DA: Debate Speech on the Budget
Mr. Dean Allison (Niagara West, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I want to take the opportunity, since this is my first chance in the House to actually spend more than 60 seconds asking questions or doing S. O. 31s, to thank my constituents for the opportunity to represent them again in Niagara West for the fifth straight time. I certainly want to thank all the volunteers who helped out and those who created donations, because we realize campaigns do not work unless we have finances to make those happen.
My perspective in talking about the budget today will be around small business and confidence, as well as some of these other things. I have a concern when we look at creating jobs, and I realize that governments do not actually create jobs, but they create a set of circumstances that creates a climate which gives businesses confidence to invest in the country.
In looking at some of the things that our government did in the last nine years, I will use the acronym TIRE to put in perspective all the things we did to try and give the economy confidence and give Canada a great reputation on the world stage as a place to invest in, which has been borne out by a number of articles. As a matter of fact, in January, Forbes rated Canada as the number one country in the G20 to do business in.
Considering what went on over the last number of years, certainly with the great economic meltdown around the world in 2008, Forbes Magazine is saying that Canada is number one in the G20 as a place to do business. The reason that happened is because of all the hard work our government did over the last 10 years.
Here is why I use the acronym TIRE.
The “T” in TIRE is because we reduced corporate taxes, and one of the things I will talk about is not dealing with the small business tax reduction, which I think is important. There were also the trade deals that we fostered with over 51 countries, including the TPP, which is the most recent one. However, we looked at lowering taxes for corporations, which made us one of the lowest jurisdictions in the G7 for corporate taxes. When global companies are deciding where they are going to invest money, they take a lot of things into consideration, and that is certainly one of them.
The “I” in TIRE is with regards to infrastructure, investments, immigration reforms, and everything that we did around infrastructure. The current government is committed to infrastructure, which I think is great. These are important things, and the previous government had unprecedented investments in infrastructure around this country, and certainly in my region of Niagara as well. I look at the number of things that we were able to accomplish over a short period of time that have made Niagara a much better place to be, not only with the number of infrastructure projects there, but also with the work that was done at the border, which enhanced transportation and a number of different things.
The “R” in TIRE is for research and development and red tape reduction. I had the opportunity to sit on a red tape reduction round table, and one of the things we heard was that red tape continues to be an issue for businesses in terms of where they find the confidence when one has to deal with a bunch of red tape issues in one country versus another, which is important. It is something that I hope the new government will continue to persuade, because, quite frankly, we can look at red tape one time, and we can have a commission to deal with it, but one of the laws of government or bureaucracy is that red tape will always continue to creep back in. I think that is something that we need to be diligent on and that the current government needs to be committed to.
Last, the “E” in TIRE is for entrepreneurship and the economy. As I mentioned previously, Forbes said that the best place to invest within the G20 is Canada. Therefore, I think we need to focus on entrepreneurship and small business. However, one of the things that concerns me as we move forward in looking at small businesses, and some of the commitments that have been blown by the current government’s earlier indications, is that business needs to have the confidence to know that if they invest money and move forward with something that the rules are not going to change. They need to count on the rules of engagement as they move forward. Therefore, one of the things we need to continue to do in this country is nurture small business and entrepreneurs.
One of the things our previous government did was to set aside $400 million for a venture capital fund, which is a good start. However, I do not think it goes nearly far enough to address one of the most serious issues that small business has in this country, which is access to capital.
One of the reasons why we have hotspots in the U.S., whether it is Boston or whether it is Silicone Valley, is that there is lots of money there. Yes, there is a lot of other factors. There are very smart people, but we have very smart people here in Canada. I think access to capital continues to be one of the things that we will need to change in this country if we are to be more effective and have a chance to attract the businesses that we need to do because businesses need to grow.
What happens in this country sometimes is that we get a great idea, we move forward and then we lack the ability to raise additional funds, so businesses invariably go next door because there is lots of cash and lots of big private markets and equity markets down there. I just say that these are some of the things we need to do and on which we need to move forward.
In light of that, one of the promises the Liberals made, they campaigned on before the election, is that they would continue to lower the small business tax. This is one of the underlying factors I see, the confidence, where small businesses could decide, or SME’s in general, where they invest and how do they grow. If things do not line up that make it easier for them to do these things, then they will either sit on their funds or they will have lots of other opportunities.
A number of manufacturers in my riding said they could not believe the offers they were getting from the southern U.S. to move down there. We are not just talking about taxes, but other things like energy costs are crazy. I realize that is a provincial issue, but it is something all governments need to be concerned about. When I hear manufacturers in my riding say the only reason they are here is because they are committed to the community. It is because they are from the community; they have roots there because they grew up there, that troubles me. It is great for the individuals who do that, but we are competing in a global economy for dollars, for talent and all these other things go into it.
The Liberals’ promised to reduce small business taxes to 9%, and now they have said they will not do that. That concerns me, because once again that undermines the confidence of small businesses to understand what makes a difference in terms of confidence and small businesses moving forward.
One of the other things that was a challenge was dealing with the whole issue of EI. I think it is great that we need to look out for the most vulnerable, but I think we need to be careful over time where EI premiums will end up, because once again, businesses have to pay. We talk about CPP expansion. Once again, on the surface, I think that is a great idea. The challenge is, though, it is all on the taxpayer, and that is individuals and businesses. They have to bear the brunt of that.
The challenge I have from that point of view is that we continue to put more burdens on small businesses. We continue to not look at all the other things that affect what is going on, and then what happens is a lack of confidence and businesses decide that maybe they will not invest additional money here, that maybe they will move to other countries, or that maybe they will move to the States. That is troubling because the previous government worked very hard over the last nine years to instil that confidence.
As we see in various articles written about this country over the last number of years, whether it was Forbes or Fortune, they all indicated that Canada was on the right track.
I also want to talk a bit about the comments of the Parliamentary Budget Officer in trying to determine the budget and where they are at. It is interesting that the opposition gave us a hard time when we were in government, talking about how we did not listen to the PBO, we were not open and transparent and all these things, yet what we have now is the Parliamentary Budget Officer saying there is no openness or transparency. Once again, whether it is changing or playing down forecasts of long-term spending plans, in all these kinds of things, how does the public understand what is really going on when the Liberals campaigned on the ability to be open and transparent?
Unfortunately, 10 minutes is not nearly enough time to talk about all the issues that one would talk about in the budget, but I want to say that there is a number of issues facing Canada right now, whether it is dealing with pipelines, our resource sector and a whole bunch of other things, I want to leave the final thoughts that as a government, the Liberals have to create confidence, because the business that will do that.
My concern is that with the number of broken promises that have already happened, what was campaigned on, and no one forced them to say this, but they are actually reneging on some of these things. Ultimately, that creates instability among small businesses, SME’s and business in general and causes them to say that they are not sure if these guys will keep their word, and as a result, the funds can actually flow other places. That concerns me, because businesses we know are the ones that actually create jobs in this country.