Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking some people.
I thank my wife Susan and my two young boys, Drew and James, who are six and four, for allowing me to be here and to try to do some good on behalf of the residents of Brampton West and for all Canadians.
I also thank and give special recognition to my parents. My father is an immigrant from Poland. He came here in his mid-20s with nothing in his pocket and without knowing the language. He worked in a factory during the day and attended school at night. My mother’s family came to Canada as refugees after the war. It was a very proud day when they saw their first-born sworn in as a member of Parliament, and I want to recognize them for their contributions.
I thank the residents of Brampton West. It was a difficult election. For those of you who do not know, we had a nomination meeting one week into the election campaign. We were 10 days behind. The Conservative candidate had been knocking on doors since April 2007, yet the residents of Brampton West still trusted me and elected me. I am very appreciative to them for that and I thank them.
Why am I here? Like many of the members, I am here and should be here to try to do some good. In this period of time, that really means trying to cooperate as much as possible. At events during my first few days here, I spoke to some of my Conservative colleagues on the other side. Some of those colleagues are here. I essentially said that we need to try to cooperate. We are here in an economic crisis. We need to try to work together and get through this for the benefit of Canadians.
There is good news and bad news in that regard. The good news is that we have received some cooperation from the NDP and the Bloc. The bad news is that we have received none from the Conservatives.
Let us look at what happened with the Conservatives. Rather than try to put forward any stimulus package whatsoever to attempt to help the economy, as has been occurring in all G20 countries, the Conservatives gave us political ideology, period. I am going to go into some of those details, but you have all heard them. It takes something special to see the opposition parties giving each other standing ovations in the face of a document such as the Conservatives’ economic update. It is unbelievable. The Conservatives attacked democracy, unions and women. There was absolutely no stimulus for the economy. Why? We still do not know. It was certainly not for the benefit of Canadians.
We need to review where we were before dealing with the economic update and what needs to be done now. We need to review where we were before the economic crisis, because Canadians need to always remember where this de facto Reform Party government put them before the economic crisis took place. It was essentially fiscal mismanagement. It took just three years, which is a very short period of time.
Everybody remembers the good old Liberal days when we had a great economy, lots of jobs and budget surpluses. It was a wonderful period of time. Heckling does not change the fact that the Conservatives have put us into a fiscal nightmare. In just three years, they increased federal spending by $40 billion. They squandered a $13 billion surplus. It would sound good to have that surplus now, would it not? Do they not wish they had it? Canadians certainly do.
The Conservatives entirely eliminated the $3 billion contingency reserve fund for rainy days. Well, we have a rainy day. There is no money, at least not without going into serious deficit, which is where the Conservatives have put us. They also had a misguided tax policy, despite the fact that virtually all non-right-wing economists were saying not to do it and that all these various changes were misguided. They did it anyway, and we are left in this economic mess.
Look at all these pre-crisis indicators. These are objective statistics, not party positions.
In 2007, before the crisis, exports fell by 1.4% and are projected to fall further again this year.
The Bank of Canada and private sector forecasts are continually downgrading Canada's economic growth and are projecting it to keep falling.
Statistics Canada objectively indicated that Canada has gone from the best economy in the G7 to the worst. That was before this crisis. We had already slipped behind the U.S. economy before this crisis in terms of productivity. It had nothing to do with this crisis. This is what the Conservatives did.
A Statistics Canada survey of the labour force shows that the Canadian economy lost 55,000 jobs just in July. That is approaching 300,000 jobs since the Prime Minister became leader of the country. Let us think about that. That happened before this crisis.
The Conservatives were so desperate to pretend this was not true that during the election campaign, to make it look as though things were rosy, they actually said that approximately 12,000 jobs had been created in September. However, they refused to tell everyone that those 12,000 jobs were all directly related to the election campaign, an election they had called after breaking their own law about not having an election, and an election which cost $300 million. I congratulate them for creating 12,000 jobs in September, all because of their broken promise, and on spending $300 million. Those jobs are now gone.
Inflation rose to 3.1% before the crisis.
A June 2000 report released by the Conference Board of Canada showed that Canada's economic standing was slipping in the world. That too was before the crisis. Again, before the crisis, in the international rankings, Canada's economic standing fell to 11th among the 17 most advanced economies, 15th in terms of productivity performance, and 13th in terms of innovation.
The Conservative government implemented ineffective tax cuts before the crisis.
On spending, the Conservatives like to criticize and pretend that it is the Liberals who spend. I remind members that the Liberals are the ones who balanced the budget. When the Liberal Party was in power, Canada had economic growth. Tory times are tough times.
In 2005-06 federal expenses were $175.2 billion. The Conservatives increased that to $218.3 billion, a 24.6% increase from when they took office. What is there to show for it? A great economy? Of course not.
And now for some objective information, Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, provided a report on November 20, 2008. This refers to before the crisis. He clearly indicated that Conservative fiscal policy decisions are largely to blame for what is occurring. He said, “The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous”--having nothing to do with this crisis--“policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions, since nominal GDP is higher than expected in budget 2008”. According to this objective person, all of these problems and the deficit are the result of Conservative policies not having anything to do with this crisis. In short, it is a made in Canada deficit, full stop.
We all need to remember that during the recent election campaign the Prime Minister promised he would never run a deficit. According to the tapes of the English language debate, he said never, no matter what. He said on CTV on October 12, 2008, “We are not running a deficit. We have planned a realistic scenario. We have got conservative budget estimates. We are not going into deficit”. He did not say that he was lacking information. Those comments were not accurate.
We are now in a circumstance where Canada's not so new Conservative government is creating Canada's absolutely brand new deficit and recession.
