Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP)
|| That, in light of sustained high unemployment since the 2008 recession and the long term downward trend in job quality since 1989 under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, as documented by CIBC, the House call on the government to make the first priority of Budget 2015 investment in measures that stimulate the economy by creating and protecting sustainable, full-time, middle-class jobs in high-paying industries in all regions of Canada and abandoning its costly and unfair $2 billion income-splitting proposal.
He said: Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to thank you for that very fair and justified ruling that you just gave to the House, which perhaps even set a new precedent for decorum. It was in fact brief and to the point, which was helpful to all members.
I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague from Newton—North Delta.
Canada's economy has a number of weaknesses. That is why we, the official opposition, feel it is essential to have a debate on our economy today.
I know that my Conservative colleagues would rather talk about something else—anything else, actually—but like the vast majority of Canadians, we want a debate and some answers about the economic realities we are facing, including a very high unemployment rate, a weak economy and the deterioration in employment quality over the past generation that is likely to be long term, according to a new report by CIBC.
We believe that the government does not have a plan B. Canadians know that the Conservative government is only interested in developing the oil sector of the economy. It ignores the rest. It is deeply obsessed with a very controversial pipeline and has nothing to say about other aspects of our economy. The NPD is in favour of a highly diversified and more just economy.
Let us put first things first. We have to understand that despite the Conservatives' current obsession with attempting to change the channel away from economic matters to just about anything else, there is a responsibility for us as parliamentarians to take on the challenges of the day. A clear challenge that is facing us as Canadians and Canadian legislators is the economy.
The statistics prove that we have not seen such worrisome trends since the 2008 recession. This was most recently highlighted in a report by the CIBC, which shows that job quality in Canada has fallen to its lowest level in a generation.
What does that mean? Job quality, as measured, has moved Canadians away from good-paying, middle-class, secure employment to increasingly part-time, insecure, and low-paying jobs that do not support families.
We would think that this would be a preoccupation for a Conservative government that claims to make such great strides on the economy, but, over a generation, we have seen the quality of employment and jobs in Canada steadily decline under both Conservative and Liberal governments. We would think that the government would seek ways to enhance the opportunities for Canadians and seek ways to solve some of the productivity conundrums that we have been having for far too long, yet the choices being made by the Conservatives are most perplexing because they do not address the needs of the economy.
Sure, the $2 billion income-splitting scheme that the government committed to, thereby spending a surplus before it had it, helps the top 15% of Canadian income earners. It is fine for the wealthiest Canadians under a Conservative government. Doubling the TFSA will overwhelmingly help that same group of Canadians. It has been demonstrated in report after report that there are not that many middle-income and low-income Canadians with an extra $11,000 burning a hole in their pocket at the end of the year. However, in a Conservative reality, the people who do have that kind of money, the people who can split their incomes and take advantage of the $2 billion Conservative scheme at the highest end of the Canadian wealth spectrum, are the priority for the government.
They are not the priority for the NDP.
We saw most recently in the Statistics Canada report in January that we actually lost full-time employment, even in a month when we supposedly did well. What was created, again, was part-time, insecure work.
Over the last year, we have seen the Canadian population rate grow at almost double the rate of job growth in this country. That should worry anybody, because the trend is unsustainable if our population is growing almost twice as fast as new jobs and those jobs being created are precarious, part-time, low-paying jobs. Not only are Conservative practices with regard to our environment unsustainable, but we now see that their practices with regard to our economy are unsustainable, and they are leaving a debt.
We know the Conservatives have added somewhere north of $155 billion to the Canadian debt in their tenure. We know they have lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs, just since the Conservatives took office. We know that 200,000 more people are unemployed today in Canada than before the recession, yet the Conservatives claim that everything is perfectly fine and there is nothing to do here.
In fact, things are so good, according to the Conservatives, that they have an extra $2 billion kicking around to help out the wealthiest 15% of Canadians. They have so much money right now and the economy is doing so well that the Conservatives were able to dump in more than $1 billion on these self-promoting ads that constantly interrupt every hockey game anyone has looked at in the last few years—to do what? They spend more money by far on these ads than they do on food inspection or rail safety. They do more in self-promotion than they do to help out Canadian workers.
We see youth unemployment doubling the rate of the national average. We know that has not only short-term impacts on young Canadians and their families, but it has long-term impacts on their prospects. For those young people entering into such a weak workforce, it means that they do not go into the professions for which they are trained, with the skills they have invested in. They have to take whatever job might be available in a tough economic market.
We see, in fact, that women's participation in the workforce is at its lowest rate since 2002. For women considering going to work, one of the main factors and principles are the family policies that exist around going to work.
This is why New Democrats highlight and put a circle around the stain of Conservative policies with regard to our economy; the economy that they just do not want to talk about anymore, if members have noticed. We cannot seem to get the Minister of Finance up on his feet in question period anymore. He has been benched and missing in action. Yet Canadians want to know where the solutions are coming from. Where are the ideas coming from? Where is the budget coming from?
Crossing their fingers and hoping things get better in the oil markets is not exactly a plan for the Canadian economy. In fact, over-focussing on just one commodity, as the Conservatives have done with regard to oil for the last 10 years, has put Canada in a precarious place when oil prices fell, as they inevitably do. Yet we have a government in panic mode suggesting that, “Well, we're just going to wait a few more months, and Canadians are going to have to wait with us”.
Well, New Democrats are not waiting. We are putting forward proposals that will actually address the needs of the Canadian economy.
Take, for instance, the New Democrat proposal put forward by our leader to lower the small business taxes in this country. Small businesses account for 40% of our GDP and involve 8 million Canadians. Almost 80% of all new jobs are created by small businesses. When we put forward that motion in the House of Commons, Conservatives voted against it, joined by Liberals for some reason.
When we put forward a motion that would help the manufacturing sector, because we have lost 400,000 jobs in that sector, Conservatives, again joined by Liberals, voted against it.
When New Democrats put forward the idea of an innovation tax fund to help us with our productivity and innovation, because Canada lags behind the rest of the world with respect to research and development, we saw Conservatives, again joined by Liberals, voting against it.
New Democrats are going to continue to support a $15 minimum wage, the $15 affordable child care to help Canadians get back to work, and an economy that works for Canadians, not against them. We will support an economy that will put Canadians back to work. We will form a government in 2015 that is focused on the interests of Canadians and not on the narrow partisan interests of a government just hoping and praying for re-election.
Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims (Newton—North Delta, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to second the motion and thank my colleague for his very powerful introduction.
My colleague and I both have the great privilege of representing constituents from ridings in beautiful British Columbia. That is perhaps one of the reasons we are both so passionate about the motion before us today. Youth unemployment is inexcusably high in B.C., and the government is failing our young people. They cannot find jobs, and yet the government is focused on income splitting. It is almost a joke. That is why, with today's motion, New Democrats are suggesting a plan that would actually help working and middle-class Canadians.
I would like to invite the finance minister or the Minister of Employment and Social Development to Surrey-Newton, where I am from, and have them tell the young people there, who are desperate to get decent-paying jobs and cannot, about income splitting. They will see how much it resonates with them. They will not be surprised to learn that it does not resonate at all.
The fact of the matter is simple. Income splitting is not helping young people, it is not helping small businesses, and it is not helping middle-class families. Therefore, today New Democrats are calling on the government to take concrete steps to help create good quality jobs, protect and improve existing jobs, and more broadly address the challenges facing the middle class. We are looking for the government to support some practical first steps, including a better workplace minimum wage, fairer pensions, and investments in small businesses. Job quality is at an all-time low. Let us fix it.
Do members know that 98% of all businesses in Canada are small businesses that have fewer than 100 employees? They are the backbone of our country's economy. Surrey is full of small businesses. Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman is focused, as is the whole board, on helping businesses grow and thrive in Surrey, with the following goals: business attraction, business research, business training, policy and development advocacy, workplace development, and youth entrepreneurship.
Mr. Speaker, did you know that small businesses contribute almost 40% of Canada's GDP? Small businesses employ nearly 8 million Canadians and created 78% of all new private-sector jobs between 2002 and 2012. Therefore, why are the Conservatives ignoring Canada's small business owners in favour of supporting wealthier, more profitable corporations? They should help Anita and the Surrey Board of Trade grow our community and commit to creating and protecting sustainable, full-time, middle-class jobs in high-paying industries in all regions of Canada.
Since 2006, the Conservatives have cut the corporate tax rate for the wealthiest companies by over 25%, reducing the tax rate from 22% to 15%. Meanwhile, the Conservatives cut taxes on job-creating small business owners by only a mere 1%. Why are the Conservatives not investing more in job-growing businesses?
When I go home to Surrey-Newton and North Delta this weekend, I will be telling my constituents that New Democrats stood in the House of Commons this week and called on the Conservatives to take immediate action to boost job creation and grow our economy in budget 2015. I am going to tell them that we stood up for working and middle-class families and demanded that the Conservative government cancel its costly income-splitting plan and use those funds to invest in improving job quality for the benefit of all Canadians, not just the rich few.
We are asking the government to implement our plan to help create well-paying jobs in a diversified economy, because New Democrats want an economy that is fair to the middle class. This handout to the wealthy, the Conservatives' income-splitting scheme, will leave regular Canadians falling further behind, and it must be scrapped. New Democrats want a budget that focuses on diversifying the Canadian economy rather than putting all our eggs in one basket. I am very proud to be with a leader of the official opposition who understands this.
I truly hope that when I go home this weekend I can tell the people of Newton—North Delta that the Conservative government supported this motion. There are no more excuses for the government. It can try to change the channel all it likes, but it is failing on the economic grounds because there are too many people without decent-paying jobs.
