Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in this debate. The motion talks about employment insurance, but it also gives us an opportunity to talk in greater detail on the state of the Canadian economy, some of the things this government has done over the last number of years to improve Canada's economy and ultimately put people back to work.
The fact that we are debating this topic today really highlights one of the very big weaknesses in the NDP. One of the problems that the New Democrats have today, and have always had, is that they have never have, and probably will never have if we are this close to an election, a plan to create jobs and economic opportunity for people. The New Democrats always want to focus on how they would take care of people who are unemployed. I guess it is because in the past, in the provinces they have governed, they have done a really good job of putting people out of work. Therefore, they have perfected the art of putting people out of work as opposed to getting people into real jobs so they can contribute to the Canadian economy.
We are a few weeks away from the end of this session. We brought forward a continuation of the economic action plan with a whole host of very important initiatives for the people of Canada, in regions and communities across the country, and the NDP's focus is on how it would respond to the people who are out of work.
I think any member of Parliament on either side of the House would want to ensure that if people lose their jobs through no fault of their own, because of the economy or whatever the rationale, the system or state is there to give them a helping hand. That is the whole point of employment insurance. One of the things this government has focused on is to ensure the resources are in place to take care of Canadians if they need to access the employment insurance fund.
As we have seen in the past, when the economy runs into difficulty, we have to then worry about how we will make those short-term payments until the economy comes back into a more stable climate. Therefore, the government tries to have a balance when it comes to the employment insurance system, so that in good times we accumulate the necessary resources to pay when the economy takes a downward turn, as it has on occasion.
It is important to recap a bit about where we have come from and where we are going. When we came to office in 2006, we knew Canada had to do a number of things. The previous Liberal government had been focused on other areas, but not on how to create an economy that was strong and stable for the vast majority of Canadians moving forward.
Therefore, we looked at where Canada was and said that we had to do a better job of opening up Canada's market, giving manufacturers the opportunity to sell into other markets. We said that Canada was open for business, that we would get out there to provide new opportunities for manufacturers and small, medium and large job creators, so they would have larger and more markets to sell to. We started off with opening up free trade negotiations.
It has always been Conservative governments that have looked at how to expand trade opportunities and open up new markets for Canadians. We have the free trade agreement with the United States and the North American Free Trade Agreement, both very important trade agreements which opened Canada up and created millions and millions of jobs. Both of those agreements were rejected by the NDP and the Liberals.
However, we went further and said that we had to do more. This is why today we can say that we have concluded agreements with some 44 different markets and nations, and we want to go even further. We know that when Canadians are given the opportunity to compete, they can be successful. Why is that important? It is really important for a community like mine. I represent Oak Ridges—Markham, the communities of Markham, Whitchurch-Stouffville, King and part of Richmond Hill. Markham is an important centre for high-tech manufacturing. King and Stouffville are important centres for agriculture and exporting. Opening up opportunities for them has created thousands of jobs and enormous opportunity. However, we know there are challenges.
There are always challenges, and those challenges are always compounded when there is an opposition that is so completely opposed to finding and creating the opportunities for Canadian businesses.
However, we have been very successful at opening up these opportunities for Canadian manufacturers, and we will continue to do that because it helps create jobs. We do not want to focus on putting people out of work. We want to focus on putting people into jobs so our Canadian economy can grow and so we have the resources we need to provide for Canadians who, when they find themselves in difficult situations, the government or state is there for them.
I am very proud of the fact that we have been able to do that. However, there are challenges. As an Ontario member of Parliament, there are a number of hurdles that we are seeing put before us. By and large, these hurdles have been put in place by a provincial Liberal government, which has somehow been unable to understand the concept of when it is more costly to do business or when opportunities are closed down, businesses and job creators will find other areas in which to invest.
