March 26, 2009

Archived - Speech by the Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, to the Annual Conference of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

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Montréal, Quebec

It is a pleasure to be here with you tonight. I look forward to sharing with you some of the work that we've done and the steps that we've taken in the past number of months in terms of crisis decision-making or policy development in a time of crisis.

The title of this conference, "Public Policy in Crisis," is well chosen. I've spoken on more upbeat themes but few that are so timely.

I hope my address will help shed some light on policy-making in Canada, and especially in a time of crisis. There are people here today who have certainly participated in this. Budget-making is really policy-making in a broad sense. In Canada it involves a lot of people, but I'll try to give you my perspective as Minister of Finance.

Let me talk for a moment about where we are, and then I'll talk a little bit about how we got to this place. As of April 1st, our government will have the authority to proceed with roughly $20 billion in stimulus spending. That's because the first Budget Implementation Act passed through the necessary stages in the House of Commons and the Senate, and received Royal Assent on March 12.

This $20 billion represents close to 90 per cent of the stimulus contained in Canada's Economic Action Plan. In an unprecedented synchronized global recession, this is in our view the kind of support and the magnitude of support that Canada's economy needs. 

I returned 10 days ago from a meeting of the G20 finance ministers and central bankers in West Sussex. And next week the Prime Minister will be going to the G20 leaders' meeting. I will be joining the Prime Minister for the London Summit, as it is being called, which is a very important meeting in this time of crisis, including an agenda to stabilize financial markets—that is, to fix the banks, not the Canadian banks, which are fine, but to fix the banks certainly in the United States and some of the European banks, restore the flow of credit and support global economic growth.

A synchronized global recession would certainly meet the definition of crisis, so let me return to the title of this conference about public policy-making in a time of crisis. I'd argue that that's actually the more fitting subject, that we're talking about creating policy in a time of crisis.

The global situation is unprecedented, changing rapidly. At times it is deeply unsettling. Canada is not an island. Global conditions are affecting Canada. Canadian workers are losing their jobs. The unemployment figures continue to worsen. This is a matter of grave concern to all of us in Canada, to all of us in public life in Canada. Families, business and communities are hurting. This is indeed a time of crisis.

But is public policy-making in crisis? I'd argue that it is not. The policy decisions we have made as a government reflect and respond to the current situation. We must do what it takes now to protect Canadians during the current global storm, but we must not lose sight of the fact that what is in the best interests of Canadians and the Canadian economy also relates to the long term—as we take steps to address immediate problems like unemployment and the need for retraining in some industries, we don't lose sight of our longer-term objectives as they are set out in Advantage Canada. In fact, the choices we've made and the choices we will make in addressing the immediate crisis have to address those long-term goals as well, which are set out in Advantage Canada

When we became the government in 2006, it became apparent quite quickly that the previous government did not have a long-term plan for the Canadian economy. We worked on that in 2006 and published Advantage Canada in October 2006, the long-term plan including the medium term that we look at as we take actions in each of the budgets that have followed that plan.

The budget is a comprehensive response to the broader challenge we face, which is a lack of confidence which originated in a global liquidity crisis and which is now doing serious damage to our economy.  The budget has lots of numbers and graphs but it is really a comprehensive policy document, particularly the budget this year, Canada's Economic Action Plan.

Normally, a budget bill, for example, would have tax measures in it. This year's first budget bill had tax reductions as a stimulus to the economy, about $20 billion, but also has the spending stimulus measures in the budget bill itself. So that was a large step, which caused the opposition some pause but at the end they decided that this is what we need to do.

The bill is now law. We also have an additional $3 billion that with Treasury Board approval can be spent in the next few months. This is vitally important. These funds need to be spent now in Canada. It's no good if the stimulus enters the economy a year from now or two years from now. In fact, it can be damaging because it can be inflationary later on. So we've pushed pretty hard in front of a Senate committee to do this now. And they did, to their credit. 

It's not easy for government to act this quickly. This is a large organization. There are processes in place, which are good processes to make sure that proper safeguards are taken with respect to the spending of taxpayers' money. But at the same time there's the broader risk, which in my view is a more important risk, and that is the risk that the economy will worsen, that we will not have taken the necessary steps, that more Canadians will lose their jobs, that there won't be adequate retraining funds available. That is the greater risk to Canada and to Canadians than the risk of perhaps having the odd mistake made as we go through the stimulus funding.

