‘The greatest challenge we face today is not a failure of ability, it is a failure of leadership’

Thomas Mulcair’s speech in the House this morning to begin debate on the NDP’s motion.

Monsieur le Président, je vous remercie de la lecture que nous venez de faire de la motion dont il serait question aujourd’hui. Je dois vous dire à quel point c’est important pour nous en tant qu’opposition officielle de rappeler que le thème principal lors de la dernière campagne électorale était, en ce qui nous concernait, résumé en deux: travaillons ensemble.

Nous avions compris qu’il était impérieux, surtout à la lumière de la récession massive qu’on a subie en 2008, qu’on commence à travailler avec nos partenaires que ce soit l’Europe, les États-Unis, et bien entendu à l’intérieur de la fédération canadienne avec les provinces et territoires.

Hier, quelle fut notre surprise d’entendre le leader du gouvernement à la Chambre se moquer de l’idée de rencontrer et de discuter d’économie avec les provinces et territoires.

Le lendemain de l’élection générale du 14 octobre 2008, j’ai pris la liste des actions mentionnées et je les ai soulignées en jaune. Je me permets de dire que j’offre au leader du gouvernement à la Chambre cet important objet pour qu’il puisse souligner lui-même en jaune les parties appropriées de notre plateforme la prochaine fois qu’il désirera la lire.

What did the Conservative Prime Minister have to say following that general election? He had a six step program. Four of those steps were to hold meetings. Let us read them together.

Step number two, discussing the global financial crisis and strengthening the Canada-European Union economic partnership at Friday’s Canada-European Union summit, so we would be meeting with the European Union.

Number three, summon us to meet that fall and table an economic and fiscal update before the end of November.

Number four, participating in the G20 finance ministers meeting November 8 and 9 and calling for a further G7 finance ministers build on progress, and finally, convening a first ministers meeting on the economy to discuss with the premiers and territorial leaders a joint approach to the global financial crisis.

On peut voir que, loin d’être étranger à l’idée de travailler ensemble, il fut un temps où notre premier ministre trouvait ça important, voire tellement important que quatre des six propositions qu’il faisait étaient de travailler ensemble.

Que s’est-il passé depuis lors? Il dispose maintenant d’une majorité à la Chambre. Les conservateurs n’ont tellement pas besoin des autres qu’ils ne se réunissent même pas en conseil des ministres. C’est quand la dernière fois qu’on a vu un avis public, qu’il y a eu une réunion du conseil des ministres?

Ils se réunissent en petits groupuscules et ils envoient les décisions qu’ils viennent de prendre à leurs ministres pour que ceux-ci apprennent ce qui vient d’être décidé dans leurs propres dossiers. C’est ça, sa manière de travailler.

Let us look at some of the bare economic facts that we think militate in favour of holding and attending that meeting in Halifax with the provinces and territories.

Trade deficit: Right now the current account trade deficit in Canada is $50 billion. That is goods, services, investments and cash transfers. That is a record high. Those are the numbers given to us by the Toronto Dominion Bank.

Unemployment: This is worth noting, because we always hear the expression “net new jobs”. Here is the real number. There are 319,000 more people unemployed today than prior to the 2008 recession.

Manufacturing job losses: I was in southwestern Ontario for a jobs tour last week. I spent four days meeting with municipal officials, meeting with unemployment groups, meeting with chambers of commerce. Manufacturing job losses last ten years, November 2002, 2.33 million manufacturing jobs in Canada; August 2012, 1.80 million manufacturing jobs; 530,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the last ten years.

Under this government, it is worth noting that despite the rebound since the 2008 recession we are still at a net loss of 316,000 manufacturing jobs, almost exactly the number of people more unemployed today than in 2008.

We now have the highest household debt in Canadian history. Over the past 10 years, household debt in Canada has risen by 135% while disposal income and nominal gross domestic product have risen by 54%. The average Canadian now has a record high debt load equal to 154% of their disposable income.

Finally, on productivity, another key indicator. Under this Prime Minister, labour productivity has grown by an average of 0.5% per year. That is the worst six years of productivity growth since Statistics Canada began tracking the statistic in 1961. That is the Conservative’s record. That is what they are hiding from when they start making stuff up about our policies and our positions. That is why they do not dare go and meet the provincial premiers and those responsible for the territories. It is because they have nothing to put on the table except this lamentable record. That is what they have done to the Canadian economy.

Canadians used to be able to count on a decent job with good benefits and a pension they could rely on, but those jobs are disappearing fast. More often than not, they are being replaced by part-time precarious work in the service sector.

