CANADIAN POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS
Transcript of the Globe & Mail federal election debate on the economy
Source: Macleans, 9-17-15
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SEGMENT ONE: ECONOMY PT. 1
SEGMENT ONE: TAXATION
SEGMENT TWO: ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
SEGMENT THREE: INFRASTRUCTURE
SEGMENT FOUR: IMMIGRATION
SEGMENT FIVE: QUESTIONS, AND OPEN DEBATE
David Walmsley: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Globe and Mail debate on the economy. We are coming to you live from Calgary with a studio audience, and they join you, our viewing audience, for the next 90 minutes as we discuss the key issues of this 2015 campaign. Let’s welcome the three party leaders here tonight. From the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper; from the New Democratic Party, Thomas Mulcair; and from the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau.
There is little doubt this election is about the economy. All parties, I think, can agree at least with that. With the country struggling to find its economic mojo, we have some tough questions for the leaders this evening. The first half deals with six topics: jobs; energy and the environment; infrastructure; immigration; housing; and taxation. Each area will begin with a question from me to one of the three leaders, with a follow-up question to that same leader. I’ll then push the question to a second leader for a quick answer before an open-floor debate. None of the three leaders has advance knowledge of the questions, only the broad themes. And the order of speaking and the positions on the stage were randomly drawn with party representatives. That’s the housekeeping. Let’s begin.
The reason we are here tonight is to come to grips with this country’s challenges. And the first question goes to you, Mr. Harper. And the question is on jobs. Canada is facing structural rather than cyclical change. Do you have a jobs plan for industry beyond taking things out of the ground?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Absolutely, David. But if you don’t mind, let me just begin by saying, because we’re in southern Alberta, I want to take a moment to give my condolences to the Blanchette and the Dunbar families on the terrible deaths of Hailey and Terry. These were obviously senseless acts, and I know that everybody here, across the country, our thoughts and prayers are with those families.
On jobs, David, our approach is multifaceted. There’s several things we’re doing. Obviously the centrepiece of our plan is to make sure we have – we are making practical investments that are affordable, that we can do while keeping our taxes down and keeping our budget balanced. But there’s a number of things we’re doing, including: for instance, particular interventions in the labour market to make sure we’re training people for the jobs that are available; orienting our immigration policy that way; encouraging innovation in our manufacturing sector; opening up trade markets. We’ve signed more trade agreements than ever before. There’s a whole series of things we’re doing, but the core to protecting our economy is making sure that our budgets remain balanced and our taxes remain down.
David Walmsley: Thank you. Your dream, though, of being an energy super power have not been realized. For those who are worried about jobs of the future, what comes next?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, I – you know, I think I just laid out exactly where we’re going. We are living in a very challenged global economy. We have enormous economic instability out there. Through it all, the Canadian economy has managed to create a large number of jobs, a better record than anyone in the G7, 1.3 million net new jobs since the end of the global financial crisis, most of them full time in the private sector in good-wage industries. Incomes have been rising.
Now, there are still challenges, and we can do more, but the essence of our plan is making sure that we make investments that we can afford. The other parties are trying to tell us they will deal with the challenges of our economy, of our labour market, of international markets, by raising taxes and running deficits to finance vastly increased amounts of spending. That is not the way to protect our economy in this environment. The way to protect our economy is make specific investments that will help build our labour force, build our infrastructure, build our manufacturing and other resource industries, while at the same time making sure we’re keeping our taxes down and our budget balanced.
David Walmsley: Thank you, Mr. Harper. That’s Mr. Harper’s answer.
To Mr. Mulcair we go. Jobs. You need to do more, surely, than support just the manufacturing sector. What is your jobs plan?
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Well, I listened carefully to your question to the Prime Minister, and I was disappointed that he wasn’t able to go beyond resource extraction. Mr. Harper put all of his eggs into one basket, and then he dropped the basket. Four hundred thousand well-paid manufacturing jobs lost on his watch. There are now 300,000 more Canadians without a job than when the recession hit in 2008. So we have a plan to kick-start the economy, to grow manufacturing jobs, work on innovation. We want to drop the taxes of Canada’s small and medium-sized businesses because they create 80 percent of new jobs in this country.
And we also want to help people get ahead and make their lives easier because making sure that you can balance your work life and your family life is important to the NDP. So that’s why one of our key planks in this platform is to make sure that we bring in quality, affordable child care across Canada, at most $15 a day. Once it’s fully ramped up, that’ll be one million quality, affordable child care spaces across the country. That’ll be good for the economy, but it’ll also be good for women because that’s almost always women who make tough sacrifices in their careers.
David Walmsley: OK. Thank you, Mr. Mulcair. Mr. Trudeau, can you please lead this open part of the debate?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Now – thank you, David. It’s great to be here in Calgary tonight. I want to start with a few questions, my friends. Are you better off now than you were ten years ago, when Stephen Harper became Prime Minister? Is our country better off? Do you have better job prospects? Do you have confidence that your kids have a brighter future? I’ve spent a long time talking with thousands of Canadians across this country. And Mr. Harper may not see what’s going on from 24 Sussex Drive, but I do. I know that Canadians are worried about their jobs, and that’s what this election is about, their jobs and the jobs that their kids are going to have.
David Walmsley: But Mr. Trudeau —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: That’s why —
David Walmsley: What would your —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — we have a plan, a strong and clear plan to invest in the middle class, to grow the economy, give it a kick-start it needs, and put more money in Canadians’ pockets. It starts with actually raising taxes on the wealthiest one percent so we can lower them for the middle class. It starts with investing in Canada once again: in roads; in clean water; in transit; in jobs. And when we talk about that investment, we’re very clear. We’re going to run three modest deficits in order to pay for it.
Now, those are the kinds of investments that Mr. Harper hasn’t made for ten years. And if you think this economy’s doing great, then Mr. Harper is your guy.
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: But if you need a change —
David Walmsley: Would you care to respond?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — the Liberal Party has a plan.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, look. I’ve never said things are great. What I’ve said is we’re leading – living in a very unstable global economic environment. The questions I would ask people at home are the following. In the last ten years, where would you rather have been in all this global economic instability? Where would you rather have been than Canada? Looking forward, where would you rather be than Canada? I think the are – these are the key questions.
Mr. Trudeau proposes permanent deficits. He proposes – he’s opposed, for example, to our cuts to small business. The rea—small business taxes. And the reason Mr. Trudeau said he was opposed to small business cuts is he said a large percentage of small businesses are just wealthy people avoiding taxes. Mr. Trudeau, small business —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — is the backbone of the middle class, and it’s the backbone of the Canadian economy.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: That’s why among our investments —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — you know full well —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — we’re cutting taxes for small business (crosstalk) —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — Mr. Harper, you know full well —
David Walmsley: Let’s go to Mr. Trudeau.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — that the Liberal – Mr. Harper knows full well that the Liberal Party plan is to drop small business taxes from 11 to nine percent. He’s just playing politics. We have a plan not only to encourage small businesses but to invest in what small businesses need, like reliable transportation, like a growing economy. Mr. Harper has not only the worst growth record on jobs – the worst job creation record since World War II; he has the worst record on economic growth since the Great Depression.
David Walmsley: OK.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: We need to grow this economy —
David Walmsley: Let’s get to Mr. Mulcair.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — and he has failed.
David Walmsley: You’re hearing a good ding-dong between these two. Where are you?
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Well, I’m going to try to ring their bell. While Mr. Harper thinks that everything is just fine the way it is, Mr. Trudeau is proposing to dump tens of billions of dollars in new debt on the backs of future generations. The Prime Minister wants to hit the snooze button, while Mr. Trudeau is hitting the panic button. Canadians deserve to know what they’re voting on in this election. The NDP has put its numbers out there. We put out a costed plan yesterday. It’s frankly reliable, and it’s sustainable. We’ve put out numbers, and neither of these will do the same. At least we should respect the voting public and let them have an informed decision in this election.
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Actually, Mr. Mulcair —
David Walmsley: — you grimaced with that.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, look. Both of these parties talk about cutting taxes for small business, doing the small business tax cut that we are already moving forward with for the next four years. But what they also propose – and small businesses know this around the country. They propose hikes to payroll taxes, to CPP particularly and also employment insurance, that are ten times bigger than the tax cuts they are promising small business. That’s why the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has come out against these plans. That’s why Canadian Federation of Independent Business and other experts today said that Mr. Mulcair’s tax increases will cost at least 250,000 jobs. You don’t protect our economy and you don’t move it forward and create jobs by (crosstalk).
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: If Mr. Harper —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper –
David Walmsley: (Crosstalk) Trudeau, please. Mr. Trudeau.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper has demonstrated once again that he’s missing the point. Canadians need support. The fact that he’s talking about pensions as taxes – why pensions aren’t taxes, Mr. Harper, is when people retire they get their pension money back. They don’t get taxes back. That’s where the difference is.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, Mr. Trudeau, that’s a decision —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: And Mr. Mulcair needs to hit —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — for people to make themselves.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — Mr. Mulcair needs to hit the wake-up call. Mr. Mulcair has missed the opportunity to invest in Canadians the way we need to.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: If you were right —
David Walmsley: Let’s – let’s have Mr. Harper quickly respond in a sentence, then we’ll come to Mr. Mulcair.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Look, we have given all kinds of tax incentives for people to save, and they’re taking advantage of them. Eleven million people —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: No, they’re not, Mr. Harper.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — (crosstalk) tax-free savings accounts. Workers and employers, small employers, do not want these tax hikes. And when you say they’re not tax hikes, they’re coming right out of the paycheques, a thousand dollars for the Liberal Party proposal out of someone making $60,000 —
David Walmsley: OK. That’s —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — a year. It comes out of the mortgage (crosstalk) —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper, you’re inventing (crosstalk) —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — comes out of planning for education —
David Walmsley: — a long answer, Mr. Harper.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: This comes out of putting food on the table.