The Conservatives caused this mess. They will try to blame it on the worldwide economic crisis but we have to look at all these statistics, and Canadians will have to always remember that we got here first because of the Conservatives. It had nothing to do with the worldwide crisis. The fact that the Conservatives put us in this mess first limits their ability to fix the crisis, which is why they are not providing quick stimulus. We need to wonder when Mr. Page might fear for his job, just as Linda Keene did when she crossed them. But, maybe that will not happen now.
Our offices are being flooded by pleas for help from Canadians. They want us to do something now. I have picked one letter, which is from Noel Dimech, a resident in my riding. He is an employee of John Logan Chevrolet. He talked about the automotive sector. Everybody has to remember that there are 600,000 direct jobs in Canada which are dependent upon the automotive sector, and then there are all the spinoffs that can be imagined from direct jobs. He said:
I need to stress that inaction is not an option. The automotive industry represents 1 in 7 jobs in this country - a higher per cent than in the U.S. The choice is between supporting the auto sector with repayable loans so it can lead Canada out of this recession or denying support which could result in a severe depression impacting hundreds of thousands of jobs and communities in this country.
I say to Noel and to Canadians in general that help is coming. It is really only days away now, as soon as the government is defeated.
In comparison, let us look around the world in terms of what is happening. Everybody talks about stimulus packages. The G20 agreed upon it. The Prime Minister, when he was at the conference, said he would do it. That was the right thing for him to say, but he did not follow through in the economic update.
These are the very statistics as to the commitments that have been made around the world: the United States, $1,859 billion; China, $726 billion; the U.K., $518 billion; Japan, $341 billion; Germany, $264 billion; and France, $93 billion. These are all economic stimulus packages to assist in this worldwide crisis. Canada in the economic statement was at minus $4.3 billion. It is not exactly the best stimulus package when we are cutting.
What was needed is common sense. In the update we needed two things. We needed a package to stimulate the economy in a significant amount and fast. We should look at the lessons learned from the Depression. Economists who studied it essentially said that the mistakes made were the raising of protectionist barriers, the increasing of taxes to keep balanced budgets, and there was no stimulus for the economy and if there was, it was not done in significant amounts. What we need is a significant stimulus package and we need it fast. We have not seen anything from the government on that. The second thing that was needed in the update was an assistance package for the workers who are about to lose or have already lost their jobs, to make sure that they do not suffer through this. Reducing the EI wait times is one example. We have heard nothing from the government about how it would help people. What we did hear is how it would not allow unions to strike, how it would attack pay equity, how it would attack democracy and that is it.
If we were to wait for the budget, then what? Should companies continue to go bankrupt and out of business? Is that what we are waiting for? Do we want to make it even worse and then the government will do something? We need to do it now.
Six hundred thousand Canadians work in the auto sector. What are we waiting for, one of the big three to go bankrupt and then we will do something? Seriously, if that is what the government members want, they should go on the record and say that.
Let us look at this economic update. What can we call it? Meanspirited? Yes. Irresponsible? Absolutely. What did it do? It cut spending. It has the fiction of no deficit through asset sales which have not been booked, which if they do take place at all, it will be in a coarse seller's market. Is the government going to get top dollar these days for all the assets it wants to sell? Of course not. It is the worst time to sell these assets and they are not even on the books.
In essence, what we have in Canada for the next few days is the last bastion of right-wing Conservative ideology for economic policy, frankly, in the western world. We have a de facto Reform Party government for a few more days.
Rather than party politics, let us look at the comments of objective people.
Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns stated, “The fiscal update...will suck $6 billion out of the economy next year”. That is not a stimulus package. He said, “Under the current circumstances, it's unusual, to say the least, given that almost every other major country in the world is moving to stimulate the economy.”
Let us turn to Steve Murphy, an economist at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. His detailed forecast was actually central to the government's forecasts in terms of these numbers. His actual quote in terms of the numbers that the government used to put in its fiscal update is as follows, and remember that he is somebody the Conservatives relied upon. He said, in referring to this de facto Reform Party government, “My cynicism has reached new heights. What else can I say?”
Don Martin said, “There's a thin line between a government putting on its best face to stare down a gloomy situation and practising fiscal delusion. With the fiscal update, [the] Finance Minister...crossed the line”.
We have this mess. The government's solution is to pretend it is going to sell assets, to continue with the fiction of a balanced budget, and to cut money from the economy, to offer no stimulus and to attack the vulnerable. Well, the government's days are numbered.
There is a $3 billion building Canada fund for infrastructure. Why is it not being used? The government says to wait until the budget in January. What about infrastructure? Why can something not be done about that now? Most municipalities have various projects on the books. All they need is to hear that yes, the government is paying, and they will start. That is immediate economic stimulus. What are the Conservatives waiting for? They do not need to study that. Everybody has known about the infrastructure deficit for a long time. That infrastructure work could be happening right now. There is no need to wait until the end of January.
As for employment insurance, the government could help people who have become unemployed through no fault of their own by eliminating the two-week waiting time. This would also stimulate the economy. The government should do that. There is nothing in the update for the forestry and auto sectors.
Essentially, we have a mess that was created by the Conservative government before this economic crisis occurred. We have an economic crisis that has come on top of that and the government is not in a position to do anything about it because it had already overspent and mismanaged the economy. It is not prepared to do it because of its own ideology. That is it; enough of that.
An article in the Toronto Star stated:
Unfortunately, addressing the global economic crisis seems to have been the last thing on the Conservatives' mind. Yesterday's statement contained some symbolic cuts in the perks and expenses of ministers and mandarins, and limits to the pay of MPs and public servants....
But there were no significant new stimulative measures to counter the economic slowdown. We are told that these will come later in the annual budget, two months or more from now.
Members are taunting across the aisle and saying to wait, but--