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

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, when we look at what is happening in Atlantic Canada, we actually cut the GST, after coming into power in 2006, from 7% to 6% to 5%, lowering the tax burden on Canadians from one coast to the other.

The problem we had in Nova Scotia was that as soon as the federal government gave those Canadians in Nova Scotia, like the members of my riding, the constituents I support, a needed tax break, the current government, supported by the previous government, increased those taxes by 2%, stealing the tax cut the federal government gave to Nova Scotians and the constituents of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley and put it back in its coffers.

That was put in place by the NDP government and is now supported by the Liberal government in Nova Scotia. Those governments do not support low taxes. They do not support balanced budgets. They do not support creating jobs in Atlantic Canada. We do. We stand up for Canadians. We are cutting taxes, and we are creating job growth. We need them to get on board and support us.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the motion the NDP has brought forward today refers, in its introduction, to a document by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which is hardly a validator, usually, for the official opposition. It refers to something called the employment quality index, which measures the distribution of part-time versus full-time jobs, self-employment versus paid employment, and compensation.

In that context, the deputy chief economist, Benjamin Tal, said the following:

The number of low-paying full-time jobs has risen faster than the number of mid-paying jobs, which in turn has risen faster than the number of high-paying jobs. Over the year..., the job creation gap between low and high-paying jobs has widened with the number of low-paying full-time paid positions rising twice as fast as the number of high-paying jobs.

I would ask the member to comment on whether the unemployment rate, which for youth is already almost 13%, at 12.8%, where people with engineering degrees are working at Starbucks, is not, it seems, confirmed by the CIBC. Could he comment on that situation?

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we have invested in the youth employment strategy. We have invested $300 million to support young people across the country to get the training and the jobs they need to obtain the experience required to apply for and get higher paying jobs in the future. We have put initiatives together such as the apprenticeship loan, the apprenticeship grants, support for the people engaged in Red Seal trades, investments in pipeline projects across the country, in the shipbuilding procurement project and in supporting a loan guarantee for the Labrador hydroelectric project. The NDP consistently votes against these proposals to help us train our young people and provide effective and good jobs for young people in the manufacturing and energy industries.

If the New Democrats really care about supporting jobs for young people across the country, they would support our initiatives to lower taxes and support our natural resource industries so we can sell these products internationally through free trade agreements, which they also consistently vote against.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Nova Scotia talks about the jobs created in the Nova Scotia shipbuilding industry. I would like to hear from him how many jobs were created in New Brunswick. In New Brunswick, out of ten members of Parliament, eight come from the Conservative Party. When David Alward was the premier of New Brunswick, he kept asking for help from the federal government, which he never received.

We only have to look at the unemployment rate in the north of New Brunswick, where no jobs have been created. We only have to look at the Conservative cuts to ACOA, a program that could help the small and medium-sized businesses that create 74% of the jobs.

What has the government done in New Brunswick to help with the creation of jobs? Our people have to buy airplane tickets to fly west to work because there are no jobs in New Brunswick.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, in terms of supporting job growth in New Brunswick, our party stands solidly behind the workers. In fact, we are totally supportive of the great opportunity coming up with respect to the west to east pipeline project, the Line 9 reversal. That will create thousands of jobs in New Brunswick. It will also create a whole new industry in crude oil exports. We will be able to export hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil to the international market once we get this pipeline set up and the refinery in Saint John producing a good, clean, value-added product, which we will sell internationally.

When we put the measures in place to support that Line 9 reversal and to support this new industry in New Brunswick, then we will see if the NDP will support it. Crude oil exports will bring thousands of jobs to Atlantic Canada. It will allow us to bring the oil produced in Alberta to the Atlantic coast, refine it there and sell it on the international market for a higher price than we could possibly get by exporting to the United States at the current time. The NDP members have been silent on whether they will support that project. It is time for them to stand up for New Brunswickers. It is time for them to stand up for Atlantic Canadians and support the Line 9 reversal.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

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.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member opposite about the fact that over 87% of the jobs created in Canada since the great recession have been full-time jobs, almost 85% of them in the private sector and nearly two-thirds in high-wage industries, and this in spite of the aging of the baby-boomer generation, which really makes people more inclined toward flexible work and part-time hours. We are glad that the economy responds to that.