David Walmsley: Let’s go to Mr. Mulcair for the final word.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: It’s not just money that appears out of thin air.
David Walmsley: Mr. Mulcair.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: That was a really long sentence, David. Look, the average Canadian knows that a pension plan is necessary. The Canada Pension Plan, as far as Mr. Harper is concerned, is a tax. We view it as an investment in the future. I’m tired of watching successive Liberal and Conservative governments dump these massive ecological, economic, and social debts on the backs of future generations.
David Walmsley: Thank you very much. And that brings us, with some relief, to the end of the first question.
ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
We move now to the second topic, energy and the environment. And this question goes to Mr. Mulcair. Mr. Mulcair, in the last campaign, the NDP put a cost of $21 billion on its carbon pricing policy. What is your current proposal, and what would the cost be for carbon emissions?
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Well, thank you very much, David. And we know that a dynamic and innovative energy sector is crucial for Canada for the years to come. And we also know that Canada has international obligations that it has to follow through on. The Liberals signed Kyoto with no plan. They admitted they had no plan to respect it. That’s why they went on to have one of the worst records in the world for greenhouse gas production. Shamefully, Stephen Harper made Canada the only country in the world to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.
Now, when I talk about avoiding leaving a massive debt on the backs of future generations, this is exactly what we’re talking about. So yes, we’ve always believed that the best way to ensure a reduction in greenhouse gases is with what’s called a cap and trade system. Actually, Canada and the United States had a very successful model of that to reduce SO2 when it was causing acid rain on our forests. It’s worked before, and it can work again. But above that, everybody has to understand that there are tens of thousands of jobs across the country, and especially here in Alberta, that rely on that sector, and we need to understand that we have to develop our resources responsibly and sustainable, which is exactly what I did when I was the Minister.
David Walmsley: OK. Mr. Mulcair, I’m going to go back into that. Let’s get the costing. What is the costing for your carbon emission proposal? Is it cap and trade, similar to Ontario and Quebec? Is it a carbon tax like British Columbia? What would the cost be?
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: No, I don’t think that you can guarantee a reduction with a carbon tax. A carbon tax is about the tax, although there is more and more information available. A cap and trade system can guarantee the reduction. These are basic principles of sustainable development. You have to make sure that you make the polluter pay for the creation that they’re creating. You can’t allow people to use the air, the soil and the water —
David Walmsley: But Mr. Mulcair, would that not create revenue hemorrhaging in Alberta, to tie with Ontario and Quebec?
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: No, that’s not what happened when we brought in the cap and trade system to reduce the SO2 that was calling – causing acid rain. And you could of course make sure that you’re reinvesting in green energy technologies. Around the world there will be $5 trillion spent on green energy technologies in the next 15 years. Unfortunately, Canada is not even going to be part of it because we have a government that has taken a rip and ship approach to sending our resources as fast as they can to other places. We’ve got to take a different approach, add jobs here in Canada.
David Walmsley: But is the bill – is the bill going to be —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Both Mr. Trudeau and Mr. —
David Walmsley: — more than 21 billion or less?
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Well, of course, as you know, that was something that was proposed last time. And the cap and trade system that we’re proposing now has no such bill, and you know that, Mr. Walmsley.
David Walmsley: OK, thank you. Let’s move now to Mr. Trudeau. For your plan, it looks like a lot of it is left to the provinces. How do you lead the country, perhaps going to the UN climate conference later this year, without a Canadian policy?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Well, we have a Canadian policy, and it’s one that recognizes that for ten years under Mr. Harper, with no leadership on the environment, provinces have moved forward. And 86 percent of our economy, our four biggest provinces, have actually committed to putting a price on carbon, and they’ve done it in different ways, which makes Mr. Mulcair’s proposal so unrealistic. The idea of imposing a bureaucracy out of Ottawa, a cap and trade system, on provinces like British Columbia that have already moved forward with a world-renowned carbon tax that is actually working for them is actually a completely nonsensical plan.
We are committed to working with the provinces to reduce emissions, to encourage them to hit those – the targets needed so that we can contribute as a responsible country once again to reducing emissions. We will go to Paris for the climate change conference with all Premiers to talk about how we are going to meet that responsibility we collectively share on this planet, to prevent a two-degree increase in global temperatures.
David Walmsley: Thank you. I think we’re hearing a lot of skating. Let’s go to the Conservative Leader. Mr. Harper, you start off the open-floor portion.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, look, David, I would just point out this is the first government in Canadian history that has actually been able to see a reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time seeing the economy grow, and we’re very proud of that. We didn’t do that through carbon tax schemes, principally because carbon taxes are not about reducing emissions, carbon taxes are about raising revenue for the government. And in one form or another, that’s what the other parties are proposing. We’ve been moving forward with a regulatory approach, sector by sector, where we actually know the cause and effects of putting in new regulations and reducing emissions before we actually do it, so it’s not just left to chance.
But I do, David, want to address the other half of the debate, which is the energy sector. You know, it’s an important – it’s been a very important driver of the Canadian economy. It’s obviously having a significant downturn right now because of the fall of energy prices. And that sector needs a government that is on its side. We want to see this sector grow and develop. The other —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: The problem is, Mr. Walmsley —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: You know – you know —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: — under Stephen Harper’s stewardship we have not built one kilometre of pipeline to tidewater, and it’s easy to understand why. He’s gutted a whole series of environmental laws. We don’t have a credible, thorough, environmental assessment process left in this country. The public is not on side. He thought he was helping the energy companies by destroying that legislation; he’s actually made their lives tougher.
When I was the Minister in Quebec, Mr. Walmsley, I lowered greenhouse gas production in our province every year for the three years I was the Minister of the Environment. It can be done. We brought in overarching sustainable development legislation, the toughest in North America. We went so far as to change the Charter of Rights to include the right to live in a clean environment. It can be done. Mr. Harper sees the environment and the economy as polar opposites. Everybody in Canada knows you have to work on both at the same time.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Which is why we’ve done both. Mr. Mulcair, you actually are the only leader in Canadian history to have gone to another country, you and your colleagues, to the United States, to argue against Canadian jobs and against Canadian development projects.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: It’s exactly the opposite, Mr. Harper.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: It’s exactly the opposite.
David Walmsley: Hold on, Mr. (crosstalk) –
David Walmsley: Mr. Trudeau and – Mr. Trudeau (crosstalk) —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: He just said something to me and I’m going to answer him. Forty thousand Canadian jobs would be exported to the United States with Keystone XL. That’s not our figure; that’s the Government of Canada’s figure under Mr. Harper’s Conservatives. I want to create those 40,000 jobs in Canada. Let’s add value to our natural resources here. That’s the way to sustainably develop our resources.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Mr. Mulcair, when you export your product –
David Walmsley: Hold on. Hold on.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: That’s why trade’s a good thing.
David Walmsley: Let’s go to Mr. Trudeau.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Mulcair talks about having Minister of the Environment in Quebec, but I was living in Quebec at that time and I remember he was proposing bulk water exports to the United States for Quebec, and that’s certainly not something we’re interested in.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: That’s completely false (crosstalk).
Hon. Justin Trudeau: You gave a speech on it. You said it could be like forestry —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: That’s completely false.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — in the – well, listen, look at your own record, Mr. Mulcair.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: You look at the record, and —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: The fact is Mr. Harper continues —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: — (crosstalk) very strong (crosstalk) in place.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — to pretend that there is a —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: These are called debates, Mr. Trudeau. You don’t seem to understand that.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — choice between environment and economy. He chooses to say that you cannot build a strong economy if you’re still protect—if you’re protecting the environment. And that has been his failure, and that has been his failure felt right here in Calgary. He talks about being the best friend that Calgary has ever had, that Alberta has ever had, but he hasn’t gotten pipelines built. He has made the oil sands and international pariah, and with friends like Stephen Harper —
David Walmsley: OK, let’s – can we – let’s —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — Alberta doesn’t need enemies.
David Walmsley: — get away from politics for a moment. Let’s bring it back to some costing. What is the costing of your plan? Mr. Mulcair first.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Our plan for sustainable development includes bringing in overarching legislation that will be rigorously enforced and provide action when a company is trying to pollute the environment. Mr. Harper talks a good game on international trade deals. He’s done everything in his power to stop the authorities that exist under the North American Free Trade Agreement from even measuring the pollution going into the environment in Canada. That’s his track record.
We’ll enforce overarching sustainable development legislation. We’ll apply it fairly and equally to everyone. And Canadians will know that we’re going to stop leaving this massive ecological debt to – on the backs of future generations.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Now, you asked about our costing. Not only will we move forward on pricing carbon with the provinces and ensuring that we’re reducing greenhouse gases in a responsible way; the Liberal Party is also committed to investing $20 billion over ten years in greener infrastructure. That’s floodplains mitigation here in Calgary and places across the country; it’s investing in clean jobs, in green tech, in making sure that we’re moving towards renewable energies. Yes, we need to get our resources to market. It’s one of the fundamental responsibilities of a Prime Minister. But in order to do that, we need to move in a responsible way that understands the future that we’re leaving to our kids.