I'm going to go back to August 2007. The finance ministers and the central bankers had been in Australia for a meeting. We had come back from Australia and Hank Paulson, who was the US Secretary of the Treasury at that time, called me. We started talking about what was happening to sub-prime mortgages in the United States. That wasn't the genesis of the problem, in my view, but it was where the problem showed itself, where it became apparent that there was a significant problem in credit markets. 

But that was the fall of 2007. There was no clear effect in real economies. There was concern in the United States about the housing bubble bursting back then. I went back and looked at the Bank of Canada's Monetary Policy Report from October 2007. It had the US economy growing 1.9 per cent in 2007, 2.1 per cent in 2008—this is real GDP— and 3 per cent in 2009. So you see what has happened rather dramatically in this very recent period of time. 

At that time the Bank thought the Canadian economy would grow 2.6 per cent 2007, 2.3 per cent 2008 and 2.5 per cent 2009. It was predicting the price of crude oil would be near US$80 per barrel through early 2008 before easing to around US$74 per barrel in 2009. 

In the autumn of 2007 I met in New York with the heads of the various investment banks. And what was being said around the tables was that this will be about six months and we'll get through this. This is a credit crisis. It's a financial market issue. It doesn't relate to the real economy now. In six months or so everything will be back to normal. As you know, that didn't come to pass. 

And we go into 2008. The credit crisis worsened. We had the investment bank failures in the United States, some bank failures in Germany, bank failures ultimately in the United Kingdom and then we started to see some slowing in the real economies.

But even then, when I go back and look at my own notes from August 2008, my own department was telling me we were on track for a budgetary surplus, and we were at that time. Growth was flat but we were still on track for a surplus in the fiscal year that is just ending. The global fallout from the US was starting to be felt but it was a flattening of the economy at that time, and we saw that throughout the G7. As I say, there was some softening in the global economy then but no one was predicting a recession for Canada. And that was where we were in August.

On August 19-20, 2008, we had an annual retreat, where I invited prominent Canadians to come and give me advice as Finance Minister. We talked about the US housing situation, which had not yet not bottomed out, support for entrepreneurship, some tax reform ideas about capital gains, environmental issues and accelerated depreciation, but not much about the Canadian economy.

And that was not long ago. The theme coming out of that meeting was basically steady-as-she-goes for Canada, that we were on track and that we should carry on. As I say, at that point no one was predicting a recession for Canada. 

So we move into September 2008 and there's a federal election called for October 14. Later in September the G7 phone calls among finance ministers began to intensify. We talk to each other fairly often, but it became more frequent with respect to the concerns relating to the stability of the international financial system, particularly in the United States.

Hank Paulson, the Secretary of the Treasury at the time, in late September proposed a plan for the government of the United States to acquire illiquid assets. I'm sure that sounds familiar to some of you with the announcements this week about toxic assets. At that time, the term toxic assets had not yet been invented. At that time, they were illiquid assets. But they're still there in some places so we're still addressing that problem about fixing the banks.

In early October last year, the G7 finance ministers said in a communiqué: "We are ready to take whatever actions may be necessary, individually and collectively, to ensure the stability of the international financial system consistent with our domestic circumstances." And there are variances obviously in the domestic circumstances. Canada has the soundest financial system in the world, according to the World Economic Forum and others.

And if you're talking about policy-making in a time of crisis, this is all in the context of a federal election, and the world economy was starting to deteriorate. There were a series of calls about that. The financial system woes began to spread. We're into October 2008, still in an election campaign. The frequency of my conversations with the Prime Minister accelerated, as one would expect. In fact, we talked quite a bit during early October of 2008. The Bank of Canada with Governor Carney, the bank CEOs in Canada and the CEOs of the life insurance companies, the large ones—all of us were engaged in this discussion as were the Department of Finance, the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office. 

Now it's unusual in the course of a federal election campaign or any election campaign in Canada for major policy decisions to be made. It's just not the tradition—for good reason. And the government is a caretaker of government during the period of a general election. Now you always have to have a government so the government remains in place—the Prime Minister, the cabinet and so on.