This has become a very big problem in the province of Ontario, whether it is the high energy prices that have resulted from the policies of the Kathleen Wynne/Dalton McGuinty Liberal Governments of Ontario or the recently announced Ontario pension plan, which Ontarians will not see, apparently, for some 30 years, but which will cost employees and employers thousands of dollars every year.
To put this into context, the leader of the Liberal Party has come out and said that he wants to implement a mandatory Canada pension plan contribution increase along the lines of what Kathleen Wynne has introduced for the people of Ontario. He wants to emulate that.
I know a lot of members here are not from Ontario, so they might not be focused on what it is considering. What they are talking about is this. On somebody who is making $60,000 a year, the cost to that person, to that family, would be $1,000 from their paycheque. That is a lot of money, and we understand and know this would cost jobs in the province of Ontario.
If the same thing were done nationally, it would cost jobs across the country. We know that small, medium and large job creators in Ontario have been openly critical of the Ontario Liberal plan. They have written to the Ontario premier and suggested that she rethink this. When that is combined with the extraordinary increase in hydro in the province of Ontario, there are challenges.
At the federal level, we are going in a different direction. We are finding ways to put more money in the pockets of Canadian families. We introduced, through our recent economic action plan, tax savings and tax cuts. We are providing additional incentives for our manufacturers so they can upgrade their machinery and equipment, and can compete not based on a low dollar but on productivity.
We are seeing the benefits of that. The recent job numbers have showed us that our manufacturers, particularly in Ontario, despite the challenges that are put in place by the provincial Liberal government, are starting to succeed because of the policies that this government has put in place to allow them to increase productivity. We are going to continue down that path.
Additionally, we need to support families. By supporting families, we are giving them greater opportunities. Our universal child care benefit, for example, puts more money back in the pockets of families. We have increased the tax-free savings accounts so people can invest up $10,000. These are all important initiatives that put more money back in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families.
We have the tax credits for families when it comes to fitness and arts. It is about putting more money back in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families. That has been one of the hallmarks of this government since we were elected.
Back in 2006-07, because of the hard work of members of Parliament, the cabinet, and the government at the time, we had surpluses, and there was a debate at that point as to what should happen with respect to the surplus. It was this Prime Minister who suggested at the time that we always had to be ready for what would happen in the future and that we should repay debt with that surplus. Members will recall that the opposition, the NDP and the Liberals, suggested that we go on a spending spree. The Prime Minister said that we had to be prepared, that there were signals in the global economy that were troubling, and that we should pay down debt.
In 2008, when the global economy went into a very drastic recession, Canada was prepared to meet the challenge of a global economic recession. When people were put out of work, the Government of Canada had the resources to ensure that they had what they needed to get through the slowdown.
We did a number of things. We provided increased benefits directly to Canadians by reducing their taxes. We reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. Of course, the opposition was against that entirely.
We then provided a stimulus program, because we understood that what the economy needed and what Canadians wanted were jobs. They did not necessarily want enhanced programs. They wanted to go to work so they could provide for their families and so they could pay to help other Canadians. That is what they wanted, so we brought in an important stimulus program, which saw the creation of thousands of jobs across this country, which invested in our infrastructure, and which allowed us to work with our municipal and provincial partners to address very important infrastructure challenges so that as we came out of the global economic downturn, our small, medium, and large job creators could seize on the opportunities that were created by investing in the infrastructure. Again, the opposition was opposed to these investments.
The opposition at the time, and currently, particularly the official opposition, supported by the Liberal Party, has advocated what is called the 45-day work year. To put that into context, at the same time they bring a motion forward about ensuring that we have the resources available to protect families and workers when they are left, through no fault of their own, without work, the NDP and the Liberals are seeking to institute a 45-day work year.
I am not sure we could truly calculate what it would cost Canadian workers and Canadian businesses to implement something like this. It is completely irresponsible, and it is really, in essence, the foundation of what we are talking about today. It is part of the opposition's secret agenda, by and large.
