Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak this afternoon on the throne speech, a speech which reflects the real needs and concerns of Canadians.
The Liberal government's jobs and growth agenda has provided Canadians with renewed hope for the future and its agenda is focused on creating opportunity for Canadians, through a fiscal climate which encourages investment, through ensuring that our youth have the tools they require in order to fully contribute to Canada's growth and competitiveness and through strengthening our small businesses, a primary source for job creation and innovation.
Today we are faced with a markedly different fiscal situation than the one we faced when we took office. Interest rates are at the lowest point in 38 years and that means Canadians have new opportunities for investment and growth. All Canadians benefit from lower interest rates; from home owners to small businesses in my riding of Lincoln.
Inflationary rates are also at 38-year lows. Lower inflationary rates mean that Canadians can operate in a stable economic environment. They can more confidently plan for their futures.
Nowhere has the government's success in creating a stronger fiscal environment been more evident than in its efforts to reduce the huge deficit inherited when we took office. Indeed, getting the government finances under control has been the most effective way of getting interest rates down.
After program review and rationalization, we have brought government spending under control. Today, we have not only projected that the deficit target of 3 per cent of GDP will be met but this target will be surpassed and in 1998-99 the deficit target of about 1 per cent of GDP will be met.
Clearly the approach to restoring fiscal health has been measured, deliberate and responsible. It has involved carefully reducing spending, restructuring government and strengthening the economy. This approach continues to reflect the desire of Canadians to have their government develop a more sophisticated approach to deficit reduction. It has not imposed greater costs on the greater taxpayer by raising their personal income taxes. Nor has the approach been a slash and burn attempt to get government spending under control.
Borrowing on the backs of our children and grandchildren will soon be in the past. Speaking of our youth, they have been identified as being a vital resource in the continuing effort to stay competitive. Today many young people remain unemployed. Our youth are worried that the future will not hold jobs for them. Employers are saying that there are jobs but that they are having difficulty in finding the skilled labour they need in order to grow and compete. Experts are telling us that the pursuit of education is still important to success in the job market. Far sighted Canadians everywhere argue that the country cannot afford to squander the talents and creativity of our youth. I know that all government members are aware of these concerns and are actively seeking solutions. Clearly, young people need more help in making the transition into the working world. They need more help in getting that crucial first job.
The government has doubled its summer employment programs. It has also made a commitment to work with the provinces and with the private sector. This type of co-operation is being encouraged at all levels. Canadians want to know that all their elected officials are working together, no matter what jurisdiction they represent.
In this process, partnerships are essential. Many Canadians have expressed that only partnerships can solve the short and long term challenges of youth unemployment. More needs to be done for our
youth and they can be assured that progress will be made because on this side of the House it has been made a priority.
Let me also address the role of small businesses in our economy and in our country. Small businesses are the backbone of the economic community of my riding of Lincoln. This fact is not unusual given that the small business sector is very important to the entire Canadian economy. Indeed, hope for our youth and for the future competitiveness of our country rests with a strong small business sector. Small businesses, including the self-employed, now account for almost two-thirds of all private sector employment and approximately 60 per cent of Canada's economic output.
As a small business owner, I know that the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the small and medium sized business sector needs to be encouraged and fostered because our economic well-being depends on it.
What is the small business community saying? It is saying that access to capital in the start-up and expansion phase is still very important. The banks have done some work in this area and they can point to areas of success where they have increased their access for small business. But the demand is still there.
Small businesses are asking for higher risk debt capital. It is a paradox that there are a number of small businesses in the community which require more funds for start up or for expansion, yet do not have the collateral to support the actual capital requirements. At the same time they have good export ideas. If the capital was available they would be able to expand their business and create employment, adding to the GDP of the country. We need more of what I will call high risk debt capital. We would look at the credit rating of a particular small business person and based on that rating the banks would provide the required capital.
As a government we need to continue to fight and to work toward eliminating the regulatory barriers and the paper burdens. We have made some progress in that area. It is still a concern of small business and the government will continue to work toward the elimination of regulatory barriers and paper burden.
As I mentioned earlier with respect to our youth, there is a need to access skilled workers. There is still a mismatch out there. The small business community requires skilled individuals. It has positions to fill and is crying out, telling us that Canada does not have the skilled workers to fill those jobs. We need to address that, in partnership with the provinces, with the educational and post-secondary institutions. Those are the partnerships that need to be forged to deal with the question of providing skilled workers.
There is also a call from the small business community for a reduction in payroll taxes, for some help in that area because they claim they will be able to create employment if payroll taxes are reduced. There has also been a cry for some direct incentives to hire new employees and for some type of program that would help the micro businesses that may need some assistance and some type of relief. This would allow them to hire the one or two people they need in order to continue to grow, expand and contribute to the GDP of this country, to their local communities and to their local economies.
Those are a number of the issues and concerns brought forward by the small business community not only in my community but I am sure right across the country. This government will continue to work hand in hand with the private sector, with representatives of the small business sector to meet the needs of the small business community.
This government believes that the small business community is the engine and the backbone of the economy. We look to the small business community to assist Canada, to assist this government and to assist all Canadians in working, in being competitive, in being efficient and creating those employment opportunities and jobs. This government will continue to improve the climate for small businesses and certainly will allow them to continue to compete globally. This particular sector of our economy is crucially important.
In terms of what this government has recently done to assist in access to capital for the small business community, the Canada community investment program was announced some weeks ago. Communities from across the country are now participating in pilot projects. We in the Lincoln area were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to partner with the Hamilton, Brantford, Burlington, Haldimand-Norfolk area, along with the Six Nations in submitting an application for the Canada community investment program.
The government will go forward to provide infrastructure dollars to assist local communities in coming together to provide that increased access to capital for small business. Those in small business are the employers and they are the medium size and multinational companies of the future.