Mr. Speaker, I am indeed most pleased to second, and to speak on, the motion by my colleague, the member for Kings—Hants, which reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Employment Insurance...plan announced by the government on September 11, 2014, and which will begin on January 1, 2015, will not create jobs and growth but will instead provide a financial incentive for employers to lay off workers; and therefore, the House urges the government to re-direct those resources by providing employers an EI premium exemption on newly-created jobs in 2015 and 2016.
The proposal that we are presenting today is a tangible response to the need to create jobs across Canada. We are seeing that need everywhere in the country. We know that the manufacturing sector is down in terms of job creation. We know that the middle class is suffering. We know that in many of the regions, my own in particular, there is a shortage of jobs, and that shortage is causing great difficulties for communities and families across the country.
The proposal is based on the proposition that there should be an incentive for those who create jobs, and that is what is seriously missing from the Conservative proposal.
The Conservatives recently announced the creation of what they call the small business job credit, which many economists have called a disincentive for companies to grow. This Liberal counter-proposal would reward companies that are growing and creating new jobs.
The Conservatives' small business tax credit has a design flaw that discourages job creation and economic growth. My colleague, the finance critic, has outlined that fairly extensively in his remarks. Simply put, under the Conservative scheme, only businesses with EI payroll taxes below $15,000 would get any money back. This creates a perverse incentive for businesses to fire workers in order to get below the $15,000 threshold. I know that earlier some colleagues disputed the fact that would happen, but in fact it does. That is the reality of the world.
The Conservative scheme offers up to $2,234.04 for firing a worker and only up to $190.52 for hiring a worker. Those are the extremes at both ends. The mix would be somewhere in between.
My colleague also outlined in detail the tragedy of the Conservative proposal. He used quite a number of quotes, but let me add a couple.
I will first quote from Stephen Gordon, who is an economics professor at the University of Laval. He was quoted in Maclean's magazine on September 11. He stated:
Reducing payroll taxes is usually a clear win-win situation, resulting in increased employment and higher wages. The Conservatives have passed up this opportunity by creating yet another targeted boutique tax credit.
Clearly, he does not see that this incentive is really a win-win solution that is going to work.
Mike Moffatt, an economics professor at the Ivey Business School, was also quoted in Maclean's on September 15. He stated:
...it is clear that firms under the $15,000 EI threshold have a big incentive to keep wage increases to a minimum so they do not lose their tax credits. Conversely, firms that are just over the $15,000 EI threshold have an incentive to cut the pay of their staff in order to gain the tax credit.
Mr. Moffatt's remarks make the point that there is also the perverse situation where, because of the $15,000 threshold, there is pressure on companies to either cut back a bit on wages or cut back on employees to stay within that $15,000 threshold.
Why would the Conservatives put forward this proposal? Why would they not go with the better proposal that we are proposing today? I would submit that to a great extent, it is all about spin, with a little Conservative manipulation thrown in.
The minister knows that the business community is incensed about the changes made to the temporary foreign worker program and the blanket treatment across the country. Those changes were made without any real consultation. All of us are hearing concerns from small businesses, from large businesses, from fish companies, from trucking companies, you name it, about the temporary foreign worker program. While changes need to be made, the way they have been made by the government, without consultation, could shut down some small businesses, some larger businesses, and some trucking companies and could hurt the economy.
The government has been told that in some instances, the temporary foreign worker program will shut down the economy and could cause small businesses to shut down, with a loss of jobs for Canadians. That is part of the reason a number of ministers are now concocting a scheme to throw a little bone to the business community. The problem is that the bone does not have much meat on it in terms of creating jobs.
Some of the statements made by the Minister of Finance himself indicate to us that this proposal is really a lot about spin. It is a lot about leaving Canadians with the impression that the government is doing something positive for small businesses with the EI insurance program, when it really is not doing that at all. It is all about leaving the impression it is doing something, when really it is not.
My colleague from Vancouver Quadra summed that up best last week when she asked a question of the Minister of National Defence. She said that what we have had from the Conservative government has been 10 years of deception. We know that it is not really 10 years. It is really eight years, but it certainly feels a lot longer than eight. The fact is that there have been years of deception by the government.
The deception in this policy is that it is support for small businesses for a limited period of time, when in reality, it could have the perverse reaction of costing some jobs in the small-business sector. The reality is that when we compare the Conservative proposal with what we are proposing here today, it is an opportunity lost. If the government does not support the proposal coming from my colleague, the Liberal finance critic, it is an opportunity missed for Canadians, for the small business sector, and for job creation in this country.
That is where the House of Commons comes in. This should be a place, and it has not been for some time, where proposals come forward from a member and are looked at seriously, rather than through the entrenched positions, without discussion, we get from the Government of Canada. We know that the Conservatives do not consult. They only consult with a few people, and they are usually their friends. It does not consult generally.