The CIBC report that has been recently in the news goes all the way back to 1988. Most of the years since 1988 were with a Liberal government, and it seems to me that most of the declines referred to in the report since 1988 were under a Liberal government.

Can the member at least admit, as many Canadians do across this land, that the present Conservative government has done a fantastic job since the recession in creating 87% full-time jobs and 85% private-sector, two-thirds—

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 10th, 2015 / 11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order, please. Again, I would ask all members to keep their questions to a minute.

The hon. member for Kings—Hants.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member again is demonstrating that the Conservatives are totally out of touch with the challenges faced by middle-class Canadian families, who are struggling. He does not seem to accept the fact that we have 160,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the downturn. He does not understand or get the reality that while we may have 1.2 million new jobs, the labour market of people who are eligible to work has grown by 2 million. The member does not seem to understand that the growth in jobs has been in lower-paying jobs, and that is in that CIBC report.

For Canadian families, the bills still come in, whether they are for rent, car payments, or paying for hockey or education. The bills do not go down when someone loses a full-time job that is replaced by part-time work. The member exemplifies the arrogance of the current government, which is so focused on patting itself on the back that it does not have time to be in touch with the challenges faced by Canadian families.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, over the last 35 years in Canada, income inequality has grown. That means that the wealthiest Canadians in this country have gotten wealthier and the poorest Canadians have gotten poorer. The middle class has also shrunk in terms of its share of the wealth. More than 94% of that income inequality growth over the last 35 years occurred under a Liberal government.

That was fuelled by policies like abandoning the federal minimum wage along with downloading billions of dollars of federal spending from the federal government to the provinces and also cutting services to Canadians.

I wonder if my hon. colleague in the Liberal Party will comment on whether the current Liberal Party would pursue the same policies that would make middle-class and working-class Canadians poorer, as happened so often under previous Liberal governments in this country.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it was my motion that led to a study of the House of Commons finance committee of income inequality. During my speech on that motion, I actually said that this is not a partisan issue. Income inequality has grown in Canada under political parties and governments of all stripes. In fact, it has grown in provinces led by NDP governments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and it has grown under sovereigntist governments in Quebec.

Now the New Democrats, when we have an opportunity to have a substantive discussion on the challenges faced by families, continue to play the same games that the Conservatives play and want to make this a partisan issue. We have no quarrel with saying that income inequality has grown in Canada under governments of all stripes, including New Democrats. It is time to stop the bickering and start dealing with the issue and focus on building equality of opportunity for Canadians. Canadians are tired of this type of partisanship when we are dealing with important issues.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to talk on this topic. Just to amplfy what my colleague said, which was that income inequality in Canada has grown under governments of all stripes, let me be clear: it has never grown under a federal NDP government, because there never has been one. We shall see if that continues in the next election.

I would like to reinforce what my colleague said about the statistics in a somewhat different way.

We have two parties here. On the one hand, we have the CIBC bank saying that the quality of jobs is the worst it has been in Canada for 25 years, the worst since 1989. It measures that quality by a mix of wage levels and by part-time versus full-time employment and self-employment. According to its studies, job quality is the worst since 1989, when the studies began.

On the other side there is the government, which puts out a flurry of its own statistics that suggest the opposite. I know my colleague talked about those statistics, and that is an important issue, but I would like to put the question differently: which has more credibility on this issue, a bank that has done studies saying it is the worst in 25 years or a government that says everything it has done is marvellous?

I would say the bank. I have a little credibility on this issue, because I used to work for a bank. Before I went into politics, I was chief economist for the Royal Bank. That is not the CIBC; it is another bank, but a bank is a bank, and I can say that if there is a bias within the banks, it is that they really do not want to annoy the government in power if there is an option. Therefore, all other things being equal, it is not that banks will lie, but if they have a choice, they would rather not present statistics that embarrass the government of the day. That is because they want to please the government for various reasons, commercial and otherwise.

