. The more control that a foreign government is likely to exercise over a Canadian business, industry or investment, the less likely that transaction would be approved.
Our government has carefully studied the evolution of the economic and security context, to get our investment framework right. The Investment Canada Act has been around since 1985, but until this government took action, it did not contain a mechanism for safeguarding Canada's national security. Recognizing the global security context, we introduced a security review framework in 2009 to ensure that Canada's national security interests could be safeguarded.
Our government has a reputation of welcoming foreign investment, and we will continue to do so when that investment provides a net benefit for Canada and when it does not impair the national security of Canadians.
We will achieve this while ensuring consistency with our international trade commitments and agreements, which once again, NDP members opposed. Without taking the time to even read them, they will stand up and oppose trade agreements, trade commitments and say we should not be part of them. Once again, we need to remind them that we need to be part of this international community.
I want to remind my colleagues the economy is the number one priority for this government. With the economic recovery is still fragile, we remain focused on ensuring that Canada offers the right environment to attract the business investment necessary to create more and better paying jobs, and thereby continuing to improve the living standards of Canadians. Ironically, one of the most effect ways to that end is an action that again has been opposed by the other side of the House, and that is to give those who are creating jobs the means to hire more workers by lowering their taxes, which is something our government has done.
The fact is that we have a strong economic record, one that Canadians can look forward to and trust as we once again face economic headwinds emanating from abroad. It is important to remember that Canada's position is relatively better than many of our peers in the G7, and contrary to what the official opposition may believe, our economic policies to date, carried out through Canada's economic action plan, have worked and placed Canada on the right track. They have provided Canada with an advantage for today, an advantage on which we can capitalize to ensure our prosperity for tomorrow.
That means Canadians can say a lot of things that others cannot about their economy. For instance, we have recovered all of the economic output lost during the recession. We have also regained all of the lost jobs and more. In fact, since July 2009, employment has increased by 883,000 people. We do not hear that from across the way. As well, we are now more than 450,000 jobs above the pre-recession peak, the strongest job growth among G7 countries over the recovery.
Real GDP is now significantly above pre-recession levels. Also, that is the best performance in the G7. In short, Canada has weathered the global economic storm well. I have to say the world has noticed. As OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria observed recently, Canada is well prepared. “You have been better prepared and therefore you’ve weathered the storm a lot better. You are well prepared now. Your fiscal policy, your monetary policy, your financial system [is] in better shape. And therefore, you are doing better in…the world economy”.
While it is gratifying to hear Canada singled out for praise, we also know that we cannot afford to be complacent. Today's advantage will not carry into tomorrow by sheer luck or good intentions. That is especially true in the all too volatile global economy. Therefore, coming from beyond our borders, a number of external threats could have severe consequences on the Canadian economy.
From the ongoing economic turmoil in Europe to the impending fiscal cliff in the United States, the challenges our biggest customers in the global marketplace face are very real and our economy will be impacted, depending on their outcomes. Rest assured our government is cognizant of these challenges. We will prepare accordingly and responsibly to protect Canadians and the Canadian economy.
Preparing for the challenges ahead brings me to another issue I would like to highlight, which is how our government's record of fiscal responsibility has made Canada's economy more resilient and our finances more sustainable. In an area where we see governments crippled by decades of living beyond their means, governments with no viable or realistic plans to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability, our government has followed a very different path. We have made the decisions to ensure Canada's return to balanced budgets and to long-term fiscal sustainability. While these decisions were not easy, they were necessary and they will benefit Canadians far beyond today, our children and our grandchildren.
Though we have taken the necessary action to stimulate the Canadian economy and to protect Canadian jobs during the global economic recession, we have also moved to control spending and to eliminate wasteful expenditures. Indeed, due to our responsible management, government program spending is projected to steadily decline over the next four years as a proportion of our economy to return to pre-recession levels.
We have also taken other concrete actions to make government spending more efficient and sustainable, taken steps to ensure public sector pension plans are broadly consistent with pension products offered by other jurisdictions and in the private sector, and ensured that Canada's social programs remain sustainable over the long term. We have eliminated tax loopholes as well.
Our government remains on track with a balanced approach to attracting foreign investment that benefits Canadians while standing up for our economic and security interests, and with an economic action plan that is working in step with that to deliver jobs and long-term prosperity for deserving, hard-working Canadian families.