Over the last decade of Liberal and Conservative governments, we have lost more than half a million manufacturing jobs. There are still nearly 1.3 million Canadians unemployed. Although employment increased in January, it was entirely driven by part-time employment with 47,200 part-time jobs created while close to 12,000 full-time jobs actually disappeared. As well, there has been a major decline in full-time employment for men in our community. We already know that it is very high for women.
Over the last 12 months, employment growth was a meagre 0.7%. Long-term unemployment is still close to its post-crisis peak. Average hours worked remain low, and the proportion of involuntary part-time workers continues to be elevated.
The participation rate, the number of people who are employed or actively seeking work, trended downward all through 2014 and hit its lowest level since 2000. This has been a major contributor to the decreased unemployment rate. As unemployed people give up on looking for work, they are no longer counted in the official unemployment rate, which can cause the rate to go down. The reality is different. The youth unemployment rate is still nearly double the rate for all workers at 12.8% across the country.
The Business Improvement Areas in my riding has a mission statement that goes like this: “Creating a vibrant, safe, and livable downtown; fostering positive community and government partnerships; supporting positive investment climate; collaborating for a safer community; promoting revitalization and community development.” In order to foster a vibrant community, we need jobs. In order to have jobs, we need investments in small businesses. In order to have government partnerships, we need a government that listens and responds.
I will conclude with a summary of what we want from the government. In light of sustained high unemployment since the 2008 recession and the long-term downward trend in job quality since 1989 under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, as documented by CIBC, the House calls on the government to make the first priority of budget 2015 investment in measures that stimulate the economy by creating and protecting sustainable, full-time, middle-class jobs in high-paying industries in all regions of Canada. We are urging the government to abandon its costly and unfair $2-billion income-splitting proposal.
At this stage, I also want to say that when we are in ridings, we have the privilege of meeting with our constituents. Our constituents include the business community. Right now, when I have discussions with the business community in my riding, they tell me that there are huge ways that we as parliamentarians could be helping them. We could be helping them by addressing issues like the transaction fees on credit cards. Every time a credit card is used in a store, the business has to pay a transaction fee that is incredibly high.
I was also surprised, but not really, that the much of the business community is supportive of the $15 minimum wage that we have supported for the federal sector. What I have heard is that businesses are willing to pay that much because then at least people will stay in the job. They know that $15 an hour is still not that great as a wage but it will allow people to buy their groceries. Businesses know that those people will spend the money in their communities.
Mr. Scott Armstrong (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister of Labour, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on this NDP motion. It is good to see that the members opposite are, for once, taking a slight interest in speaking about job creation with today's motion. We welcome them to this debate. We have made this a priority since being first elected in 2006. However, they have taken a stance that I strongly disagree with.
The proposition that this government has done little to create jobs and growth is simply wrong. I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight and I would like to thank New Democrats for giving us the opportunity to speak about our record on creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
Today, I will emphasize some policy measures that we have taken to lower taxes and create jobs since forming government. Unlike the members opposite, our experience has been with lowering taxes. While they have not met a tax they have never liked, we have created 1.2 million net new jobs since the depths of the economic recession in July of 2009, 85% of which are full-time jobs and 80% of which are in the private sector. Nearly two-thirds of these jobs have been created in high-wage sectors. This is one of the best job-creation records in the G7.
This is in complete contrast to the Liberals and the NDP, who would saddle job creators and the workers they employ with high taxes and high debt. Under our low-tax plan, more Canadians are working today than at any other time in the history of our country. At 6.6%, Canada is now enjoying its lowest unemployment rate in six years.
How did we get here, coming from the largest economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s? We started with innovation. We encouraged innovation, which has been essential to economic growth. That is why our government remains committed to supporting innovation in Canada.
As previously stated by government members in the House, we have demonstrated this by providing millions of dollars in support every year to regional development agencies like the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. These dollars have been provided so they can work with local businesses, universities and colleges to give them the tools they need to succeed and to help all Canadians grow our economy.
At the beginning of the recession, the government established the automotive innovation fund. This program initially was provided with $250 million over five years to support the automotive firms' strategic, large-scale research and development projects to build innovative, greener and more fuel-efficient vehicles. The government has since renewed the fund for an additional five years and provided it with a total of $1 billion to date, including $500 million through economic action plan 2014. This money and investment in innovation for the automotive industry was thrown out by opposition members when they voted against that budget.
The member opposite has asked us in his motion to stimulate the economy by creating and protecting sustainable, full-time, middle-class jobs in high-paying industries in all regions of Canada. Since 2006, that is exactly what we have done.
Maybe the member opposite needs another reminder of what our government has accomplished to promote job growth in high-paying industries. I am speaking, of course, about supports that we provided to apprentices since taking office. Since 2007, we have launched two apprenticeship grants: the apprenticeship incentive grant in 2007 and the apprenticeship completion grant in 2009. These grants so far have helped over 500,000 Canadians retool their skills for high-paying jobs, jobs that exist and need workers. We are supporting young people across this country to get the training they need to take these good, high-paying, available jobs throughout Canada.
For aspiring apprentices lacking the cash to fund their red seal studies, we now offer them new interest-free loans while they study. Since launching the Canada apprenticeship loan in January, over 2,000 promising students have already received Canadian apprenticeship loans this year. Our government is cutting taxes and increasing supports for plumbers, electricians, and carpenters to create jobs for apprentices from one end of the country to the other.
The member opposite may feel the need to toss around untested theories in today' s motion about how to create good quality jobs and growth, but we in Canada's government have a proven record of success in doing so, even at a time of tremendous global economic adversity. This is because we understand what drives the job-creation process. We also understand how to support this process for the benefit of all Canadians.
Let us take a look, for example, at the role Canada's manufacturers and small businesses play in creating jobs and supporting a strong Canadian economy. Comprising 98% of all employer businesses in Canada, small businesses are a significant driver of economic growth and an important pillar supporting workers, families, and communities across Canada.
Our government appreciates the efforts and contributions these businesses make. As a result, we have implemented a range of policies and programs on the understanding that when our small businesses succeed, all Canadians succeed.
Since taking office, the government has put in place numerous measures that benefit Canadian small and medium-sized companies. For example, the accelerated capital cost allowance for investment in machinery and equipment has been of great benefit to Canada's manufacturers and processors, helping them make the investments they need to compete both at home and abroad. On top of that, various initiatives by the Canada Revenue Agency have helped improve the provision of information and services to small businesses while reducing their administrative burden and increasing taxpayer fairness for all businesses across the country.
These measures build on many others introduced by our Conservative government since 2006 that allow small businesses to make the investments they need to create good jobs and grow the Canadian economy. Since 2006, for example, our government has reduced the small business tax rate to 11%; increased the amount of income eligible for the lower small business tax rate from $300,000 to $500,000; enhanced the availability and accessibility of financial support for innovative small and medium-sized businesses under the scientific research and experimental development tax incentive program; and narrowed the definition of “taxable Canadian property”, eliminating the need for tax reporting under section 116 of the Income Tax Act for investments by, for example, non-resident venture capital funds in typical Canadian high technology firms.
We have also increased the lifetime capital gains exemption on qualified small business shares from $500,000 to $800,000 and indexed this limit to inflation. The exemption limit was increased to $813,000 for 2015 on account of indexation.
We have reduced the paperwork burden on businesses by 20% through the paperwork burden reduction initiative. We also established the Red Tape Reduction Commission to review areas of federal regulation most in need of reform to reduce the cost of compliance for small businesses.
Cutting red tape supports small businesses. Cutting red tape reduces the administrative burden for small businesses, particularly the smallest of small businesses, those with a low number of employees, which do not have the resources available to deal with an increasing tax burden and an increasing administrative burden to deal with those taxes. Lowering taxes and lowering the amount of red tape they have to go through to complete their taxes allows small businesses to have the resources to do what we want them to do, which is hire more people, produce more products, and expand the Canadian economy.
In addition to these measures, we have eliminated close to 2,000 tariffs on manufacturing inputs, machinery, and equipment, providing about $400 million in annual duty savings. New trade agreements with South Korea and the European Union will also bring significant benefits and savings to Canadian businesses and will open up new markets for Canadian exports.
Our government knows that while creating savings and opportunities for businesses to grow and succeed is critical, no business can succeed without high calibre employees. The strength of our country lies with our people. That is why our government has introduced numerous training and employment insurance measures to help businesses create good jobs for Canadians. For example, the new small business job credit will deliver significant EI savings to businesses and will help them defray the cost of hiring new workers.
In case the member opposite is still not satisfied, let us talk about students and how our low-tax plan is benefiting young people across the country. Since 2006, we have ended the Liberal practice of taxing scholarships. In fact, we brought in the textbook tax credit, lowering the amount of money in taxes students have to pay to purchase their textbooks.
Since 2012, the proportion of university-age Canadians attending university or college has reached an all-time high. Around two million students are enrolled in post-secondary institutions right now.
We also established the Canada student grants program for low- and middle-income students, students with dependents, and students with permanent disabilities. Since our government introduced the Canada student grants program in 2009, student loan debt has declined by 10%.
The last thing indebted students need is a tax hike by the Liberals and the NDP, a tax hike that would leave youth with less money to pay off student debt.
