House of Commons Hansard #183 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was families.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. Income inequality is growing. By way of evidence, CIBC issued its report this month and other economic stakeholders have taken this government to task. However, the government continues to move forward with a policy that misses the mark, particularly since we are well aware that the tax cuts will not help the middle class at all.

I believe that it is time for a real economic plan, the NDP plan, to be implemented in place of the Conservative plan.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am indeed pleased to rise today to respond to the motion by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. This debate is really about how our government is responding to the needs and aspirations of Canadian families. The impression put before the House is that this government is not doing enough. That is simply dead wrong, and I welcome the opportunity today to set the record straight.

The Government of Canada believes that the most important way to raise the incomes of Canadians and improve their standard of living is to grow the economy as a whole. That is why, since 2006, our top priorities have been creating jobs, fostering economic growth, and building for long-term prosperity. To achieve these goals, our government is taking a wide-ranging and comprehensive approach. We are cutting taxes, increasing support for hard-working Canadian families, promoting trade and investment, supporting key economic sectors, making education accessible and affordable, reducing barriers to labour market participation, and being responsible fiscal managers. Our policies are working.

Canada's economy is making a good recovery from the most recent worldwide recession. For example, Canada is among the G7 leaders in job creation, with over 1.2 million net new jobs created since the recovery. Canadians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. The low income rate in Canada has been declining and it now sits at an all-time low.

Canadian families in all income groups have seen increases of about 10% or more in their take-home incomes since 2006. The federal tax burden is at the lowest it has been in 50 years. Our government has cut taxes 180 times, saving close to $3,400 a year for an average Canadian family of four. These tax reductions give parents greater flexibility to make the choices that are right for them and help build a solid foundation for future economic growth, more jobs, and a higher standard of living for themselves and their children.

Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from tax relief, with low- and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater benefit. More than one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the federal tax rolls altogether. And since 2006, our government has also steadily lowered taxes on businesses.

Today, Canada's total business tax costs are the lowest in the G7 and more than 40% lower than those in the United States. Thanks to our low taxes, more businesses will want to invest and set up shop in Canada, and that will generate more jobs. It is important to note that we have cut taxes without reducing transfers to Canadians and other levels of government. In fact, we have increased our cash transfers to the provinces and territories in support of health and social services to all-time record highs. This fiscal year, the provinces and territories will receive almost $65 billion through the major transfers, an increase of $3 billion over 2013-14.

It is clear to me that supporting strong families and preparing Canadians for jobs go hand in hand. Keeping taxes low for families means that parents have more to invest in their children's futures.

Because it is important to ensure that all children get the best possible start and have the opportunity to reach their full potential, we have also provided over $6.5 billion in 2013-14 to support early childhood development and child care, through transfers to the provinces and territories, direct spending, and tax measures for families. This is the largest investment in early childhood development and early learning and child care in the history of Canada.

We are also making work pay. We often hear about the dilemma of the working poor, who cannot make ends meet, even when they have full-time jobs. To make work pay, in 2007 we introduced the working income tax benefit, or WITB. This is a refundable tax credit that supplements the earnings of low-income workers to ensure they are financially better off when they are employed. Up to 1.5 million working individuals and their families receive assistance through the WITB.

More people working means more people who can support themselves and their families. Of course, more people working in better-paid jobs means more equality in our society. One of the best ways to reduce inequality, of course, is through education first, and we are funding programs like Pathways to Education Canada that encourage secondary school students in low-income communities to stay in school.

Our government also makes significant investments to ensure that students and their families can afford post-secondary education. We offer incentives to help families save for their children's educations; subsidized loans and grants to help students cover both education and living expenses; and tax credits for tuition and books.

We have also taken significant action to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable and to help students make informed career decisions in line with labour market needs. Young people, however, often feel that they are not getting a fair chance in the labour market. It is true that their unemployment rate is higher than the national average, and that is certainly a cause of inequality. Our government invests, however, more than $330 million a year in the youth employment strategy to help young people between the ages of 15 and 30 gain the skills and work experience they need to make a successful transition to the labour market.

We are also encouraging Canadians to go into the skilled trades, where they can make excellent wages. We now offer both grants and loans to help apprentices complete their training in Red Seal trades. For example, in January, we officially launched the Canada apprentice loan. The loan will provide apprentices with interest-free loans of up to $4,000 to complete their technical training in a Red Seal trade. Anyone pursuing one of the 57 categories of designated Red Seal trades, from electrician to sheet metal worker, can apply. This initiative will assist more apprentices in completing their training and encourage more Canadians to consider a career in the skilled trades, and we expect that 26,000 apprentices per year will benefit from $100 million in loans.

