Speech - Fall Economic Statement 2018: Investing in Middle Class Jobs

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Speech by the Honourable Bill Morneau

November 21, 2018

Mr. Speaker, three years ago, Canadians made a choice.

They embraced a more confident, optimistic, and ambitious approach.

One that would invest in Canadians again, and in the things that matter most to them: 

good, well-paying jobs;
more help for hard-working families;
and an economy that offers every Canadian a real and fair chance at success.

In the years since, we have delivered real progress for the middle class, and for people working hard to join the middle class.

We started by asking the wealthiest to pay a little more, so that we could lower taxes for the middle class.

We introduced the Canada Child Benefit, to help families with the high cost of raising kids.

These two measures alone have made a tremendous difference in the lives of Canadian families, Mr. Speaker.

By this time next year, middle class families of four will get about $2,000 more each year to invest in the things their families need, whether it's nutritious food or new winter boots for growing kids.

The Canada Child Benefit also means that today, about 300,000 Canadian children no longer live below the poverty line.

To ensure that more Canadians have a safe and affordable home, we introduced the first-ever National Housing Strategy. 

These investments will remove more than half a million households from housing need, and help cut chronic homelessness in half.

To help Canadians have more confidence in their future, we strengthened the Canada Pension Plan. Younger Canadians can now be certain that more retirement income will be there for them when it's their turn to retire.

For the current generation of seniors, we've increased the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) top-up—improving the financial security of close to 900,000 seniors—and we've reversed the move to raise the eligibility age for Old Age Security and the GIS.

Mr. Speaker, all of these policies were specific promises we made.

They are now promises kept.

We made these investments because they were the right thing to do for Canadians: for new jobs, better wages and a stronger economy.

And as we are seeing, Mr. Speaker, when you invest in Canadians—when you give them the tools they need to succeed—Canadians combine it with their own hard work, and deliver some of the best economic results we have seen in a generation.

Today, Canada's economy is strong and growing.

At 3 per cent, Canada had the strongest economic growth of all the Group of Seven (G7) countries last year, and will remain among the fastest-growing economies this year and next.

Our plan to grow the economy is working, because people are working.

Our definition of a strong economy is one that produces real results for people.

That means jobs, Mr. Speaker.

Good, well-paying, middle class jobs.

Jobs that you can raise a family and build a future on.

In the last three years, hard-working Canadians have created more than 550,000 new full-time jobs, pushing the unemployment rate to the lowest level we have seen in the past 40 years.

Canadians are also earning more. 

For the average Canadian worker, wages are growing faster than inflation.

If current trends continue, this year will be the strongest year of wage growth in close to a decade.

Mr. Speaker, these are strong results by any measure.

They are proof that when we invest in Canadians, Canadians will grow the economy for the benefit of everyone.

We know that there is still much more to do.

As the Prime Minister would say, better is always possible.

But Canadians should take heart—and be proud of the work they have done to create jobs, and to get the economy moving again.

Mr. Speaker, every responsible leader knows that a good plan has to be flexible enough to absorb changes in circumstances because circumstances always change.

In Canada's case, this has meant dealing with a new administration in the United States. This has posed, shall I say, some interesting challenges.

One of the most important things we have achieved since the last Fall Economic Statement is the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

This was important for the millions of Canadians whose jobs rely on North American trade, and also important for Canadian businesses, who told us time and time again that the most meaningful thing we could do to ensure stability and confidence in Canada's economy would be to successfully renegotiate NAFTA.

Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what we did.

We have preserved access to our most important market, and provided certainty for the millions of Canadians whose jobs depend on it.

And I want to take a moment here to thank Canadians—from all walks of life and all political persuasions—who put differences aside to stand up for our country.

Business and labour leaders Members on all sides of this House mayors from some of Canada's biggest cities and smallest towns ... local entrepreneurs and artists from all across Canada.

On behalf of the Prime Minister and my colleague the Minister of Foreign Affairs, thank you.

We were able to stand our ground because we stood on your shoulders.

But Mr. Speaker, just because we share a trade agreement with the United States doesn't mean we will always agree with their approach.

The current administration has moved forward with an aggressive package of tax cuts for large corporations. That is their right as a sovereign nation.

Some have lobbied us to match those measures.

If we were to do that, it would add tens of billions in new debt, Mr. Speaker. 

It would do more to worsen income inequality in Canada than improve it.

And it could make the services that millions of Canadians depend on less affordable.

Mr. Speaker, let's be blunt: managing a federal budget calls for some tough choices.

And the fact is, when the Members opposite push for an aggressive elimination of the deficit, what they really mean are aggressive cuts in services cuts that will make life harder for people, and for families.

That's not what we want for Canada, and it's not what Canadians want for themselves.

And so we choose a different path—one that is a targeted, measured, and fiscally responsible.

One that encourages businesses to invest in growth, and create more good, well-paying jobs for middle class Canadians.

One that makes it clear to businesses that if they have a choice to invest on either side of the border, Canada is the smart and sensible choice.

And one that ensures that our federal debt-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio continues on a steady downward track.

It's worth remembering that we already have the best "balance sheet" among our key allies, and that our Government has made an absolute commitment to maintaining that competitive advantage in a volatile world.

I'll tell you why it's important to get the fundamentals right, Mr. Speaker.

Because, as much as we are taking positive actions today to help grow the economy and invest in middle class jobs, the reality is that there are challenges all around us.