While some members of the opposition are asking us to run a deficit in 2015, hoping apparently that the budget will somehow balance itself at a later time, I feel obligated to point out that the benefits of balancing the budget are important for Canadians. The benefits of balancing the budget and reducing debt are obvious to the average Canadian, except, perhaps, members of the opposition. These include ensuring that tax dollars can be used to support and implement important social services, like benefits and health care for seniors, rather than paying interest costs; instilling confidence in consumers and investors, whose dollars spur economic growth and job creation; and of course, strengthening Canada's ability to respond to longer-term international challenges, domestic challenges, and demographic challenges, such as aging populations, unexpected global economic shocks, and global security threats.
Balancing the budget now is our shield against the uncertain forces that may attack Canada in the future. After all, it provided the flexibility for Canada to weather the storm so well when the global economic and financial crisis struck just a few short years ago.
The measures I have detailed today translate into more success, more jobs, and stronger growth for all Canadians. This is what Canada's economic action plan is all about. We have a proven record in being strong stewards of the economy of this country, and Canadians are better off as a result.
I would encourage the members opposite and all Canadians to bear this in mind when considering the risky theories the opposition has to offer. Remember, under our government, the tax burden on Canadians is now at its lowest level in over 50 years, its lowest level since John Diefenbaker was prime minister of this nation. On average, Canadian families are paying $3,400 less in federal taxes each year than they were under the Liberal Party before 2006.
In addition, every family with children in Canada stands to benefit from a range of tax breaks we are putting in place this year.
Contrary to the NDP motion, I strongly believe that the initiatives I have focused on today will significantly benefit all Canadians. We have announced the new family tax cut and the enhanced universal child care benefit, which will leave 100% of Canadian families with children better off, with almost $2,000 back in their pockets.
The vast majority of these benefits will flow to low- and middle-income families. The tax cuts introduced by our government will not only help ordinary Canadians improve their ability to save now but will give them an opportunity to plan and save in the future.
The Liberals and NDP would take these benefits away and would increase taxes on Canadians and hard-working Canadian families. Our plan will keep taxes low and will focus on job creation. I can assure the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley that economic action plan 2015 will continue to keep taxes low and help Canadians succeed in the growing global economy, creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
Hon. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to today's motion on jobs and the economy. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Markham—Unionville.
The Prime Minister and the Conservatives do not want to talk about the economy these days. In fact, they are so spooked by the topic that they are delaying the budget into the next fiscal year. We are told that we will not have a budget until April at the earliest. They do not want to talk about the economy, all because of plummeting oil prices.
The Conservatives are also telling us that all the challenges facing Canadians and the Canadian economy today are a result of plummeting oil prices. However, the reality is that we have faced real challenges in the Canadian economy, and Canadian families have faced real challenges, well before plummeting oil prices.
In fact, the May 3 issue of the Economist magazine had an article entitled, “Canada's economy: Maple, resting on laurels”, Canada's “post-crisis glow is fading”. In that article, the Economist said that the Conservative government's retelling of the 2008 crisis indicated that the Conservatives saved Canada from doom. It went on to say, “Yet luck played a large, unacknowledged part”. The Economist points to three areas where the Conservative government was lucky.
First, the Conservatives were lucky that the previous Liberal government, Mr. Chrétien to Mr. Martin, refused to follow the global trend of bank deregulation, and we have a strong banking system as a result of that.
Second, there was a solid financial footing. The previous government paid down $80 billion of our national debt, but the current government has added $160 billion to the national debt.
Lucky in a third way was that oil and gas revenues helped pick up the slack when manufacturing faltered, and no federal politician can take credit for putting the oil and gas under the ground in Saskatchewan and Alberta. However, we all know it was Danny Williams who put it under the water off Newfoundland.
The Economist pointed to three reasons why we went through the global financial crisis in 2008 better than other countries. The three reasons are: a strong banking system, a good fiscal situation, and oil and gas. The one thing they have in common is that the Conservative government has had nothing to do with any of it.
The Economist also pointed out that since 2008, Canada's post-crisis glow was fading, and that in terms of growth and jobs, and growth in the GDP, Canada had actually fallen behind other countries. In fact, if we look at 2015 numbers, Canada is projected to be 14th, or middle of the pack of 34 OECD countries in growth. We will be behind the U.S. and the U.K. In 2016, Canada is projected to be 21st of 34 OECD countries in economic growth. We will be behind the U.S., Australia and the U.K. There are real challenges.
It is important to also recognize that when the Economist published that article citing the challenges facing the Canadian economy, oil, WTI, at the time was at $104 a barrel, which is in fact more than twice where it is today. Therefore, even before plummeting oil prices, our economy had flatlined in growth and job creation.
In terms of job creation, the CIBC report from last week said that Canadian job quality was at a record low. The growth of low-paying jobs compared to mid or high-paying jobs is significant. We are seeing fewer high-paying jobs created and more low-paying jobs.
The Conservatives talk about 1.2 million jobs being created since 2008. However, they are completely ignoring the fact that our working age population has grown by two million. Labour market participation remains lower than before 2008. People have given up looking for work. The number of people facing long-term unemployment, or people unemployed for over a year, today is twice that of 2008. There are 160,000 fewer jobs today for young Canadians than in 2008.
There are record levels of personal debt as middle-class parents and grandparents are forgoing retirement and retirement savings to financially support young Canadians who are unable to support themselves based on the low-quality jobs they are getting.
It is damning of our economic situation and of the government's negligence and ignorance of that situation which it seems to be blissfully unaware, or perhaps it does not care, that this is the first generation of Canadian parents who believe their children will be worse off than them.
The Conservative government does not get it. It is out of touch, and one can only assume because of it delaying the budget, that it is also out of ideas.
We needed a plan for jobs and growth before plummeting oil prices, and we need a plan for jobs and growth even more today. Even in terms of how it manages the petrol economy, because the Conservative economic plan was threefold, which was oil, oil and oil, it has not done very well. Not one pipeline has been approved under the Conservative government, largely due to the fact that it either has no relations or toxic relations with the stakeholders and partners required to move these projects forward, whether it is with President Obama, aboriginal and first nations leaders, the provinces or the environmental community.
The government and the Prime Minister have not built the kinds of relationships required to defend Canadian economic interests. Former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney says that the top foreign policy priority of a Canadian prime minister is to have a personal relationship with the President of the United States.
Mr. Mulroney would have gotten Keystone XL approved with President Reagan. Mr. Chrétien would have gotten Keystone XL approved with President Clinton. In fact, they understood the importance of relationships.
However, the government cannot even meet with premiers to discuss moving forward on labour and training, and addressing the jobs-skills mismatch. It cannot meet and sit down respectfully with aboriginal and first nations Canadians. It calls the environmental communities eco-terrorists. These are the stakeholders and partners we need to have our projects moving forward. Even in the area where the government is focused, and that is on oil, it has not done a very good job.
The Bank of Canada has said that low oil prices are “unambiguously bad for growth”. It responded with a 25-basis point rate cut. What has been the response from the government, when we need action, when we need clarity, when we need certainty? It has delayed the budget until April, perhaps hoping oil prices will increase.
The reality is that wishful thinking is not a replacement for responsible budget making. Suncor and Encana cannot delay their public reporting or their annual reports because of low oil prices. They would have a regulatory challenge with the securities commission, but they would also create uncertainty with their investors.
The same could be said about a federal government delaying the budget, ostensibly because of falling oil prices. I can remember governments that introduced budgets when oil prices were less than $40 per barrel. I can remember governments balancing budgets back then. The fact is that the government is out of touch and out of ideas.
The Liberal plan for jobs and growth will be to invest in infrastructure, to take the historic opportunity we have today to rebuild Canada's infrastructure; to create jobs and growth today, and the kind of economy that will create more jobs and growth in the future; to invest in people and skills to ensure young Canadians have the skills they need for the jobs of today and to prepare for the jobs of the future; to invest in innovation, science and data; and to invest in the kinds of trade relationships we need, both globally with the Obama administration, China, Mexico and our traditional partners, but also within Canada, the kind of relationships required to build a strong economy.
A Liberal government will move this economy forward and will help Canadian middle-class families move ahead. The Conservative government is out of touch and totally out of ideas to benefit those families.
Hon. John McCallum (Markham—Unionville, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to talk on this topic. Just to amplify what my colleague said, which was that income inequality in Canada has grown under governments of all stripes, let me be clear: it has never grown under a federal NDP government, because there never has been one. We shall see if that continues in the next election.
I would like to reinforce what my colleague said about the statistics in a somewhat different way.
We have two parties here. On the one hand, we have the CIBC bank saying that the quality of jobs is the worst it has been in Canada for 25 years, the worst since 1989. It measures that quality by a mix of wage levels and by part-time versus full-time employment and self-employment. According to its studies, job quality is the worst since 1989, when the studies began.
On the other side there is the government, which puts out a flurry of its own statistics that suggest the opposite. I know my colleague talked about those statistics, and that is an important issue, but I would like to put the question differently: which has more credibility on this issue, a bank that has done studies saying it is the worst in 25 years or a government that says everything it has done is marvellous?
I would say the bank. I have a little credibility on this issue, because I used to work for a bank. Before I went into politics, I was chief economist for the Royal Bank. That is not the CIBC; it is another bank, but a bank is a bank, and I can say that if there is a bias within the banks, it is that they really do not want to annoy the government in power if there is an option. Therefore, all other things being equal, it is not that banks will lie, but if they have a choice, they would rather not present statistics that embarrass the government of the day. That is because they want to please the government for various reasons, commercial and otherwise.
CIBC is not out to get the government. If anything, CIBC officials would prefer to please the government, yet the statistics are clear in their own minds. They cannot please the government on this issue because the facts say very clearly that the quality of jobs in Canada is indeed the worst in 25 years. That is what CIBC said in this study.