It did come to pass during the last week of the campaign that the Prime Minister agreed that it was necessary that we take some action to demonstrate our support of the Canadian financial system, which we did on Friday, October 10 when we announced that the CMHC would purchase mortgages from the banks that were Government of Canada insured mortgages. It was a way of providing capital to our banking system and demonstrating to the world that we would support our Canadian financial system. 

That was also the day that the G7 finance ministers and central bankers were meeting in Washington, which was a remarkable meeting. I've been to lots of these meetings. Most of them result in rather long communiqués that are many pages long and that very few people read. This conference was different. US Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson began describing the banking situation in the United States.

The comments that followed, he invited them to be forthright. They were forthright, I can assure you. There were people that were very unhappy in the room, both ministers and central bankers. The result of that was a very important weekend in Washington on October 10-11.

What happened was that the G7 ministers and bankers decided on a five-point agenda, which we agreed to—no long communiqué. We met the following morning with then President George Bush at the White House. He endorsed the five points. We then went to the IMF meetings and the meeting of the G20 later in the day, which President Bush also attended. We had a special meeting of the Council of Americas—the finance ministers of North, Central and South America. All of us endorsed the five-point plan. This was a turning point, in my view, in terms of the international approach to what we were facing. 

And this was a crisis. The concern on the Friday was quite clearly that markets would do very badly the following week, and that it was necessary for clear action to be taken that would be perceived around the world as very clear action, which is what happened that weekend.

The election followed in Canada on October 14. And I remember election day because at seven o'clock in the morning I again was on the phone with the G7 finance ministers, and Secretary of the Treasury Paulson was explaining to us how much money the US government was going to put into the US banking system and how essential this was. These were dramatic moves being taken fairly quickly over a relatively short period of time. So that was in October.

We went into November. We were preparing the fall Economic Update, which is not a budget, it's a snapshot of where the economy is. One of my American colleagues said to me recently that what happened in November or so with the economies is that the ball was on the table and it rolled off the table and it still hasn't hit the floor. And we didn't know then, no one did, that the Canadian economy would begin recession in the last quarter of 2008. No one had predicted it and the depth of the negative growth in the United States economy during the last quarter of last year.

So we gave the fall Economic Statement—it was basically a snapshot at the end of November 2008—saying we're flat but it looks okay going into the end of the fiscal year. Things continued to deteriorate. As you'll recall, we had a political crisis. We had the opposition parties that decided they would form a coalition, and there was great concern about all of that. We made the decision to do an early budget, the earliest budget in modern Canadian history, which was delivered on January 27. 

We also made a very important decision in terms of sources of decision-making, and that was to do what is probably the largest, broadest consultation that has ever been done in preparation of a budget in Canada. This was not something that just happened. This was a deliberate choice that we made at the beginning of December that we had about six weeks or so to consult, and that we would continue through the Christmas season and we would do it very broadly.

The consultations included, as you would expect, the bank CEOs. I remember the bank CEOs talking to me about cheap government money outside Canada impairing their ability to compete. Who would have thought the Americans would have been semi-nationalizing their banks? Things were changing remarkably during December and January. I talk regularly with some of our large retailers because, as you know, in their systems they can tell you who bought what last night across Canada and it's a very good measure of where we are. I met with the university presidents.

And I met with the provincial and territorial ministers of finance in November, when we addressed the issue of Equalization, which was growing at a rate that was not sustainable. So we presented a plan with the provincial-territorial ministers of finance that the rate of Equalization payments in Canada would not grow at a rate greater than the growth of the economy, which at the time seemed like a good idea but of course Equalization is an issue that never goes away and it comes back again with concerns being expressed from time to time. When we met—and this is a good thing about our country—in a time of crisis in the middle of December in Saskatoon, the attitude at the table of all of the ministers was that we have to participate together, we have to cooperate and collaborate in order to address this issue.

This has been followed through. We did the budget early federally so we provided some cover arguably for some of the provinces who might have been hesitant to make the incremental infrastructure spending that they need to make to make a difference this year, when Canadians need their help. And they have followed through with their budgets, including I might say, the budget of the province of Ontario this afternoon which was presented at Queen's Park.

So there was a good sense of cohesiveness there. It was clear with the provincial ministers that they agreed that we needed to do infrastructure spending. They wanted to broaden the definition of infrastructure. This is policy development. I agreed with them. We looked not just at asphalt and bridge repairs but also broadband, university labs and community college skills training centres. These are all important parts of a recovery and we had this broad agreement to do that—things like Infoway and electronic health records, which are vitally important to the provinces as they try to manage their health care costs efficiently and effectively.