The Government of Canada offers several other existing supports for apprentices. The apprenticeship incentive grant provides $1,000 to apprentices who have completed their first and/or second year or level, up to $2,000. The apprenticeship completion grant provides an additional $2,000 to apprentices who have completed their training and obtained their journeyman certification. In total, an apprentice can receive $4,000 from our government with these two grants. To date, our government has already provided over 500,000 apprenticeship grants.

There is no doubt, though, that too many people in our society are still out of a job and left on the sidelines. That is why our government offers a number of targeted training and employment programs for vulnerable and under-represented groups, such as aboriginal people, youth, people with disabilities and newcomers.

Canada's economy has demonstrated the capacity to create jobs, setting the conditions for Canadians and their families to be successful. A recent Statistics Canada study found that the median net worth of Canadian families was up by 44.5% from 2005. Our government's economic strategy has a direct and positive impact on Canadian families and children each and every day, at the dinner table, paying the rent or the mortgage, shopping for winter clothes and in so many other areas.

We believe that families are the building block of our society and are critical to Canada's long-term prosperity. That is why the government takes a direct role in supporting a number of initiatives that offer help to millions of families across this country.

The universal child care plan respects the role of parents in determining how to best care for their children, and recognizes the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments for the delivery of child care services.

In addition, there are existing measures in place as part of the employment insurance program that support low-income families and individuals. For example, the family supplement allows low-income families with children to receive up to 80% of their insured earnings, higher than the normal rate of 55%.

In 2011-12, low-income families received $112.6 million in additional benefits through the family supplement. The program also offers a premium refund to low-income workers. Individuals with less than $2,000 of insured earnings are eligible to have their EI premiums refunded after having completed their personal income tax forms.

Our government also recognizes the emotional and financial challenges faced by parents when a child has a life-threatening illness or injury and the important role parents play in that child's recovery. As part of the Helping Families in Need Act, the parents of critically ill children EI special benefit provides income support for up to 35 weeks to parents or legal guardians of children under 18 years of age with a life-threatening illness or injury.

As all members know, young children need stability in the home, but they also need better access to education as they move into their teen years and eventually into the workforce. Through the Canada education savings program, the government encourages families to start saving early for their children's education.

Modest-income families benefit from the Canada learning bond. The Canada learning bond is $500 that the federal government deposits into a registered education savings plan, or RESP. A child may be eligible for another $100 per year, up to a maximum of $2,000.

Most important, parents or primary caregivers do not have to contribute any of their own money to receive the Canada learning bond. When we open an RESP, we can also receive the Canada education savings grant. The federal government adds between 20% and 40% of contributions to the RESP, depending on income, with a lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child.

We truly believe the most effective approach to raising the incomes of Canadians and their families is to keep growing this economy and help ensure that Canadians are well equipped with the skills required to obtain and keep the well-paying jobs available today and in the future. That is why our government's top priorities remain creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.

We on this side of the House are very proud of the progress we have made over the past few years in improving the lives of families and children. We will continue to support these initiatives and look for even better ways to meet our future challenges.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was flabbergasted when I heard my Conservative colleague say that he was proud of what his Conservative government has done in recent years.

I want to quote Benjamin Tal, the deputy chief economist at CIBC:

...the job creation gap between low and high-paying jobs has widened with the number of low-paying...positions rising twice as fast as the number of high-paying jobs...Those trajectories are largely behind the softening in our measure of employment quality over the past two decades.

How can my Conservative colleague be so proud of job creation in Canada when last year the government created mainly unstable, low-paying jobs?

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the 1.2 million net new jobs that have been created in our Canadian economy since the recovery have been full-time, high paying and private sector jobs. These are exactly the kinds of jobs that our economy needs to create.

I often hear the opposition criticizing any type of job. All jobs are good jobs. I started as a checkroom attendant in the local pool in Mississauga when I got my first job at 15 years old. I was proud to do that job. It was minimum wage, but I learned a lot and I moved up the ladder. Eventually, I became the pool supervisor when I was 18 years old. I worked along.