Lorsque les Canadiens regardent les statistiques et les faits lorsqu’ils se tournent vers Ottawa, ils se rendent compte qu’on a perdu 500 000 bons emplois dans le secteur manufacturier, des emplois qui venaient avec une pension de retraite, remplacés par des emplois précaires dans le secteur des services sans pension de retraite. C’est une autre dette qu’on est en train de laisser sur le dos des générations futures, une dette sociale, parce que c’est cette génération qui va être obligée de s’occuper de ces gens qui vont venir à la retraite sans assez d’argent pour vivre décemment. Dans un pays aussi riche que le Canada, il est proprement scandaleux qu’on ait autant de personnes âgées qui vivent sous le seuil de la pauvreté. Ça, pour nous, c’est une première priorité de travailler pour s’assurer qu’au Canada, jamais il n’y a de personnes âgées sous le seuil de la pauvreté.

On constate un endettement des ménages au plus haut niveau de l’histoire et 50 milliards de dollars de déficit commercial. On voit par leurs gestes – par ailleurs, 50 milliards de dollars de réductions d’impôt pour les sociétés les plus riches – qu’eux connaissent leurs propres priorités. Ce n’est pas monsieur et madame Tout-le-monde, ce sont des bien nantis, et surtout les bien branchés auprès du râtelier conservateur. Il y a des risques sans précédent en ce moment, et comme je l’ai dit hier, on embarque dans une période de turbulence extrêmement dangereuse.

Au lieu d’utiliser toute notre expérience, notre crédibilité et notre expertise – puisque nous gérons quand même un très grand pays, et par ailleurs, qu’on sait travailler avec des régions qui peuvent être en difficulté, qu’on a une formule de péréquation et qu’on sait travailler dans ces circonstances -, quand l’Europe a commencé sa grave crise, plutôt que de dire qu’on pouvait être là à la table en train de leur donner des conseils, de les aider et de partager notre expérience – personne n’a jamais parlé, surtout pas moi, de faire un chèque, mais c’est comme ça qu’ils aiment tordre la réalité -, du moment qu’on leur demande pourquoi ils ne sont pas là en train de travailler avec les Européens, ils disent que pour leur style de vie somptuaire, on veut qu’ils écrivent un chèque pour des milliards de dollars. Foutaise et balivernes! Nous, ce qu’on veut, c’est un Canada respecté sur la scène mondiale.

Some of the challenges we are facing are, of course, driven by global forces, but the truth is our fate and our future is still very much in our hands. The greatest challenge we face today is not a failure of ability, it is a failure of leadership.

Il y a des principes de base dans l’administration publique, et tout le monde comprend depuis une génération qu’on doit toujours regarder l’aspect environnemental, économique et social chaque fois qu’on prend une décision.

Il faut appliquer des principes de base de développement durable, comme: internalisation des coûts, pollueur-payeur, utilisateur-payeur. Mais eux, ils n’en ont cure.

It is extraordinary to watch the Conservatives go. Usually, coming especially from a law and order government, one would expect that if a company had practices that did not correspond and conform to the law, the government would change the practices and order them changed to correspond to the law. What did the government do? It changed the law to make it correspond to the practices. That is what it is doing by gutting environmental legislation and leaving the largest ecological debt in the backpacks of future generations. The clean up is going to be enormous, the cost insurmountable. That is the Conservatives’ legacy to future generations.

Failure to enforce and apply existing Canadian environmental legislation has as a result that we are bringing in an artificially high number of U.S. dollars. That is contributing to keep the Canadian dollar artificially high, which everyone admits, whether it is the OECD, the Coulombe report prepared for Industry Canada, or whether it is Mark Carney. It is the high Canadian dollar that is the principal cause of at least 50% of the manufacturing job losses, and the Conservatives are not doing anything about it.

Slowly but surely the Conservatives are dismantling the balanced economy that we built up in Canada since the second world war. The difference between us is we know that governments played a role in establishing that balanced economy. The Conservatives refuse to acknowledge that. They believe that there is a pristine market that arbitrates all of these things on its own.

We know and understand that in a country as large as ours with a population of only 34 million the reason we have been able to hold ourselves together is because government has always played an active role. That is what the Conservatives are trying to dismantle. That is why we are here to stand up and say they have to change their ways. They have to start talking with their partners across Canada and come to results that favour the Canadian economy for the future instead of dismantling it the way they are doing it.

After 50 years of constant economic growth in Canada, how is it possible that the government is now telling Canadians that we can no longer afford the types of programs that have always identified us? We can no longer afford old age security, employment insurance and health care.

Comment est-il possible, après une telle croissance économique que, tout d’un coup, ils découvrent qu’on n’est plus capable de s’offrir les programmes de la Sécurité de la vieillesse, de l’assurance-emploi ou d’avoir un système d’assurance maladie universel gratuit et public. C’est parce qu’ils sont en train de vider la capacité économique du gouvernement. Quand on donne 50 milliards de dollars de la capacité fiscale du gouvernement en cadeaux aux grandes entreprises, ce n’est pas étonnant qu’on n’en soit plus capable. Donc, ils ont causé le problème et, ayant causé le problème, ils proposent comme remède de supprimer les services. C’est absurde et c’est cela ne pas avoir de vision. Or c’est aussi une raison additionnelle pour quoi ils refusent de rencontrer les premiers ministres des provinces.