I would argue, then, that CIBC has credibility, not only because it has competent economists who did the study but also because its own interest is to please the government rather than displease the government. It is obvious from the debate today that by coming out with this fact, CIBC has displeased the government. I would argue that no amount of self-serving government statistics should counter the fact that the bank has come out with an opposite conclusion even though it is not particularly in the interests of the bank to do so.
The bank studies in this field are therefore credible. The bank does not want to embarrass the government, but it does want to tell Canadians the truth. According to the bank's analysis, the labour market situation is the worst it has been for 25 years.
I am not sure I will devote more of my limited time to arguing the statistics. I rest my case by saying what I have already said, which is that the bank has far more credibility than the government on this issue.
Given that the bank's facts are, broadly speaking, correct, the question then becomes what the federal government should do about it. What should the federal government do to address the fact that the job quality in this country has deteriorated to a point not seen for 25 years?
The first answer to what to do would be what not to do. What not to do is not present a budget.
The budget is the basic core plan of the government. Particularly when times are tough and oil prices have plummeted and times are uncertain is precisely when the Canadian public and Canadian investors want to know that their government indeed has a plan. By delaying the budget until some unknown, unspecified date, the government is clearly indicating that it has no plan, or has no plan B, shall we say; it does have its tired old economic action plan, but that plan fell apart when oil prices plummeted and it became clear that the tax measures it proposed would put us back into deficit.
Conservatives want to keep that from the public. They want to focus the discussion on terrorists and war rather than on the economy, which is now doing very badly under their watch.
The first thing to do is have a plan, but the Conservatives' plan is non-existent. To the extent that it exists in the form of income splitting, it is indeed a bad plan.
The objective should be, first and foremost, to favour the creation of jobs, and not just any jobs, but high-quality jobs of the kind that we have not seen in recent years.
The second thing not to do is income splitting, because income splitting will do essentially nothing to help create growth and jobs, and it is a hugely biased program that benefits only 15% of Canadian households, leaving 85% totally out in the cold. It will benefit only a very narrow segment of Canadian households, and not, by the way, those generally in the greatest need.
It will not really do anything in terms of social justice by helping those most in need, nor will it do anything of any significance in terms of promoting jobs and growth or improving the dismal quality of jobs that we see around us today. The solution lies not in not having a budget or in this very poor income-splitting proposal, but rather in other measures, the kinds of measures that we in the Liberal Party have been focusing on.
First and foremost, I would say, would be infrastructure. We had a policy resolution some time ago at a policy convention calling for a very major increase in federal investment in infrastructure. The mayors of our cities are crying out for this measure. It has not escaped their notice that the federal government has cut infrastructure investment by 90% over the next two years, and it is now, not five years from now, that the cities are in desperate need of that expenditure.
Given our job situation, there is a double reason for infrastructure. One is that we desperately need it. We have an enormous infrastructure deficit. We need it for productivity, since it will enhance the transport network for our manufacturing sector and things of that nature, but we also need it for the jobs it will create. Economists' studies indicate that the multiplier effect or the job impact per $1 of expenditure is higher for infrastructure than for, I would say, anything else. Therefore, a second reason to focus on infrastructure is that it is highly efficient in creating jobs, often high-quality jobs, which would go some way toward counteracting the dismal situation that CIBC has indicated we find ourselves in today.
That is one major measure that would address this issue. Others would include support for higher education, because, as has been pointed out, under federal Liberal and Conservative governments—not, thankfully, NDP governments—we have over time seen an increase in inequality. Equality of opportunity is essential, and part of that equality of opportunity concerns access to post-secondary education, whether that be university, college, or some other form of post-secondary training.
That is just a small sample of the kinds of measures that we in the Liberal Party would propose in order to deal with this dismal situation of the lowest-quality jobs we have seen in this country for a quarter of a century.
Mr. Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. John's East.
I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to the opposition motion on the CIBC report on job quality.
We often debate the issue of employment in the House. The government likes to boast about how many jobs have been created since the depths of the recession. We sincerely hope that jobs will be created after a recession as bad as the one we recently went through.
However, contrary to what the government and its members are saying, job quality plays a key role in people's quality of life. The results have not been as clear-cut and successful as the government likes to claim.
In its report, CIBC clearly shows that its employment quality index has dropped dramatically since the 1990s. It has gone down by 15%, which is a fairly big drop. It has dropped by 10% since the early 2000s, and last year, the latest year of the index, there was a significant drop of 1.8%, despite the fact that a rather large number of jobs were created.
The reason has to do with the effectiveness of the government and its policies. When we talk, for example, about full-time and part-time jobs, the government's efforts have greatly encouraged the creation of part-time and low-paying jobs, which has led many Canadians to choose self-employment over paid employment, often involuntarily.
Take for example the issue of high-paying jobs versus low-paying jobs. In my opinion, this is a key issue, and CIBC recognized that.
In fact, CIBC noted that low-paying jobs rose at twice the pace of high-paying jobs. An important example of the consequences of this reality and the government's misguided approach is Burger King's acquisition of Tim Hortons.
We can debate this acquisition. I think that it is having a negative effect and that it shows the impact of the corporate tax rate in Canada, which is well below that of the United States. This creates a phenomenon called tax inversion, which makes companies more attractive to American businesses.
I want to come back to the announcement made at the end of January by Burger King and Tim Hortons, when 350 well-paid corporate Tim Hortons workers were laid off.
When we raised this issue in the House and asked the Minister of Industry questions, he said, quite proudly, that following consultations with the newly merged company, he was promised that there would be 500 new franchises in Canada. When he says 500 new franchises, that is exactly what we are talking about. These are not steady jobs. They are often part time and not well paid. He was comparing these poorly paid jobs and the jobs that will be created with the 350 high-quality, well-paid jobs that were lost as a result of the merger, and he put a positive spin on it to boot.
That is where I take issue with the government's idea that any job is a good job, that a part-time job is just as good as a full-time job, or that a poorly paid job is the same as a well-paid job.
The CIBC did a fine job of painting the overall picture of the employment situation in Canada, going beyond the anecdotes that the government likes to recite to us in the House.
One of the things the Conservatives often like to talk about during question period, but not during answer period, because the answer is totally inconsistent, is the article published in the New York Times last November, according to which the Canadian middle class is now richer than the American middle class.
However, the Conservatives neglect to say how this came to be or why this is currently the case. The New York Times article showed that three main reasons explain this situation, but the government never mentions those. The primary reason is the failure of the U.S. elementary school system, which is training a workforce that is less qualified or not as well qualified as the previous generation.
If we take the time to read the article, we find that Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 have above-average skills compared to their peers in other industrialized countries. As for the 16 to 24 year olds, their literacy, numeracy, and technology skills lag behind those of their peers in Canada, Australia, Japan, Scandinavia, among others. One of the main reasons for the gap between Americans and Canadians is the education system. The government has very little to do with it because education is a provincial jurisdiction.
I will quote the second reason given in the New York Times article to explain the reduction of the income gap between the American and Canadian middle classes.
|| A second factor is that companies in the United States economy distribute a smaller share of their bounty to the middle class and poor than similar companies elsewhere. Top executives make substantially more money in the United States than in other wealthy countries. The minimum wage is lower. Labor unions are weaker.
From the New York Times article we can infer that the relative strength of the union movement in Canada compared to that in the United States is one of the factors that has contributed to the positive wealth gap between the middle class in Canada and that in the United States. We will not bring Europe into the discussion.
However, we have a government that is fighting to undermine union strength in Canada. The difference in wealth, therefore, is not the result of the government's policies. On the contrary, this is true because the Conservatives have not yet reached the high point in their policy to destroy a rather strong middle class.
Third, the New York Times article mentions the level of redistribution of wealth. In the United States, the redistribution of wealth is much less efficient than here in Canada. Once again, most of the policies introduced by the government since 2006 do not target more equitable redistribution, as shown by increased income inequality among other things.
The government prides itself on the fact that its economic policies have helped make the middle class stronger. However, according to that New York Times article, our middle class did not become richer than the American middle class because of the strength of our economy, but rather because of the weakness of American policies.
If I were the government I would be very careful about drawing any significant conclusions from one story that draws on a set of interesting data to give a snapshot of the quality of life of our middle class compared to that of the United States. As with any other economic situation, there is often much more to the snapshot than they would have us believe.
Economic experts urged us to be cautious when analyzing these documents and not to draw broad conclusions. William Robson, the president and CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute, said that the wealth of Canada's middle class was growing more slowly than that of the rest of the population, meaning Canadians who are either wealthier or poorer.
The government can boast all it wants and say that we are in a good position compared to the United States, but there is no evidence that the government's policies or actions contributed to the strength of the middle class. On the contrary, the middle class continues to get weaker compared to the rest of the population, which was one of the findings of the CIBC study. If jobs are less stable and the number of part-time jobs is increasing at a faster pace than the number of full-time jobs, the country will not be in a better place—quite the contrary.
These are measures we need to examine, which is why I am proud to say that the NDP is starting to unveil parts of our economic agenda, which will strengthen the middle class. In fact, this is something we have been doing for a quite some time.
Mr. Jack Harris (St. John's East, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity today to join in this debate on the NDP motion, which calls upon the government to take seriously the needs of Canadians, for a proper level of stimulation and to deal with the very high, sustained unemployment we have in Canada.
The Conservatives keep talking about job creation, but what we hear is that the job situation in Canada is in fact getting worse. Their plans do not include a solution to the problem. Since the 2008 recession and a long-term downward trend in job quality, as described most eloquently by a recent CIBC report, job quality is going down.