We did five regional roundtables. When I started at Finance, we had the usual thing where every lobbyist in the country would want to come and see the departmental people and the minister and tell them what they wanted from the government. These are not edifying meetings. 

So we changed that in the past couple of years and we did it again this year. Instead, we invite people from different walks of life in Canada, sit at a roundtable, this year in Saint John, Montréal, the GTA, Saskatoon and Victoria for a full day, and we ask them to look at the big picture—some university presidents, college presidents, business people, bankers, professionals, union leaders. We look at various issues and they give their recommendations as a group, and that has proven to be very useful.

That's when it became apparent to me, certainly listening at those roundtables, that the number one issue in the country was access to credit. What followed from that was the Extraordinary Financing Framework in the budget, which will create about $200 billion worth of financing availability in Canada. We're now appointing an access to financing committee of experts. These are people from the private sector who will give advice to the Minister of Finance about how we make sure that we fill in the gaps in lending in Canada as we go through what is going to be a difficult year.

It also became apparent from the roundtables that stimulus was needed and, again, even moving away from government people and talking with private sector people, they wanted stimulus broadly defined, not just bricks and mortar, not just roads and bridges, but also looking at the broader issues, including research and innovation because that's the way we exit from the recession in a position of strength. 

We also did something new and appointed an Economic Advisory Council. This has been very helpful to me and the government. These are some leading Canadians. We've continued to meet. We met two days ago here in Montréal. Canadians want to help their country. They just need to be asked.

We had four long meetings in different cities in the country. They provided great advice to the government not only about what to do but about what not to do, and there are a lot more "ought not" decisions that are made in budget preparation and public policy than there are "let's do this." The ones we decide not to do don't get announced, of course, but they're pretty important because public policy-making and budget-making involves choices between various options. The meetings of the Economic Advisory Council were very helpful. They're continuing and I appreciate what all of those people have done to help their country. 

In the public consultations my staff said to me: you really don't want to go out and do public consultations because people are mad at you and various other things, right? This happens in politics. And I said well, you know, we have to listen.

And it was a good lesson. I've been elected for quite a while provincially and federally but it was a really good learning point for me to go and do one in Vancouver, one in the GTA and basically say next to nothing, just say good evening, sit down and listen and take notes. At one of them I got a standing ovation at the end and I thought, "I've been missing this all along. If I don't talk, I get a standing ovation."

But there is a very real need for people in government, in responsible positions, to listen so that we show that we understand, and of course one learns by listening. I learned a lot about the EI system, for example, and some of the holes in that system that led to some of the reforms that are now law in Canada as of this month. 

We received lots of submissions in writing. The website got tens of thousands of submissions, which creates a lot of work for the Department of Finance, but this was very helpful and, again, as in the roundtable comments by people in different cities in different parts of the country tend to coalesce. Attitudes tend to coalesce. Identification of the issues tends to become clear in all parts of the country. This is verified when one looks at the electronic input through the website.

I met with the economists as well. The economists were having difficulty, let's say, at that time—so were we—in trying to gauge what was happening and what was going on and how deep was this negative growth going to be.

I continued to be involved, as the government was, through DFAIT and others with the United States and the European Union. I had more and more contacts with the Americas, with the various countries of South America including Chile, which have had some economic success but the credit challenges, the financial market challenges, were starting to affect some of the countries that had not been affected to date.

I had continuing discussions with the Governor of the Bank of Canada and with the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Julie Dickson, federally to try to see what was happening in Canadian financial institutions and in our financial system. Most of that news was good but changes were taking place that had to be watched, another reason why we created the Extraordinary Financing Framework in the budget.

Now all of this was accelerated. I have to compliment everyone in the Department of Finance. People worked through Christmas and New Year's. We knew that the budget had to be ready very early by January 27. The Prime Minister, of course, worked through that time as well as the Clerk of the Privy Council, the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office. Everybody worked hard in order to distill what was being heard and deal with the briefings that we had to do with the Prime Minister inside the Department of Finance.