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Look, we’re investing heavily in green energy, about a billion dollars a year in green energy and energy efficiency technology. But what we’re not doing is imposing costs upon consumers. We’re in a fragile global economy. We don’t need additional costs. You know, we heard the same, old story from the NDP on this. They say we’re going to fix this somehow through raising taxes. In their platform yesterday, they put in a bunch of tax increases —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: That’s false.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — for the energy and mining sector.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Completely false.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: You know, this is the same story we had in Alberta when the NDP came to office. We’d somehow fix our problems through raising taxes. And now what have we seen? Now I know trades people who are now getting higher individual tax bills. We see people getting layoffs because their employers are paying higher taxes.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Mr. Harper’s solution to everything has been to —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Higher taxes are not the way you’re —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: — drop the taxes to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — going to move the energy sector or the Canadian economy forward —
David Walmsley: OK.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — in a challenged global economy.
David Walmsley: Mr. Mulcair —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: (Crosstalk) low taxes and balanced budgets.
David Walmsley: — please. Mr. Mulcair, your final word.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Mr. Harper has dropped the taxes of Canada’s largest corporations by tens of billions of dollars. If that was such a good idea to create jobs, how come we lost 400,000 well-paid manufacturing jobs? How come we have 300,000 more unemployed today than when Mr. Harper’s first recession hit in 2008?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Jobs are up, and corporate tax revenues are up.
David Walmsley: OK, thank you. We now move to the third topic, which is infrastructure. And this goes to Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau, you’re committed to taking us into deficit in order to fund your infrastructure plan. Spending money is an easy promise. What does success look like?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Well, Canadians understand that, when you want to buy a new home or renovate your existing home because you’re adding to the family, you take out a bank loan. You know that you can invest in your future because that’s what confident, optimistic countries do. We invest in our future. And right now Mr. Harper thinks that the investments he’s made over the past ten years are enough; they’re not. Because he has the worst job creation rate since World War II, he has the worst growth rate of any Prime Minister since the Great Depression.
We need to create the transit that Canadians need, and we need to start doing it right now. Mr. Mulcair talks about putting things off for three, five, ten, 20 years. That’s not what we need. We’re the only party that’s said yes, we will run three modest deficits because it’s time to invest in Canada once again and give people the support they need. That’s why we’re going to work with municipalities and provinces to identify the necessary projects and get them built because we will invest in the future of our country.
David Walmsley: Mr. Trudeau, you say that you would create a new infrastructure bank. That is dependent upon Canada’s pension funds investing. So far, they haven’t chosen to do that because the projects in Canada are too small. What if they don’t sign up?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Actually, that’s not entirely – that’s not at all true, David. We are actually proposing a new infrastructure bank that will help provinces and municipalities borrow at the advantageous rate that the federal government actually has. Yes, we are, as a separate initiative, looking to encourage pension funds to invest here in Canada, but in order to do that, we have to have a much more robust partner in the federal government.
For a decade now, Mr. Harper has under-invested in our infrastructure, and, while he’s been running fiscal deficits, has also been increasing our infrastructure deficit. The fact is Canadians stuck in traffic on the Deerfoot or on the Gardiner or on – or elsewhere across the country know that we need a plan that’s going to tackle transit and roads right now, not a decade from now like Mr. Mulcair, and not – not at all like Mr. Harper has been doing. That’s what our plan is all about. That’s why I’m going to invest in the future of our country.
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper, is Mr. Trudeau on to something?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Absolutely not.
You know, look, here are the facts. This year our government is putting more into infrastructure – 15 times more – than the last full year of the Liberal government. That is how much we’ve increased federal infrastructure investments. Over the decade to come, our Economic Action Plan to create jobs and growth has some $80 billion, an unprecedented amount of money that’s being put into federal, provincial, and municipal infrastructure across the country. Of course the easiest thing to do for anybody else is come along and say, you know, let’s just spend more. But we’ve managed to do this without raising your taxes and without borrowing anything as we move forward.
Mr. Trudeau comes along and says let’s spend more, let’s raise taxes, let’s run a deficit. Running a deficit is not the kind of protection our economy needs right now. We’re in an unstable global economy. We’ve managed to return to a balanced budget now for the second year when many other countries haven’t done so. That’s an asset we should continue to pursue, and we don’t need to spend more just for the sake of being able to say we spent more.
David Walmsley: Let’s move to the open-floor part of this question. Mr. Mulcair, you have the lead.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Thank you, Mr. Walmsley. Mr. Trudeau’s plan is frankly reckless, and it’s uncosted. Municipalities across this country are asked to spend the cost to ha—assume the costs of 60 percent of the infrastructure with only eight percent of the tax base. Mathematically that’s impossible, and it’s not sustainable. But what’s also not sustainable is the old Liberal approach of leaving tens of billions of dollars in debt on the backs of future generation.
We are going to be a reliable, long-term partner for municipalities across the country. We don’t need the short-term thinking of the Liberals.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Actually, let’s —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: We need money invested long term. Our plan is for constant spending over 20 years, 1.5 billion a year in infrastructure, 1.3 billion a year in transit. Those are important sums of money – reliable, long-term.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Mulcair – Mr. Mulcair likes to talk about long-term, but what he doesn’t realize is long-term actually starts right now, not five years from now, now 20 years from now, not after a few mandates of Mr. Mulcair in government. Canadians —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Well, thanks for acknowledging (crosstalk).
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — need help right now. And the fact of the matter is that we have a situation right now where interest rates are low, so borrowing has never been cheaper for the federal government; our debt-to-GDP ratio is low and getting lower; our economy has been flat for ten years. So my question is, now that there are thousands upon thousands of skilled Canadians looking for work in construction and in growth, if this isn’t the time to invest, what would be? Because the fact of the matter is I talked with Mr. – Mayor Nenshi just yesterday, and he was saying that costs for municipal investments are actually down 20 percent this year because – compared to last year because of the circumstance we’re in. This is the time to invest in the future of our country. Canadians know this. The only people who don’t seem to know this are those two gentlemen on the stage.
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Look, not only are we pursuing a long-term, large-scale infrastructure plan under our Economic Action Plan this year; we’re proceeding with a $6 billion plan to eliminate the federal infrastructure deficit entirely going forward. That’s what we’re doing right now. And we’re doing that without borrowing money, without raising taxes. Mr. Trudeau says he will raise taxes. Mr. Mulcair’s plan is the same, old NDP playbook. We saw it in British Columbia, we saw it in Ontario, we’re seeing it in Alberta. A whole bunch more spending, and we can finance that just by raising taxes on a few big corporations and a few rich people. What happens? You start putting people out of work, slowing the economy, killing jobs. That’s the rea—that’s the reality of the NDP plan wherever it has been tried. And when we are in a fragile (crosstalk) —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Actually, Mr. Harper, you’re wrong about that. You’re wrong about that, Mr. Harper —
David Walmsley: Let’s go to (crosstalk).
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Mulcair is not going to —
David Walmsley: Mr. Trudeau —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — raise taxes on the wealthiest Canadians. He’s chosen to not raise taxes on the wealthiest Canadians.
David Walmsley: Let’s go to Mr. Mulcair, please. Mr. Mulcair.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Only the Liberal Party will, to give a tax cut to the middle class.
David Walmsley: Please, Mr. Trudeau, let’s go to Mr. Mulcair.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Thank you, Mr. Walmsley. The NDP is categorical. We will not be raising taxes on individual Canadians. We are going to be asking Canadian large corporations to start paying their fair share. They’re the only Canadians who don’t right now. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Harper are of one mind. They thought that dropping their taxes by tens of billions of dollars, way below that of our close trading partners, was a good idea; it hasn’t been. But when we do raise it, it’ll be reasonably, and it’ll still be way below what it was under the Liberals, and it’ll even be below the average of what it’s been under the Conservatives.
We’re also going to make sure that we close some tax loopholes, like the stock option tax loophole brought in by the Liberals, which actually will ensure that people are effectively paying more, not a theoretical amount where they have all these loopholes that they can fall back on. With regard to the difference between the Liberals and us, it’s true the Liberals want to raise individuals’ personal income taxes. The NDP won’t do that. I don’t think it’s fair that someone looking at their pay stub is going to see that 58.75 percent is already gone in income tax. That will be the result of Mr. Trudeau’s plan.
David Walmsley: OK.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: It’s not our plan.
David Walmsley: Mr. Trudeau.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Mulcair talks about corporations being the only people in this country who are not paying their fair share. So he thinks the wealthiest one percent are paying their fair share. But if you look at the past 30 years, incomes for the wealthiest 70 – wealthiest one percent of Canadians have increased by 70 percent while their federal tax share has decreased by 32 percent. Now, I don’t think that’s fair. We’re the only party that is asking that wealthiest one percent who has done well over the past years —
David Walmsley: Mr. —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — to pay a little more —
David Walmsley: Mr. Trudeau —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — so we can cut those taxes to the middle class.
David Walmsley: — this question is on infrastructure. Is the creation of another bank the answer?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: It’s an infrastructure bank that loans to municipalities and provinces so they can take advantage of the preferential rates that the federal government gets. It’s a way of – yet another way, on top of the $60 billion of investments we’re making in our municipalities that starts with doubling in the very first year for transit, for child care spaces, and for seniors’ residences. It is time to invest in the future of our country. It has never been more appropriate to invest in the future of our country.