What is job quality? Job quality is an index being used by the CIBC, the employment quality index, that deals with the distribution of full-time and part-time jobs. We are seeing fewer full-time jobs and more part-time jobs; not only part-time jobs, but jobs that have been described as precarious employment. These are short-term part-time jobs and term employment, where one works for a few weeks here and a few weeks there. There is an inability to even qualify for employment insurance, the jobs are so precarious. Therefore, less than 40% of those who are unemployed are even able to qualify for employment insurance, despite the fact that they may have been working quite a bit in the period leading up to their unemployment, because of the changes to the employment insurance regime that this government and the previous Liberal government have brought in.
The employment quality index also deals with self-employment versus paid employment and the compensation ranking of jobs in a hundred different industry groups. It looks at whether we are dealing with good-quality jobs that pay well, that provide some benefits, that allow people to take advantage of a middle-class income standard that gives a quality of life whereby they do not have to be concerned about where their next meal or their next rent cheque is coming from and they have a measure of security for themselves and their families.
That is something that Canadians really deserve to have. We have a very prosperous country. We have superior level of natural resources. The GDP in Canada is very high. However, we have growing inequality.
What do we do about it? We have a government that does not deal with that problem. It comes up with an income-sharing scheme that is extremely expensive and is going to benefit only 15% of the population, and unfortunately, it costs $3 billion of taxpayers' money that could well be spent in providing for programs such as the ones we have put forward, like a high-quality child care program that would allow Canadian families to have quality child care at an affordable price to a maximum of $15 a day. I have heard some of the members opposite describe it today as being a big bureaucracy, somehow or other.
One thing about it is that it would actually require someone to sit down with the provinces, something the Prime Minister has not done since he has been in power. Why is that? It is because he does not really want to have good national programs that raise all boats by giving Canadian working families a real opportunity to have a decent job, to support their families, and to become a part of the middle class to which so many aspire if they are not already there.
That term “middle class” is kind of a funny term to me because, as New Democrats, we have always talked about the working class or people who have been left out, but most Canadians see themselves as either being in or aspiring to be part of the middle class. Therefore, when we talk about middle-class Canadians, we are talking about the bulk of Canadians who see themselves as, hopefully, participating in the economy, having an opportunity for some income security and hopefully retirement security, being able to educate their children, and giving them a good start in life.
Instead, what we have is fear and worry because of the precarious job situation of this generation. They are saying that their parents had a better way of life and that progress ended with their parents.
Do we want the next generation to say that progress in life and in this country ended with their parents? That is a legacy that I do not want to see us leave to the next generation.
That is the danger with the policies of the Conservative government. It is why we are calling for the first priority of the upcoming budget to be investment in measures that stimulate the economy, that create and protect sustainable, full-time, middle-class jobs in high-paying industries in all regions of Canada. It is why we are calling for the government to abandon its costly and unfair $2 billion income-splitting proposal.
We talk about all regions of the country. Look at my province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are suffering with an unemployment rate higher than 11%. The last number I saw was 11.4% unemployment. That is shocking. To talk about all of this so-called economic progress that has been made is unacceptable.
Instead of seeing job stimulation through investments in infrastructure and job creation, we are seeing what the Conservatives think will get votes from their base. They are rewarding their base because they promised four or five years ago that they would have income splitting, which has been shown to be costly, ineffective, and bad public policy, according to the late finance minister. It has contributed to growing inequality in this country. That is the kind of policy that the Conservative government is putting forward, instead of policies that would help to lower the amount of inequality we have.
It is not only in Newfoundland and Labrador. We see it in other provinces as well, but I will talk about my home province since it is the one closest to my heart. In addition to the high unemployment rate, we have a staggering problem now as a result of the lowering of oil prices. The Newfoundland and Labrador government has announced that it will be facing a $1 billion deficit for the first time in Newfoundland and Labrador history. It is going to have a very difficult job assisting people, providing the services it has been providing, and providing the kind of stimulus that would be needed to sustain the jobs and growth that are necessary in that economy.
In times like that, provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador do expect the Government of Canada to play a more positive role, to get in there and say it needs to solve some of these problems and help by stimulating the economy, jobs, and growth. It is not doing it.
We are looking for immediate action in the budget to boost job creation and to grow our economy. We are not the only ones who believe it is important that this happens. Concerns have been raised by others who recognize that issues such as a balanced budget are not the most important thing to have in the Canadian economy this year. What is really required is trying to make some progress in economic terms, and we are not doing that.
Kevin Page, for example, said that in the last 10 years, we have made virtually no progress on all of our big issues, such as longer term economic challenges, closing innovation gaps in the economy, dealing with aging demographics that will put pressure on health care, and dealing with environmental sustainability. We have not even had discussions or proposals from the government.
I see that my time is rapidly running out here. We really need to help small business owners. That is part of our proposal and our plan. Cuts to the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%, extending the accelerated cost allowances, and other ideas are part of our economic plan. We hope that the members opposite will see the light and support this motion.
Hon. Pierre Poilievre (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Democratic Reform, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address this House on the aspirations of working-class families and building an economy where people who are struggling move into the middle class, and the middle class gets ahead.
Members of the high-tax parties believe that governments must run the lives and spend the money of struggling families, that they can reduce poverty by taking money from working families and spending it for them. Conservatives believe that the best social safety net is a strong family and that the best anti-poverty plan is a good job. That is why our low-tax plan helps families and creates jobs.
Members of the high-tax parties here today will tell us that they are more generous. The truth is that they are more generous with other people's money. They like to spend it on themselves. However, wealthy union bosses, well-paid lobbyists and lawyers who charge hundreds of dollars an hour to do so-called advocacy litigation have nothing to do with social justice. Despite all the high-minded rhetoric of the high-tax parties, the evidence is in. It shows that two things have happened since our government has taken office: one, families are moving out of poverty and into the middle class; and two, the middle class is getting ahead. In fact, it is ahead of any other middle class in any other country in the world.
Here are the facts. Between 2005 and 2011, during which time our government has been in office, take-home pay among low-income families is up by 14% after tax and inflation. Even Andrew Coyne, who endorsed the Liberals, wrote:
|In 2011, the latest year for which StatsCan has figures, the proportion of the population living on low income—that is, with incomes below the agency’s Low Income Cut-off (LICO)--fell to its lowest level … well, ever. At just 8.8%, it beat the previous record of 9.0%, set in 2010. As recently as 1996, it was at 15.2%.
We have gone from 15.2% of families living in poverty to 8.8%, a cut of almost half in just two decades from when the Liberals were in power until we took office. That is an extraordinary phenomenon and there are other statistics to support that it is a sweeping phenomenon and not an isolated statistic.
Let me go on. Throughout the world, while the global recession came about between 2008 and roughly 2011, one would expect that child poverty would go up. Millions lose their jobs and have lower incomes and as a result more children are living below the line, but not in Canada. In fact, in Canada child poverty actually dropped by 180,000 children between 2008 and 2011. Was this the result of some expensive new government program? No, the evidence is clear that we reduced poverty by putting money back in the pockets of families.
David Morley of UNICEF said, “If Canada is faring better than other western democracies, it is due to measures that are favourable to families, like tax credits, fiscal measures and benefits that have been maintained or put in place to counter the effects of the global crisis.”
It is not hard to understand why. Let us look at the universal child-care benefit. Over 13 years, the Liberals spent billions of dollars trying to set up a government-run daycare program. Bureaucracies, government-funded lobbyists and researchers got all kinds of money, but in the end it did not create a single, solitary daycare space. The Liberals and the New Democrats, high in the ivory tower looking down, think modest families cannot be trusted to make their own decisions, that we need a bureaucracy to control every aspect of their lives and all of their money. I am proud to say we cancelled the Liberal bureaucracy. We divided up the savings and sent it to parents in cheques in the amount of $1,200 per child under the age of six. We called it the universal child care benefit.
I asked my officials what the impact is of this benefit on poverty. Very methodically they gave me an answer. First, we use the low-income cut-off lines, which take after-tax incomes of all families with children to determine how many are low-income. Second, we did the very same comparison but based on what a family's after-tax income would have been without the universal child care benefit. The answer showed that there are 41,000 kids whose families would be beneath the poverty line without the universal child care benefit, but are above it because that benefit exists.
That was not all. We increased the amount of money that families can earn before they start paying taxes and removed one million Canadians from the tax rolls altogether. Let me quote the Parliamentary Budget Officer on our tax reductions, because there has been a lot of misinformation about who benefits from those tax reductions. Let me quote his report:
|| In total, cumulative changes have reduced federal tax revenue by $30 billion, or 12 per cent. These changes have been progressive, overall. Low and middle income earners have benefited more, in relative terms, than higher income earners.
The report also points out that the highest 10% of income earners benefited the least with after tax gains of just 1.4%. The $30 billion in annual tax cuts sounds like an incomprehensibly large amount of money. It is; that is a lot of tax cuts. Let me say what it means for an average family. We have a country with 35 million people. Divide $30 billion by 35 million, we get $850 per person, per man, woman and child, in lower taxes. For a family of four that is $3,400. That might not sound like a lot of money to wealthy limousine Liberals or champagne socialists, but the reality is to an average family working hard to make ends meet and get ahead, that $3,400 can make the difference. That is why we are going to continue to reduce taxes for Canadian families.
I should emphasize that with regard to the $850 per person in tax relief that happens every year under our government, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said specifically that the money went disproportionately to low- and middle-income earners.
