Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to add my comments to this important debate that we are having on Bill C-4 today.
Our Conservative government, as we have said many times, is squarely focused on what matters most to Canadians, and that is economic growth and prosperity. We intend to do that by creating jobs across this country.
By implementing Canada's economic action plan, Canada has experienced one of the best economic performances among the G7 countries, both during the tough recession that we have had over the last few years and throughout the recovery that is taking place.
This morning we are discussing Bill C-4, the economic action plan 2013. I want to take a few minutes to outline why the opposition should support this legislation.
Our economic action plan 2013 builds on the strong foundation that was laid last year in conjunction with the portfolio of initiatives that we have had since 2006, with affordable measures that would create jobs, promote growth across this country, and contribute to long-term prosperity. It would further unleash the potential of Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive and innovate in the modern economy so that they can begin to create prosperity and economic growth as well.
To me, that is what matters most in this country, while the opposition continues to talk about issues that Canadians do not seem to be concerned about. Our government will put forward legislation that matters from coast to coast to coast.
Here are a few of the facts that I think are important.
Canada has created over one million net new jobs, 90% of which are full-time, with nearly 80% in the private sector. I think that is something we should be extremely proud of. Our private sector is thriving to the point that it has created nearly 800,000 jobs since the depth of the global recession in July 2009.
Over this period, Canada has had the strongest job creation record in the entire G7. This is in tandem with the fact that our unemployment rate is at its lowest level in four years and is significantly lower than that of the United States. This is a phenomenon that we have not seen in nearly three decades.
For the fifth straight year, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world, and all the major credit rating agencies—Moody's, Fitch, Standard and Poor's—have once again affirmed our solid AAA credit rating.
The global economy remains fragile, with growth in major economies slower than expected and our major trading partners not in the enviable position that we find ourselves in. Of course, we are not immune to a global slowdown, and Bill C-4 is one way that our government continues to ensure growth in these fragile times.
Let us take a closer look at how Canada's economic action plan makes significant improvements that would benefit all Canadians, but before I go to that, I would like to note another sign of leadership: the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union.
While we are working in terms of a budget and economic action plan 2013, this government is not sitting still. We have gone around the world inking trade deals; the latest one is, of course, the agreement that we are going to be making with the European Union. This agreement alone, as members have heard, has the potential to add more than 80,000 new Canadian jobs. We expect that those jobs will be in all sectors.
I come from an agricultural area, and certainly the agriculture folks are very excited and happy about this. There will be opportunities to thrive in all sectors. There will be opportunities for them to move into new markets. We expect, as they have done so many times over the decades, that the agriculture folks will step up and take advantage of those opportunities and once again show the world-class leadership that they have shown in the past.
On this agreement, here is a little bit of what other people have to say about it.
John Manley, the president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, has said that “...the [comprehensive economic and trade agreement] will create jobs, spur investment and promote economic growth”, which is exactly what this government is trying to do.
Unlike the opposition, we understand the importance of free trade and that the pursuit of it is beneficial for Canada and for Canadians.
Our government's trade agenda has already made us one of the most open and globally engaged economies in the world. Since 2006, we have reached trade agreements with nine countries, and we are negotiating with many more. We have concluded foreign investment, promotion, and protection agreements with another 16 countries and are in active negotiations with others as well.
We are not done yet. We have also joined the trans-Pacific partnership negotiations. We are actively pursuing new trade and investment opportunities in large, dynamic, and growing economies, such as China, India, and Japan. Those initiatives reflect our belief that freer and more open trade is a key stimulus for global economy recovery, and I might add, for the development of human rights in some of the other countries as well.
Unlike the opposition, we know that by growing international trade and creating additional export opportunities for Canadian businesses, we will improve the standard of living for all Canadians. Free and open trade has long been a powerful engine for Canada's economy. Canadian businesses need access to key export markets in order to take advantage of new opportunities. Economic action plan 2013 builds on those measures through targeted actions that will help our manufacturers and businesses continue to succeed on the world stage.
We also believe in promoting job creation and keeping more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians. When disaster struck the world economy, our economic action plan navigated Canada through the worst recession in a generation while maintaining the lowest debt to GDP level in the G7. During the downturn, our economic action plan took the steps necessary to safeguard our economy and protected Canadian jobs. It made the largest and the longest federal investment in job creating infrastructure in Canadian history, and it controlled spending while maintaining growing transfers that support health care, education and retirement in those transfers to the provinces.
Unlike the previous Liberal government, we have not cut major transfers to Canadian families or other levels of government, particularly the health and social transfers, in order to balance the budget. We are also not going to engage in risky spending schemes or force a $21-billion carbon tax on Canadians or hike taxes on Canadian businesses, as the NDP has insisted is its economic strategy for this country. Instead, our government has set clear targets to bring our deficit down and to return to a balanced budget by 2015. Our government has been very clear that we are not going to raise taxes on Canadians to balance that budget and the new Parliamentary Budget Officer has confirmed our economic action plan will see Canada return to surplus before the next election.
The Minister of Finance also recently reiterated our commitment to balancing the budget in 2015. Our plan is working. In the past two years we have already cut the deficit by more than half. Economic action plan 2013 will build on these efforts to reduce government spending by announcing an additional $1.7 billion in ongoing savings, including examining departmental spending to ensure that government operations are managed efficiently, making government operations more efficient by putting forward plans to control overall employee compensation expenses and enhancing the integrity of the tax system by closing tax loopholes.
I want to talk about public service pay and benefits. Our budget has stated that the Government of Canada's intent is to set public service pay and benefit levels that are reasonable, responsible and in the public interest. The Public Service Labour Relations Act will be amended to ensure that the public service is affordable and that it is modern and high performing, as taxpayers have expected. The proposed amendments will bring savings, will streamline practices and will bring them in line with other jurisdictions. We are glad to be able to sit at a bargaining table on behalf of the taxpayers where the rules are fair and balanced.
Overall, measures taken by our government since budget 2010 will result in total ongoing savings of roughly $14 billion.
I would like to talk about how this will impact my province of Saskatchewan. There are a number of things in this budget that are good for us. As everyone knows, we have a very strong economy in western Canada right now, particularly in Saskatchewan. It is the fastest growing province in the country. We have been able to work with the province in moving forward this economic vision for Canadians.
It is interesting that we finally shed ourselves of the NDP heritage we had in Saskatchewan, which held us back for so long. It is interesting that even as the world was going into recession, Saskatchewan has finally really begun to bloom. We have worked to keep taxes low from our perspective. We have worked to return to a balanced budget and the government in Saskatchewan has done a good job of managing its resources as well.
Things such as the community improvement fund where we have been able to contribute to infrastructure, the building Canada fund, where we have been able to work with the provinces has actually worked very well.
I see my time is almost up, so I want to say Canada is leading the world in job creation with more than one million net new jobs as I pointed out. At the same time we have created an environment that encourages new investment, growth and job creation, and one that ensures that Canada has the strongest fiscal position and the lowest business tax costs in the G7. We continue to work. In economic action plan 2013 we are committed to helping businesses grow and succeed further. We are committed to helping Canadians get the rewards from that. We will deliver high-quality jobs to them, economic growth and prosperity for the future.