Mr. Speaker, on March 29, the Minister of Finance presented the 2012 budget, Canada's economic action plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. The budget was developed after extensive consultation with fellow MPs, department personnel, economists, business and community leaders and ordinary Canadians. It is not surprising that our Minister of Finance has been called the best finance minister in the world after the World Economic Forum rated Canada's performance as the best among G8 economies in the midst of a global crisis.
The overwhelming message I received from constituents throughout the year was, “Keep on keeping on. Your plan is working. Continue to keep taxes low, continue to reduce redundant red tape, continue to facilitate trade among the provinces and continue to open up new markets around the world”.
Albertans in particular support this disciplined and balanced approach to managing the country's economy. The vast majority of Canadians support our focus on substantial, responsible and necessary change, while taking advantage of global economic opportunities and ensuring sustainable social programs and sound public finances for future generations. However, the NDP does not support this.
As members may recall, shortly after the budget was announced, the NDP leader made headlines with his divisive comments of blaming Alberta's successful energy-based economy for the downsizing of the manufacturing-based economies in Quebec and Ontario. He also blamed the strong Canadian dollar, for which Alberta's booming economy is responsible, for the downturn in manufacturing. Prairie premiers and other western leaders were quick to reject his claims and he was even criticized by left-leaning eastern journalists who recognized his comments to be divisive and unsuitable for a national leader.
However, we have to hand it to the Leader of the Opposition, he does stick to his guns. Notwithstanding the public outcry, he has not backed down. In fact, he got bolder and even more bizarre. In a question period he went so far as to say:
—the Canadian dollar is being held artificially high, because they are failing to enforce environmental legislation....500,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs have been lost because we are not enforcing legislation. We are not enforcing the navigable waters act. We are not enforcing the migratory birds act. We are not enforcing the Fisheries Act.
Behold the NDP plan to revive the manufacturing sector: enforce the Migratory Birds Convention Act.
It is an unfortunate but acceptable consequence of environmental regulations that the economy should suffer. However, the NDP suggest that we impose environmental legislation, not to protect the environment, but to deliberately hurt the Alberta economy in particular and the Canadian economy in general.
Some people have said that it is disingenuous to suggest there are environmental restrictions which negatively impact the economy, while doing very little to actually protect the environment. This is not simply an accidental result of miscalculating the effects of well-intended policies. The Leader of the Opposition reveals that it is an intentional and integral part of the NDP environmental agenda.
The NDP wants to impose strict environmental restrictions upon the Alberta energy sector to significantly undermine its profitability and weaken the general economy. This would bring down the value of the Canadian dollar thereby making Canadian manufactured goods less expensive to foreign markets. Its bizarre economic philosophy suggests that we would all be better off if only the economy was not doing so well.
This line of thinking is not unique to its leader; it is typical NDP mentality. Nor is this philosophy and methodology new. When fighting against the implementation of the same socialist philosophy in the 1840s, Frédéric Bastiat pointed out that in order to gain power, “Ambitious hypocrites...planting the seeds of international discord in the mind of the public”. He stresses the importance of exposing the false assumptions upon which their economic theories are based. He says, “the public can be robbed only if it is first deceived...and we may be certain...every sophism is the precursor of an act of plunder”.
In other words, whenever we see a wonky argument for equalization that is superficially plausible but makes huge leaps and depends on false assumptions, hold on to our wallet.
Since our motive should be the welfare and prosperity of the country, no matter how politically incorrect they are, if the words of the NDP leader are right, we should swallow our pride and implement them. However, they are wrong and there are reasons much more important than scoring politically for pointing it out.
In politics, false assumptions are especially harmful because they mislead public opinion, and public opinion is the guiding force of public policy. If deception and false assumptions are the weapons of the plunderer, then the best shield for the public is correct understanding.
Pitting one region against another is not just politically incorrect, it also discourages inter-regional and inter-industry co-operation, harming national unity and stagnating economic growth for all regions in all industries.
The words of the leader of the official opposition are not just divisive. The belief that each region's gains depend on the losses of others not only destroys the economies of weaker regions but also eventually destroys the strong as well, just a parasite must perish after it has fully consumed its host.
The economy is not a zero sum game. If we are to prosper, it is important to understand that in a free market, it is the very nature of free economic exchanges that both parties gain and, in fact, that co-operation is more effective than competition. Supposing that a region cannot prosper in the absence of abundant natural resources without forced equalization weakens that region and stifles its creativity. The downturn in manufacturing was not caused by a strong dollar but was a natural correction in an artificially supported sector. The strong dollar is a reflection of a strong economy and a strong economy inspires confidence, encouraging outside investment and internal growth.
A lower loonie may increase demand for domestically manufactured goods, but increased demand would also increase their price for foreign markets and Canadians. Ironically, it would also lower the value of the dollar earned by people in the manufacturing sector. Also, the opposition's anti-oil, lower loonie plan would increase revenue for the oil companies too, since their prices are based on U.S. dollars. Therefore, we would end up shipping crude oil at a lower Canadian dollar price, only to have to import gasoline at high U.S. prices. Protectionists always seem to forget that the economy is not made up only of producers and sellers, but also includes consumers.
The economy of a country is not actually a race to the top where only one team can win. If we wanted to make sure that all of the runners crossed the finish line at the same time, it might make sense to place some artificial obstacles in the path of the fastest runners or to give slower runners a head start. A national economy is more like a team of mountain climbers working together to reach the summit. Would it make sense to put obstacles in the way of a climber with the best chance of getting to the top first if, from there, he could better assist those below? However, that is what the member for Outremont and his not-so-merry band of socialists want to do with respect to industry. They forget that the desired result is Canada's well-being, all of it.