Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak today to the motion put forward by the member for Outremont. The motion deals with a pivotal matter, a matter crucial to the future of our country: the economy.
The Canadian economy is facing unprecedented dangers and uncertainty. The world economic crisis and the choices made by this government have weakened the fabric of industry and the job market in several regions of the country. Today, Canadians are hoping that this government will show leadership and openness to dialogue, especially with the provinces. Currently, this government has been content to repeat that the Canadian economy is in good shape. But the imbalances that can be seen are threatening our potential to build a Canadian economy for the 21st century, an economy that is solid, diversified, balanced and beneficial for all.
I am going to ask the hon. members opposite a very simple question. Do they find it acceptable that income inequality is constantly on the rise, as is the case in our country? Do this country's workers, who are up early, working by the sweat of their brow and paying their taxes honestly, not have the right to a greater share of the fruits of our growth?
For 25 years, income inequality has steadily worsened. The income of the wealthiest 20% in our society keeps going up while the income of the remaining 80% keeps going down. Other statistics show that our economy is not working as it should. In 2010, for example, about one Canadian in 10 was living in poverty. This included 546,000 children, a regrettable number. Moreover, Canadian households are facing a record level of debt, now at 152% of income.
Other statistics tell us that the annual income of seniors dropped by about $1,000 between 2009 and 2010. There is reason to believe that the Conservatives' unjustified cuts to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement will hasten the decline in seniors' incomes.
When they hear the Conservatives tell them that they are creating wealth, the question that Canadians have to ask themselves is this: but who is the wealth creation benefiting at the moment? Under the Conservatives, the wealth being created is essentially benefiting the wealthiest. Growth is necessary, of course, even essential; but it has to benefit everyone. That is not the case at the moment. The Conservatives have made choices whose result has been to keep most of our fellow citizens outside the circle of those who are actually benefiting.
The government's response to the most recent global economic crisis clearly illustrates the ideology that is guiding its decisions, an ideology that is causing greater economic imbalance. First the Conservatives decided to cut taxes for large corporations, hoping that they would reinvest the money and create jobs, but that never happened. Now those corporations are sitting on over half a trillion dollars, which is lying idle in their coffers rather than driving the economy. This Conservative approach to stimulating the economy does not cut the mustard.
The Conservatives also decided to adopt a policy of fiscal restraint. They told Canadians to tighten their belts even further. Canadians are fed up with having to pay for the Conservative ideology and want to receive the services that their tax dollars pay for. In that regard, this government's cuts to the public service have hit my riding of Hull—Aylmer very hard. The repercussions are very real and quite apparent.
In addition to the serious human and social consequences of losing one's job, this also has major economic implications. The budget cuts are having numerous adverse effects. The most obvious is the reduction in household spending and falling sales for SMEs.
A number of people in my riding have told me that their sales are down. What happens when SMEs see their sales slump? They lay off their staff or shut down completely. It is a vicious circle.
The Canadian economy has been affected by the global economic crisis and by the Conservatives' response to it. Today, four years after the crisis began, uncertainty still abounds.
We still have major challenges before us. Since our economy is open to the world, the economic health of our trade partners has a particularly serious impact on us. Our largest trade partner, the United States, is having a difficult time. Our second largest trade partner, Europe, is in a serious position. Basically, the Canadian economy is confronted with extraordinary risks and uncertainty, and it is especially true that, within Canada, there are major imbalances among the provinces with regard to unemployment and growth.
In this context, Canadians are entitled to expect the country's Prime Minister to at least take the time to consult the provincial premiers in order to look at the various options available.
We are part of a federation, and the Prime Minister has so far been deaf to the provinces' desire to discuss the economy.
The Prime Minister is even refusing to attend the national economic summit in November organized by the Council of the Federation—