The reality is that when we put money back in the pockets of everyday people, they do the right thing with it. They lift themselves up and they do the same for their children. They give their kids a better start in life. We have to believe in families and in workers and in small business owners to trust them to keep their own money. We on this side of the House believe in Canadians and we trust them to keep their earnings.
It is not just the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report or data from StatsCan that shows we are getting better off in Canada, in fact even the liberal-leaning New York Times wrote, “Life in Canada, Home of the World's Most Affluent Middle Class”. It also compared the years when the Liberal Party was in power and found that after-tax middle-class incomes in Canada, substantially behind in 2000, now appear to be higher than in the United States.
Overall, since taking office, personal income taxes are down by 10% and take-home pay is up by 10%, on average across income levels. In fact, the lower quartile of income earners have actually benefited more than all others across the spectrum. The median net worth of Canadian families is up by 24% since 2005 when the Liberals were in power.
That brings me to the question before the House on the family tax cut and benefits that we recently instituted. I just finished talking about everything we have done in the past nine years. Now let us talk about the present.
In the fall, our Minister of Finance introduced the family tax cut and benefits for families, which did three things.
First, it allowed couples to split their income to save up $2,000 on their taxes. Therefore, if one spouse earns more than the other, the higher income earning spouse can give enough to the lower spouse to equalize that, which will reduce their tax burden and allow them to keep more of their money. This allows families to make choices about how they raise their children.
Second, we increased the universal child care benefit from $1,200 to $1,900 per preschool child, that great poverty-fighting, middle-class supporting benefit that I discussed earlier. We also extended it for children under the age of 18. Any child who is over the age of 6 and under 18 will be eligible for up to $720 per year.
Finally, we increased the daycare tax credit by $1,000 so families that put their kids in a local community daycare could claim more of those costs on their taxes.
What does this mean for a family? Let me provide a few scenarios.
For families with incomes of $95,000 and $25,000 with two kids, one under 6 and one between 6 to 17, the net federal benefit for the 2015 tax year as a result of these new tax breaks is $2,835.
Families where both mom and dad each earn $60,000, with two kids, one under the age of six and the other in the adolescent years, would save $875.
A single income couple making $60,000 with one parent in the home and two kids would have a $1,605 benefit.
The net benefit for a single parent with a modest income of $45,000 and a child under the age of six the net benefit for the 2015 tax year as a result of these new breaks we have brought in for families will be $402.
In fact, every family with kids is better off as a result of the family tax cut and benefits.
Through this motion today, the high-tax opposition parties have announced that if they ever get the chance to take office, they will take that money away. They will reach their hands into the pockets of hard-working families and take away these hard won gains. We will not let them.
As I said at the outset, the best social safety net is a strong family. That is why we are helping families with the family tax cut and benefits.
The best anti-poverty plan is a good job. That is why we have a low tax plan that creates jobs. It has created 1.2 million net new jobs, 85% of which are full time, 80% in the private sector, and two-thirds in high wage industries. That is the best relative job-creation record in the G7.
Let me quote the International Monetary Fund, which said:
|| Over the past several years, Canada has taken numerous steps to reduce the economy’s vulnerabilities through policies designed to keep financial institutions and the financial system as a whole safer.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer said, “The current system of taxes and transfers serves to increasingly equalize income as inequality increases”.
These improvements allow for a stable and strong economy that creates more jobs for Canadians.
Our job creation plan is widespread and sensible. It includes trade, tax cuts and training.
Let me talk for a moment about training. As we were growing up, we were told that the only way we could be a success was to go to university. University is great. I had the honour to attend the University of Calgary. However, there are also honourable and prosperous lives to be had in the trades. We wanted to reorient our training program to fill the one million skilled job vacancies that we expect will appear in Canada over the next decade.
We need more plumbers, electricians, carpenters, stonemasons, and I could name many more. Our government created the apprenticeship grants, which help those families that want to give their children a chance to learn these great trades so they can go on to high salaries and incomes in high demand fields.
I am thinking now of those families with working class backgrounds that struggle to get by. People know the types I am speaking of, those who scrimp and save and set aside every penny they can so their 18 and 19 year olds can go to college and get a certificate to practise in the trades. Some of them just do not quite make it. That is why we brought in this grant, so these families with these young people could get their shot. They can get their opportunity to make a good life and have a better future, literally building our country.
This year we went beyond the apprenticeship grant and brought in the apprenticeship loan. For those young people who do not quite have enough money to retool their skills, we will now give them an interest-free loan while they study so they build those skills and ultimately build a better life for themselves.
Already it is working. Half a million young people have benefited from our apprenticeship grants. Even though we just announced the loan at the beginning of January, we already have 2,000 young people who are benefiting from those loans. This is just the beginning.
We are going to reorient our economy. We are going to give the proper esteem to these important trades jobs, because trades are just as a good as professions, college is just as good as university, and a good blue collar job is just as beneficial to the Canadian economy as a white collar job. Working class Canadians deserve that respect, and they also deserve the same benefits and help as everyone else. We are going to ensure that they get it.
There is a difference between the high tax parties and our low tax government. The high tax parties are for union bosses; we are for workers. The high tax parties want to spend millions on a new office headed by a “children's commissioner”. We believe there are already eight million children's commissioners across country whose names are mom and dad.
The high tax parties want to turn workers against business owners; we want to turn workers into business owners. They want to make the rich poorer; we want to make the poor rich. They believe in a hand out; we believe in a hand up. They want a government that stands in the way; we want a government that stands by people's side.
We are going to continue to work to keep Canadians working. We have come so far. Working and middle-class families have made so much progress over the last 10 years. However, our work is not done. There is still more to do.
We need to put yet more money in the pockets of middle-class families so they can spend in their communities, start small businesses and save for their futures. We need to create yet more jobs; 1.2 million jobs is a lot but it still is not enough. We need more.
We are going to ensure that people have the skills they need for the jobs of today, and we are going to continue with our agenda of trade, training and tax cuts to take our country forward so families can secure and build on the gains they have already won, and build the dreams they envision for themselves.
Mr. Andrew Cash (Davenport, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Lambert.
It is an honour for me to rise in this place on behalf of the good people of Davenport in the great city of Toronto to speak in support of the motion before us.
I will begin by saying that many of the people the CIBC report references and talks about live in my riding of Davenport. I am talking about cab drivers, web designers, office cleaners, bartenders, dishwashers, carpenters, consultants, and micro-entrepreneurs. As I go door to door in my riding, I hear a consistent refrain: Where are the stable jobs in the Canadian economy? Where is the promise of that middle-class stability the current government keeps talking about but never delivers? Not only do the Conservatives not deliver it, they willfully ignore the reality.
We did not need a CIBC report, although maybe the folks across the way needed a report from one of their trusted allies, to underline what many of us know if we go door to door in our ridings, which is that we have young people who are 24, 25, 26, or 27, with post graduate degrees, still living at home because they cannot find a job in their profession.
It is very hard to find a full-time job at some of Canada's very profitable companies, such as, for example, grocery store chains, where most employees are hired on a part-time basis. We have an issue here of serial part-time work, people working on contract, people working freelance, and people being self-employed. We also have people who on Monday were employed at a company only to wake up on Tuesday to find out that they have been deemed independent contractors. In other words, we have a significant issue of misclassification of workers.
Then, of course, as we speak about often in this place, we have many young people and newcomers to Canada who are actually working for free as unpaid interns, because they are desperate to find that experience to put on a resumé, which they hope will lead to a stable job. However, what we are finding, and this CIBC reports underlines it, is that those stable jobs are not there at the end of all of that work. Those stable jobs are not there at end of a post graduate degree, on top of which there is $50,000 in student debt. Those stable jobs are not there at the end of serial unpaid internships. Those stable jobs are not there at the end of a six-month, short-term contract.
Let us underline what links all of these kinds of workers. Some are urban workers by design. In other words, they are self-employed people who want to be self-employed. I was one of those people. I worked for 25 years in the arts and culture sector as a freelancer, and I can tell members that while that is the life I chose, for many people in today's economy, there is no choice. We are seeing, as we see in the CIBC report, a staggering statistic, which is that self-employed employment grew four times faster than regular employment, and as the report also underlines, that self-employment pays significantly less than conventional employment.
These urban workers right across the country have no access to a workplace pension. They have no access to benefits, such as health benefits, extended benefits, sick leave, or compassionate leave. They also do not have access to any of our rapidly diminishing income security measures, like employment insurance.
In other words, our labour laws have been predicated on a workplace reality that no longer exists in this country. That reality was that one could leave school, even high school, and find a stable, full-time job. A person could imagine raising a family and buying a house, and in fact did, and after 35 years could retire with a pension that would ensure that one's senior years were lived out in a dignified fashion.
If you come to my town, Mr. Speaker, and I know you are dying to visit Toronto, you will see the effects of the Conservative government's disinterest in the realities of urban workers. Seniors are barely getting by. Young people are stuck in a cycle of short-term contract employment and free work.
As I look around this place today, I can imagine that many of the members in my caucus and also on the government side know these stories very well. Many of them likely have adult children who are struggling in today's economy. We are failing a generation of young people today by not addressing these realities.
I am not here today to promote a private member's bill. I am here today to speak in support of my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley's motion.
When we talk about precarious work, we also have to look at solutions. When we talk about precarious work, we have to ask ourselves whether the government has considered measures that would address these issues. It has come up with income splitting as a way of addressing precarious work. I cannot imagine where that fits in with this issue, because anyone who can access the government's income splitting scheme is not precariously employed.