CIBC is not out to get the government. If anything, CIBC officials would prefer to please the government, yet the statistics are clear in their own minds. They cannot please the government on this issue because the facts say very clearly that the quality of jobs in Canada is indeed the worst in 25 years. That is what CIBC said in this study.

I would argue, then, that CIBC has credibility, not only because it has competent economists who did the study but also because its own interest is to please the government rather than displease the government. It is obvious from the debate today that by coming out with this fact, CIBC has displeased the government. I would argue that no amount of self-serving government statistics should counter the fact that the bank has come out with an opposite conclusion even though it is not particularly in the interests of the bank to do so.

The bank studies in this field are therefore credible. The bank does not want to embarrass the government, but it does want to tell Canadians the truth. According to the bank's analysis, the labour market situation is the worst it has been for 25 years.

I am not sure I will devote more of my limited time to arguing the statistics. I rest my case by saying what I have already said, which is that the bank has far more credibility than the government on this issue.

Given that the bank's facts are, broadly speaking, correct, the question then becomes what the federal government should do about it. What should the federal government do to address the fact that the job quality in this country has deteriorated to a point not seen for 25 years?

The first answer to what to do would be what not to do. What not to do is not present a budget.

The budget is the basic core plan of the government. Particularly when times are tough and oil prices have plummeted and times are uncertain is precisely when the Canadian public and Canadian investors want to know that their government indeed has a plan. By delaying the budget until some unknown, unspecified date, the government is clearly indicating that it has no plan, or has no plan B, shall we say; it does have its tired old economic action plan, but that plan fell apart when oil prices plummeted and it became clear that the tax measures it proposed would put us back into deficit.

Conservatives want to keep that from the public. They want to focus the discussion on terrorists and war rather than on the economy, which is now doing very badly under their watch.

The first thing to do is have a plan, but the Conservatives' plan is non-existent. To the extent that it exists in the form of income splitting, it is indeed a bad plan.

The objective should be, first and foremost, to favour the creation of jobs, and not just any jobs, but high-quality jobs of the kind that we have not seen in recent years.

The second thing not to do is income splitting, because income splitting will do essentially nothing to help create growth and jobs, and it is a hugely biased program that benefits only 15% of Canadian households, leaving 85% totally out in the cold. It will benefit only a very narrow segment of Canadian households, and not, by the way, those generally in the greatest need.

It will not really do anything in terms of social justice by helping those most in need, nor will it do anything of any significance in terms of promoting jobs and growth or improving the dismal quality of jobs that we see around us today. The solution lies not in not having a budget or in this very poor income-splitting proposal, but rather in other measures, the kinds of measures that we in the Liberal Party have been focusing on.

First and foremost, I would say, would be infrastructure. We had a policy resolution some time ago at a policy convention calling for a very major increase in federal investment in infrastructure. The mayors of our cities are crying out for this measure. It has not escaped their notice that the federal government has cut infrastructure investment by 90% over the next two years, and it is now, not five years from now, that the cities are in desperate need of that expenditure.

Given our job situation, there is a double reason for infrastructure. One is that we desperately need it. We have an enormous infrastructure deficit. We need it for productivity, since it will enhance the transport network for our manufacturing sector and things of that nature, but we also need it for the jobs it will create. Economists' studies indicate that the multiplier effect or the job impact per $1 of expenditure is higher for infrastructure than for, I would say, anything else. Therefore, a second reason to focus on infrastructure is that it is highly efficient in creating jobs, often high-quality jobs, which would go some way toward counteracting the dismal situation that CIBC has indicated we find ourselves in today.

That is one major measure that would address this issue. Others would include support for higher education, because, as has been pointed out, under federal Liberal and Conservative governments—not, thankfully, NDP governments—we have over time seen an increase in inequality. Equality of opportunity is essential, and part of that equality of opportunity concerns access to post-secondary education, whether that be university, college, or some other form of post-secondary training.

That is just a small sample of the kinds of measures that we in the Liberal Party would propose in order to deal with this dismal situation of the lowest-quality jobs we have seen in this country for a quarter of a century.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia

Conservative

Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite criticized our government's plan to support families by lowering taxes and increasing benefits in the universal child care benefit, expanding it so that it supports children aged 6 to 17 and putting literally hundreds of dollars in the pockets of Canadian families with children each and every year.

