Mr. Speaker, in April, I asked the government to provide a response on how it was creating jobs for Canadians and where the details for its economic recovery plan could be found. Instead of a response, I received an indication that the details I was looking for would be contained in the government's quarterly report to Parliament. Alas, as we have seen, this is clearly not the case.
It was only a few short months ago that the government said that there would not be a recession. Now Canada has been and continues to be in one of the most brutal recessions it has seen. We have seen six consecutive quarters of zero or negative labour productivity growth. This is the worst record on this economic marker since Statistics Canada began collecting data on this measure in 1980.
There have been more than 1.4 million Canadians waiting in unemployment lines across the country and near record numbers are filing for bankruptcy. The economy is performing poorly. However, instead of looking for ways to increase our competitive advantages in the global market, the government continues to reannounce funding without actually delivering it to hard hit communities.
Last fall, the government also said that there would be no deficit. In fact, in October the Prime Minister told Canadians that he would never run a deficit. In November he went on to project four consecutive surplus budgets for his government. That was November. We now know that at the time the government already knew that would not be possible.
The truth, as we now know, is that the Conservative government had this country's finances in the red by more than $2 billion in the 2008-09 fiscal year. While the Minister of Finance was publicly saying that the financial picture was “on track” to meet his economic action plan, he was really crafting the largest budget deficit in Canadian history.
The government said that there would be no deficit but the deficit has now ballooned to more than $50 billion. I cannot help but wonder which track the government thinks we are actually on. Job losses are climbing, productivity is falling and businesses are failing.
Small businesses, the biggest generator of jobs in this country, are being hard hit by the economic downturn and the government is doing precious little to help. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that small enterprises represent roughly half of Canada's economic situation. They employ more than five million people or close to half of all the private sector jobs and private sector employees in Canada.
There is historical evidence to show that small businesses have been the creator of new jobs even during economic downturn. For example, small business continued to create jobs through the 1982-83 recession when large companies were having to cut back.
A recent poll of small business owners conducted by the Angus Reid Strategies group shows that the past six months have been particularly rough for small businesses. Two-thirds responded that they were stressed by the state of the economy. More than half said that their financial positions were currently on a downturn and two in five reported that the situation was getting worse.
Access to capital is a prime concern for small business. Equity markets and foreign banks have withdrawn from lending. A new study recently revealed that access to capital was the number one concern facing the biotechnology and life sciences industry, for example. The study, compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that half of the survey respondents said that raising capital was their largest business problem.
What exactly is the government doing to deliver on its plan to get our economy going again?