Mr. Speaker, I am going to be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Shepard.
To say that competitiveness is struggling is probably the understatement of the year, in terms of where we are and how we are competing in energy, manufacturing and a number of different areas. One of the things I want to talk about today is how we move forward to the future.
One of the things that has happened in the U.S. is there has been a whole bunch of uncertainty created by Mr. Trump's tax cuts, his tariffs and a whole bunch of things that have gone on, which causes us all the more to be committed to being more competitive and doing things that are well within our control.
We cannot control when someone like Mr. Trump decides to give us increased tariffs, or decides to increase restrictions to make it tougher to do trade. This is why more than ever we need to do the things that we are good at. We need to do the things that, quite frankly, we are known for as a country. If we do not do these things, we are going to be left behind.
I have talked about pipelines and some of the issues we have right now. The fact remains that the current government vetoed the northern gateway project. Energy east was one of the ones that the government kept changing the regulations on. As a result of that, what happened was that we have seen some $80 billion, $90 billion, $100 billion in energy infrastructure investment flee the country.
Trans Mountain is a good example. We ended up buying the pipeline for about $4.5 billion, which means that we now own a pipeline. The challenge with that is that now we are going to be expected to rebuild the pipeline. Where private sector could do the work, we should make sure that we are giving it the tools, which is making sure there is a regulatory pathway and that people understand the process fairly clearly as they move forward.
I always give the example of when we were in government. Under Stephen Harper, we were doing a number of things, things that were important in terms of the ease of doing business or being competitive or being a place where people wanted to invest.
If I look at what the Conservatives did, it was our government that lowered taxes. We had the lowest corporate taxes in the G7 and G8. That was good. In and of itself, it does not matter unless there is a whole bunch of other things that are going on at the same time. Taxes are important. That is why something like a carbon tax, something which no one else is paying, certainly in North America, puts us at a complete and total competitive disadvantage.
I would say that the government has pursued and finished some of the trade deals that the Conservatives started. The Liberals brought some of the deals across the finish line. I will give them credit for that. They actually realized that those were important.
Trade deals in and of themselves are not the be all and end all. I totally agree that they are important, but if we keep going back to the whole issue of competitiveness, if we do not have the ability to compete globally, then no amount of trade deals is really going to matter because we would be less competitive, and we would not be able to compete. Already, we cannot keep up with the Chinese, and we are struggling under the whole issue of tariffs right now with the United States. That makes it problematic.
Infrastructure was something the Conservative government supported in a big way. There was over $30 billion committed towards infrastructure. It was not just roads and bridges, but it was also critical trade infrastructure. That is something the Liberal government has dropped the ball on. It talks about it. It said it was going to set up an infrastructure bank, but for three years there has been no money going out the door. We have lost three years, where we had an opportunity to look at infrastructure as a way we could help be competitive. Once again, it is one of those other things we are talking about.
I saw a recent Financial Post article which said there were over 4,100 projects approved, valued at $13 billion, but only $430 million had been paid out. That is obviously problematic as we look at missed opportunities over the last two or three years. That is something that needs to happen.
If I look at the infrastructure bank, in terms of what it is going to mean. What is it going to mean for small communities in the riding of Niagara West which I represent, communities like Pelham, Lincoln, Grimsby, Wainfleet and West Lincoln? Is there going to be an infrastructure bank that wants to come in and lend millions of dollars to build a bridge or a road? What is the return on investment? What is the payback on that?
I am left with the challenge that we have missed three years of critical infrastructure. If I look at trade infrastructure, whether it be ports, airports, highways, rail and the like, this creates a challenge.
As I said, at the end of the day, not only do we need to spend money on infrastructure in our communities, we need that critical infrastructure for trade so that we are able to become a trading nation. We have to look not too far to the west in Canada to see that we have all kinds of oil on railcars, which makes it tough for agricultural producers to get their products to market. That is a bit of a travesty.
Regulation and red tape is one of the largest issues. In terms of trade deals and non-tariff barriers, this fits into that category. There were things the Conservative government was working on, such the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council, beyond the border and things like that, which the current government has continued. However, if I look at energy infrastructure around pipelines and Bill C-69 and some other things, there are challenges. That is what causes people to sit on their money, invest it south of the border, in the U.S., with its regulatory framework, or identify ways to get their projects approved in a big way.
I sat on the red tape reduction round table. We went across the country and had conversations about how we could reduce red tape. This is something we will always have to work on. It is not just the federal government that throws up red tape; it is also municipal and provincial governments. This is something, quite frankly, every government needs to be diligent about.
On research and development, we certainly spend our fair share proportionally in R and D dollars, but at the end of the day, we need to make sure that we are not only getting the results we want but are able to commercialize our R and D. That was something the Conservative government looked at and worked toward.
With respect to entrepreneurship and access to capital in this country, there are a number of things we still need to do. The Conservative government looked at a $400-million fund for venture capital as a way of finding seed money, but there are still lots of opportunities.
At the international trade committee, one of the challenges we see every day is that small and medium-sized enterprises are challenged in getting access to capital. That remains difficult in terms of what they are trying to do. As we move through our work on the trade committee, we are not only looking at investment and capital. We are also finding that some of the trade programs are very hard to access by small and medium-sized enterprises.
When we look at competitiveness, it is not just about tax relief. I will note that in the recent economic statement, there was a commitment to an accelerated capital cost allowance, and I want to thank my colleagues for that. It may be too little too late, but it will hopefully help manufacturers that are trying to invest in new machinery that will make them competitive. Automotive, aerospace and advance manufacturing all need to continue to invest in their equipment. If they do not, they will fall behind fairly quickly.
As we move forward, there are a ton of things on the horizon that are very challenging. I know it has been mentioned before, but I need to mention again that having a carbon tax, when the rest of North America is not paying one, creates a competitive disadvantage. Increases in CPP and employment insurance premiums are coming in January, which will make it more expensive for businesses. We also have increased personal income taxes. I am never sure why any government thinks working people should be paying over 50% in income tax. I do not understand why, at the end of the year, we pay up to 53% and then throw on the GST or HST consumption tax. We throw on property taxes and a lot of other things, which does not make a whole lot of sense.
The last thing is the continuation of large and massive deficits. We are borrowing our children's future, and while the economy has been doing fairly well, this should be the time when we are saving money for a rainy day. When we start moving forward, as we spend too much money and continue to tax people, we will realize that there are only two ways to fix this, either with massive reductions in programs or with tax increases to pay for the massive deficits.
In a day and age when we are trying to be competitive, not only globally but with our friends and neighbours south of border, these are things we need to look at.