This is how all of this works. Lots of you sit around tables and listen to committees and listen to submissions. I wish there was something glamorous and glorious I could tell you about this. It's not. It's a lot of binders. It's a lot of looking at ideas, assessing them, analyzing them and starting to make some choices about what fits into the big picture and what doesn't.

I continue to have private meetings with people about particular issues in the economy like research, innovation and some of the issues in the non-profit sector in Canada, the NGOs and so on. And of course we did a lot of reading. I have to admit that during that time I started to read FDR books. I've taken out most of them from the Parliamentary Library. But it was a time to try to figure out how we were going to manage our way out of this economic decline.

At the meeting in Saskatoon, where I'd been listening for a few hours, it started to strike me that there's certain fundamentals here that we are going to have to do and the first one, at least in my view, was that we had to be bold, that we could not be timid, that if we were not bold we would be running a rather significant downside risk with respect to the Canadian economy. 

Now at the end of the day we were bold. It is a large deficit for this year, a large deficit for next year and a deficit in the following year which is not so large. But this is a dramatic turnaround for me, as a Finance Minister who had done three balanced budgets and balanced the budgets in the province of Ontario, to accept the realization that what Canada needs is this kind of economic activity spurred by government.

Why was it necessary? Because the investment is not being made by the private sector. Is that a proper role of government? Some libertarians and some conservatives would argue that it's not a proper role of government. I think we have to be pragmatic, quite frankly. One has to do what the country needs at a particular period of time. 

But the caveat there was we had to have an exit plan. We couldn't go back to the 1970s and the 1980s, where governments of various stripes ran deficits year after year in relatively good times. And I was motivated to enter politics in the 1970s when I saw the spending happening. I just couldn't understand it. To see the government being, in my view, profligate was a motivation for me ultimately to get involved in public life.

So we knew that we were going to have to run deficits. My own view was that we had to be bold on that. I also came to the realization that we were going to have sectoral problems in areas in addition to the auto sector. We already had the auto sector going on, a serious problem in the province of Ontario. But it's a serious problem for Canada as well because it's such an important sector of the economy.

We're still working on that issue but it was clear that forestry and manufacturing more broadly were going to be challenged. It was also becoming clear that we were going to have very significant unemployment this year and we would have to take steps to deal with that. Some of them would have to be transformative steps so that people in those industries like the ones I just mentioned, which will survive but which will be smaller, will be able to transition and be trained for other jobs in other sectors, in growing sectors of the economy.

And it became clear that the investment would have to be made by government. We would have to keep research and development going also during the recession, so that we would not get off our longer-term plan, Advantage Canada, and we would accelerate out of the recession.

Now some of the caveats: We should only do things that we would do in any event; deficits would be temporary; and we would ensure that we had an exit plan. We did that in the Economic Action Plan.

We put into the plan the rule that as we come out of the recession the surpluses that we will run four, five years out will be used first of all to pay off the deficits that we will incur in the next few years. This is important because if we don't keep to the rule, then we run into the danger of deficit after deficit. Governments are not good at curtailing spending. Once a program is in place, it tends to stay in place. And that's why our stimulus spending is time-limited—use it or lose it. At the end of two years it will not be continued.

So we were looking at the economic deterioration and listening to informed opinion. We were also looking at some of the lessons of history, and I know that the Prime Minister is an economist and he has his knowledge in that area. There was an issue of public confidence and psychology too that was important to take into consideration because that's such an important part of what happens in any economy.

But what really drove the policy decision-making in my view was just the pragmatic what Canada needs now—this is what we have to do in order to cushion the impact on Canadians, many of whom would lose their jobs and would need training; to make sure that we stimulated in those areas where we could stimulate because the private sector wasn't going to do it; to make sure that we kept lending going in this country and that government would have to be active in that because of the reticence of the banks given some of the losses and the international need to fix some the banks. All of those issues were ones that we were going to have to deal with in the budget. So we did that. 

In the meantime, there were a couple of other issues happening. Asset-backed commercial paper was an issue. Discussions had been going on for a long time, fostered by the Government of Canada. Purdy Crawford was leading the discussions to try to make sure that this Canadian-made problem was solved in Canada. It came from the private sector, it didn't come from government.

But at the end of the day, in December it was the Government of Canada, led by the Prime Minister, that brought together the Government of Quebec, the Government of Ontario and the Government of Alberta, all three of which had significant exposure to this asset-backed commercial paper. We funded the final part of the solution to the problem, which was approved by the courts and was accomplished.