We are now seeing the Liberal Party coming forward with a plan that would basically attack Canadians' pensions. The Liberals have not even introduced the full scope of their platform yet and already they are billions of dollars in the hole. Scrambling, as Liberals usually do, to try to find out how they will fill the holes of the massive deficits, they have decided that the best way to do that would be to raid the Canada pension plan and private pension plans and hope that nobody notices.
New Democrats truly have no shame when it comes to spending Canadian taxpayers' money. They do not actually care that they would increase debt and deficits for Canadians. They would be honest about it in some circumstances, because that is just what they do. Fortunately, Canadians have looked at the NDP over a number of elections and have rejected that type of economics for Canada.
We in Ontario understand how disastrous NDP economics can be, and that is why we have consistently rejected the NDP because of that really unfortunate experience in Ontario. I was just out of university at the time, and the increase in unemployment in Ontario was staggering.
The deficit at that time, in the 1990s, in the province of Ontario, was $11 billion. The NDP government in Ontario was spending $11 million more an hour than it was taking in. It was an absolute disaster, and it was not until 1995, under the leadership of a Conservative government, which included a number of members serving in our caucus here today, such as the President of the Treasury Board, that Ontario's economy was brought back into balance. We created jobs, we opened up the Ontario market, and we unleashed the potential of the Ontario small, medium, and large job creators to create jobs. We put more money back into the pockets of Canadian families, very much like what we are doing here and what the NDP is threatening to take away from Canadian families.
I come from the community of Markham, which is the most diverse community in all of Canada. Under previous Liberal administrations, and the Liberals will know this to be true, we would go around the world and tell people who wanted to come to this country to come to Canada, because it was a great place to start a family and they would be able to get work. What we did not tell them was that although Canada was a great place and a great place to raise a family, their credentials would not be recognized when they got here.
We have heard time and time again about people with incredible résumés and incredible educations who are working as cab drivers but should be working in other areas. They should be contributing more to the Canadian experience. Under previous Liberal governments, they were sold a bill of goods. They were brought here and they were told that they could not actually participate in the Canadian economy to the fullest extent, because their credentials would not be recognized.
This government set out to change that. It is one of the reforms we brought in. We set out to change it. We worked with our provincial counterparts to have credential recognition in a number of areas. We provide grants to new immigrants so they can upgrade their credentials and fully participate in the Canadian economy.
These are some of the things we have brought forward. These are some of the things the people of Canada are financing through their taxes so that we can create jobs.
I know that the opposition is consistently focused on what it will do when people lose their jobs. On this side of the House, we think the best thing we can do if people lose their jobs through no fault of their own is provide them with the opportunity to get new jobs. That is why we have invested in training, through the hard work of the former minister of Employment and Social Development. That is why we have provided resources for our provincial partners so that they can partner with us.
A little over a year ago, we heard from the opposition, when we brought forward the Canada job grant, that it would never happen, because it would be too difficult to bring our provincial partners along with us. We said we could make it happen, because we had to keep Canadians working. The former minister of Employment and Social Development, who is currently the Minister of National Defence, went across Canada and struck a deal so that we would have appropriate job training programs in each of the provinces and territories, programs that would make sense for the local economy.
We worked with our provincial and territorial partners to find out what skills they needed. These are the people we then bring to this country so that they can contribute immediately.
I look in my community of Markham, which as I said is the most diverse community in all of Canada, and I see the results of the things we have done. Our manufacturers are prosperous. I look in Stouffville and see my farmers competing and exporting to different parts of the world and preparing to export to the world's largest economy, Europe. I am proud of that.
I look at the IMF report that recently said that other countries in the world should emulate Canada's low debt-to-GDP. Despite the fact that the global challenges still exist, Canada is doing better and has done better than almost any other country.
Around the world, people want to emulate what Canada has done. That is why I am extraordinarily proud to be in this caucus, with these members of Parliament, under the leadership of this Prime Minister, who has given this to Canadians.