All jobs are good jobs. We know that we have more work to do. The government is focused on doing that. It has brought in a number of initiatives that help people retrain to get better jobs, to go back to school, and to learn a trade through apprenticeship grants and loans that are helping people to get better jobs in the country, that reflect the labour needs of the businesses that I meet with. They tell me what kinds of people they need to work in their places of business right away. They are good jobs. They are high-paying jobs and they support families.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of points in the member's statements that I would call into question, but I will look at the bottom line. In the province of Ontario, particularly, in the last half of a dozen years, and in other regions of Canada, we have lost literally hundreds of thousands of jobs, not tens of thousands. We have lost several hundred thousand manufacturing, industry-type jobs. They were good, solid, valuable jobs.

The member is right. All jobs are important and play a role. I was pumping gas when I was 11 years old. We all contribute. All jobs are great. However, Canadians are concerned that the quality of jobs has diminished in terms of the overall number of well-paying jobs, and the government has not responded well to that issue.

A good example of government policy is income splitting. The government is taxing the middle class to support the very few in Canadian society, when that money could have been spent in a much better and more creative way, such as generating jobs through infrastructure programming and so forth. Would the member not agree with that?

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 10th, 2015 / 1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am particularly pleased that my Liberal colleague got up and talked about the loss of manufacturing jobs. I can tell the House as a member of Parliament from the province of Ontario that when I talk to manufacturers and business people about their number one cost and concern, why they cannot grow their business and, in some cases, why they move their businesses out of Ontario, they say it is because of the Ontario Liberal provincial government's policy of high hydro prices. That is the number one reason that manufacturers give me for not wanting to do business in the province of Ontario.

Maybe my friend from Winnipeg North can have a chat with the Premier of Ontario and help us all bring those jobs back to the province of Ontario.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the answer my Conservative colleague gave earlier, I agree that a low-paying job is better than no job.

However, what is most disgraceful about the member's pride in the Conservative government's record over the past nine years is that nearly 1.3 million Canadians are still unemployed.

How can the Conservative member be so proud of the Conservative government's economic policy over the past nine years when the government has not even been able to help these 1.3 million Canadians find jobs?

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, even one Canadian without a job is one too many. All of us in this House want to work to ensure that every single Canadian who wants to work has an opportunity to do so.

The facts are quite different from how the NDP spins them. The fact of the matter is there are 1.2 million more net new jobs today than there were at the end of the worldwide economic recession. There are more Canadians working today than at any other time in the history of the country. However, there are still too many people who cannot find adequate jobs in this country. I appreciate this and I know it in my own community.

We have more work to do. Great work has absolutely been done at the federal level through a number of initiatives that I talked about in my speech today, and many more are coming down the pipe. Our partners in the provinces and municipalities have to play their role as well. When the provinces bring in policies that are anti-job creation, that make businesses not want to stay in Canada or not start up in Canada, that is a huge problem in our ability to create good jobs for all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want the member to recognize that he needs to focus his attention on the federal responsibility, and give us very specific examples.

Let us take a look at the EI premium reduction that the Liberal Party has put forward, which would have created tens of thousands of jobs in every region of our country. That is a federal policy. The Conservatives have said no to that. That policy would have generated jobs, valuable jobs that the member is arguing for.

On the other hand, the government is bringing forward an income split that is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars every year. It is going to go to the wealthiest of Canadians. That is a federal government policy.

Does the member not understand or not see that if we want to create jobs, then we have to adopt federal policies like the one the leader of the Liberal Party has put forward on the EI premium benefit and maybe throw out some of the Conservative policy announcements such as the income splitting? That is how to generate jobs, if the government really wants to do that.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Winnipeg North talks about the EI system, and I am certainly happy to talk to him about that.

It was actually our Minister of Finance who announced the three-year rate freeze for EI premiums for businesses, long before the Liberals came up with whatever scheme they believe will actually create jobs. We have been listening to groups like the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which have all been very complimentary of our government's track record in this regard.

The Liberals talk about their EI plan, which is that one only has to work 45 days in a year in this country to be able to claim EI benefits. That is going to kill jobs, kill small businesses, and drive premium costs through the roof because there is no other way to pay for a 45-day work year.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague spoke about the EI system and the Conservatives' reform of that system.

My constituents consistently ask me why the Conservative government insists on enforcing a two-week waiting period before someone who loses their job can receive EI. The government could quickly eliminate that waiting period, which would make a huge difference to the families of people who have lost their job.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the employment insurance system is an insurance policy.