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: These two gentlemen can’t see that because they’re stuck in a political way, not an economic way.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Mr. Mulcair just claimed he’s going to raise hundreds of millions of dollars through closing treatment of stock options. There is simply not that kind of money in that, and this is the approach of the NDP, to exaggerate how much money they can raise through a few tax hikes. The reality is, when he says he’s not going to raise money on people, the payroll tax hikes of the NDP for CPP and EI amount to over $1500 a person who’s making just $60,000 a year. Those funds come right out of your paycheque. They come right out of the money you’re using to pay your mortgage, buy your clothes —
David Walmsley: OK.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — fund your kids’ education. Those are real costs.
David Walmsley: Mr. Mulcair.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: They just don’t go away because —
David Walmsley: You might want to finish off the last (crosstalk) —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — (crosstalk) something down the road.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: The stock option – the stock option tax loophole costs Canadian taxpayers $500 million a year, and it goes mostly to the wealthiest Canadians. We will —
David Walmsley: OK.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: — get rid of it.
David Walmsley: We have to leave it there, and we now move to question four. This is on immigration and it goes to Mr. Harper. All parties agree that immigration is central to Canada’s long term economic strategy. What is the right balance between economic migrants and those seeking family reunification?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, look, every year we put out numbers and I think we’ve maintained a balance between those various categories. We have I think about two thirds of the people who come in are related to economic streams. Others are related to family reunification, refugees, other sorts of streams. What I’m most proud of, David, is this is the first government in Canadian history that, faced with a recession, did not cut our immigration.
The reason we didn’t cut our immigration is because we understand, given the demographic and economic pressures in front of us, that a long-term, large scale immigration program is in this country’s interest. That’s why we’re looking at the long term and I’m very pleased we’ve done that and moved forward on that.
We’re doing specific things to make sure particularly the economic sections of our immigration policy are more oriented to actually getting results. For example, we used to process applications in order. We now have what’s called Express Entry, where we’re targeting those applications that fill actual vacancies in the job market. This is a transformation I think will be very important to making the policy even more effective.
David Walmsley: Should we increase immigration numbers to counter the aging demographic of Canada?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: We’ve maintained our numbers at very high levels. They’re over 250,000 a year. I think there is room going forward to increased that but obviously we want to make sure we get the right mix because there are significant settlement funding costs that come along with some streams of immigration.
I think that’s a possibility going forward but I think the main thing is that we make sure that we’re maximizing the economic benefits of immigration. I talked about Express Entry.
I’ll give you another example of something we’re doing and that’s the foreign credentials loans program that we brought in as a pilot and we’re now expanding, where we’ve found that if we give through third party groups immigrants very small loans to upgrade their qualifications so they’re recognized in Canada, we can get them into the workforce much more quickly, and we have a payback rate on those loans of well over 90 percent. I think there’s lots of things we can do even within our existing very large levels to improve the system, but I do think we could look at expanding it going forward.
David Walmsley: Thank you very much. Mr. Trudeau, what role does immigration play in your economic plan?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: I think Canada has long known that immigration is essential to our growth. We have a country that has benefited from people coming here from faraway lands, building a better future for themselves and their children and their communities here than they could have anywhere else.
That’s been the strength of this country, the fact that we are a country strong not in spite of our differences but because of them. One of the things that Mr. Harper has continued to under-invest in and not create enough of is family reunification. You talked about it early on, David. This is something that is really important, to create strong communities because, yes, the economic benefits of immigrants are well known but there is more to them than just workers. They are community builders. They are creating stronger cities and a stronger future for future generations. That’s where the cuts he has made to integration programs, to helping Canadians actually succeed, are so disappointing because Canada has always given people a path to succeed here in this country. That’s what we need to get back to once again.
David Walmsley: Mr. Mulcair?
Hon. Tom Mulcair: Canada is a country of immigrants. Unless you’re First Nations, Inuit or Metis your family immigrated to Canada, and it’s what built this great country, David. I couldn’t be prouder than to tell you that my wife Catherine immigrated to Canada. She’s one of the many people who has just contributed so much and I think we can be so proud of that tradition.
Under Mr. Harper’s Conservatives, we have been closing the door more and more on certain aspects of immigration. Mr. Trudeau just referenced it and he’s right. Family reunification is essential. It’s always been part of our immigration system. It’s been completely shut down under Mr. Harper’s Conservatives. I personally believe that the best social program is a united family, and you’ve got that strong family base there allowing people to come in. It shouldn’t be considered, as the Conservatives always call it, a burden for society. I think it’s something that contributes a great deal.
On temporary foreign workers, we know that they left that program a shambles. It was created to help in areas like agriculture but it went off in all different directions. Even Mr. Harper in a secret meeting with some media in Vancouver admitted that it was a total shambles.
There’s one final point. Mr. Harper referenced recognition of foreign diplomas and credentials. Unfortunately, it’s still the number one cause of unemployment amongst immigrants, failure to recognize diplomas and credentials. I used to be chair of the Quebec Professions Board. I’ve got a lot of experience on this. I know we could be doing a lot more to help that.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: I’m not sure how you have a secret meeting with the media.
David Walmsley: We wish.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: You’d manage it, Mr. Harper. I know you’d manage it.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Let me just correct the facts. Under the first ten years of this government, we’ve seen family class and family reunifications rise by 25 percent. When it was under the previous Liberal government, it went down nearly 50 percent in their first few years in office as they cut back immigration levels. We haven’t done that.
I think people understand that – new Canadians particularly – the Liberal Party talked a good game but didn’t deliver. We have 2.5 million newcomers in this country who have overwhelmingly contributed positively to this country. They’re entrepreneurs. They’re family people. They’re growing our economy, working hard, and this is one of the most positive things about this country. That we are able, through controlled and legal immigration, to have the best record of immigration and success in immigration anywhere in the world is something I think we all should be very proud of.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper demonstrated over the past weeks that in the case of refugees Canada is not doing enough. This is something Mr. Harper has unfortunately done a number of times. He likes to talk about standing up against tyrants and dictators and against terrorists, but you know who stands up to dictators and terrorists? Families fighting to keep their family together, hoping for a better life for them. They cross the oceans and they make it to Canada, and what does Mr. Harper do? He takes away their health care. The fact is we need to once again be a country that is open and welcoming. Yes, we need to be concerned about security but we don’t take that as the excuse to close our doors. In years past, whether it was Joe Clark, the Conservative Prime Minister who brought in tens of thousands of Vietnamese boat people, whether it was other governments who welcomed in people who built, who contributed to this country.
We need to once again be the open generous country, not naïve, making sure we’re doing security right but not using it as an excuse to do less than we should, than the vast majority of Canadians including mayors and Premiers feel we should.
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper, this time bring it back to the economy.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Let me just correct the record on a couple of things.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Refugees are about the economy, David.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: (Inaudible) what you said about refugees. First of all, the fact of the matter we have not taken away health care from immigrants and refugees. On the contrary, the only time we’ve removed it if we had clearly bogus refugees who have been refused and turned down. We do not offer them a better health care plan than the ordinary Canadian can receive. That is not something that new and existing and old stock Canadians agree with. On the issue of refugees this remains one of the largest countries in the world in terms of refugee resettlement including –
Hon. Justin Trudeau: That is not true, Mr. Harper.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: I have said we will bring in more, but what I have said we will not do, these guys would have had in the last two weeks us throwing open our borders and literally hundreds of thousands of people coming without any kind of security check or documentation as some other countries have done.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: That’s not true Mr. Harper.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: That would have been an enormous mistake. We’re following a balanced approach. We’re bringing in more refugees.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper plays to fears all the time. Fears of others, fears of different (inaudible). We have a Prime Minister who prefers to pander to fears.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: (Crosstalk)
David Walmsley: Let’s go to Mr. Mulcair on immigration and the economy.
Hon. Tom Mulcair: Canadians want a Prime Minister who understands the sense of urgency that we all feel when we see the current crisis in Syria. Mr. Harper unfortunately – and it’s undignified – is fear mongering. It’s completely false to affirm that any of the parties in Canada would want to throw open the doors to people without any regard to security.
But Rick Hillier, who is no less an authority than the former Chief of the Defence Staff, last week said we’ve got to stop using the security concerns as an excuse to do nothing. So Mr. Harper, why don’t you stop using the security excuse as a pretext to do nothing because nobody wants to let somebody in without a security check but you’re doing nothing.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: We’re announcing that we’re bringing in more refugees. We’re announcing we’re bringing them in more quickly. We’re providing a matching fund for humanitarian support because even under the most generous refugee policy the vast majority of these millions of people will remain in those countries and will need our assistance. Those are the things we’re doing (crosstalk).
Hon. Tom Mulcair: The UN has asked us to bring in 9,000 refugees before Christmas. You won’t do it. They’ve asked for 46,000 over the next four years. You won’t do it. That’s the United Nations asking that, Mr. Harper.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: (Crosstalk) Most Canadians don’t want that approach. It is not the kind of reckless approach that these two parties —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Canada has done more in the past. We need to do more right now. We will do more on October 20th.
David Walmsley: On to the next topic, and the next topic is housing. Mr. Trudeau, Canadians have been on a borrowing binge to buy ever more expensive homes. What would you do to guard against a housing bubble?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: The fact is for many Canadians their entire economic security is in their home. It’s their savings. It’s their retirement. We need to make sure that while housing prices rise, incomes are rising as well. The middle class Canadians believe that their jobs are giving them better and better salaries, that they can get raises.