Challenges that range from uncertainty about the global economy to concerns about lingering trade disputes to the challenges facing the oil and gas sector in Alberta, which is contending today with very low crude oil market prices compared to international benchmarks.

That's why we are matching our words with actions, Mr. Speaker. To ensure that we can achieve greater market access for our resources in the right way.

Let there be no mistake, Mr. Speaker. 

We could have ignored the concerns of business leaders, decided not to make the investments and the changes that are part of the Fall Economic Statement, and we would have had a lower deficit as a result.

To do so would be neither a rational response, nor a responsible one. 

We are choosing, once again, to trust Canadians—the people who put their trust in us. 

We know that if we give Canadian businesses more opportunities to succeed and grow, they will do just that.

One of the greatest opportunities for Canada's economy is connected to the global shift toward clean growth.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, in 2016, our Government worked with provinces and territories, in consultation with Indigenous Peoples, to reach Canada's first-ever national clean growth and climate action plan.

It's a comprehensive plan that invests in public transit, phases out coal power, invests in clean energy, prices pollution, and supports energy efficiency across Canada.

Mr. Speaker, some people want to bury their heads in the sand and ignore what's happening to the climate, and to the economy.

They want to make pollution free again, and let our kids and grandkids deal with the consequences.

We're not going to let that happen, Mr. Speaker. Pollution was free, so we had too much of it. This is the root of the problem and we are going to fix it.

After three years of strong action, Canada is now poised to lead and succeed in the global clean growth economy—an opportunity that is estimated to be worth $26 trillion over the next 12 years.

And to help get us there, we're announcing our intention to create an Advisory Council on Climate Action that will give our Government expert advice on how we can further reduce pollution and encourage economic growth in two crucial areas: the transportation sector and the building sector.

It's not enough, Mr. Speaker, to simply clean up the economy. We need to make a cleaner economy more affordable for middle class Canadians.

That's why our Government will not keep any of the revenues from pricing pollution. We'll return every penny to provinces and territories where we collect it, and 80 per cent of Canadian families will be better off as a result.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, our Government is confident that if we give Canadian businesses more opportunities to succeed and grow, they will meet and exceed all expectations.

To encourage businesses to invest in their own growth and create more good, well-paying jobs, our Government proposes to allow businesses to immediately write off for tax purposes the full cost of machinery and equipment used in the manufacturing and processing of goods. 

We will also allow specified clean energy equipment to be eligible for an immediate write-off of the full cost. This will help achieve climate goals, and boost Canada's global competitiveness.

And in response to requests from the business community, we are also introducing a new Accelerated Investment Incentive, an accelerated capital cost allowance for businesses of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy. 

This incentive will encourage more businesses to invest in assets that will help drive business growth over the long term, setting the stage for more good middle class jobs.

Our Government is also setting an ambitious agenda to make Canada the most globally connected economy in the world. 

We are already well on our way.

With the successful conclusion of the new NAFTA, as well as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, we now have comprehensive free trade agreements with countries representing two-thirds of the world's GDP.

Canada is now the only G7 country to have free trade agreements with all other G7 countries.

We want to give Canadian businesses more opportunities to grow, succeed, and create good, well-paying jobs. That's why we are launching an Export Diversification Strategy, to directly support Canadian businesses to grow their overseas sales by 50 per cent by 2025.

Here at home, we will work with our provincial and territorial partners to remove barriers to internal trade within Canada.

Specifically, we will work together to find ways for businesses to transport goods more easily, to harmonize food regulations and inspections, to align regulations in the construction sector, and to facilitate greater trade in alcohol.

We will also take steps to modernize regulations so that it is easier for Canadian businesses to grow—and we'll do that in a way that continues to protect Canadians' health and safety, as well as the environment.

We intend to move forward with additional investments that will help Canadian innovators add value, succeed and grow.

And because our economy is doing well, we also have the fiscal room to continue to follow through on the commitments we made to Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, we know that the best solutions for Canada's big challenges come from Canadians themselves. 

When charities, non-profit and social enterprises have access to capital and investment, they can innovate and go further than government can do alone. That's exactly what we're doing today by launching a new Social Finance Fund.

We have been working with local residents to reform the Nutrition North program, so that this program ensures better access to affordable, nutritious and traditional food, and is transparent, effective, and accountable to northerners and other Canadians.

A key part of Canada's digital and creative advantage is our Francophone culture. The protection and promotion of that culture unlocks enormous economic opportunity, not just in Canada but around the world. That is why we are helping to create a new Francophone digital platform, in partnership with TV5MONDE public broadcasters. 

To protect the vital role that independent news media play in our democracy and in our communities, we will be introducing measures to help support journalism in Canada.

To help sustain Canada's wild fish stocks and the communities that rely on them, we will invest in efforts to rebuild fish stocks. We will also introduce two new funds: a British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund and a Quebec Fisheries Fund to support the fish and seafood sectors in those two provinces.

Mr. Speaker, what these and the other measures contained in the Fall Economic Statement all have in common is this: they are all part of our Government's plan to follow through on the commitments we made to Canadians.

To strengthen and grow the middle class, and offer real help to people working hard to join it.

To grow the economy, and invest in middle class jobs.

To give Canadians the help they need to succeed, making smart investments to grow our economy for the long term, while we bring the books back towards balance.

That is what Canadians expect of us.

That is what we promised.

And that is exactly what we are doing.

Thank you.