It is an insurance policy that employers and employees pay into for individuals to be eligible to receive benefits if they have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own. Like any insurance scheme, any policy of that nature, there are some restrictions and some caveats in the program. One of them is the two-week waiting period.

What I am particularly proud of is that for a vast majority of the claims that are made under the EI system, those individuals receive those benefits. They receive those benefits within the timeframe the department has prescribed for those benefits to be received. We have heard testimony to that effect at the human resources committee, of which I am a member. I am particularly pleased that we continue to have a strong income support system to support Canadians who have unfortunately lost their job due to no fault of their own.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the fine member for Surrey North.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate this excellent motion put forward by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, because it is not only insightful, but also very representative of the current employment situation in Canada from coast to coast.

When we look at it carefully, we first see that the unemployment rate has remained high since the 2008 recession, and the quality of jobs has been declining since 1989. Whether under Liberal or Conservative governments, it makes no difference. There has been a decline.

Furthermore, we would very much like to see the House call on the government to ensure that budget 2015 first and foremost invests in measures that stimulate the economy in order to create and protect sustainable full-time jobs for the middle class in high-paying sectors across Canada.

In addition, the government must abandon its expensive and unfair income splitting scheme, which would cost $2 billion. When we look at unemployment during the second decade of the 21st century, after the Liberals and the Conservatives successively stole over $57 billion from the fund—which still belongs to the workers who have paid into it all their lives in many cases—the troubling part is that it is increasingly difficult to access the EI system. It is especially difficult because of the reform introduced by the minister at the time, a disgraceful reform for the workers who have consistently paid into it.

The result is that more and more people are opting out of the system, which brings me to my point about the unemployment rate. This actually means that those people are no longer accounted for in the number of people looking for work, which ultimately brings the rate down. It is basically all make-believe. It is an abominable sham in a modern society that says and thinks it is flourishing.

So much for prosperity. Absolutely everything has been done to discourage people and keep hope alive because hope is so important when we are talking about men and women looking for stable work in Canada that is not in the oil industry. I have nothing against those jobs—that is not what I am saying. However, there are other fields, and people are qualified to do other kinds of jobs that, unfortunately, have not been available since the crisis and were not available even well before that.

Before, Canada was a shining example of diversity in its economic sectors. The manufacturing industry was the cornerstone and made growth over the years and well-paid full-time jobs possible. Unfortunately, there were back-to-back crises in 1980 and 1981—which was a long time ago—and 1992 and 1993. Then the focus was on “hyperglobalization” in the 1990s, with Asia leading the pack, especially China with growth rates around 15% in the 1990s. All of these irritants should have raised red flags for quite a few alert governments around the world, but they did not. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives focused on one sector. They let themselves be blinded by IMF and World Bank recommendations. That is unfortunate.

Over the past few decades, our economy, which grew thanks to the manufacturing sector, quietly morphed into an economy that relied primarily on the tertiary sector, which is retail sales and customer service. It simply cannot grow at the rates that the manufacturing sector made possible. It cannot perpetuate, create and maintain stable, full-time jobs for both men and women.

Today, Canada does have niches where research and innovation can support investment and provide hope for a good future. These include the aerospace industry, where the dream is still alive, the video game industry, which has been flourishing for some time around Montreal, new energy sources such as biomass, wind and solar, and of course, electric cars. That is right: small companies are developing electric cars right here in Canada.

All of that is possible if we improve the socioeconomic conditions in which these businesses evolve, be they small and medium-size businesses or large corporations. Sometimes self-employed workers are even the ones to come up with an idea and develop a small business. We need a safe, prosperous environment

Furthermore, the gap between the upper middle class and lower middle class has widened dangerously in recent decades, because the end of the “glorious thirty” for the manufacturing sector in the west has increased that gap. We need to address this trend once and for all, because society as a whole suffers as a result. The middle class, which is now deeply in debt, is mortgaging future generations. We must not forget that it has always been the middle class that has supported the high consumption levels we have right now, and therefore economic growth. However, there is no longer any certainty, except for the debt we are passing on to our children, and not just an economic and environmental debt, but also a social debt, which will have an impact on our society.

One out of every two workers is uncertain about his or her job. It is unfortunate. That is why education and training still lead to better opportunities on the job market, regardless of the level completed. The $2 billion that the government will try to recover because of income splitting would be better spent in the know-how of Canadians across the country, which is an important component. It would be far more useful to invest in ongoing training and research and development than any other partisan action, which would one day have to come to an end, anyway.