He also criticized our plan to split incomes. When incomes are split, it provides tax fairness for families. Two teachers in a family making a total of $100,000 a year incur significantly less taxes than a person making $100,000 a year with the other parent choosing to stay at home. We are bringing in tax fairness for all families with children with our income-splitting plan. We are increasing the benefits for the universal child care benefit for every Canadian family. We ask that the Liberals support these measures.

Does the member across the way support lower taxes and tax fairness for Canadian families?

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I notice that at the macro level, the member is quite happy to talk in glowing terms about jobs created and the plans of the Conservative government. However, if we go to the micro level and his own riding, I note that they have lost 6,700 jobs since 2008. His glowing words at the macro level do not quite square with what is happening in his own backyard.

That having been said, I would also point out that he is wrong when he says that we do not support measures to assist families. We have not said in any way that we are opposed to the overall benefit that is being offered. We have said very clearly that we are opposed to income splitting, which is only one element, and the most regressive and unsatisfactory element, of the Conservative package. We would repeal it and use that money for purposes that would be of far greater benefit to Canadians in terms of job creation, and possibly also put money directly into the pockets of Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Markham—Unionville on his speech.

Of course, we have to agree that the Conservatives are dancing on the Titanic. They continue to say that everything is fine and they will stay the course, when really, we are stranded in a void. Not only has the Minister of Finance still not brought down a budget, but all the members across the aisle continue to recite the same talking points ad nauseam.

That being said, I have no doubt about your own competence, especially since you come from a region where the manufacturing sector is so—

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order. I would remind the member to direct his comments through the Chair rather than to the member.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The region where the member for Markham—Unionville is from has been hard hit by difficulties in the manufacturing sector. While the NDP leader has made repeated announcements to support that sector, does the member not find it troubling to see his leader trivializing the situation by saying that the 1.7 million workers in his region will simply have to switch to another kind of work?

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I preferred the first part of my colleague's comments, regarding the need for our two parties to denounce the misinformation being spread by the government members.

As for the second part of his comments, it is not at all true that the leader of the Liberal Party does not want to emphasize the importance of the manufacturing sector. It is true that we have not yet announced the details of our policy, but the election is still a few weeks or a few months away. Between now and then, the member will hear some very good news regarding an excellent plan from the Liberal Party to support the manufacturing sector and other important economic sectors.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. John's East.

I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to the opposition motion on the CIBC report on job quality.

We often debate the issue of employment in the House. The government likes to boast about how many jobs have been created since the depths of the recession. We sincerely hope that jobs will be created after a recession as bad as the one we recently went through.

However, contrary to what the government and its members are saying, job quality plays a key role in people's quality of life. The results have not been as clear-cut and successful as the government likes to claim.

In its report, CIBC clearly shows that its employment quality index has dropped dramatically since the 1990s. It has gone down by 15%, which is a fairly big drop. It has dropped by 10% since the early 2000s, and last year, the latest year of the index, there was a significant drop of 1.8%, despite the fact that a rather large number of jobs were created.

The reason has to do with the effectiveness of the government and its policies. When we talk, for example, about full-time and part-time jobs, the government's efforts have greatly encouraged the creation of part-time and low-paying jobs, which has led many Canadians to choose self-employment over paid employment, often involuntarily.

Take for example the issue of high-paying jobs versus low-paying jobs. In my opinion, this is a key issue, and CIBC recognized that.

In fact, CIBC noted that low-paying jobs rose at twice the pace of high-paying jobs. An important example of the consequences of this reality and the government's misguided approach is Burger King's acquisition of Tim Hortons.

We can debate this acquisition. I think that it is having a negative effect and that it shows the impact of the corporate tax rate in Canada, which is well below that of the United States. This creates a phenomenon called tax inversion, which makes companies more attractive to American businesses.

I want to come back to the announcement made at the end of January by Burger King and Tim Hortons, when 350 well-paid corporate Tim Hortons workers were laid off.

