Madam Speaker, our government's throne speech and this debate come at a time when Canadians, and certainly those of us in Fleetwood—Port Kells, are paying more attention than usual to their governments. Of course, this is because these are exceedingly unusual times. These are times when we are experiencing a great reunderstanding of the role of government in the lives of our citizens.
Starting about 50 years ago, people in western Europe and most of the Americas looked for a new balance of influence, one that leaned toward smaller governments. This was after a long period during which those living through the Depression, the world war and recovery had seen national governments calling the shots on how the human, material and financial resources of the nation would be directed.
Now we find ourselves here, at a time when flaws in the free market and the weakness of globalization have shaken the ability of governments to maintain the resiliency needed to deal with the social and economic shocks of the pandemic. These have all combined to have us once again looking to government for leadership, ideas, the willingness to act and hope. That is what our government's Speech from the Throne intended to deliver.
We in Canada have certain advantages that have helped us manage the challenges this year has thrown at us. One of them is that, by and large, Canadians tend to believe in the power of the common good. We are generally prepared to set aside self-interest and assume some duty to act selflessly to help our neighbours. We know that when it is necessary, we draw lines in the sand and stand up for our values, principles and ideologies, because we honestly believe they represent the best direction for the country, but we have also demonstrated the good sense to set that all aside and pull together when efforts toward a common cause are needed.
Our colleagues in the opposition have disagreed with some of the steps this government has taken in response to the social and economic damages inflicted by the pandemic, but when it really counted, the whole lot of us have worked to make our national response to the pandemic better. When so many countries have been torn by partisan political conflict, which stalled action in the public interest, Canadians have been able to count on us to act quickly. They understand the need to make course corrections as we go.
Another advantage we have is the lessons history has taught us in supporting Canadians in times like this. The economic shock we experienced this year looks very much like the sudden and drastic shock of the collapse of the stock markets in 1929, but our response this time is different. In the early 1930s, prime minister R. B. Bennett looked to Conservative ideology and decided that austerity was the right strategy. That served only to deepen the breadth and depth of the misery Canadians experienced in the so-called Great Depression. My parents lived through it and, believe me, there was nothing great about it.
In 2008, unchecked excesses in our financial markets had the world teetering on economic collapse. This time, though, the Canadian government and prime minister Stephen Harper reacted in an un-Conservative way, going into deficit to stimulate the economy and take up some of the economic slack.
There are, however, some things to learn from that experience, too. While Canadians escaped the kind of suffering experienced by our neighbours to the south, the malaise was not cured. Indeed, by the summer of 2015, Canada was still technically in a recession and unemployment was stubbornly high. Mr. Harper had reassumed his conservatism and believed that balancing the budget was what the country needed. His stimulus was too little, and it ended too soon.
This time, the government has had the benefit of those experiences, and what we have learned, we have applied, but more than that, the strategies we brought to government in 2015 have served as a major advantage for Canada. Those deficits we recorded from 2015 to 2019 were not a response to an economic emergency. They were funding investments and, like all good investments, they delivered dividends. The total deficit in the first term was about $60 billion. Canada's GDP grew by just over $180 billion. If we like, we could claim a 300% return on that investment.
Unlike the Conservative stimulus package in 2008-09, which funded projects across the country, the deficits in our first term were divided between infrastructure expansion designed to increase Canada's productivity and the economic well-being of Canadian families.
Our income-tested Canada child benefit delivers help to the families that need it the most, the families that shop at the local stores and boost the local economy. We should not overlook what the Canada child benefit has meant to families in these tough times.
Our economic performance from 2015 to 2019 included the creation of over a million new jobs, real wage growth for the first time in a decade or more, hundreds of thousands of people lifted out of poverty and, by the way, a lift in government revenues, all without raising taxes and the program cuts that define the Harper years.
Something else we learned coming into the pandemic is that growing the economy and working to share the wealth more equitably means families and governments alike can do more. The things we learned, the things we proved prior to and after the pandemic shutdown in March, are now helping Canadians through another round of tough times, so let us recap them.
First, from the response to the stock market crash in 1929, we know this is not the time for austerity. Members may recall this being mentioned in the throne speech. From the response to the financial collapse in 2008, we learned we have to commit to doing what it takes to help Canadians and to take the country through recovery and beyond.
We have proven that support focused on helping middle-class families and the families struggling to get to the middle class does more to deliver well-being, confidence and hope than tax cuts for big business and the wealthy. A strong middle class is good for everybody.
All of us in this place have proven that when the welfare of the country is on the line, we are all team Canada, where a good idea does not care who has it. The quick delivery of benefits is critical. We cannot let perfection be the enemy of good. We have learned that while globalization has done much to lift the prospects of people across the world, we cannot count on it when nations act in their own natural self-interest and fail other nations that depend on them for vitally needed products, such as masks, gowns and gloves. Sovereignty means self-reliance.
We knew that ignoring the problem of conditions in long-term care facilities would come back to haunt us. Some lessons are hard to learn and come too late. As a government, we know that our ability to fund the support Canadians need at historically low interest rates is far better than the ability of families that would have no alternative to credit card debt.
Even adding on the borrowing for pandemic supports, low interest rates today mean Canada's annual debt servicing costs are billions of dollars lower than they were last fall. We can and have locked in these historically low rates for decades, and this makes sense for the nation when families would pay 19% interest on credit card balances.
We know that, with some notable exceptions, Canadians will do what is necessary for the sake of their neighbours and the good of the country. Social distancing, wearing masks and not holding big parties are not onerous gestures.
There is one other thing we know. We have an opportunity, one that this government believes we must take now, to reformat our post-pandemic economy. We are wasting too many valuable human resources in Canada with so many of us working precariously in the so-called gig economy. We can do better than re-establishing those conditions. We cannot pass on the opportunity to build and bolster in a number of sections.
That includes the low-carbon economy. The major oil companies get it. They are leading the transition in many cases. Our government's support for Canada's energy sector must build on that for the sake of good jobs in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and northeast B.C., and for the sake of our climate and the future of life on this planet. This too was incorporated into the Speech from the Throne.
Help will be on the way for our tourism and hospitality sectors. Our commitment to a national pharmacare program still stands. Family reunification is a priority, more important than ever in such an uncertain world.
Like all throne speeches, the one we heard last week provided the country with a strong commitment to deal with the challenges of the day and a high-level vision for where we think the nation needs to go. Day by day, the details are emerging on programs that signal our commitment to do what it takes to protect the health of Canadians, our communities and our economy.
The next step is to build on the foundation we have laid over the past five years to realize the full value of our natural national advantages. If members listened carefully they would have heard the essential elements of leadership, creativity, collaboration, flexibility, resiliency and thoughtfulness. These are not the exclusive property of the party in power. This is what Canadians have a right to expect from all of us in this place.
Yes, we will have different ideas about what to do and how to do them. Canadians will benefit from a healthy exchange of ideas, but the signals we send to our citizens must unfailingly give them not just the hope but also the confidence that their Parliament will work as a community of purpose for their common good.