What do we want to pass on to our future generations? I will not talk about the environment since everyone knows my opinion on that subject: we are destroying the planet. Nevertheless, with regard to the environment and the economy, the Stern report, which was released in the fall of 2006, was clear: our inaction will cost more than a massive and immediate intervention. Naomi Klein said the same thing in her book, which was published recently.

These two economists, who have changed their opinions about the impact of air pollution, ocean overfishing and the well-known plastic islands that are now floating in our oceans, have shown that things can change if we take action soon.

It would be easy to work together in an inclusive way, as brothers and sisters, to make this planet and this country a place of wealth, development and even friendship. Everyone benefits from economic wealth, development and prosperity. We are not going to help each other and give everyone a chance by tearing the fabric of our society, as the government is doing right now with employment insurance and social housing.

I would like to close with a message of hope for the people in my riding. Regardless of our sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, we should all have the right to live in a region, province, territory, nation and country where all people are considered equal and have an equal opportunity to follow their dreams and enjoy their rights and freedoms, which include access to a job that allows everyone to achieve their full potential in a free, fair and just world.

To counter the words of the famous and rational Mr. Spock, who said that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, Captain Kirk, who was more sensible, told him that the individual must be saved because without him the group no longer had value. In economics, it is the decisions of that individual, the Homo economicus, that create demand and wealth.

It is not by letting things go, by being complacent about our social fabric and job creation across the country or by forgetting the first nations, women, single-parent families and self-employed workers that we are going to create wealth and harmony and finally live in a prosperous Canada.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the member's comments and in the body of the resolution that we are asked to vote on today, there is reference to the Liberal Party, and I have often heard members make comments today in regard to the Liberal Party while it was in government.

It is important for us to recognize that when the Liberal Party took the reins of power in 1993, we were experiencing double-digit-plus unemployment rates. It was through Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin that we were able to get that number into the single digits, down to 6% and 7%. It worked quite well.

Many members would say that we need to generate opportunities for employment. My question for the member is related to how he feels that opportunities for employment would best be generated. Is there one specific policy that he believes would have an impact on increasing the number of jobs in the different regions of Canada? Is there one policy that the member himself would be advocating?

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question.

I am not going to applaud what the Liberals did in recent decades. They stole $50 billion from the employment insurance fund. They used that money to create jobs and invest. They invested on the backs of workers.

Clearly, SMEs drive our economy because that is where we have the most potential to create jobs. With the reduction of the tax burden and red tape, or what we call bureaucracy, many small businesses could truly continue to be prosperous and, more importantly, create jobs. Whether in agriculture or in new energies, the potential to create jobs is tremendous, especially if we stimulate the economy by investing in SMEs.

This is a question of creating a healthy and fair environment for all. Whether SMEs have 5 employees or 50, they all need a bit of support, not just for creating jobs, but also for continuous training. In other words, people working in businesses need ongoing training in order to be more effective and more productive.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we often hear in this House that small businesses are the backbone of our economy and create eight out of every ten jobs, yet we have seen nothing over the last years from the current government that will help these very businesses make investments that will enhance their businesses and thus create more jobs.

I know elections are coming up later this year. I would like to ask my hon. colleague what the NDP would do after forming the next government to help small businesses.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of the first measures we will adopt will be to gradually reduce the tax rate from 11% to 9% for SMEs so that they can reinvest in job creation and make their environment safe. We are also talking about continuous training for employees and increasing investments in innovation.

If we focus on all the SMEs in a number of economic sectors across Canada, this could create thousands of jobs. This could ensure that in every region of Canada, in my riding in the Eastern Townships or in British Columbia, businesses can not only survive, but earn good money.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents in Surrey North.

The motion in front of us is basically calling on the government to acknowledge the long-term decline in good-paying jobs in Canada, especially over the last 25 years, under both the Conservative government and the Liberal government. We need to take some concrete action. We in the NDP have a number of ideas, which I will be discussing. We would like the Conservatives to actually steal them from us and incorporate them in budget 2015, which hopefully will be coming very shortly from the government.

There was a report last week from one of the major banks. It talked about declining job quality in Canada. Canadians do not have to see a report from a bank to realize that quality, good-paying jobs have been declining over the last eight or nine years, especially under the Conservative government.

