Making the case for job creation
Thursday, September 29, 2011
House of Commons Debates
OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)
Thursday, Spetember 29, 2011Hon. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I stand today to speak to the motion put forward by the member for Parkdale—High Park. I will be sharing my time with my excellent colleague, the member for York West, who also serves as the Liberal critic for seniors and pensions.
The motion calls on the government to adopt a real plan to promote job creation, to take immediate action to fix the crumbling infrastructure and to maintain the full public sector contribution to the Canadian economy so as to avert another serious recession.
Time and again, we hear the Conservatives bragging about the job situation in Canada. It shows how out of touch they are with many Canadians. Under the Conservatives, unemployment is actually up. In fact, it is harder to find a job today than it was when the Conservatives first took office. That is because, under the Conservatives, job creation in Canada is simply not keeping up with our population growth.
Today, 1.4 million Canadians are out of work and looking for a job. That is 344,000 more unemployed Canadians compared with just before the recession. That is 213,000 more unemployed Canadians than when the Conservatives first took office. Canada's unemployment rate is now 7.3% and that does not include the thousands of Canadians who have simply given up looking for work. We do not see any real plan from the Conservatives to create jobs.
Our national employment figures also do not tell the whole story. If we go into regions of the country, for instance the Maritimes and Ontario and Quebec, we see a very different picture from what we see in resource-rich provinces like Saskatchewan and Alberta.
As an example, let us look at London, Ontario, which is an area represented by both Conservative and NDP members of Parliament. In London, there are 6,800 fewer net jobs now compared with before the recession. There are 10,700 more people out of work and the unemployment rate is now 9.3%. That is almost three points higher than it was before the recession. Yet, we hear the Conservatives telling these unemployed Canadians that everything is fine, when, in fact, unemployed Canadians and their families are suffering and struggling.
In my own economic region of the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, the counties of Hants, Kings and Annapolis are represented by me as a Liberal member of Parliament and by the member for West Nova, a Conservative member of Parliament. This Statistics Canada catchment area has 5,500 fewer net jobs today compared with before the recession in 2008. There are now 2,200 more people who are unemployed and looking for work and the local unemployment rate has gone from 5% to almost 9%. In regions like these, too many Canadians have lost full-time jobs and have seen their full-time jobs, in many cases, replaced by part-time work. It is hard to pay bills, put food on the table, take care of a family or save for retirement or university or college for their children with part-time work and no benefits.
One way Canadians have tried to make ends meet is to extend credit lines. Now the average Canadian family owes more than $1.50 for every dollar of annual income. People are feeling squeezed and that is with interest rates at historic lows. They are scared to death to think of what will happen when interest rates inevitably, in time, increase. That is a reality faced by too many Canadians. What is taking place under the Conservatives' watch is that this situation is getting worse and the Conservatives are become more out of touch with reality.
The Conservatives are putting our economy and the jobs of Canadians at even more risk with their new-found ideological attachment to austerity measures. The Conservatives are doing this, despite the advice they are getting from the experts.
Dr. Sherry Cooper is the chief economist at BMO Capital Markets. Earlier this week, she scolded the Conservative government, when she said that its:
...misplaced belief that the road to economic prosperity is paved by near-term fiscal tightening, as espoused by...[the] Prime Minister...shows we have learned nothing from Herbert Hoover’s response to the Great Depression.
Because of the Conservatives' stubbornness and misguided approach, Dr. Cooper writes that we are:
...we are in danger of repeating the deflationary policies that caused the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression.
Instead, she called for counter-cyclical fiscal policy, while what the Conservatives are doing, which I guess is the only thing we can call it, is a counter-Keynesian fiscal policy. It is not just that the Conservatives are ignoring the advice of the economists. They are doing exactly the opposite of what the economists are calling for during these tough times.
I sit with the member of Parliament for Markham—Unionville who is a former bank economist with the Royal Bank of Canada. He and his colleagues globally agree that it is a mistake right now, during a perilous economic time when the demand simply is not there to fuel growth, for governments to actually cut spending and reduce demand.
It is interesting that in the first three years of office, the Conservatives actually increased spending by 18%, three times the rate of inflation, and they put Canada into deficit with their massive spending increases even before the recession began. During the good times, when the market was providing all kinds of growth for the Canadian economy, the Conservatives were spending. Now, during the tough times, when the market is contracting and investments are drying up, the Conservatives are cutting. It makes no sense and there is no economist who agrees with what they are doing.
The Conservatives spent the cupboard bare during the good times and they eliminated the rainy day fund that was set aside by the previous Liberal government. They wasted taxpayer money on everything from partisan advertising and high-priced consultants, to the G8 and G20 billion dollar boondoggle and now, with the economy teetering on the edge of a recession, the Conservatives finally have discovered austerity. This approach ramping up spending in the good times and cutting spending when Canadians are out work is wrong-headed.
As The Economist magazine September 10 edition says:
" The immediate priority should be supporting demand—or at least not doing harm to it. ...the main cause of the current high joblessness is the severity of the last recession and the weakness of the subsequent recovery. ... But the main culprit is a collective, premature shift to fiscal austerity by governments.
It noted further:
"Some forms of stimulus are better than others at supporting employment. Some infrastructure spending, such as building roads and repairing schools.... So do tax incentives that cut the cost of hiring, particularly for extra new workers....
All of that makes sense. I noticed that it did not mention fake lakes as an appropriate stimulus investment.
Here in Canada, the Conservatives have done the opposite of what the economists are saying. They are actually putting Canada at risk and making the situation we are facing worse. Instead of reducing payroll taxes, a known job-killer, last January the Conservatives actually increased payroll taxes and they did this at a time of high unemployment with 1.5 million Canadians already out of work.
The Conservative government is ignoring the fact that, with its austerity policies, it is making it harder for out-of-work Canadians to find a job. The government ignores that increasing payroll taxes and increasing the cost of hiring new workers is actually contributing to Canada's stubbornly high unemployment rates.
Now, at a time when the economy is weakening and consumer confidence is at its lowest since at the depths of the last recession, the Conservatives want to cut public investments and take money out of the economy. The Liberal Party believes that with the economy on the brink of another recession now is not the time to cut public investment and take money out of the economy.
There is a difference between the Liberal position and the NDP position when it comes to expenditure review. We support the concept of public expenditure review, particularly in times of economic growth when public expenditure cuts can be conducted without hurting the economy or the loss of significant numbers of jobs for Canadians.
At the cabinet expenditure review committee, part of Paul Martin's government, when the member for Markham—Unionville was chair of the committee, we identified $11 billion of savings. We did this as ministers by examining each line item of public spending throughout agencies and departments. Unlike the Conservatives, we did not outsource our responsibilities as ministers to high priced consultants at $90,000 a day. We took the process seriously. We were totally accountable and we did it with the support of the public service in an open and transparent manner. We published a detailed breakdown and explanation of the savings on a website for all Canadians to see. Again, we did this so that taxpayer money could be reinvested in priorities, including health care and infrastructure. We were able to sign a deal with the Canadian provinces, the largest single investment of federal money into health care in the history of Canada, of $41 billion in 2004.
We differ with the NDP on some other issues, including trade. We differ with the NDP in terms of public-private partnerships and the capacity to renew infrastructure, but we do agree broadly--
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