We also had at the same time the pension issue, which is a serious issue. As many of you know, we have a consultation going on right now, as the provinces do. The federal government regulates about 10 per cent of pensions but because of the decline in markets many companies will be called upon to put more money into their pension plans, which can impair their own viability as businesses.

And we also had the issues with respect to the auto sector, and the Prime Minister and the Premier of Ontario in mid-December made the announcement that we would participate with the Americans assuming viability plans are produced by the Detroit Three. So all of those issues were going on.

I have to mention research and innovation because we're taking some flack for it. This actually concerns me because when I was the Minister of Finance in Ontario we did a lot of work on research and innovation, a lot of investment, some of it in partnership with the Government of Canada. I recall we funded on an equal basis the MaRS centre for commercialization of innovations in Toronto, which has been a successful enterprise. It's very important that we continue that. It's part of our Advantage Canada plan. 

We do have a strategic review in the government, and what that means is that not every program in the government goes on forever, thank goodness. Someone actually looks to see whether the program's still fulfilling the purpose for which it was created.

And what we did in the past year is we had some programs that were not using all of their spending, for example the Canada Research Chairs, because some of the universities quite rightly were doing intensive searches to get the right person from around the world to take the research chair. That means the money doesn't get spent.

So what did we do with the money? We took the money and used it for other things, like an additional $750 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation. So there were no cuts. There were no reductions in spending. What there was was a reallocation of resources for other parts of the research and innovation agenda. So that's important. That's part of the continuation.

I want to talk for one moment about the longer-term view for Canada. I really am quite encouraged today by the fact that the Government of Ontario decided to harmonize their PST with the GST. This is significant. We have a group of provinces in Canada that are still not harmonized—Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. With Ontario deciding to harmonize, this is a tremendous boost for business in that province. It means that 75 to 80 per cent of Canadian businesses will now be able to do business in a harmonized way with the PST and GST.

The savings in Ontario are about $500 million in administrative costs alone for business. The savings for businesses overall in Ontario are about $5 billion per year. This is jobs. This is investment. This is good economic policy, which we've been encouraging the non-harmonized provinces to do since 2006. So I am encouraged by that.

So that step in Ontario actually is important because what is likely to happen now is that the non-harmonized provinces will want to do this. What does it mean for the future? It means that a few years from now hopefully we will have a harmonized system across Canada, which will mean much easier accommodation for businesses and more job creation in Canada, and that's good for the country overall.

Let me say finally that when I look at the present situation, we are somewhere in the middle of this. A British banker was asked the other day where he thought we were in terms of the trough and he said, "I think we are closer to the bottom." And that's a safe thing to say. We are somewhere probably closer to the bottom.

This is going to be a difficult year. The banks have to be fixed internationally before we are going to have recoveries in the various economies in the world. That financial market situation has to be fixed.

Canada's leading the way on this. Our financial system is looked at around the world as a model. It's become humorous internationally to refer to Canada's boring banking system with other finance ministers saying, "Gee, I wish I had such a boring banking system as you have in Canada." So we're doing well in that regard. People look to our financial system, the way it's regulated, the way it's conducted with admiration internationally.

In terms of our stimulus, we're ahead of what the IMF asked each country to do and which the G20 leaders agreed to do in Washington in early November. So we're on track as a country in terms of our international leadership by the Prime Minister, which I hope and expect will hold us in good stead next week at the London Summit.

And finally, let me say this because I think it's important to have perspective in all of these things.

We will come out of this. We are Canadians. We are resourceful. We are a strong people. We have the human resources. We have the great institutional resources, McGill University being a prime example.

I hope and I expect that because of the measures we have taken in this policy-making in a time of crisis that as we come out of the recession, we will accelerate strongly in Canada so that we will come out of it stronger than ever. 

We made a contribution federally to Ireland Park in Toronto, which is a park to commemorate more than a thousand children who died during the great Irish famine. As you know, Grosse Île is here, a national park east of Quebec City.

So many immigrants who came to Canada were fleeing economic or political circumstances, and they had nothing. Some of them couldn't speak either of the official languages. And look at what they accomplished.

And all we have to survive is a few recessions, including this relatively difficult recession right now. But surely we will, and we will come out of it stronger than ever.

Thank you very much.