Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to let you know that I will be sharing my time with the member for Chambly—Borduas.
I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-21 because this gives me an opportunity to talk about how important small businesses are to me and my riding and about why we should support them.
Specialized industries and big businesses should not be the only beneficiaries of our desire to support our economy. We need to recognize that small businesses are central to our economy. I will explain why. Small businesses are one of our biggest drivers of economic growth. We have to help them thrive. Small businesses already account for nearly half of Canada's GDP, and they are responsible for close to 60% of all jobs in Canada as well as 75% of net new jobs. When the economy is in a downturn and fewer jobs are being created as we lose big companies, small businesses are the ones making a difference and creating jobs, especially in rural and remote areas. As a result, they are very important and create 75% of net new jobs.
We in the NDP believe that SMEs should be a priority for any federal government, because they directly support job creation. That is why we proposed reducing the small-business tax rate from 11% to 9% during the last federal election. That measure directly targeted SMEs. We also proposed other simple, concrete measures to help SMEs. For instance, we proposed expanding the hiring tax credit for small businesses. The Conservatives cancelled it in 2014, which was really sad to see, because it meant taking away a tax credit that created jobs and helped people enter the workforce. There are 1.3 million unemployed Canadians. Eliminating this kind of hiring credit that created jobs was a move in the wrong direction. At the same time, in the most recent budget, the Conservatives spent $500 million to implement measures that, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, will create only about 800 jobs. Clearly, that is not a good investment.
Furthermore, youth unemployment is very high. It is actually double the national average. We need to take a closer look at that in order to reverse that trend. Everyone knows that our youth are Canada's future. As parliamentarians, we have to invest in their future. That is why we proposed a tax credit worth up to $2,000 for hiring young people, in order to help businesses train young people aged 18 to 25 and provide them with good jobs.
In addition to all of that, as part of our campaign to make life more affordable, we proposed ways to reduce operating costs for our retailers and merchants, by directly tackling the anti-competitive credit card fees imposed by credit card companies. The Conservatives introduced a voluntary code of conduct recently, but that is not enough to reduce credit card transaction fees. We in the NDP are concerned about the excessive fees that businesses have to pay, since they can amount to 1, 2 or 3% of sales.
The exorbitant fees charged by credit card companies do not help our communities. That is money that comes directly out of our communities and will not be reinvested. A ceiling needs to be imposed to make these fees more equitable for the companies, but especially for our merchants. That would be fairer to the families who are trying to make ends meet.
These proposals truly support the entrepreneurs in my region whether they have just started their company or have been in business for decades. I travel around my riding and talk about these proposals, which are very well received by the Vallée de la Petite-Nation chamber of commerce and the chamber of commerce and industry of Deux-Montagnes, Saint-Eustache, Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Mirabel and Argenteuil. These proposals will directly affect business owners in my riding.
In a riding like mine, a big part of the economy is based on agriculture and agri-food, and most of the business owners work in that field as well. These farmers are at the heart of our rural areas and a job creation strategy in the rural areas and small communities. I wanted to point that out because we have to think beyond taxes and red tape. We also have to think about what we can do to encourage and support our farmers.
The bill before us, Bill C-21, An Act to control the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses, is meant to reduce red tape for businesses. The Conservatives are proposing to do that by giving more power to the Treasury Board. That is where they start to take away the SMEs' power to create jobs.
We still want to find ways to reduce the administrative burden on SMEs and allow them to focus on what they do best, namely growing their business and creating jobs. However, the NDP wants to prevent the government from eliminating rules regarding health, food safety, transportation safety, management systems and the environment. It is not unreasonable to ask the government to protect the environment, workers and our food.
We are concerned that the measures introduced to concentrate power in the Treasury Board are not steps in the right direction. We do not trust that the Conservatives will do a good job. In closing, I will provide two examples.
First, in the October 2013 budget implementation bill, Bill C-4, the Conservatives made changes to the Canada Labour Code in order to gut the powers of health and safety officers in federal workplaces. They are directly compromising Canadians' health and safety.
Second, they do not necessarily want to reduce red tape because they increased the paper burden with the building Canada fund. We do not know how they can be trusted. When they have the opportunity to take occupational health and safety seriously, they do not do so, and when they say that they want to reduce red tape, they make more for our municipalities, which also create jobs.
For all those reasons, I cannot support this bill.