When we raised this issue in the House and asked the Minister of Industry questions, he said, quite proudly, that following consultations with the newly merged company, he was promised that there would be 500 new franchises in Canada. When he says 500 new franchises, that is exactly what we are talking about. These are not steady jobs. They are often part time and not well paid. He was comparing these poorly paid jobs and the jobs that will be created with the 350 high-quality, well-paid jobs that were lost as a result of the merger, and he put a positive spin on it to boot.

That is where I take issue with the government's idea that any job is a good job, that a part-time job is just as good as a full-time job, or that a poorly paid job is the same as a well-paid job.

The CIBC did a fine job of painting the overall picture of the employment situation in Canada, going beyond the anecdotes that the government likes to recite to us in the House.

One of the things the Conservatives often like to talk about during question period, but not during answer period, because the answer is totally inconsistent, is the article published in the New York Times last November, according to which the Canadian middle class is now richer than the American middle class.

However, the Conservatives neglect to say how this came to be or why this is currently the case. The New York Times article showed that three main reasons explain this situation, but the government never mentions those. The primary reason is the failure of the U.S. elementary school system, which is training a workforce that is less qualified or not as well qualified as the previous generation.

If we take the time to read the article, we find that Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 have above-average skills compared to their peers in other industrialized countries. As for the 16 to 24 year olds, their literacy, numeracy, and technology skills lag behind those of their peers in Canada, Australia, Japan, Scandinavia, among others. One of the main reasons for the gap between Americans and Canadians is the education system. The government has very little to do with it because education is a provincial jurisdiction.

I will quote the second reason given in the New York Times article to explain the reduction of the income gap between the American and Canadian middle classes.

A second factor is that companies in the United States economy distribute a smaller share of their bounty to the middle class and poor than similar companies elsewhere. Top executives make substantially more money in the United States than in other wealthy countries. The minimum wage is lower. Labor unions are weaker.

From the New York Times article we can infer that the relative strength of the union movement in Canada compared to that in the United States is one of the factors that has contributed to the positive wealth gap between the middle class in Canada and that in the United States. We will not bring Europe into the discussion.

However, we have a government that is fighting to undermine union strength in Canada. The difference in wealth, therefore, is not the result of the government's policies. On the contrary, this is true because the Conservatives have not yet reached the high point in their policy to destroy a rather strong middle class.

Third, the New York Times article mentions the level of redistribution of wealth. In the United States, the redistribution of wealth is much less efficient than here in Canada. Once again, most of the policies introduced by the government since 2006 do not target more equitable redistribution, as shown by increased income inequality among other things.

The government prides itself on the fact that its its economic policies have helped make the middle class stronger. However, according to that New York Times article, our middle class did not become richer than the American middle class because of the strength of our economy, but rather because of the weakness of American policies.

If I were the government I would be very careful about drawing any significant conclusions from one story that draws on a set of interesting data to give a snapshot of the quality of life of our middle class compared to that of the United States. As with any other economic situation, there is often much more to the snapshot than they would have us believe.

Economic experts urged us to be cautious when analyzing these documents and not to draw broad conclusions. William Robson, the president and CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute, said that the the wealth of Canada's middle class was growing more slowly than that of the rest of the population, meaning Canadians who are either wealthier or poorer.

The government can boast all it wants and say that we are in a good position compared to the United States, but there is no evidence that the government's policies or actions contributed to the strength of the middle class. On the contrary, the middle class continues to get weaker compared to the rest of the population, which was one of the findings of the CIBC study. If jobs are less stable and the number of part-time jobs is increasing at a faster pace than the number of full-time jobs, the country will not be in a better place—quite the contrary.

These are measures we need to examine, which is why I am proud to say that the NDP is starting to unveil parts of our economic agenda, which will strengthen the middle class. In fact, this is something we have been doing for a quite some time.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government claims that it is 100% behind Canadians and that it wants to do its best for the economy. However, not one single Conservative MP listened to my colleague's excellent speech, and nobody stood up to ask a question. This proves that the government is in way over its head on the economy.

My question for my colleague is about this quote:

Last month, Deputy Governor Carolyn Wilkins said in a speech that the economy was about 270,000 jobs short of its full capacity at the end of 2014.