In order to do that, we need to create economic growth. We need to reassure Canadians that the economy is going to grow at the same pace as their house values. That’s not what Mr. Harper has delivered. He has the worst record on growth since R.B. Bennett in the depths of the Great Depression.
There are many other Canadians who are facing challenges around housing because they can’t find rental housing. That’s why the Liberal Party has a plan to increase investment in home construction of rental units, to help seniors with the cost of their rents by increasing GIS and by making sure that we actually give people the support needed to be able to get their homes and have that economic security.
David Walmsley: Would you restrict foreign ownership of residential homes in Canada?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: I think one of the things that we’re seeing in a number of places around the country is concerns on that, but the fact is we don’t actually have enough accurate data to understand entirely what’s happening. One of the reasons for that is Mr. Harper has chosen to cut the long form census and it leaves us with less understanding of needs. The Liberal Party is committed to restoring the long form census to ensure that we have the kind of data so that we can respond to local challenges like you speak of.
What we need to be as a federal government is a much better partner to provinces and municipalities to be able to address challenges that are being faced in our major centres like Vancouver or Toronto, but also the challenges that are being felt right across the country for people who are struggling to buy their first home, people who are struggling to find rental housing and who need help to get that economic ladder to success that has always been there for Canadians but hasn’t been over the past ten years. That’s what the Liberal plan to invest in the future of our country is all about.
David Walmsley: Mr. Mulcair, what would you do to help the squeezed middle class who have high mortgages and high property taxes?
Hon. Tom Mulcair: Thank you, David. The first thing I think that Canadians should recall is that the last time the Liberals were in power they cancelled Canada’s national housing strategy. It’s also worth knowing that there were 35,000 homeless in Canada right now.
What we would do, I gave an example earlier of our quality affordable child care at maximum $15 a day. You know here in Calgary, in Toronto and lots of other cities parents are paying well over $20,000 a year for child care for an infant. It’s simply unaffordable, and young people today have the largest student debt that there ever was.
As I went across the country I met lots of young people who were thinking of having a family but they look at the cost of the conciliation, balancing their life and their family and their work. It’s extremely difficult. We would make sure we would put more money in their pockets with quality, affordable child care. We would bring in as a model for others and with regard to the 100,000 people that it would give a raise to a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.
David Walmsley: Open floor, Mr. Harper.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: First of all, let me just say, while no doubt there are some people who are over extended, I think the housing story is a very positive story in this country. You know, you look around the world where there have been all of these financial and other crashes. A lot of them centred around the housing market. In Canada we have seen home ownership rise to record levels. We now have higher home ownership than the United States because people have been able to take advantage of lower interest rates when their job prospects have been solid and good and their incomes have been growing. That’s a positive Canadian story that we should celebrate.
How do we in this unstable global economy continue to protect that going forward? We believe in bringing in specific incentives to help home owners, for instance the home renovation tax credit we’re bringing forward, improvements to the home buyer’s plan, the doubling of contributions to tax free savings accounts, things that allow people to save and invest more in their homes.
What we do not need when our economy is threatened by developments in the global economy is tax increases on ordinary Canadian families who pay low taxes, or permanent deficits. These are risks we cannot afford and they’re not good for homeowners.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper talks about growth but he hasn’t been able to get it done for ten years. He has the worst growth record in 80 years of any Prime Minister. We know how to grow the economy. We invest in the economy once again. Interest rates are low, our debt-to-GDP is low, and economic growth has been flat. We need to kick-start our economy, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do so people can get better jobs and actually afford their homes. That’s where we help.
Mr. Mulcair, who’s talking about child care, the fact is that a young family with a two year old doesn’t need childcare eight years from now when their kid is in grade five. They need it right away. But Mr. Mulcair is not making a choice that’s going to allow to invest in his promises. They’re puffs of smoke. We need to invest right now —
Hon. Tom Mulcair: You know about that, don’t you, Justin?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: We know right now to invest in the future of this country. Mr. Mulcair, you can make jokes all you like. This is Canadians having trouble making ends meet and you’re offering a national minimum wage. It will not touch 99 percent.
David Walmsley: Mr. Trudeau, thank you.
Hon. Tom Mulcair: What we’re offering, Mr. Trudeau, you had 13 years the last time you were in power to get to child care. It was in four successive Liberal Red Books, and you know how many spaces they created? Zero.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: That’s not true.
Hon. Tom Mulcair: The least we can say it that it wasn’t a priority for them. Quality, affordable child care is a top priority for the NDP.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Eight years from now, if the provinces kick in billions of dollars.
David Walmsley: Mr. Mulcair, can I ask you, what message do you give to millennials today who are trying to get onto the property rung? What do you say to those?
Hon. Tom Mulcair: I say that we’ve got a Prime Minister who just said that he thinks it’s a good idea that a bungalow in a lot of our suburbs in places like Vancouver and Toronto is totally out of reach for them. Look at the cost of housing in some of our major cities. It is out of control.
At the same time, Mr. Harper says it’s OK, I’ve got a renovation tax credit. How do you renovate a house you can’t afford to buy in the first place? We’re going to start by putting more money in people’s pockets. Affordable, quality child care is one of them. We’ll give a raise to over 100,000 people earning the federal minimum wage or less. They’ll get more money. A $15 an hour federal minimum wage is not only good for them. It’s a good signal for the provinces to do the same thing, to bring up a living wage. You know why? Because I think that somebody who works full time shouldn’t be living in poverty.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Mulcair, I have spoken to an awful lot of Canadians earning the minimum wage. They work in coffee shops, they work in grocery checkout lines and you’re giving them false hope by talking about a national minimum wage. You are promising them a national minimum wage.
Hon. Tom Mulcair: We have people working in banks, in airports, in interprovincial transport. They’re earning less than $15 an hour. and over 100,000 of them are going to get a raise.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: (Crosstalk) 99 percent of Canadians earning the minimum wage aren’t going to be affected.
Hon. Tom Mulcair: Mr. Trudeau voted for this on September 22nd. Now he’s campaigning against it. I think –
Hon. Justin Trudeau: I campaigned against the false promises, the false promises you are making. You pretend this national minimum wage is a significant thing. Well it’s not going to help 99 percent of people.
David Walmsley: Let’s go to Mr. Harper.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Just to repeat, we’re not just bringing in a home renovation tax credit. We’re also enhancing the home buyer’s plan to help families reach their – and be able to build their first home, just as we enhanced the first time home buyer’s plan.
We’ve done a lot of things to encourage home ownership. In terms of rising costs due to speculative – a possibility of foreign speculation, we said we’re prepared to act on that if the data show that that is really a problem. Look, we’re doing more of these things to help Canadian families.
Mr. Mulcair talks about child care. We’ve delivered directly to Canadian families the universal child care benefit. Now we are enhancing it. We’re increasing deductions to income tax for your child care expenses.
Hon. Tom Mulcair: That’s not what you promised.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: We’re doubling the tax free savings account.
Hon. Tom Mulcair: Mr. Harper, you promised 125,000 child care spaces and you delivered the same amount as the Liberals, precisely zero.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Without raising taxes –
David Walmsley: Mr. Trudeau.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — and without running a deficit.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair agree on one thing. They want to continue to send Mr. Harper’s UCCB cheques to millionaires just because they have children. We don’t think that’s fair. We’re going to stop sending those cheques to the people who don’t need it so we can send larger cheques to the families who do need it and lift 315,000 kids out of poverty. That will make a significant difference in the lives of people who need it, and neither Mr. Harper nor Mr. Mulcair do that.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: You don’t have enough money in the budget for your promises.
David Walmsley: We have to move on, wrestling alligators. We move to the final topic of the first half of this debate, taxation. Mr. Mulcair, let me address this to you first. You say you will raise corporate tax rates from the current 15 percent to 17 percent. What economic rather than political reason justifies your decision?
Hon. Tom Mulcair: Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Harper had a single minded approach. The Liberals and the Conservatives have agreed that tens of billions of dollars of tax reductions for Canada’s largest and most profitable corporations was the way to go, but as we’ve seen, David, that hasn’t worked out so well.
We’ve lost 400,000 well-paid manufacturing jobs on Mr. Harper’s watch. There are 300,000 more people unemployed today than when his first recession hit so yes, the NDP is quite clear that Canada’s large corporations are going to go back to paying something resembling their fair share. It will still be less than the average that it was under Mr. Harper’s Conservatives and well below what it was under the Liberals. We’re asking all Canadians to pay their fair share, and that would include the largest corporations, but at the same time we’re going to start right away. We’re not going to wait like Mr. Harper would. We’re going to start right away to reduce the taxes on Canada’s job creators, our small and medium sized businesses create 80 percent of the new jobs in this country, and that we think is a good idea.
We’re also going to close stock loopholes because those are the types of loopholes that exist for the rich. We’ll make sure that they effectively pay more. That’s the right approach.
David Walmsley: If corporations move their money elsewhere, you lose both your balanced budget and your revenue.
Hon. Tom Mulcair: That’s why you’ve also got to work at the same time against tax havens. Mr. Harper has done nothing about that. We’ve had cases where other authorities in other countries have given full lists of Canadians who have been using illegal tax havens, and Mr. Harper has done nothing about that.
At the same time, the NDP will take an approach to make sure that the wealthiest start paying their fair share. When we made that announcement at the Broadbent Institute, we looked at the successive years of promises by the Liberals talking about millennial goals to help raise children out of poverty. I don’t accept as inevitable that, in a country as wealthy as Canada, hundreds of thousands of children go to school every morning without having eaten. We’re going to take that money, the $500 million that the stock option tax loophole gives to Canada’s wealthiest. We’re going to dedicate it dollar for dollar to help those children and their families out of poverty.
