Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the fine member for Surrey North.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate this excellent motion put forward by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, because it is not only insightful, but also very representative of the current employment situation in Canada from coast to coast.
When we look at it carefully, we first see that the unemployment rate has remained high since the 2008 recession, and the quality of jobs has been declining since 1989. Whether under Liberal or Conservative governments, it makes no difference. There has been a decline.
Furthermore, we would very much like to see the House call on the government to ensure that budget 2015 first and foremost invests in measures that stimulate the economy in order to create and protect sustainable full-time jobs for the middle class in high-paying sectors across Canada.
In addition, the government must abandon its expensive and unfair income splitting scheme, which would cost $2 billion. When we look at unemployment during the second decade of the 21st century, after the Liberals and the Conservatives successively stole over $57 billion from the fund—which still belongs to the workers who have paid into it all their lives in many cases—the troubling part is that it is increasingly difficult to access the EI system. It is especially difficult because of the reform introduced by the minister at the time, a disgraceful reform for the workers who have consistently paid into it.
The result is that more and more people are opting out of the system, which brings me to my point about the unemployment rate. This actually means that those people are no longer accounted for in the number of people looking for work, which ultimately brings the rate down. It is basically all make-believe. It is an abominable sham in a modern society that says and thinks it is flourishing.
So much for prosperity. Absolutely everything has been done to discourage people and keep hope alive because hope is so important when we are talking about men and women looking for stable work in Canada that is not in the oil industry. I have nothing against those jobs—that is not what I am saying. However, there are other fields, and people are qualified to do other kinds of jobs that, unfortunately, have not been available since the crisis and were not available even well before that.
Before, Canada was a shining example of diversity in its economic sectors. The manufacturing industry was the cornerstone and made growth over the years and well-paid full-time jobs possible. Unfortunately, there were back-to-back crises in 1980 and 1981—which was a long time ago—and 1992 and 1993. Then the focus was on “hyperglobalization” in the 1990s, with Asia leading the pack, especially China with growth rates around 15% in the 1990s. All of these irritants should have raised red flags for quite a few alert governments around the world, but they did not. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives focused on one sector. They let themselves be blinded by IMF and World Bank recommendations. That is unfortunate.
Over the past few decades, our economy, which grew thanks to the manufacturing sector, quietly morphed into an economy that relied primarily on the tertiary sector, which is retail sales and customer service. It simply cannot grow at the rates that the manufacturing sector made possible. It cannot perpetuate, create and maintain stable, full-time jobs for both men and women.
Today, Canada does have niches where research and innovation can support investment and provide hope for a good future. These include the aerospace industry, where the dream is still alive, the video game industry, which has been flourishing for some time around Montreal, new energy sources such as biomass, wind and solar, and of course, electric cars. That is right: small companies are developing electric cars right here in Canada.
All of that is possible if we improve the socioeconomic conditions in which these businesses evolve, be they small and medium-size businesses or large corporations. Sometimes self-employed workers are even the ones to come up with an idea and develop a small business. We need a safe, prosperous environment
Furthermore, the gap between the upper middle class and lower middle class has widened dangerously in recent decades, because the end of the “glorious thirty” for the manufacturing sector in the west has increased that gap. We need to address this trend once and for all, because society as a whole suffers as a result. The middle class, which is now deeply in debt, is mortgaging future generations. We must not forget that it has always been the middle class that has supported the high consumption levels we have right now, and therefore economic growth. However, there is no longer any certainty, except for the debt we are passing on to our children, and not just an economic and environmental debt, but also a social debt, which will have an impact on our society.
One out of every two workers is uncertain about his or her job. It is unfortunate. That is why education and training still lead to better opportunities on the job market, regardless of the level completed. The $2 billion that the government will try to recover because of income splitting would be better spent in the know-how of Canadians across the country, which is an important component. It would be far more useful to invest in ongoing training and research and development than any other partisan action, which would one day have to come to an end, anyway.
What do we want to pass on to our future generations? I will not talk about the environment since everyone knows my opinion on that subject: we are destroying the planet. Nevertheless, with regard to the environment and the economy, the Stern report, which was released in the fall of 2006, was clear: our inaction will cost more than a massive and immediate intervention. Naomi Klein said the same thing in her book, which was published recently.
These two economists, who have changed their opinions about the impact of air pollution, ocean overfishing and the well-known plastic islands that are now floating in our oceans, have shown that things can change if we take action soon.
It would be easy to work together in an inclusive way, as brothers and sisters, to make this planet and this country a place of wealth, development and even friendship. Everyone benefits from economic wealth, development and prosperity. We are not going to help each other and give everyone a chance by tearing the fabric of our society, as the government is doing right now with employment insurance and social housing.
I would like to close with a message of hope for the people in my riding. Regardless of our sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, we should all have the right to live in a region, province, territory, nation and country where all people are considered equal and have an equal opportunity to follow their dreams and enjoy their rights and freedoms, which include access to a job that allows everyone to achieve their full potential in a free, fair and just world.
To counter the words of the famous and rational Mr. Spock, who said that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, Captain Kirk, who was more sensible, told him that the individual must be saved because without him the group no longer had value. In economics, it is the decisions of that individual, the Homo economicus, that create demand and wealth.
It is not by letting things go, by being complacent about our social fabric and job creation across the country or by forgetting the first nations, women, single-parent families and self-employed workers that we are going to create wealth and harmony and finally live in a prosperous Canada.