March 25, 2009
MP Report - April 2009
Over the last few years our government had observed with increasing unease, the deteriorating financial situation in the United States that reached a critical point in September 2008. Although we could not anticipate the depth of the looming financial crisis, our government took decisive action to help protect Canadians as much as possible by tightening mortgage rules, reducing personal and corporate taxes by $200B and lowering the national debt by $37B.
As you know the world-wide recession that started in the US in September 2008 quickly migrated to Europe and Asia and is now in Canada. The fiscal actions taken by the government delayed the effects of the world-wide downturn but could not insulate us from what is going on in the major economies. Although we do not have the banking or housing problems that face the United States and other countries, thirty five percent of our economy is tied up in exports. With the recession biting deeply into our traditional customers, the demand for our manufactured goods, forestry and agriculture products has fallen dramatically and the price of oil has plummeted. As income decreased in a large number of companies, the rate of unemployment began to climb and government tax revenues began falling off.
To counter the above effects, our government has committed over $40B of temporary stimulus to the economy to help in such areas as infrastructure, scientific innovation and export industries. We have provided $75B of liquidity to the banks and are prepared to provide an additional $200B liquidity to financial institutions, if necessary, to keep credit flowing to consumers and companies. We have improved the Employment Insurance rules and are willing to provide the North American automobile companies with loans to help keep them operating into the future. Unlike other countries however, we will not provide bailouts to any corporation.
In this extraordinary time, we are maintaining our commitments to the provinces for health, education and equalization. We are committed to protecting the services that Canadians require even if we must run a temporary deficit.
As our large stimulus passes through the economy and the actions of other countries take effect we are confident that we will come out of the recession more competitive and stronger than before.
Parliament has approved the 2009 budget. Employment Insurance enhancements such as extending benefits by five weeks and increasing work sharing to 52 weeks are being implemented as of 1 March. The large stimulus funds that form the basis of our Economic Action Plan will start flowing as of 1 April.
Employment Insurance and Skills Training
In this challenging time, our government is helping workers get the skills and training they need by providing: $500M per year in support of Labour Market Development Agreements; $500M to a Strategic Training and Transition fund; an additional $60M in the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers; and a $500M investment to extend benefits for Long Tenured Workers participating in longer term training.
In this economic downturn there is a lot of discussion about the security of pensions. Defined pensions are either regulated by the Federal or Provincial governments. Federal regulations apply to those industries that are mandated by Ottawa such as airlines, railroads, banks, etc. Provinces regulate commercial enterprises that are registered within their jurisdiction. Our government has started a nation-wide review with the goal of improving the consistency of approach between both levels of government with respect to pensions.
Beechwood National Cemetery
The Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa is a national cemetery for the military and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is currently the resting place of 75,000 including famous politicians, poets, scientists and other distinguished Canadians. I was honoured recently to participate in the ceremony designating Beechwood as Canada’s National Ceremetery. With the potential of hundreds of years of service, it will be the focus of innumerable national events.
Taking Action in the House of Commons
Since our government released the 2009 Economic Action Plan in February, we have been very busy putting forth strong legislation to help Canadians. Some examples are:
Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, is designed to protect the health and safety of Canadians. This Bill toughens the laws contained within the Hazardous Products Act (specifically Part I of the Act which deals with consumer products restricted through regulation or prohibited from advertising, selling, and importing into Canada such as toys and certain chemicals which are regulated). Right now, if a product that isn’t regulated or prohibited poses a health or safety risk is recalled, it is up to the industry to voluntarily issue and manage the recall. Bill C-6 would provide the Minister of Health and designated officials the power to order recalls of consumer products and it would toughen the penalties associated with the compliance regime that it establishes for consumer products. Our government feels that this is a tough Bill designed to protect Canadians.
Another important piece of legislation that our government brought forward is Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and protection of justice system participants), which toughens the punishments associated with organized crime. This Bill makes any murder committed in connection with a criminal organization an automatic first degree murder charge, regardless if it is planned or deliberate. It also makes it an offence to use a firearm while being reckless about life and safety of another person or assaulting a peace officer with a weapon and it extends punishments given to organized crimes.