As the end of this 42nd session of Parliament approaches, it is time to evaluate the government’s performance against both the commitments they made and the priorities of Canadians. In short, is Canada stronger than four years ago? The following is a review of the five key areas that the citizens of Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill have put forward as their priorities.
ECONOMY & JOBS
The government claims that the economy has never been better, citing a recent Statistics Canada report, which states that the unemployment rate is the lowest ever, and that 1.2 million net new jobs have been created. But, pure job numbers don’t tell the full story, they ignore the quality of those jobs and they ignore other factors that contribute to future economic health.
The quality of jobs in Canada is eroding with over a third of the Canadian work force precariously employed. Many jobs are part-time which offer marginal and sometimes zero hours per week, with little or no benefits. While others are contract work that fail to meet minimum labour code protections such as minimum wage, working hours, vacation or sick days.
Since 2015, the oil and gas sector has lost over 120,000 jobs, the automotive sector has moved assembly lines out of Canada or shut down manufacturing plants like GM Oshawa completely and the aerospace sector is following suit with companies like Bombardier cutting 5000 jobs, selling its operations to foreign owners. All while foreign investment is leaving Canada at an alarming rate with $100 billion in outflows in 2018.
This indicates Canada’s ability to compete globally has weakened and the future of the Canadian economy is at risk.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS & TRADE
80% of Canada’s GDP is derived from trade. Trade is more than negotiated agreements – it is about international relationships – and Canada has never been more alone.
Canada’s relationships with the US, China, India and Saudi Arabia have deteriorated as a result of this government’s pattern of undiplomatic behaviour, negatively impacting Canada’s trade.
The new NAFTA is a worse trade deal for Canada – not only are the trade terms less favourable in many areas from automotive to dairy, this new deal also compromises Canada’s sovereignty by requiring we ask permission from the U.S. for any new trade deal with other countries, and by making it easier for the US to impose further national security tariffs.
China continues to punish Canada by refusing to buy our canola, soybeans, pork and other agricultural products while Saudi Arabia has suspended diplomatic ties and banned import of food from Canada.
The current government has failed to understand that diplomacy, international trade, and the economy are inextricably linked.
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY POLICY
All federal political parties and many Canadians agree – climate change is real and we need federal policies to minimize the negative impacts of human activity on our planet.
To truly be a comprehensive “environmental plan”, a Canadian plan must be more than a Carbon Tax, and also include policies to increase energy efficiency, conserve clean water, and invest in green technology for Canada to become a global centre of environmental excellence.
Furthermore, our oil and gas industry is one of our largest economic drivers with Canada’s energy sector contributing 11% to Canada’s GDP, while also being a world leader in environmental stewardship. But this government has recently passed legislation that will have little if any impact on climate change but will essentially destroy our energy sector affecting the economic wellbeing of almost every region of Canada.
Canada’s approach to combatting climate change must find the appropriate balance between protecting the environment and preserving our economy.
INFRASTRUCTURE & NATION BUILDING
This government committed to investing in infrastructure but very little of the money has been spent, few projects have progressed and the promised economic benefit has not materialized. Additionally, their plan only involved supporting infrastructure that other government levels were furthering.
While a federal government must support municipal and provincial infrastructure projects it must not be at the expense of infrastructure for which only the federal government is responsible. Canada’s federal infrastructure – airports, seaports, railways and pipelines – is the backbone that ensures Canadian goods get to market, increasing our productivity and GDP. Just 3% of infrastructure spending is designated for “trade and transportation infrastructure” ($1.8 billion of $60 billion).
Further, it is Canada’s Arctic that offers the greatest potential for future long-term economic growth. Yet this government has ignored this potential, while the US seeks greater Arctic influence and Russia, China flex their military power to lay claim to Canada’s rich Arctic resources.
Canada’s future requires that we return to being a country that can get big bold projects built.
Canada’s tax structure is constraining Canada’s growth and our ability to compete globally.
The need for tax reform cannot be overstated, and it must be more than just tinkering with tax credits or lowering a tax bracket. It requires a comprehensive, in-depth restructuring of corporate, small business and personal taxes.
Canada is weaker today than four year ago and faces increasing challenges at home and abroad. Canada must not be slow to act. The world and Canada’s place in it is changing rapidly – and once we lose our standing we may not have the opportunity to regain it.
This article was originally published in the Auroran.