Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting day to say the least. We have heard the Conservatives talk a great deal about taxation. They talk a lot about revenue, among a few other things. I was hoping to take this opportunity to share with my friends across the way a few thoughts, maybe introduce a few facts, and see if they could realize some of the errors in their ways and possibly reflect on the reality of the situation.
Where to start? The Conservatives continuously try to push a myth. The Government of Canada has been very strong in terms of good sound environmental policy. We have witnessed that virtually since day one, when the Prime Minister went to Paris with a number of different stakeholders, including provinces, indigenous peoples, and others. He came back as the signatory to a fantastic agreement, which was actually being acted upon around the world. At the time, we had countries all around the world recognizing that we do need to put a price on pollution.
Then the Prime Minister and cabinet focused on getting provinces together to have a discussion. It was an historical agreement that we needed to look at the environment and look at a price on pollution. It should not be of any great surprise, in fact well over 80% of Canadians already have a system in place where there is a price on pollution.
This gets us right to that whole issue of a myth that the Conservatives are trying to say exists today. It is as if there is going to be this super-huge tax coming between now and 2019, and whether it is true or not, it does not really matter because the Conservatives are going to say it is true. They want to plant the seeds of doubt and fear in Canadians.
Truth be known, when it comes to taxation, the government has nothing to learn from members opposite. In reality, we just need to look at the actions of the Conservative Party since the last federal election. Those who might be following the debate would be very much aware that one of the very first initiatives of the government was a substantial tax break for Canada's middle class. There is absolutely no doubt about that. There was a clear tax break, at the same time there was, in fairness, a tax increase to Canada's wealthiest 1%.
The Conservative Party voted against that. On the one hand, Conservatives are saying, “Look out, Canadians, the Government of Canada wants to impose a tax.” In fact, that is not the case. In reality, it is the Conservatives who voted against a tax decrease to Canada's middle class.
I listened to hours of Conservative after Conservative standing up and clearly demonstrating that they are in fact completely out of touch. They are not listening to what Canadians expect from good government, a government that will demonstrate leadership on important files. The price on pollution is one of those issues that the government takes very seriously.
It was interesting. I heard one member from the Conservative Party talk about the importance of revenue. She made reference to the fact that we develop natural resources or we raise taxes, or we increase the deficit. Those are the three things she focused on. We have heard a lot coming from the members opposite. I can comment on each and every one of those separately, but there was one that she missed out on, growing the economy.
The government, working with Canadians in all regions of our nation, has witnessed some of the greatest growth in terms of real jobs. We are talking in excess of 600,000, most of which are full-time jobs that have been created as a direct result of Canadians working with the government to ensure that every region has seen a benefit, in a very real and tangible way.
If we grow the economy, we also grow the revenue of the government, and that is something the Conservatives have completely forgotten.
If there is an area in which Stephen Harper demonstrated failure, it is dealing with development in the prairie provinces. I could come up with a number of examples, but one example that has often been referred to today and in the past number of days is the issue of natural resources, in particular the Trans Mountain expansion.
One would think that the Conservative Party would have been happy when the Government of Canada made the decision to acquire assets so that we could move forward with a pipeline to tidewater. For months, they were asking where the pipeline was, and to show them the pipeline. Stephen Harper failed at delivering. Not one inch of pipeline to tidewater was built under his government in 10 years. In two and a half years, we have put in place an opportunity that will see a pipeline to tidewater actually built. I believe everyone in the Prairies will recognize that.
The Conservatives are nervous about this and say that we spent public money on the issue. Why did Stephen Harper invest in the automobile industry when it looked like it was not going to survive? He did that because it was in the national interest to do so. The Conservatives spent billions and billions on the automobile industry, a lot more than we will be spending on the Trans Mountain expansion, with no reservations. We recognize that as a positive thing.
Today, the hundreds of thousands of jobs we have in the automobile industry might not have been here if the government had not become involved. That means the Conservative Party can be brought into doing the right thing at times. It can be a challenge to drag the Conservatives into doing something that is right. In the back rooms, they would probably concede that the government acquiring the assets of the pipeline is a good thing, but they cannot say that publicly. Shame on them for not recognizing that the national interest and Alberta are worth it.
If they are prepared to fight for the automobile industry in the national interest, they should have been prepared to fight for Canada getting involved and investing in a national pipeline. However, every one of the Conservative members of Parliament from Alberta did nothing but criticize this government consistently throughout. At least there are some Albertan MPs on the government benches that recognize the true value in terms of what is happening here.
We can contrast that with my NDP friends, who have made it very clear. Rachel Notley, the NDP Premier of Alberta, understands, as this government does, that when it comes to the environment and the economy, they go hand in hand. We have heard the government talk about that now for over two years, and the pipeline is an excellent example of this. Like NDP Premier Rachel Notley, we believe that the Trans Mountain expansion is in the best interest of our nation.