That’s direct action to act on a problem that the other parties have talked about for years but have done nothing about. Yes, Canada’s largest corporations are going to start paying something resembling their fair share, David, and it’s high time that they did. Their approach has failed and it doesn’t work and we will change it.
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper, you won’t raise taxes. How do you raise the federal revenue?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Actually, as you know, we’ve cut business taxes, and our corporate tax revenues are actually rising because we have a competitive tax environment that attracts investment.
I go back once again to what Mr. Mulcair is saying. He’s claiming he’s going to cut taxes on small business. Then why is the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and other experts saying that his plan will cause job losses because in fact he raises taxes. We’ve seen this NDP playbook everywhere. They claim they’re going to balance the budget, bring in billions of new spending, balance the budget through tax increases. What happens? We end up with job losses. That’s what we had with the NDP in power in Ontario. That’s what we had with the NDP in power in British Columbia, and we’re seeing exactly the same story here in Alberta.
We had a round of layoffs because of low oil prices. Now we’re having a round of layoffs because of the business tax increases of the NDP. In an unstable global economy we have competitive tax rates. They’re not super low but they are competitive. This is something we need to protect our economy and keep creating jobs. High taxes, permanent deficits, do not create jobs.
QUESTIONS, AND OPEN DEBATE
David Walmsley: Now, while the leaders catch their breath, we’ll move to the second part of the evening. This part has a different pace to it.
It is said that in the old days, the electorate used to choose their representatives. But now, as data becomes more sophisticated, politicians are able to choose as well as ignore key demographics. It affects everything from policy to selection to who the politicians choose to talk to. It marks a profound and, some would say, uncomfortable shift.
Wish me luck as I try to push the leaders off their well-rehearsed speaking notes and give each of them the opportunity to explain themselves more thoroughly and hopefully with fewer interruptions from the others. I will ask each leader a specific question that will be followed by an exchange between myself and that leader before turning it to open debate. Again, the leaders have no prior knowledge of these questions.
And we’ll start with Mr. Mulcair. Mr. Mulcair, you lead a party that has never run the country. Why should the electorate hand the national economy to you?
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair makes a point during the Globe and Mail Leaders Debate in Calgary, Alberta September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Sturk – RTS1NLH
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair (Mike Sturk, Reuters)
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Well, thank you, David. And that is a key question in this campaign because, after 150 years of being told that we have no choice, that when we’re tired of the Liberal sponsorship scandal, we have to alternate back to the Conservatives, and when we get tired of the Conservative Senate scandal, then, hold on, for the first time in our history, there is another choice. The party that, according to Canada’s own Finance Department, has the best record for balanced budgets.
Tommy Douglas took over the province of Saskatchewan that was in bankruptcy after Liberal rule, ran 17 consecutive balanced budgets and brought in Medicare. I come from a family of ten kids. I’m the second oldest. We had to work hard. We lived within our means. We took care of each other. Those are the values that have guided me as a father, as a grandfather, and as a husband. I’m very proud of that. And those are the values that will guide me in the future.
We are a party that will make people our top priority. We brought in Medicare with Tommy Douglas. We’ll bring affordable quality child care across Canada.
David Walmsley: Your biography is entitled Strength of Conviction. But is your determination to avoid a federal deficit at all costs not simply opportunism and a defensive play?
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: It’s something that reflects exactly how I’ve been as a public administrator. I’ve been in public life for over 35 years. I practiced law as a, as a lawyer for ten years during that period, but I’ve always served the public. My wife Catherine is a psychologist who works in long-term care and palliative care. Our older son is a police officer for 17 years in the Quebec Provincial Police. Our youngest son is a college professor. We all serve the public.
I think that there’s no more noble calling. So I want to make sure that we do the right thing for people, going forward. I want to make sure that when my granddaughter goes to university, she doesn’t have to borrow at the level that young people are borrowing today. I want to make this a better society, and I don’t want to do like Mr. Trudeau, leave a massive debt on the backs of future generations.
David Walmsley: But this determination for a balanced budget, no deficit, is surely something that is a challenge to the NDP’s fabric.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Our fabric understands, as I just mentioned with the example of Tommy Douglas, but you can look at the Roy Romanows of this world. It’s in our DNA. We know that the only way to bring in something as important as quality, affordable child care across Canada is to build it on a solid foundation, and for us that means balanced budgets.
It doesn’t mean that there won’t be times when you have to spend. In 2008, we were in the worst recession since the 1930s. Of course everyone agreed that we had to spend at that time. But that’s not the case now. We don’t want to leave more billions on the backs of future generations. We’re al- already leaving them a massive ecological and social debt. They don’t need that economic debt as well.
David Walmsley: OK, I want to follow up – and this is a, a recurring issue as we, you know, enter the last part of the debate, and that is what all of your visions are for this great country. What, Mr. Mulcair, will you do to build a new economy?
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Well, one of the things that we will do is make sure that it’s a knowledge-based economy because we know that that’s the way of the future. The only way to create new wealth is to create new knowledge. And Canada has to be playing a more active role.
But when you look, when I travel across the country on what we were calling a kitchen table tour, I was in Sault Ste Marie. The young couple that I met, I was in their home, they told me that between them, they had $130,000 in student debt. With a $24,000 a year child care fee and houses where they are, when’s that young couple supposed to start thinking of starting a family? That’s the reality today. And believe it or not, family, having children is a good thing for that couple, but it’s also a good thing for the economy.
So let’s get this right for the future. Let’s make sure that we get our priorities right. My priority’s always going to be doing like we did when we brought in Medicare. That helped my family, but it’s helped Canadian families for generations now, and that’s why we want to make sure that our social programs are on a solid footing, and that includes balanced budgets.
David Walmsley: Okay, let’s go to the open-floor part of this, and Mr. Trudeau. Yes, Mr. Trudeau.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Mulcair keeps talking about investing in our future. He keeps talking about doing the right things for families who need help, except you can’t put forward a plan for investment like my plan on Stephen Harper’s budget. It takes the optimism that we need to invest once again in our future, to know that Canadians are capable of building a stronger future, and after the low growth that we’ve had for many years, it’s time to kick start the economy.
That’s why the – what I’m worried about saddling my kids with is a lack of jobs, a lack of good infrastructure, a lack of a future because a government didn’t want to invest in our country. Now, this is what our plan is all about. Building a stronger future. Mr. Mulcair is putting it off. He’s made balancing Stephen Harper’s budget his priority, which means he can’t give Canadians the help they need the way we will.
That’s what our plan is about, and I’m being straight and honest. Mr. Mulcair’s plan is to actually do what we know politicians of all parties – including my own – have done in the past, which is to say we’re going to balance the books and then oops, the numbers are worse than we thought. We’re going to have to break our promises. That’s not what I’m going to do. I’m being honest with Canadians. We’re going to run three deficits and we’re going to invest in the future Canadians need right now.
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Look, the, the whole essence of Mr. Mulcair’s plan is that he says he will balance the budget through tax hikes. That’s what the NDP’s tried everywhere. They left Ontario in a massive deficit, they left British Columbia —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Turns out it was the Liberals.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– in a massive deficit. Manitoba is in a massive deficit. Alberta’s deficit got larger since they took office. The former Saskatchewan Auditor General says they left Saskatchewan in a deficit because tax hikes do not, do not grow the economy. They do not create jobs. They kill jobs and they hurt revenues. And we don’t want to go down that path.
Now, Mr. Trudeau says we can, we will have greater optimism by spending more. I actually think this is what Canadians fear. We don’t measure our level of optimism through our level of spending. We make sure we’re making investments in the things we need to, as we are doing in, in infrastructure, in training, in innovation. But we do that in a way that we know we can continue to do and continue to afford without raising taxes by having a balanced budget. And I think in this unstable global economy, that is an important guarantee for people’s future and why they should be optimistic.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Now, Mr. Harper, what you don’t understand is what Canadians can’t afford is to continue to be stuck in traffic every morning because there’s no reliable transit because the federal government hasn’t stepped up as a partner. You’ve been stuck in a motorcade for the past 10 years, but most Canadians are actually very aware that the transit underinvestment is a drag in our economy.
I’ve talked with municipalities and provinces right across this country who need a reliable federal partner to step up and invest. And people, serious economists across this country have said that, that we have a plan that is exactly what we need. No less than the person you appointed to head up the Privy Council, Kevi- Kevin Lynch actually said yes, a plan for investment right now is what we need.
The former Chair of the Bank of Canada, the, a list of the former Parliamentary Budget Officers, there are many people who’ve said now is the time to invest and that’s exactly what the Liberals are going to do. Not because we’re cheery and optimistic, but because we know that countries that believe in their future are willing to invest in their future ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Mr. Trudeau —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– and that’s what we’re going to do.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — we have the largest infrastructure investments in history right now, including major public transit announcements going on all over the country, including right in this city ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Yeah, at election time, Mr. Harper, at election time.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– (crosstalk) and those are the facts and I ask ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: People see through your games.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– everybody to look at the numbers, to look at the numbers – they’re there – and we’re doing that without raising your taxes and without borrowing money.
Mr. Trudeau says he has former public servants and politicians who tell him it’s OK to spend more. I got to tell you something. Those people will tell you always to spend more. That’s what they will tell you. You got to be able ––
David Walmsley: OK.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– as a Prime Minister —
David Walmsley: I want to —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– to know when to safeguard the taxpayers’ money.