I know that many of the members opposite have displayed a relative disinterest in the goings on in the economy of the greater Toronto area, even though it is the largest, most significant engine of the Canadian economy. It is important to note that today roughly 50% of all families in the GTA cannot find or access stable, full-time jobs. That should outrage every member in this place and anyone who cares about growing the Canadian economy.
What we see in this CIBC report is, in many ways, a castigation of the economic plans and policies of the government, which have failed to address some of the most pressing issues for Canadians, including how to create an economy that builds more stable jobs. How do we create an economy in which our young people graduate from our colleges and universities, and even from our high schools, into stable employment?
We have never heard anything from the government about the quality of jobs it says it creates. We now know what the quality of those jobs is. They are low-paying. They are part-time. They are contract. They are freelance. They are self-employed. They do not come with a workplace pension. They do not come with benefits. There is no income security attached to these jobs.
We need to fix that. An NDP government will fix that.
Mrs. Sadia Groguhé (Saint-Lambert, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government and its majority remind me more and more of the orchestra on the Titanic
: the ship is sinking, but do not panic, let us continue to play the same music. While the Canadian economy is springing leaks everywhere, middle-class families are drowning.
The Conservatives tell us over and over that their policy of unconditional support for western oil companies has allowed them to create 1.2 million jobs since 2008, while lowering taxes. Evidently, this government is completely blind to the toxic effects of its policy and refuses to listen to the common sense measures we are proposing to kick-start our economy and create good jobs for the middle class.
Let us take a few minutes to examine the facts. On March 6, CIBC published its Canadian employment quality index. The picture is alarming. This index takes into account the distribution of full-time and part-time jobs, the distribution of paid employment and self-employment, and compensation. The CIBC report supports everything we have said.
We said that most of the jobs being created were part-time jobs. CIBC proved it. We said that the jobs being created were for lower and lower wages. The CIBC report is damning. In 2014, the number of low-paying jobs increased twice as fast as the number of high-paying jobs. This is a trend that began in the 1990s.
As a result, CIBC's Canadian employment quality index for 2015 is at a record low. Nicely done, Conservatives.
We said that the Conservatives' economic policy was bad for our economy and the strength of its investments. Once again, we were right. CIBC predicts that unless there is a major shift in economic policy, which must include strong support for investment and innovation, this decline will be part of a long-term trend that could last decades.
Like most of the policies the Conservatives have implemented, the economic record that they are trumpeting as they seek re-election is a sham.
Their economic policy is based primarily on the idea that tax cuts for big businesses are good for economic growth. This notion was crushed by the January 27 report by the Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-économiques, or IRIS, entitled “Portrait de la surépargne des entreprises au Québec et au Canada”, about oversaving by businesses in Quebec and Canada.
This was a damning report for the government and the Conservatives. It ripped the economic policy they have been advocating for the past 10 years to shreds. It pointed out that major non-financial corporations have seen their tax rate drop from 22% to 15% since 2008.
Did these major corporations create jobs as a result of these tax cuts? No. Did they invest money in production or innovation? Definitely not. The tax gifts the Conservatives gave them did nothing. The major corporations hoard this money and just sit on it.
IRIS was unequivocal: $575 billion has been hoarded in the past seven years. The findings of the IRIS report are definitive. In three sentences, they obliterate the foundation of the Conservatives' economic policy:
Here is an excerpt from these findings:
||...the policy whereby we must lower taxes for corporations to give them room to manoeuvre and encourage them to invest is no longer valid...
That is an inescapable finding that calls for a rethinking of all public action on the economy.
That is what the NDP has done with workers and the middle class these past few years. The economic plan announced by our leader is the result of those efforts, and this motion presents what we will do to create good jobs for the middle class.
As we do with everything, we start with the facts. The economic fabric that generates employment depends on SMEs. Between 2002 and 2012, they created 78% of the new jobs in the private sector. The manufacturing sector and SMEs drive our wealth and innovation.
In 2014, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce determined that Canada's inadequate support for innovation in its manufacturing sector was one of the top 10 obstacles to making our economy competitive.
That is why the NDP has already proposed three key measures that will help spark economic activity and create jobs. These measures are part of a clear, coherent plan that will support a transition to a new era for the Canadian manufacturing sector.
First of all, the NDP will reduce the small business tax rate to 10%, and then to 9%. This translates into $1.2 billion for our SMEs, which will stimulate activity at a time when growth is stagnating.
In terms of the manufacturing sector, we will also extend the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment, which is set to expire this year.
Lastly, we will introduce an innovation tax credit for the manufacturing sector for businesses that invest in machines, equipment and goods used for research and development that stimulate innovation and competitiveness. This measure will allow Canadian manufacturers that make crucial investments in research and development to put $40 million a year back into that activity. This measure will also undo the damage done by the Conservative cuts to the scientific research and experimental development tax credits and will encourage innovation in Canada.
The main stakeholders in this field have welcomed our announcements. Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters pointed out the basis of our economic policy when it stated that “the NDP has made the manufacturing sector the cornerstone of its economic plan today in Ottawa”.
We will help the manufacturing sector and our SMEs create good jobs for the middle class by implementing targeted and coherent measures. SMEs are the ones that are innovating and creating good jobs, not the western oil companies, which are destroying our environment and sitting on their billions.
New Democrats understand that in order to get Canada back on track and help middle-class families succeed, we need to take concrete action in order to diversify the Canadian economy. This motion lays the groundwork for rebalancing our economy, which will stimulate growth and job creation.
For all of these reasons, I ask all MPs who say they want to encourage job creation and help the middle class to support this motion.
Mr. Brad Butt (Mississauga—Streetsville, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am indeed pleased to rise today to respond to the motion by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. This debate is really about how our government is responding to the needs and aspirations of Canadian families. The impression put before the House is that this government is not doing enough. That is simply dead wrong, and I welcome the opportunity today to set the record straight.
The Government of Canada believes that the most important way to raise the incomes of Canadians and improve their standard of living is to grow the economy as a whole. That is why, since 2006, our top priorities have been creating jobs, fostering economic growth, and building for long-term prosperity. To achieve these goals, our government is taking a wide-ranging and comprehensive approach. We are cutting taxes, increasing support for hard-working Canadian families, promoting trade and investment, supporting key economic sectors, making education accessible and affordable, reducing barriers to labour market participation, and being responsible fiscal managers. Our policies are working.
Canada's economy is making a good recovery from the most recent worldwide recession. For example, Canada is among the G7 leaders in job creation, with over 1.2 million net new jobs created since the recovery. Canadians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. The low income rate in Canada has been declining and it now sits at an all-time low.
Canadian families in all income groups have seen increases of about 10% or more in their take-home incomes since 2006. The federal tax burden is at the lowest it has been in 50 years. Our government has cut taxes 180 times, saving close to $3,400 a year for an average Canadian family of four. These tax reductions give parents greater flexibility to make the choices that are right for them and help build a solid foundation for future economic growth, more jobs, and a higher standard of living for themselves and their children.
Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from tax relief, with low- and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater benefit. More than one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the federal tax rolls altogether. And since 2006, our government has also steadily lowered taxes on businesses.
Today, Canada's total business tax costs are the lowest in the G7 and more than 40% lower than those in the United States. Thanks to our low taxes, more businesses will want to invest and set up shop in Canada, and that will generate more jobs. It is important to note that we have cut taxes without reducing transfers to Canadians and other levels of government. In fact, we have increased our cash transfers to the provinces and territories in support of health and social services to all-time record highs. This fiscal year, the provinces and territories will receive almost $65 billion through the major transfers, an increase of $3 billion over 2013-14.
It is clear to me that supporting strong families and preparing Canadians for jobs go hand in hand. Keeping taxes low for families means that parents have more to invest in their children's futures.
Because it is important to ensure that all children get the best possible start and have the opportunity to reach their full potential, we have also provided over $6.5 billion in 2013-14 to support early childhood development and child care, through transfers to the provinces and territories, direct spending, and tax measures for families. This is the largest investment in early childhood development and early learning and child care in the history of Canada.
We are also making work pay. We often hear about the dilemma of the working poor, who cannot make ends meet, even when they have full-time jobs. To make work pay, in 2007 we introduced the working income tax benefit, or WITB. This is a refundable tax credit that supplements the earnings of low-income workers to ensure they are financially better off when they are employed. Up to 1.5 million working individuals and their families receive assistance through the WITB.
More people working means more people who can support themselves and their families. Of course, more people working in better-paid jobs means more equality in our society. One of the best ways to reduce inequality, of course, is through education first, and we are funding programs like Pathways to Education Canada that encourage secondary school students in low-income communities to stay in school.
Our government also makes significant investments to ensure that students and their families can afford post-secondary education. We offer incentives to help families save for their children's educations; subsidized loans and grants to help students cover both education and living expenses; and tax credits for tuition and books.
We have also taken significant action to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable and to help students make informed career decisions in line with labour market needs. Young people, however, often feel that they are not getting a fair chance in the labour market. It is true that their unemployment rate is higher than the national average, and that is certainly a cause of inequality. Our government invests, however, more than $330 million a year in the youth employment strategy to help young people between the ages of 15 and 30 gain the skills and work experience they need to make a successful transition to the labour market.
We are also encouraging Canadians to go into the skilled trades, where they can make excellent wages. We now offer both grants and loans to help apprentices complete their training in Red Seal trades. For example, in January, we officially launched the Canada apprentice loan. The loan will provide apprentices with interest-free loans of up to $4,000 to complete their technical training in a Red Seal trade. Anyone pursuing one of the 57 categories of designated Red Seal trades, from electrician to sheet metal worker, can apply. This initiative will assist more apprentices in completing their training and encourage more Canadians to consider a career in the skilled trades, and we expect that 26,000 apprentices per year will benefit from $100 million in loans.