She was comparing the situation to how things were before the recession. That was before Target, Tim Hortons and all of the closures announced in the past few months.

I would like my colleague to comment on the Conservatives' record with respect to the creation of those 1.2 million part-time, low-quality jobs when it says right here that there are no jobs for Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about job creation and the 1.2 million jobs the government keeps referring to, we have to remember that that was at the lowest point of the recession, when we reached an unenviable level. Of course things have gone up since then. We talk a lot about economic cycles. Once we hit the low point of a cycle, eventually, no matter which government is in power, we are going to come back up again. The question is whether we can come back up in a way that is good for the entire economy.

The Bank of Canada's Ms. Wilkins was referring to the fact that job creation was not keeping pace with demographic growth. Job creation did not keep up with the number of Canadians ready, willing and able to work. The fact is that there are far more unemployed Canadians now than there were in 2009 and 2006. It is fine to have an economic cycle that is on the upswing and makes job creation possible, but the government still needs to implement measures to promote even faster growth. I would like to tell the House that some of this government's policies have actually restricted and slowed economic growth and our ability to achieve our potential. That is really terrible.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his compelling speech. It is clear that he feels strongly about what he just said.

We in the NDP want to reduce the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%. I wonder if he could briefly explain how this measure would benefit small businesses.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

We know that small and medium-size enterprises, or SMEs, are responsible for much of the job creation in Canada. However, a good portion of the jobs lost are also often lost in SMEs. Starting up a small business is risky. Many SMEs are started, but they never develop enough to become stable and maintain those jobs. There is always the hope that those SMEs will make it to the next level and become stable businesses that provide well-paying jobs.

The government has ignored the NDP's longstanding requests. These requests were part of our 2011 platform, and even our 2008 platform, if I am not mistaken. We want to lower the tax rate to 9%. The government made an effort and lowered it from 12% to 11%, which is a step in the right direction. However, that is not enough to give small and medium-size businesses the stability and flexibility they need to grow and transform these jobs—which are admittedly somewhat precarious at first, since it is a risky endeavour—into well-paying jobs that benefit society in economic terms.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity today to join in this debate on the NDP motion, which calls upon the government to take seriously the needs of Canadians, for a proper level of stimulation and to deal with the very high, sustained unemployment we have in Canada.

The Conservatives keep talking about job creation, but what we hear is that the job situation in Canada is in fact getting worse. Their plans do not include a solution to the problem. Since the 2008 recession and a long-term downward trend in job quality, as described most eloquently by a recent CIBC report, job quality is going down.

What is job quality? Job quality is an index being used by the CIBC, the employment quality index, that deals with the distribution of full-time and part-time jobs. We are seeing fewer full-time jobs and more part-time jobs; not only part-time jobs, but jobs that have been described as precarious employment. These are short-term part-time jobs and term employment, where one works for a few weeks here and a few weeks there. There is an inability to even qualify for employment insurance, the jobs are so precarious. Therefore, less than 40% of those who are unemployed are even able to qualify for employment insurance, despite the fact that they may have been working quite a bit in the period leading up to their unemployment, because of the changes to the employment insurance regime that this government and the previous Liberal government have brought in.

The employment quality index also deals with self-employment versus paid employment and the compensation ranking of jobs in a hundred different industry groups. It looks at whether we are dealing with good-quality jobs that pay well, that provide some benefits, that allow people to take advantage of a middle-class income standard that gives a quality of life whereby they do not have to be concerned about where their next meal or their next rent cheque is coming from and they have a measure of security for themselves and their families.

That is something that Canadians really deserve to have. We have a very prosperous country. We have superior level of natural resources. The GDP in Canada is very high. However, we have growing inequality.

What do we do about it? We have a government that does not deal with that problem. It comes up with an income-sharing scheme that is extremely expensive and is going to benefit only 15% of the population, and unfortunately, it costs $3 billion of taxpayers' money that could well be spent in providing for programs such as the ones we have put forward, like a high-quality child care program that would allow Canadian families to have quality child care at an affordable price to a maximum of $15 a day. I have heard some of the members opposite describe it today as being a big bureaucracy, somehow or other.