David Walmsley: I want to give Mr. Mulcair a chance to come back. So please. Mr. Mulcair.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Thank you, David. Our plan is based on long-term vision. We know what has to be accomplished. We are not ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Long-term starts now ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: — doing like the Liberals ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: — Mr. Mulcair.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– with their short-term approach, leaving tens of billions of dollars on the backs of future generations. And you know, Mr. Trudeau, you were talking before about Stephen Harper’s budgets, but you have voted for Stephen Harper’s budgets. I can guarantee you I have never voted for one of his budgets, and your very first vote as a Member of Parliament was to vote for his tax give-away to Canada’s largest corporations. I can guarantee you that Jack Layton and I fought that every single step of the way.
David Walmsley: OK, thank you. It’s ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: And voted against every tax break for middle class and working Canadians.
David Walmsley: –– I think what we’re seeing tonight is an extraordinary exchange of ideas between a now centrist NDP and a deficit favouring Liberal Party. So I want to turn this one to Mr. Trudeau. Taxing the richest and then spending it, why should Canadians who are already up to their eyes in debt be encouraged by your message?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Actually, we are raising taxes on the wealthiest one percent so that we can lower them, so we can cut them, for the middle class. That is the shift that we feel we need. Mr. Mulcair talks about income inequality, you can hear the NDP talking about income inequality all the time, except they actually are not doing anything about it. Only the Liberal Party is going to ask people who’ve been very successful to do a little bit more so we can put money in the pockets of people who actually need it. That’s what our approach is, because we know that that’s what we have to do.
But on top of that and aside from that, we are also going to make historic investments in the future of our country because Canadians need transit, they need roads and bridges, we need clean water and wastewater treatment systems. We need things that are going to create good jobs for Canadians now as they build them and good jobs and prosperity going forward as our communities do better.
That’s what investing in our future is all about, and that’s not left or right, that’s ––
David Walmsley: So Mr. —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– what Canada needs.
From left to right, NDP Leader Tom Muclair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper are seen at various points during the Globe and Mail leaders’ debate, in this photo illustration, on Thursday, September 17, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
Photo illustration (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
David Walmsley: Mr. Trudeau, we know that you propose what is really a fairly modest deficit against the $2 trillion national economy. What do you consider to be the biggest single challenge you face, because when I look for the cost of your platform, I can’t add it up.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: We have, we were the first party to put a fully costed framework that said that we indeed are going to run three modest deficits over the first three years so we can balance the books in 2019, because what Canada needs right now is growth. What we need – because Mr. Harper has been unable to deliver it, having the worst growth record of any Prime Minister since the depths of the Great Depression – is a plan to grow the economy. And you do that by investing in our communities, in transit, in green infrastructure, in the kinds of things that are going to contribute ––
David Walmsley: But let, let’s go back to the —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– to growing the economy.
David Walmsley: — to your idea of an infrastructure bank. Recreational centres, water facilities, are these areas that are part of the federal government’s role?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: The federal government’s role in a country like Canada is to be a partner serving citizens with communities, with municipalities and with – with provinces. We will respond to the needs that Canadians have on the ground to improve their quality of life, to build better opportunities in their cities. That is what the federal government should be. That’s not what the federal government has been over the past decade as Mr. Harper has refused to engage with the provinces, has not been a solid partner to municipalities in the transit and infrastructure investments that are needed, and that’s exactly what we’re going to turn around.
It’s not ––
David Walmsley: So we’re – we’re – we’re —
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– up to the federal government.
David Walmsley: — in Alberta, we’re in Alberta this evening.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Yes.
David Walmsley: There’s clear sense that structural change is happening to the economy. So again, for yourself, what will you do, what are your policies to build that new economy?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Well, one of the, one of the facts we’re looking at right now is, because of the challenges with low oil prices, we have construction and engineering multinational firms here in Calgary who are suddenly bidding on local contracts, that they’ve never had the bandwidth to do before. This is the time to invest in your hometown, Mr. Harper. You need to step up and we need to step up as a government and be there for municipalities like Calgary, who are trying to create new avenues of opportunity, given the cyclical nature of our commodities.
This is exactly a moment to invest, when interest rates are low, when our debt-to-GDP is low, and when the economy has been flat for ten years because Mr. Harper hasn’t stepped up for his hometown or for anywhere across the country.
David Walmsley: Let’s go to open floor. Mr. Harper.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, look, if I could respond to that, as I said before, we are making record investments in our infrastructure right now, including a federal infrastructure program that is rolling out across the country. But, you know, let’s be frank about Mr. Trudeau’s plan.
The reason Mr. Trudeau is running deficits is not because he has some underlying economic philosophy. It’s because he went around the country and promised far more money than he actually had and found out that taxing a few wealthy people a little bit does not cover that. And so now he’s trying to run, saying deficits are a good thing.
We did a lot of work to make sure we came out of deficits after the great recession without cutting our social programs. That’s what we’ve done. This is a guarantee to people, to you ladies and gentlemen out there, that when we’ve lowered your taxes, they’re going to stay down, and the investments we make are sustainable.
And when Mr. Trudeau gets us off the anchor of a balanced budget for no apparent reason, we know where that’s, the Liberals have done federally and in Ontario, that goes on forever and it gets worse. And that is not a risk you or our, our economy in this fragile ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper,
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– economic environment can afford.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper, you have run deficits in good years. You have run deficits in bad years. The only time you’ve said that deficits are not going to be run is in election years. The fact of the matter is you stood on stages like these, looked at Canadians three times and promised not to bring in deficits, and yet, that’s exactly what you’ve done.
The reason that we’ve struck in def- we’re stuck in deficits for so long is because you don’t understand that giving tax breaks and benefits to the wealthiest Canadians is not a way to grow the economy anymore. We have low growth, you have the worst job creation record since World War II of any Prime Minister, and that’s what Canadians are feeling. You are disconnected from people’s reality. We need once again to get this country investing in its own future ––
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper,
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– and that’s what you haven’t done in ten years.
David Walmsley: (Crosstalk).
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Let me, let me correct the facts. We ran surpluses before we had the global financial crisis. When the global financial crisis came, everyone in the world ran deficits and we told Canadians we would run a massive stimulus program, get it out the door quickly, sustain our economy through that period, and that it would be temporary and the deficit would fall until it was eliminated. And we’ve done exactly that on exactly the schedule we said we would do it, and we’re now in our second year of a balanced budget.
David Walmsley: OK, Mr. Mulcair.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Why would we return to deficits now when we have an unstable global economy and we need to make sure we can assure people ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Because we need to (crosstalk)
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– of the benefits ––
David Walmsley: Mr.- Mr. Mulcair.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– of delivering (crosstalk). That’s why.
David Walmsley: Mr. Mulcair, please. Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Mulcair.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Back on July 19th, Mr. Trudeau gave a press conference at which he said he would balance the books, he would run balanced budgets nonstop.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Actually, not nonstop.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Just a few weeks after that, he announced that he would run $10 billion a year in deficits. Now you just heard him say the same thing. He was clearly criticizing the fact that Mr. Harper had run deficits. But that’s exactly what he’s planning to do. So I think, Justin, that it’s only fair to say that when your advisors tell you one thing and another, and they’re totally contradictory, pick one. You just can’t say them both.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: With regard to tax cuts ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– Mr. Mulcair —
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– to the wealthiest, your first vote in Canadian Parliament was to vote for Mr. Harper’s tax cuts for the wealthiest.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Mulcair, I ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Now you’re against ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– I ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– what you did.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– am looking straight at Canadians and being honest the way I always have. We said we are committed to balanced budgets, and we are. We will balance that budget in 2019, because Canadians need investment and growth right now.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Mr. Walmsley, there’s another point ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: You are looking at ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– that has to be brought up, which ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– Canadians, you are looking at Canadians ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– is that Mr. Harper claims that he made no cuts to social programs. I’m sorry Mr. Harper, when you sat down with the provincial Ministers and announced that you were going to be cutting the funding formula by up to $36 billion for health care, that’s called cutting social programs.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, let’s, let’s be, let’s be, let’s be absolutely clear on what the facts are. Under this government, our transfers for health to the provinces have risen from $20 billion ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: It’s what you’re planning to do, Mr. Harper.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– to $34 billion.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Stop denying ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: That’s a 70 percent increase.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– reality.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: And that number will grow every single year into the future. We’ll hit over $40 billion ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Mr. Harper, you raised ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– by the end of the decade.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– the age for Old Age Security ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: That is, that’s the record.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– from 65 to 67. You didn’t make that announcement ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Those, those, those ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– to a group of hard rock miners in Sudbury.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– changes, Mr. Mulcair ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: You made that announcement ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– don’t come into effect ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– from (crosstalk) in the Swiss Alps.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– until the year ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Is that political courage?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– 2023. What we’re done in the main- meantime ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: You’re cutting social programs ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– is we brought in ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: — period.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– the biggest increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for our most valuable seniors in a quarter century. And Mr. Mulcair, you like to talk about the fact you voted against business tax cuts, you voted against small business tax cuts ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Mr. Harper, you just ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– you voted against ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– made the statement.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– tax cuts for working people ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: That statement will be (crosstalk) ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– for (crosstalk) ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: You said you never cut social programs for the middle class.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– Mr. Mulcair, Mr. Mulcair ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– (crosstalk) having Medicare ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– (crosstalk) health care (crosstalk) ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– you’re raising the retirement age.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– (crosstalk)
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: You know that that’s not true.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– both retirement and health care, and the Public Accounts ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Mr. Harper, Mr. Mulcair has talked about health care transfers ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– and the financial (crosstalk) government to make (crosstalk).