We have seen 400,000 manufacturing jobs disappear under this government. Those manufacturing jobs were the value-added jobs. When we talk about good-paying jobs, those are value-added jobs. If we take the trees out of the forest and just ship the logs, it is not going to create value-added jobs. Value added is something we do with that tree. We make it into lumber or other products. Value-added jobs are the ones that pay higher wages to workers. However, under this government, we have seen those jobs disappearing from coast to coast to coast.

There are 1.3 million Canadians out of work. It is a great opportunity for the government to actually do something for these unemployed Canadians to generate good-paying jobs to help them and their families. The jobs that have been created over the last eight or nine years, according to the study published last week, are not good-paying jobs. I know that Canadians know this. I know people in my constituency know this, because they come and talk to me and I go to talk to them.

Here is an opportunity to invest in our small businesses and invest in our communities to ensure that the future jobs that are created are good-paying jobs.

As I said, 400,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and 1.3 million Canadians are unemployed. A lot of the jobs that are being created now are part-time, low-paying jobs. That is not a good record. That is not how we would like to see Canada grow. We need to ensure that no one is left behind.

I have people in my constituency who work 40 hours a week, yet they are living below the poverty line. Minimum wage is very low in all the provinces. One of the things we would like to see is an increase in the minimum wage in federally regulated industries. We would like to see it raised to $15. Minimum wage in real terms has not increased since 1972. What the minimum wage was in 1972 is what it is today. There has been no real gain in the minimum wage.

On the other hand, tens of billions of dollars has been handed to wealthy corporations by the government, whether it is the oil companies or the big banks, yet there has not been that investment in our communities and our small businesses.

I am going to offer some real solutions that we will be providing to the government, if it would like to borrow them. Otherwise, later this year, we will have an election, and we are going to offer a clear alternative to this government for Canadians. We will form the government later in 2015 and will implement these very ideas that will help middle-class, hard-working families.

I know that they are laughing. I would like to see if they are still laughing after the election.

The Conservatives come up with great ideas, but the problem is that those great ideas only help the wealthiest. They came up with an income splitting plan. They say that they have a great family tax reduction scheme and will put money back into the pockets of everyday families. The problem is that those everyday families are the richest 15%. They are not giving the billions of dollars to the very people who need it. They are giving it to the top echelon, the 15%, the wealthiest people in this country.

Conservatives are coming up with some other schemes. They say that they are going to give $60 more for children aged six to 18. It is good to put some money in the pockets of parents and families. The problem is that real families actually want affordable child care. I have talked to hundreds of people, not only in my constituency but around the Lower Mainland and the greater Vancouver area. There are families that cannot afford child care. Some of the child care spaces, if they are available in the Lower Mainland, cost anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 per month, per child, for some sort of daycare or child care. According to my math, $60 would keep a child in daycare for two days. What are parents supposed to do the rest of the 28 days?

If we have affordable child care, women are able to get into the workforce and contribute to the workforce. It brings in additional revenue for the government when they are able to participate. That is another idea: an affordable child care program available to all families across this country to give families the flexibility to work and earn additional income.

To help our economic engine, small businesses, we would offer to decrease their corporate tax rate from 11% to 9%. Another idea is to create a tax credit to make it more affordable for business owners to invest in innovation, machinery, and equipment. I talked about the minimum wage.

Another opportunity for the government is to strengthen the pension plan, and the Conservatives have failed to do that.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that we did not need to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67, yet the government is increasing the retirement age. Again, when we form government after the next election, we will bring that back to age 65. I want Canadians to know that. Conservatives are not on their side. They are not only increasing the retirement age, but under the government's watch, the debt has gone up by $176 billion. Who is going to pay for that? It is our children. It is not responsible for parliamentarians to burden future generations with extra tax. That is not the way we should be doing things.

I hope the Conservatives will borrow some of the ideas we have offered throughout the day and start working for Canadian families.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague from the NDP a question I am sure he has heard before, but I have not heard a good enough answer yet. Maybe he can do a better job.

The question is about the member's statement concerning the tax rate for small businesses. As he knows, large businesses are taxed at a higher rate. Therefore, as one grows from a small business to a large business, the marginal tax on the extra profits is very high, because the tax rate goes up. The business increases a little bit, and all of a sudden, the whole business is taxed at this higher rate. It is kind of a distortion and a perverse incentive.

If they want to decrease the small business tax rate, how do they compensate for this disincentive to grow past this boundary between small and large businesses?