Les jeunes sont déjà en train d’en payer le prix.

Young people in Canada are being told by the government that they have no choice, that they have to accept less. If this continues we will be the first generation in Canadian history to leave less to our children than what we ourselves received from our parents, and we find that totally inadmissible.

Nous croyons que la stabilité économique est tributaire de cette capacité de travailler ensemble. Le monde des affaires, bien entendu, mais aussi le monde du travail et le gouvernement doivent travailler ensemble pour pouvoir bâtir une économie équilibrée et forte pour le XXIe siècle. C’est cela notre vision.

We can build an economy that creates wealth and prosperity for generations to come. Sadly, working together has not been the government’s strong suit.

Rather than invest in our workforce, the Conservatives trample on the collective bargaining rights of our workers. Rather than making the investments in infrastructure, research and education that will allow businesses to thrive, they hand out billions in corporate tax breaks to well-connected industries.

I urge people to go to southwestern Ontario. When we think of people losing their jobs in a closed factory, we think first and foremost of the families and the effect that has on them. I urge people to meet with the Chamber of Commerce, meet with people at city hall. They will tell us that the plant is no longer part of their tax base. The city no longer has the money to take care of its basic infrastructure. It is a vicious circle that is being installed now, a vicious spiral downward for many of those municipalities.

That is where the government can and should be playing a role, but it would have to be at the table with the province to find those solutions. That is why it is so unacceptable that it is absent from these discussions. It prefers to finger wag and lecture. That is its only approach.

Canadians have the drive, talent and ingenuity to compete with anyone in the world, but prosperity does not happen overnight and it does not happen by accident. The challenge we face is not the failure of ability, it is the failure of leadership, and we all recognize that government cannot do everything. Of course, a strong and vibrant private sector is always going to be the backbone of a vital, thriving economy, but there is also a commonsense role that everyone understands for government in shaping our economic future. The economy we have today took decades to build, decades of investment by business and government on behalf of all Canadians, investments in education. The only way to create wealth is to create knowledge.

Our infrastructure is falling apart. Municipalities have the responsibility for 40% of infrastructure spending and 8% of the tax base in Canada. It is not going to happen. There is a deficit of over $100 billion in infrastructure. That is something else that the federal government can and should be playing an active role in if it is willing to talk with the provinces and territories.

Of course, investments in energy have also laid the groundwork for our economy to thrive in the last century. I was very proud in the last election to stand up, and I was only the Quebec politician to do so, in favour of loan guarantees for Newfoundland and Labrador to develop green renewable hydroelectic energy on the Lower Churchill. That is the type of vision we could have in Canada. Can everyone imagine the partnering opportunities? The places in Canada with the most consistent wind currents are often the latitudes with the largest concentrations of first nations. We see tragedies like Attawapiskat and the failure of the federal government to fulfill its responsibilities. Instead, it finger wagged again and blamed the victims.

Look at the opportunities we are missing to put in place a green renewable energy infrastructure across Canada and partner with first nations. That would be a vision for the future and the Conservatives do not believe in any of that. With the right leadership and the right choices, our economy can reach greater heights in the years to come.

Mais ça n’arriverait qu’à une seule condition: qu’on travaille ensemble. Qu’on arrête d’attaquer. Qu’on arrête de semoncer. Qu’on arrête de donner des leçons de morale. Qu’on arrête de croire que puisqu’on a déjà pris une décision, il n’y a aucune autre information pertinente qui peut avoir de l’influence ou produire un bon résultat.

C’est un plaisir pour moi de reprendre lecture de notre motion d’aujourd’hui.

That this House acknowledge that the Canadian economy is facing unprecedented risk and uncertainty; recognize that many regions and industries across Canada have already suffered significant job losses in recent years; urge all levels of government to work together to build a balanced, 21st century Canadian economy; and insist that Canada’s Prime Minister meet with his counterparts in Halifax this November at the National Economic Summit being held by the Council of the Federation.




Browse

‘The greatest challenge we face today is not a failure of ability, it is a failure of leadership’

  1. Well I’ll agree we certainly don’t have any leadership in this country.

  2. One thing Mulcair didn’t mention was Harper’s 40-year no-money-down banking deregulation that triggered a speculative housing bubble that’s about to deflate. If there’s anything Harper did right on the economy, (aside from taking credit for the efforts of others,) I’d sure like to hear it…

    The previous Liberal government was much better at managing the economy. Then all provinces prospered. They got results.

    Now Harper’s master plan is to go all-in on resources while letting the value-added sector wither and die. Resources just don’t create enough jobs and wealth to maintain a high standard of living. We need innovation and productivity growth to keep up with the rest of the developed world.

  3. Good speech.

  4. Bravo, Mr. Mulcair! You keep that up and I may just vote NDP for the first time come next election.

Sign in to comment.