The NDP, on the other hand, at the national level here in Ottawa said no. Let there be no doubt that they are, in my opinion, completely abandoning the province of Alberta, and I would argue beyond Alberta to include the Prairies. They are abandoning what is in the national interest. That is shameful. If they cannot support this particular pipeline, then what pipeline can they support? They do not support any pipeline. They are trying to out-green the Green Party. They believe there is no need for a pipeline.
I come from Manitoba, which is a beautiful province. We have unfortunately been in a position where we have been receiving literally billions of dollars every year through equalization payments. Contrast that to Alberta. Alberta generates on the positive side billions of dollars every year.
What is the difference between Manitoba and Alberta? Many of my constituents would say that Alberta was somewhat blessed by having a lot of oil. There is no doubt that oil has really been responsible for a lot of the success of Alberta, and it has contributed immensely to the many different social programs. If we did not receive those billions of dollars, we would not be able to provide that quality health care that we have in Manitoba, the type of education we provide, the repairs, and many other wonderful things, including financing environmentally sound projects. The Government of Canada, the provinces, and the different regions have benefited immensely by Alberta and its contributions through equalization payments.
My New Democratic friends want to throw that out the window. NDP Rachel Notley has said that they have a cap. They are being very responsible with respect to the environment. That is something we have recognized. Even the New Democrats will say Rachel Notley is being wonderful and she is abiding by emissions and she has this cap. The only thing that they disagree with her about is that she wants the pipeline. However, the pipeline is all part of the Rachel Notley package. One cannot cherry-pick and say that the pipeline is a bad idea to Rachel Notley or to the NDP in Alberta. They will never agree to that. Only the national New Democrats will agree, and team up with the B.C. New Democrats.
I find that the New Democrats are making a big mistake. We will see that once we get the pipeline moving forward and the jobs being created, and the potential for ongoing revenues, all in an environmentally sound way that incorporates different levels of government, indigenous peoples, and many other stakeholders. That is in regard to that source of revenue. In terms of natural resources, that was often referred to.
One never runs out of incidences of hypocrisy within the collective Conservative caucus when it comes to the issue of deficits. Imagine that we have the Conservative Party of Canada trying to give advice on what is good or bad when it comes to deficit financing. Let me expand as to why I say that. When Stephen Harper actually became the prime minister of Canada, he inherited a multi-billion dollar surplus. Even before the recession started in Canada, not only did he blow the surplus, he created another deficit.
It was a whopper of a deficit. It was a multi-billion dollar deficit. It took him no time whatsoever to do that. My friend across the way says we told him to spend more. Have I got news for him. Saying the Liberals told him to do it does not cut it with Canadians. The Conservatives are the ones who turned a multi-billion dollar surplus into a multi-billion dollar deficit in a year. Then, they continued to add billions of dollars to it.
We have heard the Conservatives say they want to see a balanced budget within four years. They could not do it. In budget after budget, and I could say that nine or 10 times, they kept on adding to the deficit. The total was over $170 billion of Conservative debt.
Then when they tried to get it to balance, what did they do? I told members about their purchase of GM shares. They tried to sell $1 billion of GM shares to try to cover their back ends, to try to give the false impression that they know how to balance a budget 10 years later. It is a stretch.
I am hoping that those listening, and Canadians, will understand that when it comes to the balancing of a budget, or the managing of an economy, or dealing with important issues related to the environment, this government understands what Canadians expect of it. We have a Prime Minister who consistently says within his caucus that as members of Parliament, we are to bring our concerns from the constituencies we represent to Ottawa, and build the types of budgets and support programs that we believe Canadians expect of good governance. That is, in fact, what we have witnessed, budget after budget, with respect to Liberal budgets. I believe that Canadians are quite satisfied with the priorities this government has.
I made reference to the number of jobs. We created 600,000-plus jobs over two years. We believe in Canada's middle class. Canada's middle class is our number one priority, and that predates the Prime Minister becoming prime minister. When he was elected the leader of the Liberal Party, one of the very first statements he made was about getting behind Canada's middle class and supporting it, and supporting those who are aspiring to be a part of it. That has been priority one with this government from day one, and it will continue to be a priority of this government. If we invest in Canada's middle class, ultimately we are going to have a healthier economy. It is the middle class, and those aspiring to be a part of it, that push the economy.
Let me give members a specific example. Every month, millions of dollars goes into Winnipeg North, the riding I represent, through two programs that have been greatly enhanced by this government. One is the Canada child benefit and the other is the guaranteed income for seniors. These programs lifted hundreds of seniors and children out of poverty in Winnipeg North, and the same principle applies across this country.
Those individuals are consumers, and they are participating in the economy. They are helping to create the jobs that ultimately led this government, working with Canadians, to generate over 600,000 jobs. The Conservative Party votes against every progressive initiative, whether it is increasing funding to Canada's poorest seniors or supporting the children in our communities or giving tax breaks to Canada's middle class or giving the 1% a tax hike. It is never-ending.
The Conservatives will consistently find a way to be critical and to oppose. They make a darn good opposition. We hope to keep them there for many years.