Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to stand up here today and speak to our economic action plan 2014. I also want to congratulate the Minister of Finance on again having a budget that is absolutely right for Canada in these times.
Today I will talk about the context, because I think it is important. People are hearing about the measures that are in the budget, but I need to set the stage for the debate in terms of the context, going back to 2009.
I do want to make one comment. Certainly our approach is not the NDP approach of raising taxes and having myriad programs for which it wants to use the money of everyday Canadians.
Unlike the Liberals, we know we need a long-term plan. We need a plan. The budget does not actually balance itself by magic, but it balances itself through a lot of hard work, a lot of thinking, and creating a plan.
I will demonstrate where we are today and why this plan is working; so throughout my speech, I will take very liberally from some of the past budget speeches given by the Minister of Finance, because as we go from 2009 to 2010, we will see the very dramatic things that were happening in our history, and indeed, the global recession impacting the entire world.
First, I go back to January 27, 2009. I was a newly elected MP at the time. I was elected in 2008. The government previous to that had been paying down the debt, and to give the Liberals their due, they had paid down some debt, and we continued on that path. We paid down, I believe, close to $39 billion in debt in the first two years.
In 2008-2009 we recognized we were heading into some very challenging times across the world. These are some quotes from the speech of January 27, 2009.
Since last fall, the global economic situation has deteriorated further and faster than anyone predicted.... Canadians are feeling the effects of the global recession, and they are concerned. They are concerned about their jobs and their savings. They are concerned about their families, their businesses, and their communities.... ...we must do what it takes to keep our economy moving and to protect Canadians during this extraordinary time.
Back in 2009, in response to the global recession, it was the industrialized countries that agreed they needed to take unprecedented action.
I often hear, again, the opposition members talking out of both sides of their mouths, because I remember at that time they were saying we should spend more, spend more. Then they would say we had a debt. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot say to spend more and then criticize the debt.
It truly was a very difficult time, and so the Government of Canada and the Minister of Finance made the deliberate choice to run a substantial, short-term deficit. It was a temporary deficit, and it was an investment that was to stimulate our economy and to meet the short-term needs while serving the long-term goals.
It is also important to note that Canada, unlike the United States and Europe, did not enter this very difficult time with a heavy deficit, like the other countries; so we really had more capacity within Canada to respond to the risk we were facing.
We also said at that time that we would not be running a permanent deficit, that as the economy recovered, we fully expected to emerge from deficit and return to surplus. It was also said that Canadians regretted the need to run a deficit in order to invest in our economy and the government also shared that regret.
That sets the stage for 2009, a very difficult time, and a purposeful decision was made.
A year and a couple of months later—again I will take liberally from the speech at the time—the minister rose in the House and said:
...our nation is at a crossroads. We have passed through steep and rocky terrain. Much of the territory was uncharted. We were prepared and we protected ourselves. We are making our way through, and our compass has not failed us. The way forward remains challenging. Some would urge us to turn at this crossroads. Experience tells us that this would eventually lead us backward. We need to keep helping those who need a hand up. We need to stay on course. We can see our destination on the horizon.
It is important to note that there were many international institutions that were failing at that time, but they were not failing in Canada. Stock markets around the world had plunged deeply, and for a time the whole global financial system was at risk of shutting down. However, we worked in partnership with the G7 and G20 in terms of an effective coordinated response.
These numbers are going to be important as I go through my comments. In July 2009, Canada had generated 135,000 net new jobs, and at the same time the U.S. was continuing to lose jobs. Let us go another year, to March 22, 2011, and Canada was emerging from this recession as one of the world's top performing economies. Compared to other countries, Canada's economy was performing very well, but our continued recovery was by no means assured. We had a plan. It was working. We needed to stay on the track.
We were looking at additional targeted investments to support jobs and growth, but we also committed to tackle government spending and eliminate the deficit. We also indicated that we were not going to do that like the Liberals did, through cuts to transfers for health care and education and imposing massive tax increases. We now had 480,000 net new jobs, more than were lost in the recession.
It was at that time that the opposition decided that we did not have a plan that was working. We took it to the Canadian public. The Canadian public gave us a strong, stable Conservative majority government because they believed in this plan to move forward. We then introduced a very similar budget, I believe it was almost word-for-word, on June 6, 2011.
I have to note, again, in the few short months between when the budget was presented and the election was called and the next budget was presented, we were at 540,000 jobs that had been created since July 2009. That was the height of the recession. And, we had seven quarters of positive GDP growth.
Heading into March 2012, of course, Canadians had every reason to be confident. Other western countries faced the risk of long-term economic decline. Our goal was to strengthen the financial security of Canadian workers and families, and to help create good jobs and prosperity in every region of the country. We also looked toward positioning our country as dynamic, moving forward, and able to compete. We were then at 610,000 net new jobs. Again, this was a year later. We saw very important improvements.
At this point, we were looking for innovation. We needed to plan for a rapidly aging population to secure our long-term prosperity. Again, that does not sound like magical wishful thinking. We have an aging populations and we needed to create a plan to help our country move through the challenges that it faces
At that time, we were on track. We had cut the deficit in half. We did this by doing exactly what the finance minister said when he introduced the economic action plan: the stimulus spending.
He then ended it. I know it is often very difficult to end stimulus measures because it is very popular. However, it was temporary, and he did take the steps necessary to look at controlling the growth of new spending. We made the commitment to implement some moderate restraint in government spending, with the vast majority coming from eliminating waste in the internal operation of the government to make it leaner and more efficient.
Finally, at that time we were looking at ambitious trade expansion. I only have a minute left, and this is such a great story. On March 20, 2013, we were at 950,000 new jobs. We were taking strong decisive action, which was required, but we were moving forward as per the plan.
I would suggest to the opposition members that if they look at that history, what our finance minister indicated was going to happen has moved along directly. Obviously, there were some twists and turns along the way because there were factors outside of our control, but we have been at the reins. We have been guiding things.
I am proud of our record. I am proud to see that we are approaching a balanced budget, and I look forward to a balanced budget in 2015-16.
The measures that we see in the budget this year are targeted toward those important strategic investments that would continue to leave Canada prosperous and in the great position it has in the world.