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know the answer to this question, and I also know the answer to some of the other questions posed earlier.

It was a Liberal government that actually raided the $50-billion unemployment insurance fund we had. That is one answer for the member from the third party.

Second, we have heard over and over in this House that the backbone of our economy is small businesses. They are the ones that generate eight out of 10 jobs. If there is anyone we need to help grow this economy to help Canadians, it is small businesses, whether it is by cutting tax rates or by clamping down on the merchant fees, which are exorbitant, charged by the friends of the current Conservative government.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Surrey North for his excellent speech. Like me, he represents an urban riding. I wonder if he shares my concern, and that of many of my constituents, not only about the number of unemployed people but about the quality of work, particularly for the young. I am told that the rate of unemployment for youth continues to be double the national average. However, it is also the quality of the jobs and the fact that people in my riding are living with their parents, because they simply cannot find jobs, even in a place as blessed as British Columbia. I wonder if he finds in his constituency the same level of concern. If so, what can we do about it?

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the very hard-working member for Victoria.

The member is absolutely right. The unemployment rate for youth is particularly high, yet we have seen nothing in the last three or four budgets from the current government that would stimulate the economy to help employ young people who are graduating from our universities and colleges.

I know for a fact, from a number of students I have been in touch with over the last few months in my constituency, and in fact from my own nephew, who is in the process of graduating, that the job prospects for youth are not very good right now. Yet the government has failed to take any concrete steps to help the bright future of our country.

I urge the government to include concrete steps in the next budget to ensure that there is something for our young people.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague was sort of pooh-poohing the idea of the $60-a-month benefit for families with children between six and 17. He implied that it would not make any difference. However, what he failed to take into account, or what he failed to inform Canadians about, is the fact that under this government, the average Canadian family is now paying $3,400 less in taxes and is $3,400 better off.

I have three adult children. Each of them has three children. I know what a difference it makes in their lives. I know what a difference it makes to the average Canadian family.

I wonder if my colleague would be honest with this House and tell us that if and when he goes to the polls, he will be honest with Canadians and tell them that in order to pay for the NDP's extravagant schemes, he and his party will remove that $3,400 benefit from all Canadian families that have children.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is talking about numbers. He is talking about giving $3,400 to families. That is great, but what he is not telling Canadians is that the Conservatives have so many fees. They have reduced transfer payments for our health care. Not only that, and I talked about this in my speech, they have left Canadians with $176 billion in debt. How much is that per family? That turns into tens of thousands of dollars. This is their economic record.

To sum it up, in the last 100 years, Conservatives have balanced one budget. This is their record. Since the year the Titanic sank, the Conservatives have balanced one budget. That is their record.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Conservative

Joe Oliver ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for offering me the opportunity to tell the House about our government's successful action to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. However, my thanks end there.

When I read the motion, the words of two great thinkers come to mind.

It was Voltaire who said, “I have only ever made one prayer...‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it”.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg”.

Why do these words come to mind? Only the NDP could look at Canada today, with more Canadians working than at any other time in our history, with 1.2 million net new jobs created since the great recession, with the lowest overall federal tax burden in half a century, with the IMF and the OECD expecting Canada to be growing faster than most economies in the G7 over this year and next, only the NDP and its left-wing ideology, immune to facts, immune to evidence, immune to the self-evident reality around it, would look at the lowest unemployment rate in six years and call it sustained high unemployment.

Were Abraham Lincoln here with us today, he would no doubt say that the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, blinded by ideology, is seeing five legs on the dog. However, a tail is not a leg, and the member opposite could not be more wrong about the Canadian economy.

The member is ignoring everything that Canadians have accomplished since the depths of the recession. How does the member propose to address the crisis he imagines? He wants to increase taxes, increase spending and increase the debt. He wants to roll back recent measures to put money back in the pockets of Canadians who work hard, the tax cuts that help every Canadian family with children, the tax cuts that put an average of $1,140 in every family's pockets, the tax cuts that benefit mainly low- and middle-income families.

The NDP wants to eliminate these measures and replace them with a new carbon tax on everything. This carbon tax will increase the cost of living for all Canadians. It will result in higher prices for everything from groceries to gas to public transit, higher mortgages and rents and a higher cost of living.

The member opposite thinks that what the economy needs, what Canada needs, is spending money that we do not have at a time when the crisis of the recession has passed, instead of spending within our means at a time when the Canadian economy is the envy of the world.