This is an opportunity for the government and the House of Commons to show that things can change in this chamber in the fall of 2014 to make better policy for Canadians. My colleague, the critic for finance for the Liberal Party of Canada, has put that proposal on the table. I encourage those backbench members who really do not have to take their direction from the cabinet to stand up in their own right and support this proposal. It would be quite a change on the government side.
While on the point of deception, we have seen it in a number of other areas. I talked to a lot of construction companies in my province this summer. I have talked to both the rural section of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the big city sector, and they are crying for infrastructure. If we raise the question in the House, the minister or a backbench government member gets up and says that they have announced the biggest infrastructure program in Canadian history. If we look at this over 10 years, it may look that way, but again, it is deception by the government. The Conservatives, in fact, cut the infrastructure program, from this year up to 2019, by somewhere around 87%, because the big numbers are only over a 10-year period, and the program does not really kick in until 2019. As a result, communities' infrastructure deteriorates. Construction companies are not creating the jobs that they could. I am making the point that it is another case of deception on the part of the government.
We have seen this deception in my area, in a serious way, with regular EI changes by the government in the last couple of years. It claimed there would be an incentive to work longer. It has had the opposite impact in my riding, and certainly in P.E.I. Worse, it has taken money directly out of Prince Edward Island's economy and right out of the back pockets of Prince Edward Island's seasonal workers. Between the clawback of 50¢ on the dollar the minister proudly announced and the loss of the five-week pilot project, it has cost Prince Edward Island workers and its economy about $18 million this year. That is a loss. As I said, it comes right out of workers' pockets. It is money that would have been spent, whether on heating oil or groceries or other things for businesses, in my community. That is what the minister took out of Prince Edward Island when he said that it was an incentive to work. That is so sad and so wrong.
Let me get back to the subject at hand. The results achieved by the government are failing to address a growing need for jobs across Canada, and the proposal being presented today by the Liberal Party would address that vacuum. I am surprised by some of the questions coming forward from government members. They should not see this proposal as divisive. They should see it as an opportunity for this chamber. Yes, we have our partisan differences, and that is fine, but we are talking about ways to do a better job of creating jobs for Canadians.
I look especially to the MPs in the Conservative Party and the backbench from Atlantic Canada. This is an opportunity for them to stand up and be counted, to create more jobs in this country, and to be seen to be allowing this place, this chamber, this House of Commons, to work as it should.
What is being proposed by the Liberal Party is an EI premium exemption for firms that actually hire new employees. That is the essence of what this proposal is all about. Our proposal would represent a benefit for every newly hired worker in 2015-16.
With the Conservative plan, only businesses with EI taxes below $15,000 would see savings, creating an incentive for businesses to either cut back on salaries or lay off workers.
The Conservatives have announced an annual $225-million measure that is unlikely to produce anywhere near the number of jobs that this proposal would produce. The plan we are putting forward would represent a benefit of up to $1,279.15 for every hire, which, for $225 million, could produce over 176,000 jobs. I heard New Democrats speak to the figures earlier. The fact of the matter is that not everyone would be at the maximum level. Some would be less and some would be more. Therefore, that estimate we believe to be pretty accurate.
The Liberal plan would grant every business that creates a new job, regardless of the size of the business, an EI premium exemption for the employee who fills that new position. Unlike the Conservative plan, the Liberal EI exemption would actually reward businesses that are growing their payrolls. It would not reward companies that reduce wages or staffing levels to make it under an arbitrary $15,000 threshold.
The Liberal plan would reward companies up to $1,280, the maximum annual employee contribution announced in 2014, for each new job they created. The employer would not have to pay EI premiums for the employee working in that new position. For the same cost as the Conservative proposal, the Liberal plan could create more than 176,000 new jobs.
To move a little further afield on the issue of employment insurance, the latest measures taken by the regional minister and the minister in charge of employment insurance have impacted my province really seriously. With respect to my home province of P.E.I. and my constituency of Malpeque, the damage the government has inflicted is having a devastating impact on a number of families. That relates to the new Charlottetown region and rural region. We are receiving endless numbers of calls from people confused about the new program and where it will leave employers and employees with respect to this new change.
When we call Service Canada to get answers, we cannot get any. We are getting confusion around the new zone in the rural area, where one needs more hours to work for less in benefits. Who is in the zone and who is out? Service Canada is saying that it could apply to the postal code or it could apply to the address.
Service Canada cannot give us the answer. Can the minister outline specifically these zones and whether it is the postal code or the address? Who is in and who is out of the zone, because it really matters to these folks in terms of how they survive the winter months, the off-season. If he cannot answer now, can he answer later?
The regional minister promised answers. It is time we had some.
To conclude, I ask for people's support of the Liberal plan to create jobs in this country.