Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to have a few words at this point in the debate over the budget implementation bill.
First there is the overall situation within which the budget is being considered, and then there are the issues that the budget is silent on, where it could deal with some of the confidence issues that I think Canadians are very concerned about at the present time.
The budget implementation bill is within the context of a stimulus approach that the government initiated with the support of all parties in the House, I believe, certainly of this party. The objective of the stimulus package was to look at infrastructure in particular from coast to coast to coast, with municipal levels of government, the construction industries and the future needs of the country, to invest in literally thousands of projects. These projects would add value and create confidence. Investors and those looking particularly at small business expansion would see this as a background for the confidence needed to make their decisions. The stimulus package, to some extent, has been successful in doing that.
However, there are some ominous signs. Even against the added value that has been created, there there are some signs that Canadians are worried about the future. Let us look at a few of those signs. The unemployment rate today is 2% higher than it was a few years ago, but that does not really tell the full story. We have heard others speak about the erosion of full-time career-type jobs, which are being replaced with the creation of short-term contract jobs. Particularly for young people coming out of university and trades apprenticeships, this has given them a sense that there is not the same stability and continuity that would allow them the quality of life that their parents and their parents' parents had. This is creating a great deal of uncertainty within the present and future generations.
Also, in real terms the economy is seasonally adjusted, sort of like the weather used to be. In real terms, the economy in July shrank. When we think about the objective of the stimulus initiatives that were taken under the action plan, the hardest hit have been in the area of construction. Their percentage of GDP has shrunk. The overall economy has shrunk, but the percentage occupied by the construction industry has disproportionately shrunk. That has to give all of us concern.
The budget talks about adjustments to the capital tax allowance, which would allow a more rapid writeoff of capital equipment. It is a good thing, but on the other side of that, we mention the green energy plan. There are no incentives to the consumers that would be the variable in the equation that would, in fact, absorb those green products that are being created.
On the one hand, yes, those in small businesses, in green technologies, and so on are being encouraged to write off capital equipment sooner. However, on the product they produce out of that, there is no incentive to the consumer to participate in the economic activity that would create more jobs and sustainability in that field.
It is sort of an opportunity that is there as a result of one part of the capital plan in the budget but not offset by an operating infusion of money that would put money into consumers' pockets that they could then go out and use to purchase green technology and green equipment, be it heating, air conditioning, different automotive products or whatever.
One of the areas that I found extremely concerning in that light was that from coast to coast to coast there has been an absolute understanding of the role that rapid transit, high-speed transit and transportation systems, plays. We are a tremendous exporter of transportation technology into the rest of the world. It always befuddled me somewhat that while we are a grand exporter of the best that Bombardier can produce, we are not the highest user of those same goods.
So I link the absence in this budget of the opportunity to create, for example, electrified technology that would in turn deal with issues related to climate change, urban and inter-urban transportation, and converting the older diesel technologies into electrified technologies that would in fact add value and deal with the issues related to climate change.
I use that as an illustration because every so often we have a chance to link government policy, supported by the House, to an issue that is very top of the mind in our ridings. The whole issue of expansion of rail corridors, the use of those corridors to relieve the congestion on the roads and for the transport of goods and people is looked at as an absolute objective that we want to achieve, but on the other hand, we have not invested in the technology that grabs the confidence of the cities and commuters to be participants in a very firm strategy to create those systems.
Another thing that shows a great deal of lack of confidence is that it appears that consumer confidence has declined for the fourth or fifth straight month. Again, that has to do with the taking away of some of the incentives that people have to participate in the purchase of green goods, and so on and so forth. There is no mention of that in the budget.
Household debt has apparently climbed to all-time high levels. We have been privy to what happened with respect to the disastrous decline of the economy in the United States, the fact that because of borrowing policies laid out by the federal government and state governments, the elasticity was so great that there was actually a point where people where paying for mortgages on their debit or Visa accounts.
We have to be very careful, obviously, that we do not reach that point. As has been said, there has been government support for a strong banking and financial institutions regime. Perhaps that is a counterbalance to the kind of thing that could happen in Canada and mirror that situation that happened in the United States.
It is an ominous sign that while the budget attempts to stimulate confidence, there are some indicators that this is not happening.
Much has been said with respect to the area of pensions. I think we have to be very clear that while there are some mechanisms in this budget that allude to the pension issue, we have to deal with the issue of actuarial solvency.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, on the one side, there are some very positive aspects of the budget, but--