Madam Speaker, I am very pleased today to share my time with the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
This is an opportunity I am very pleased to have to share my perspective on behalf of the good people of Lac-Saint-Louis on what I consider to be a pivotal budget, not in dollar amounts spent but in terms of some of the long-term structural changes the budget will gradually engender, changes that will benefit both economic growth and social justice. Liberals approach governing with these two dual objectives in mind. Growth without justice is something that would be incomplete, and to have social justice, we need growth.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this is not a budget that is focused on describing large investments. Previous budgets and the economic update talked about our investment of $180 billion to renew Canada’s infrastructure over the next 12 years. If I may take a moment to refer to that economic statement and those budgets, that is spending that is laying the foundation for productivity growth and economic growth, spending to encourage the creation of networks and clusters that are at the very core of innovation.
I am thinking more specifically in terms of my region of the country. I am thinking in terms of the investments the federal government will be making to make a new train system in Montreal a reality. The Réseau électrique métropolitain will link the south shore of Montreal with the West Island through the airport and the Saint-Laurent Technoparc. These are the kinds of investments that create opportunities for growth in the long term and the medium term.
Budget 2018 targets important objectives. As I mentioned, I believe it would create structural change, but I am pleased to say that it would do so against the backdrop of declining deficit and debt ratios. For example, if one looks at the projections for the budget deficit in terms of percentage of GDP, we see that it will be going down from 0.9% to 0.6% and then to 0.5%. The federal debt as a percentage of GDP will be going down from 31% to 28.4%. That is important, because many of my constituents have told me that it is very important that deficits remain under control and that we pay back some of the debt that has been accumulated over the years, including by the previous government.
There is a very important investment being made in the budget that I would like to mention, and that is the decision to invest over $900 million over five years in fundamental science. In other words, the budget is responding to the recommendations of the Naylor report and to the scientific community, which recognize the importance of investing in fundamental science, the kind of science that does not tell us what will drop out of the process down the road, because we just do not know. We could find out that the research has led to a completely unexpected result, an unexpected result that creates jobs and economic growth and new companies that hire new employees, many of them young, in the sciences, the cutting-edge sciences, who will now, as a result, have good-paying jobs.
Speaking of the investments we are going to make in fundamental science, I would like to thank one of my constituents, Mr. Terry Hébert, a researcher at McGill University. He is a professor in the department of pharmacology and therapeutics at McGill and an advisor of sorts. For the past few years, he has been telling me about the importance of fundamental science, and I would like to quote an article that he and two of his associates wrote, which was published in Le Devoir on August 2, 2017, entitled “Tomorrow’s innovation requires funding today”.
The title could have been, “Tomorrow’s innovation and economic growth require funding today”.
The article says, and I quote:
“Thanks to basic research on membrane protein biology, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), we have implemented new strategies that have led to treatments for cystic fibrosis…At the time this research was being carried out, nobody could predict that it would lead to the discovery of therapeutic molecules and promising therapeutic approaches and to the creation of local biotechnology enterprises or to collaborations with pharmaceutical companies internationally.”
By investing in fundamental science, this budget is laying the groundwork for economic growth and scientific discoveries that will help in the treatment of diseases, for example.
This budget does something else that is structural and is very important for the future of the economy. It is working to increase the supply of labour. I would like to quote the Governor of the Bank of Canada, who was giving a speech at Queen’s University, I believe about a week or two ago. He talked about the labour market. The theme of his speech was the labour market and how we need to increase the supply of labour.
I will quote from Mr. Poloz’s speech. He said, “economic growth can[not] happen unless there are people available to fill the newly created jobs. Accordingly, a healthy, well-functioning labour market is critical”. He goes on to say, “After looking at a much wider range of labour market indicators, the Bank has concluded that there remains a degree of untapped supply potential in the economy.”
This budget is aimed at unlocking some of that untapped potential. It does so by focusing on some groups whose labour force participation rate is, unfortunately, too low for us to maximize economic growth. One group is young people. Young people are one source of untapped potential.
Governor Poloz said:
“The key point is that youth represent an important untapped source of potential economic growth. If the youth participation rate were to return close to its level before the [financial] crisis, more than 100,000 additional young Canadians would have jobs.”
How is the budget helping with youth employment? It is investing an additional $448.5 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, to continue increases in the number of summer jobs. The member opposite mentioned the Canada summer jobs program. The government is investing in the Canada summer jobs program, which will be good for increasing the supply of labour from that particular demographic group.
The budget also aims to facilitate greater labour force participation on the part of women. To quote Governor Poloz, again from the same speech at Queen’s University:
“An even more significant source of economic potential is higher labour force participation by women. While about 91 per cent of prime-age men participate in the labour force, the rate for women is only about 83 per cent.”
He goes on to say:
“History suggests that this gap can narrow. Consider Quebec, where, 20 years ago, the prime-age female participation rate was about 74 per cent. The provincial government identified barriers keeping women out of the workforce and acted to reduce them, particularly by lowering the cost of child care and extending parental leave provisions. Within a few years, proportionately more prime-age Quebec women had jobs than women in the rest of Canada. Today, Quebec’s prime-age female participation rate is about 87 per cent.”
Members will recall the Minister of Finance saying in his speech that if men and women in this country had equal labour participation rates, the GDP would be boosted by 4% and we could compensate for the drag on the economy caused by the aging of the population, which, of course, takes people out of the workforce. Therefore, this budget, to facilitate the participation of women, has introduced shared parental leave, which will provide an incentive for members of a couple to share the leave so that they can manage their careers while they are growing their families.
All in all, I conclude that this is a good structural budget that will lead to positive results in the long term.