Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today in the House of Commons from my new perch here in the back row. It is my first speech, since taking this spot, to engage with more Canadians. As I said when I was first elected and sat in the corner over there, any seat in this chamber is a true honour to occupy, and I think all members on all sides would agree with that.

I am glad to be speaking again about CPP reform and specifically about Bill C-26, because this, yet again, is an example of a government absolutely disconnected from the reality of the economy.

We have a jobs crisis in Canada right now, and this legislation would lead to fewer jobs. The finance department has confirmed that.

It is a jobs crisis of epic proportions, and the Prime Minister and the finance minister have done nothing. In fact, they have made it more difficult for employers to hire people, and I will spend a few moments talking about that.

Where is the crisis most acute? It is in Alberta, where 200,000 Canadians, families, are without the certainty and the confidence a job provides. If that alone is not a crisis, I do not know what is. I am very proud of my colleagues from Alberta who have been raising this in the House daily for the last year. We have yet to see a plan of any sort from the Liberal government.

The epicentre of our jobs crisis in Canada is in the west, which we have to remember kept Canada moving forward through the great recession of 2008-09, when Canada led the G-7 in economic growth and job creation after the worse recession since the thirties. We relied on family members in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Manitoba, and now the government is turning a blind eye to that crisis.

In Calgary, the unemployment rate is 9%. People were coming from around the world to work there because of the opportunities in the last generation. The government has no plan. The unemployment rate in Edmonton is roughly 8%, and there is not even an acknowledgement, in a serious way, of that prolonged state of affairs.

Let us look at whether this is just a global commodity cycle, which I have heard members of this government sometimes suggest, instead of their inaction. Let us look at the parliamentary budget officer’s recent report on the labour market. Let us look at what the PBO found on job creation in Canada. I will quote from page 1, which really summarizes the PBO’s report,

The Canadian economy created 96,000 (net) jobs from Q3 2015 to Q3 2016, which is half the average annual gain of 192,000 over the previous five years.

That is when our party was in charge of the economy, so the Liberals are not even batting half our average. I will continue.

Job gains from Q3 2015 to Q3 2016 were entirely part-time and mostly in the private sector. Full-time and public sector employment contracted.

Does that not underscore the crisis we are experiencing? Is that not a call to action for the Liberal government? When is the government going to come to grips with the economy?

The $30 billion the Prime Minister has spent to put us in deficit has created zero full-time jobs. We will hear the Minister of Innovation and the ACOA minister, who is in Mississauga, I might add, speak about jobs, but they are part-time jobs.

We remember the election, when the Prime Minister, the third-party leader at the time, said that Canada was in a recession. That was false then, and it was proven false afterward. He said he would spend no more than a $10-billion modest deficit. That was another false claim. He spent $30 billion. Why did he say he was going to go into deficit? It was to stimulate job creation. That is false. He has created zero full-time jobs, according to the PBO. This is the job crisis we are in, yet the Prime Minister is going around the world, spending our money elsewhere, and has no plan for job creation at home.

The last time I rose in the House to speak on this very subject, 2,000 jobs at Bombardier were lost, so this is not just a job crisis in western Canada; it is a Liberal job crisis.

What is worse, the unemployment rate for young people has remained fixed at 13%, which is unreasonably high. What was the response of the finance minister? It was that our young Canadians should get accustomed to job churn. That is shameful absence of leadership. In fact, I think it is the modern equivalent of “Let them eat cake”, a comment that is disconnected from the reality our young people are facing. Rather than saying “We’re working on innovation jobs, working on clusters, and making sure there are more people going into the STEM fields and coding”, he said, “You’d better get used to unpaid internships and being underemployed”. That is a failure of leadership.

Why are we in this crisis? Taxes are going up on job creators and entrepreneurs, who are highly mobile. Taxes are going up on small and medium-sized businesses that have had their previous tax reduction decreased. We have a carbon tax, which on the weekend the environment minister said would make our economy more competitive, showing the height of her disconnect from reality. Today, we are discussing a payroll tax. In one year, the run up in the deficit and the taxation of people, businesses, and consumption is unparalleled in Canadian history. In fact, it would take multiple Liberal governments of the past to introduce so many different types of tax increases all in one year.

Getting back to Bill C-26, what did Finance Canada’s own report say about the CPP reforms? It said that 10,000-plus job losses would result from these reforms in the bill in the coming years. We are in a job crisis. We are creating a carbon tax that would raise the import costs of manufacturers in Ontario, and the costs of farmers in the west and across the country, and of people who are hauling lobster and trying to get it sent over to Europe to be sold, and of the lumber industry. Higher costs on all those people translates into higher costs for families and seniors. Now we are doing a payroll tax that the minister’s own department has said will lead to 10,500 job losses in the coming years. His own department has said so. It is staggering.

What have the leading groups that work with employers said? The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have both implored the government not to bring in a payroll tax at a time when we are trying to get corporations, small and large, to use some retained earnings to hire one or two more people. We are putting a payroll tax on them and stopping them from hiring more people, whether by a 1% increase in premiums today or a 4% increase in coming years.

As I have said many times in the House, there is no crisis in retirement savings. In fact, who claimed the media was “fear-mongering” with regard to a retirement crisis? It was the finance minister in his book with his actuary at Morneau Shepell, Fred Vettese, in a book called The Real Retirement. They said it was fear-mongering. Well, the finance minister is now relying on that fear-mongering to bring this bill forward.

Who will it help? Ipsos Reid showed that 70% of Canadians do not realize that retirees and people near retirement will not benefit. In fact, Fred Vettese, the chief actuary at Morneau Shepell, has said it will only help 8.7% of middle-income Canadians boost their retirement income. It will not help people on the low end, those we were trying to help when we were in government, with GST reductions and other things, and not people at the high end. It will only help 8.7% of people in the middle. That translates into 5% of Canadians who in the future might have some modest increase in retirement income, if they do not use RRSPs, if they do not get the value from their home, and if they do not use the TFSA that minister Flaherty brought in. Therefore, potentially 5% would benefit while 95% of Canadians would pay, and employers, whom we are imploring to hire more people, are forced to pay premiums for every new person they hire.

It is shameful, in the midst of a jobs crisis, the government is introducing yet another tax that would lead to more Canadians being unemployed.

We must stop it here. We have to focus on job creation for the future.



Stay in Touch with Erin

Sign up for email updates from Erin O'Toole to hear the latest from Ottawa and our riding.