One thing about it is that it would actually require someone to sit down with the provinces, something the Prime Minister has not done since he has been in power. Why is that? It is because he does not really want to have good national programs that raise all boats by giving Canadian working families a real opportunity to have a decent job, to support their families, and to become a part of the middle class to which so many aspire if they are not already there.

That term “middle class” is kind of a funny term to me because, as New Democrats, we have always talked about the working class or people who have been left out, but most Canadians see themselves as either being in or aspiring to be part of the middle class. Therefore, when we talk about middle-class Canadians, we are talking about the bulk of Canadians who see themselves as, hopefully, participating in the economy, having an opportunity for some income security and hopefully retirement security, being able to educate their children, and giving them a good start in life.

Instead, what we have is fear and worry because of the precarious job situation of this generation. They are saying that their parents had a better way of life and that progress ended with their parents.

Do we want the next generation to say that progress in life and in this country ended with their parents? That is a legacy that I do not want to see us leave to the next generation.

That is the danger with the policies of the Conservative government. It is why we are calling for the first priority of the upcoming budget to be investment in measures that stimulate the economy, that create and protect sustainable, full-time, middle-class jobs in high-paying industries in all regions of Canada. It is why we are calling for the government to abandon its costly and unfair $2 billion income-splitting proposal.

We talk about all regions of the country. Look at my province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are suffering with an unemployment rate higher than 11%. The last number I saw was 11.4% unemployment. That is shocking. To talk about all of this so-called economic progress that has been made is unacceptable.

Instead of seeing job stimulation through investments in infrastructure and job creation, we are seeing what the Conservatives think will get votes from their base. They are rewarding their base because they promised four or five years ago that they would have income splitting, which has been shown to be costly, ineffective, and bad public policy, according to the late finance minister. It has contributed to growing inequality in this country. That is the kind of policy that the Conservative government is putting forward, instead of policies that would help to lower the amount of inequality we have.

It is not only in Newfoundland and Labrador. We see it in other provinces as well, but I will talk about my home province since it is the one closest to my heart. In addition to the high unemployment rate, we have a staggering problem now as a result of the lowering of oil prices. The Newfoundland and Labrador government has announced that it will be facing a $1 billion deficit for the first time in Newfoundland and Labrador history. It is going to have a very difficult job assisting people, providing the services it has been providing, and providing the kind of stimulus that would be needed to sustain the jobs and growth that are necessary in that economy.

In times like that, provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador do expect the Government of Canada to play a more positive role, to get in there and say it needs to solve some of these problems and help by stimulating the economy, jobs, and growth. It is not doing it.

We are looking for immediate action in the budget to boost job creation and to grow our economy. We are not the only ones who believe it is important that this happens. Concerns have been raised by others who recognize that issues such as a balanced budget are not the most important thing to have in the Canadian economy this year. What is really required is trying to make some progress in economic terms, and we are not doing that.

Kevin Page, for example, said that in the last 10 years, we have made virtually no progress on all of our big issues, such as longer term economic challenges, closing innovation gaps in the economy, dealing with aging demographics that will put pressure on health care, and dealing with environmental sustainability. We have not even had discussions or proposals from the government.

I see that my time is rapidly running out here. We really need to help small business owners. That is part of our proposal and our plan. Cuts to the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%, extending the accelerated cost allowances, and other ideas are part of our economic plan. We hope that the members opposite will see the light and support this motion.

Opposition Motion—Government InvestmentsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia

Conservative

Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his speech this morning, highlighting the need for improved jobs, growth, economic development, and long-term prosperity, particularly on the east coast and Atlantic Canada, from which we both hail.

The Conservative government has strongly supported small businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador and Atlantic Canada. One way it did that was providing a loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls project in Labrador, which will provide clean, green, perpetual energy throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. This will provide a stable price for energy in both Newfoundland and Labrador and all of Atlantic Canada.

I wonder if the member opposite can comment on the meaningful benefits that the project will have in providing clean, green energy and stable power rates so that small businesses can have certainty and dependability. This is a great initiative from our government. I hope that the member opposite supports it, and I wonder if he could comment on the good work that our government has done in support of that project.