The Government of Canada offers several other existing supports for apprentices. The apprenticeship incentive grant provides $1,000 to apprentices who have completed their first and/or second year or level, up to $2,000. The apprenticeship completion grant provides an additional $2,000 to apprentices who have completed their training and obtained their journeyman certification. In total, an apprentice can receive $4,000 from our government with these two grants. To date, our government has already provided over 500,000 apprenticeship grants.
There is no doubt, though, that too many people in our society are still out of a job and left on the sidelines. That is why our government offers a number of targeted training and employment programs for vulnerable and under-represented groups, such as aboriginal people, youth, people with disabilities and newcomers.
Canada's economy has demonstrated the capacity to create jobs, setting the conditions for Canadians and their families to be successful. A recent Statistics Canada study found that the median net worth of Canadian families was up by 44.5% from 2005. Our government's economic strategy has a direct and positive impact on Canadian families and children each and every day, at the dinner table, paying the rent or the mortgage, shopping for winter clothes and in so many other areas.
We believe that families are the building block of our society and are critical to Canada's long-term prosperity. That is why the government takes a direct role in supporting a number of initiatives that offer help to millions of families across this country.
The universal child care plan respects the role of parents in determining how to best care for their children, and recognizes the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments for the delivery of child care services.
In addition, there are existing measures in place as part of the employment insurance program that support low-income families and individuals. For example, the family supplement allows low-income families with children to receive up to 80% of their insured earnings, higher than the normal rate of 55%.
In 2011-12, low-income families received $112.6 million in additional benefits through the family supplement. The program also offers a premium refund to low-income workers. Individuals with less than $2,000 of insured earnings are eligible to have their EI premiums refunded after having completed their personal income tax forms.
Our government also recognizes the emotional and financial challenges faced by parents when a child has a life-threatening illness or injury and the important role parents play in that child's recovery. As part of the Helping Families in Need Act, the parents of critically ill children EI special benefit provides income support for up to 35 weeks to parents or legal guardians of children under 18 years of age with a life-threatening illness or injury.
As all members know, young children need stability in the home, but they also need better access to education as they move into their teen years and eventually into the workforce. Through the Canada education savings program, the government encourages families to start saving early for their children's education.
Modest-income families benefit from the Canada learning bond. The Canada learning bond is $500 that the federal government deposits into a registered education savings plan, or RESP. A child may be eligible for another $100 per year, up to a maximum of $2,000.
Most important, parents or primary caregivers do not have to contribute any of their own money to receive the Canada learning bond. When we open an RESP, we can also receive the Canada education savings grant. The federal government adds between 20% and 40% of contributions to the RESP, depending on income, with a lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child.
We truly believe the most effective approach to raising the incomes of Canadians and their families is to keep growing this economy and help ensure that Canadians are well equipped with the skills required to obtain and keep the well-paying jobs available today and in the future. That is why our government's top priorities remain creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.
We on this side of the House are very proud of the progress we have made over the past few years in improving the lives of families and children. We will continue to support these initiatives and look for even better ways to meet our future challenges.
Mr. Jean Rousseau (Compton—Stanstead, NDP):
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.
Mr. Jasbir Sandhu (Surrey North, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents in Surrey North.
The motion in front of us is basically calling on the government to acknowledge the long-term decline in good-paying jobs in Canada, especially over the last 25 years, under both the Conservative government and the Liberal government. We need to take some concrete action. We in the NDP have a number of ideas, which I will be discussing. We would like the Conservatives to actually steal them from us and incorporate them in budget 2015, which hopefully will be coming very shortly from the government.
There was a report last week from one of the major banks. It talked about declining job quality in Canada. Canadians do not have to see a report from a bank to realize that quality, good-paying jobs have been declining over the last eight or nine years, especially under the Conservative government.
We have seen 400,000 manufacturing jobs disappear under this government. Those manufacturing jobs were the value-added jobs. When we talk about good-paying jobs, those are value-added jobs. If we take the trees out of the forest and just ship the logs, it is not going to create value-added jobs. Value added is something we do with that tree. We make it into lumber or other products. Value-added jobs are the ones that pay higher wages to workers. However, under this government, we have seen those jobs disappearing from coast to coast to coast.
There are 1.3 million Canadians out of work. It is a great opportunity for the government to actually do something for these unemployed Canadians to generate good-paying jobs to help them and their families. The jobs that have been created over the last eight or nine years, according to the study published last week, are not good-paying jobs. I know that Canadians know this. I know people in my constituency know this, because they come and talk to me and I go to talk to them.
Here is an opportunity to invest in our small businesses and invest in our communities to ensure that the future jobs that are created are good-paying jobs.
As I said, 400,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and 1.3 million Canadians are unemployed. A lot of the jobs that are being created now are part-time, low-paying jobs. That is not a good record. That is not how we would like to see Canada grow. We need to ensure that no one is left behind.
I have people in my constituency who work 40 hours a week, yet they are living below the poverty line. Minimum wage is very low in all the provinces. One of the things we would like to see is an increase in the minimum wage in federally regulated industries. We would like to see it raised to $15. Minimum wage in real terms has not increased since 1972. What the minimum wage was in 1972 is what it is today. There has been no real gain in the minimum wage.
On the other hand, tens of billions of dollars has been handed to wealthy corporations by the government, whether it is the oil companies or the big banks, yet there has not been that investment in our communities and our small businesses.
I am going to offer some real solutions that we will be providing to the government, if it would like to borrow them. Otherwise, later this year, we will have an election, and we are going to offer a clear alternative to this government for Canadians. We will form the government later in 2015 and will implement these very ideas that will help middle-class, hard-working families.
I know that they are laughing. I would like to see if they are still laughing after the election.
The Conservatives come up with great ideas, but the problem is that those great ideas only help the wealthiest. They came up with an income splitting plan. They say that they have a great family tax reduction scheme and will put money back into the pockets of everyday families. The problem is that those everyday families are the richest 15%. They are not giving the billions of dollars to the very people who need it. They are giving it to the top echelon, the 15%, the wealthiest people in this country.
Conservatives are coming up with some other schemes. They say that they are going to give $60 more for children aged six to 18. It is good to put some money in the pockets of parents and families. The problem is that real families actually want affordable child care. I have talked to hundreds of people, not only in my constituency but around the Lower Mainland and the greater Vancouver area. There are families that cannot afford child care. Some of the child care spaces, if they are available in the Lower Mainland, cost anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 per month, per child, for some sort of daycare or child care. According to my math, $60 would keep a child in daycare for two days. What are parents supposed to do the rest of the 28 days?
If we have affordable child care, women are able to get into the workforce and contribute to the workforce. It brings in additional revenue for the government when they are able to participate. That is another idea: an affordable child care program available to all families across this country to give families the flexibility to work and earn additional income.
To help our economic engine, small businesses, we would offer to decrease their corporate tax rate from 11% to 9%. Another idea is to create a tax credit to make it more affordable for business owners to invest in innovation, machinery, and equipment. I talked about the minimum wage.
Another opportunity for the government is to strengthen the pension plan, and the Conservatives have failed to do that.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that we did not need to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67, yet the government is increasing the retirement age. Again, when we form government after the next election, we will bring that back to age 65. I want Canadians to know that. Conservatives are not on their side. They are not only increasing the retirement age, but under the government's watch, the debt has gone up by $176 billion. Who is going to pay for that? It is our children. It is not responsible for parliamentarians to burden future generations with extra tax. That is not the way we should be doing things.
I hope the Conservatives will borrow some of the ideas we have offered throughout the day and start working for Canadian families.
Hon. Joe Oliver (Minister of Finance, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for offering me the opportunity to tell the House about our government's successful action to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. However, my thanks end there.
When I read the motion, the words of two great thinkers come to mind.
It was Voltaire who said, “I have only ever made one prayer...‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it”.
It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg”.
Why do these words come to mind? Only the NDP could look at Canada today, with more Canadians working than at any other time in our history, with 1.2 million net new jobs created since the great recession, with the lowest overall federal tax burden in half a century, with the IMF and the OECD expecting Canada to be growing faster than most economies in the G7 over this year and next, only the NDP and its left-wing ideology, immune to facts, immune to evidence, immune to the self-evident reality around it, would look at the lowest unemployment rate in six years and call it sustained high unemployment.
Were Abraham Lincoln here with us today, he would no doubt say that the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, blinded by ideology, is seeing five legs on the dog. However, a tail is not a leg, and the member opposite could not be more wrong about the Canadian economy.
The member is ignoring everything that Canadians have accomplished since the depths of the recession. How does the member propose to address the crisis he imagines? He wants to increase taxes, increase spending and increase the debt. He wants to roll back recent measures to put money back in the pockets of Canadians who work hard, the tax cuts that help every Canadian family with children, the tax cuts that put an average of $1,140 in every family's pockets, the tax cuts that benefit mainly low- and middle-income families.
The NDP wants to eliminate these measures and replace them with a new carbon tax on everything. This carbon tax will increase the cost of living for all Canadians. It will result in higher prices for everything from groceries to gas to public transit, higher mortgages and rents and a higher cost of living.
The member opposite thinks that what the economy needs, what Canada needs, is spending money that we do not have at a time when the crisis of the recession has passed, instead of spending within our means at a time when the Canadian economy is the envy of the world.