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– but he just stepped back from that promise. He promised to increase health care transfers, and now has said oh no, balancing the books is more important.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: We are increasing ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: That’s not what Canadians need.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: — investments, we are increasing them.
David Walmsley: Thank you very much. Thank you.
We now move to the final question of the debate, and it goes to Mr. Harper. Mr. Harper, you’re going to need some new ideas. The reality is the oil patch resources in general are going to be a smaller part of the Canadian economy. And it is clear that, under your watch, Canada is no longer an international champion on many different data points. We have record household debt, we have minimal growth, and in many cases, we have stagnant wages.
Why do you deserve more time ––
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (L), NDP leader Thomas Mulcair (C) and Conservative leader Stephen Harper walk on stage before photo opportunity prior to the beginning of the Globe and Mail Leaders Debate in Calgary, Alberta September 17, 2015. (MIKE STURK/Reuters)
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, let me ––
David Walmsley: –– to find a cure?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Let me be clear on that. Those things are just – David, I just don’t accept what you just said. You look over the past ten years, whether it’s income growth, whether it’s job growth, we have done better than all the major developed economies. It hasn’t been great because we are living in a terribly unstable and risky global economy.
Right now, a portion of our economy is being hard hit by the fallen oil prices. That’s something that concerns me. I come from here. It affects people I know personally and personal friends and family for a long period of time. We’ll do something about that. But to suggest for a second that that has been all there is to our policy is just false.
Our policy’s based on what I call the three Ts, the three Is: taxes, getting them down, keeping them down, making them competitive; training, making sure we’re investing speci- particularly in things that we know there’s labour demand for in the future; trade, opening up markets. We now have, to the trade agreements this government’s signed, we’re going to have in the future access to over half of global GDP. Investing in innovation with our manufacturers and reforming our immigration system to make it even more effective for our economy and making record investments in infrastructure.
That’s why I believe that Canadians are optimistic when they look at the future.
David Walmsley: Well, let’s drill down on trade, for example.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Yeah.
David Walmsley: What do you say to the auto sector as you look at the Pacific Trade plan?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, look, we know the auto sector has concerns on that particular – as do others – but David, what I say is this: you know, we’re entering the final stages of a trade discussion in the Asia Pacific that I think, frankly, is going to conclude successfully, that is going to be the basis of the global trade network in the Asia Pacific for the generation to come.
And what I say to the auto sector in particular – I’m not suggesting they will necessarily like everything that is in that, but what I am saying is we simply cannot afford as a country to have our auto sector shut out of global supply chains. That would be a disaster. We’re going to make sure we get the best deal for that. And all of our sectors, but we are committed as a government, to making sure we do not fall behind in our access to a global trading economy which is so integrated. If we do that, that would be disastrous for this country.
David Walmsley: All right. You know better that most the challenges and the problems that come, that can’t be predicted.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Right.
David Walmsley: You’re facing an economy that is incredibly challenged, that demands new thinking.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Right.
David Walmsley: What are you thinking of for the new economy? How do we turn this from resources to knowledge and the sharing economy?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Look, David, I have come to work now for seven years in a row with nothing but economic crises around the world. You know, as a banking crisis, then it’s a sovereign debt crisis, a housing crisis. We now have market chaos in China. We have the fallen commodity prices. We do, we do have to do two things. We do have to respond to these crises, but we have to operate on a long-term plan, and that is what we have been doing.
And you know, that long-term plan is not only not just about resources, but it is also including resources. I don’t want to suggest for a second that we are not going to have a vibrant resource sector. The fact that we have an unparalleled resource endowment, we have one of the highly educated workforces in the world, and we have innovative and progressive manufacturers, that we cover the complete spectrum of the economy is one of the reasons Canada is able to weather these global economic storms better than most. And we are committed to making sure that all of these sectors move forward together.
David Walmsley: OK. Thank you very much, Mr. Harper. We’re going to now go to Mr. Mulcair and the open floor. Please. The, one of the questions that the Prime Minister responded to was with respect to his vision. What do you think that the NDP can do to transition our economy beyond the buffeting winds we have with oil prices, China, and the US Fed today saying we’re not going to raise rates again?
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Well, I believe it is possible, David, to build a Canada that is more generous and more prosperous. Mr. Harper tends to believe that everybody’s in it on their own. I think that we’re all in this together, and I think that we should try to work to raise everybody up. You know, I do come from a very large family and times sometimes were tough, but I’ve seen what it is when people work together and they hold together. They try to give each other that helping hand.
I also know that it’s high time that around the world people started looking at us differently. I want our democratic institutions respected here at home and our international reputation respected abroad. I want to make sure that every young person gets the opportunities that they need and, frankly, that our young peo- that our seniors get the, get the help that they deserve.
David Walmsley: Mr. ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: That’s why we propose to raise the Guaranteed Income Supplement to raise several hundred thousand of our poorest seniors ––
David Walmsley: Mr. ––
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: –– out of poverty.
David Walmsley: –– Trudeau, what do you say to Mr. Harper’s position that the Liberals will allow for a deficit, but then there will be slippage and that deficit gets out of control?
Hon. Justin Trudeau: On the contrary. The reason Mr. Harper hasn’t been able to get out of deficit is that he hasn’t created growth. His cuts to and underspending to veterans programs, to First Nations, who we haven’t talked about enough tonight, because – or at all – because they’re an important element in kil- building our economy and making sure that we’re creating proper partnerships and, and moving our resources, as well as creating educational opportunities for young people across this country by investing, for example, on the Liberal platform, $2.6 billion in First Nations education.
We have an awful lot we need to do to keep investing in growing this economy. Mr. Harper continues to think that giving tax cuts and benefits to the wealthiest Canadians will somehow create growth. Well, it hasn’t. And that’s why we need a change.
Mr. Mulcair talks about all the right things, but he’s not going to be able to actually act on them because, unfortunately, he has back-loaded his promises and he’s committed, he’s committed to balance when we don’t need balance. With low interest rates right now, with a declining debt-to-GDP ratio, and with a flat economy, we need to invest in our future. That’s what confident economies do, and that’s what the Liberal Party of Canada is proposing.
It’s the right plan to help Canadians now.
David Walmsley: Mr. Harper?
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: Well, look, when it came out the other day that it was confirmed by the Auditor General that we actually had a surplus last year, not just this year, but a surplus last year, Mr. Trudeau immediately came out and said well, that’s because they’ve cut veterans and they’ve cut seniors and they’ve cut infrastructure.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: You talk to seniors and you talk to veterans ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: And of course, people look, people look ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau: –– and they agree.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: — at what’s actually in the annual financial statements, and spending in all of those areas has actually gone up. And the way we balanced the budget was we actually did increase revenues. We did it by cutting taxes. And I guess what I say to people is the same thing I said before. We’re not saying in this fragile global economy everything is great. We have significant risks and significant challenges. What we’re saying we’re doing is we’re making sure we’re investing in the things that will cause long-term growth and we’re investing in things that help people in their pocketbooks to get education, to save ––
David Walmsley: Mr. Mulcair.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– to retire, and higher taxes and permanent deficits is a risk that buys nothing for our people.
David Walmsley: Thank you.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: And as we ––
David Walmsley: Mr. —
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper: –– we’ve got to reject that kind of a plan.
David Walmsley: Mr. Mulcair.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: Mr. Harper was elected on a promise to make Ottawa better, to, to change Ottawa, but unfortunately, it’s Ottawa that changed Mr. Harper. Corruption has actually increased, and that’s part of his legacy, but also Ottawa has become a more divisive and a meaner place. Our relationships with the provinces are more divisive and meaner under Mr. Harper. He’s refused to attend any meetings of the Council of the Federation.
I come out of provincial politics. I know that it’s part of my job, if I become Prime Minister, to sit down regularly with the provincial Premiers to work with them on important issues facing them, and on things that we want to bring forward, like quality, affordable child care. It’s a different approach.
David Walmsley: Mr. Trudeau.
Hon. Justin Trudeau: Now, one of the things that I think is fairly clear is that I disagree with these two gentlemen on a number of things. But the main thing that I disagree with them on is their lack of ambition for our country.
Mr. Harper wants you to think that better just isn’t possible. Well, that’s not true. In this country, better is always possible. Mr. Mulcair talks about making things better, but isn’t going to act on it because he has no plan to build the economy we need.
David Walmsley: Thank you very much.
So ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. This much-anticipated Globe and Mail debate on the economy comes to an end. You’ve heard a wide range of different views. and in a month’s time, it will be voting day.
I would like to thank everyone who has joined us made this evening possible. To Mayor Nenshi for hosting us here in Calgary. We at the Globe and Mail believe in the national debate, and I am sure that you agree that we got one tonight.
A final word of thanks of course, to the three leaders, Mr. Harper, Mr. Mulcair, Mr. Trudeau. We wish you all well. We know that you have a common interest in doing the best for Canada. You just have a different way of doing it.
Stay with us. We’ll be carrying the post-debate scrums later. But first, Jane Taber of The Globe and Mail joins us now to begin the post-debate debate. I’m David Walmsley, the Editor-in-Chief of The Globe and Mail. Thank you, and have a good evening.