Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to today's motion on jobs and the economy. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Markham—Unionville.
The Prime Minister and the Conservatives do not want to talk about the economy these days. In fact, they are so spooked by the topic that they are delaying the budget into the next fiscal year. We are told that we will not have a budget until April at the earliest. They do not want to talk about the economy, all because of plummeting oil prices.
The Conservatives are also telling us that all the challenges facing Canadians and the Canadian economy today are a result of plummeting oil prices. However, the reality is that we have faced real challenges in the Canadian economy, and Canadian families have faced real challenges, well before plummeting oil prices.
In fact, the May 3 issue of the Economist magazine had an article entitled, “Canada's economy: Maple, resting on laurels”, Canada's “post-crisis glow is fading”. In that article, the Economist said that the Conservative government's retelling of the 2008 crisis indicated that the Conservatives saved Canada from doom. It went on to say, “Yet luck played a large, unacknowledged part”. The Economist points to three areas where the Conservative government was lucky.
First, the Conservatives were lucky that the previous Liberal government, Mr. Chrétien to Mr. Martin, refused to follow the global trend of bank deregulation, and we have a strong banking system as a result of that.
Second, there was a solid financial footing. The previous government paid down $80 billion of our national debt, but the current government has added $160 billion to the national debt.
Lucky in a third way was that oil and gas revenues helped pick up the slack when manufacturing faltered, and no federal politician can take credit for putting the oil and gas under the ground in Saskatchewan and Alberta. However, we all know it was Danny Williams who put it under the water off Newfoundland.
The Economist pointed to three reasons why we went through the global financial crisis in 2008 better than other countries. The three reasons are: a strong banking system, a good fiscal situation, and oil and gas. The one thing they have in common is that the Conservative government has had nothing to do with any of it.
The Economist also pointed out that since 2008, Canada's post-crisis glow was fading, and that in terms of growth and jobs, and growth in the GDP, Canada had actually fallen behind other countries. In fact, if we look at 2015 numbers, Canada is projected to be 14th, or middle of the pack of 34 OECD countries in growth. We will be behind the U.S. and the U.K. In 2016, Canada is projected to be 21st of 34 OECD countries in economic growth. We will be behind the U.S., Australia and the U.K. There are real challenges.
It is important to also recognize that when the Economist published that article citing the challenges facing the Canadian economy, oil, WTI, at the time was at $104 a barrel, which is in fact more than twice where it is today. Therefore, even before plummeting oil prices, our economy had flatlined in growth and job creation.
In terms of job creation, the CIBC report from last week said that Canadian job quality was at a record low. The growth of low-paying jobs compared to mid or high-paying jobs is significant. We are seeing fewer high-paying jobs created and more low-paying jobs.
The Conservatives talk about 1.2 million jobs being created since 2008. However, they are completely ignoring the fact that our working age population has grown by two million. Labour market participation remains lower than before 2008. People have given up looking for work. The number of people facing long-term unemployment, or people unemployed for over a year, today is twice that of 2008. There are 160,000 fewer jobs today for young Canadians than in 2008.
There are record levels of personal debt as middle-class parents and grandparents are forgoing retirement and retirement savings to financially support young Canadians who are unable to support themselves based on the low-quality jobs they are getting.
It is damning of our economic situation and of the government's negligence and ignorance of that situation which it seems to be blissfully unaware, or perhaps it does not care, that this is the first generation of Canadian parents who believe their children will be worse off than them.
The Conservative government does not get it. It is out of touch, and one can only assume because of it delaying the budget, that it is also out of ideas.
We needed a plan for jobs and growth before plummeting oil prices, and we need a plan for jobs and growth even more today. Even in terms of how it manages the petrol economy, because the Conservative economic plan was threefold, which was oil, oil and oil, it has not done very well. Not one pipeline has been approved under the Conservative government, largely due to the fact that it either has no relations or toxic relations with the stakeholders and partners required to move these projects forward, whether it is with President Obama, aboriginal and first nations leaders, the provinces or the environmental community.
The government and the Prime Minister have not built the kinds of relationships required to defend Canadian economic interests. Former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney says that the top foreign policy priority of a Canadian prime minister is to have a personal relationship with the President of the United States.
Mr. Mulroney would have gotten Keystone XL approved with President Reagan. Mr. Chrétien would have gotten Keystone XL approved with President Clinton. In fact, they understood the importance of relationships.
However, the government cannot even meet with premiers to discuss moving forward on labour and training, and addressing the jobs-skills mismatch. It cannot meet and sit down respectfully with aboriginal and first nations Canadians. It calls the environmental communities eco-terrorists. These are the stakeholders and partners we need to have our projects moving forward. Even in the area where the government is focused, and that is on oil, it has not done a very good job.
The Bank of Canada has said that low oil prices are “unambiguously bad for growth”. It responded with a 25-basis point rate cut. What has been the response from the government, when we need action, when we need clarity, when we need certainty? It has delayed the budget until April, perhaps hoping oil prices will increase.
The reality is that wishful thinking is not a replacement for responsible budget making. Suncor and Encana cannot delay their public reporting or their annual reports because of low oil prices. They would have a regulatory challenge with the securities commission, but they would also create uncertainty with their investors.
The same could be said about a federal government delaying the budget, ostensibly because of falling oil prices. I can remember governments that introduced budgets when oil prices were less than $40 per barrel. I can remember governments balancing budgets back then. The fact is that the government is out of touch and out of ideas.
The Liberal plan for jobs and growth will be to invest in infrastructure, to take the historic opportunity we have today to rebuild Canada's infrastructure; to create jobs and growth today, and the kind of economy that will create more jobs and growth in the future; to invest in people and skills to ensure young Canadians have the skills they need for the jobs of today and to prepare for the jobs of the future; to invest in innovation, science and data; and to invest in the kinds of trade relationships we need, both globally with the Obama administration, China, Mexico and our traditional partners, but also within Canada, the kind of relationships required to build a strong economy.
A Liberal government will move this economy forward and will help Canadian middle-class families move ahead. The Conservative government is out of touch and totally out of ideas to benefit those families.