Mr. Roy Cullen (Etobicoke North, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure and honour to address the House of Commons today during this debate on the budget implementation bill.
During the recent byelection in Etobicoke North I became very aware of the value of the legacy of the members of Parliament who served so capably in the riding in the years before me.
In particular, former Minister for International Trade Roy MacLaren, the incoming High Commissioner to Great Britain, served the constituents of Etobicoke North with great distinction for four terms, beginning in 1979. I rediscovered during the election campaign the value of hard work and integrity in representing riding constituents because I heard so many positive comments about Roy MacLaren as I canvassed from door to door.
I had the good fortune to work with Roy MacLaren in the riding for five years before the byelection and it was with great pride that I discussed with constituents his successes and the many ways Roy MacLaren and his gracious wife, Lee, so positively impacted people in the riding over the years.
My constituents have also talked to me about other great Canadians who represented with distinction in this House the people of York West, a riding whose boundaries were redrawn and which was renamed Etobicoke North in 1976. Red Kelly, Robert Winters and Alastair Gillespie are names that came back often, but I should also mention Jim Flemming, Philip Givens and Bob Pennock.
I follow in the footsteps of so many great Canadians who have made such a significant contribution to public policy and to public life in Canada. It is a daunting thought and a challenge that I will fully devote myself to. I too aspire to earn the respect and support the constituents of Etobicoke North have reserved for the members who have preceded me.
I thank the constituents of Etobicoke North for placing their confidence in me. As well, I thank the many volunteers who helped me during the election campaign. Without their support I would not be here.
As we all know, winning an election requires the commitment of many people in canvassing, office work, installing signs, writing and distributing brochures, fund raising and a host of other tasks. I was very fortunate to have had a very talented and dedicated team working with me.
Our election victory in Etobicoke North was very much a team effort and I am very grateful to those who worked so effectively on our campaign team.
As I canvassed door to door, I met many voters who recognized the importance of concluding the debate on national unity. I look forward to contributing to these discussions. The people of my riding want the matter to be settled so that we can go on to other things.
One of the few obstacles to investment in Canada and Quebec is the political uncertainty in Quebec. As a former Quebecer from Montreal, I am very troubled to see that businesses and jobs continue to flee that province.
As Minister for International Trade, Roy MacLaren worked very hard with the Prime Minister and Team Canada to develop our export trade potential. Missions to South Africa, South America and Asia were orchestrated under his leadership and under the leadership of the Prime Minister. These missions resulted in billions of dollars in trade deals over the short period of one and a half years.
Given my experience in international business, I know many of these agreements moved from the concept stage to the contract signing stage as a result of these missions. These deals resulted in and will continue to provide thousands of jobs for Canadians.
Equally important, the way has been paved for more business in the future. Canada's business community is to be congratulated for its leadership and performance in export trade, one of the real success stories of our economy.
In Etobicoke North I plan to build on the Team Canada concept of building export trade and, equally important, working with all stakeholders in the community to build more jobs and a healthy economy. This means building partnerships with industry and labour as well as the Etobicoke city council and the provincial government.
The constituents of Etobicoke North expect all their politicians, irrespective of political stripe or political agenda, to work together to improve the lives of residents of Etobicoke North. Citizens in the riding deserve this. I am encouraged by early signs which indicate that all stakeholders will be able to work together in a very constructive way.
I invite the participation of all constituents in my riding to contribute ideas on how we can create more jobs and a healthy economy in Etobicoke North. Some individuals have already come forward with some very excellent ideas.
I hope the Ontario government will seize the moment and harmonize the provincial sales tax with the federal GST. No province will benefit more from harmonization than Ontario. Ontario could harmonize at a rate of 14 per cent and reduce the sales tax by 1 per cent without losing any revenue. More economic potential in the province and in my riding could be unleashed and our businesses would be more competitive, which would mean more jobs. In my opinion jobs are the best social program.
I realize the task at hand is not an easy one. In Canada, thanks to the hard work of the finance minister, our economic fundamentals are coming together in a very positive way. We are getting the deficit under control, interest rates are low and short term interest rates in Canada today are lower than those in the United States. This trend is also apparent with long term interest rates. These factors create an unprecedented opportunity for investment flowing into the country.
In Etobicoke North we have some incredible strengths which we can build on. We have Pearson International Airport nearby. We have the 401 highway which runs through the riding. We have quality industrial land, a qualified workforce and a number of high technology companies.
We know from the extensive work done in the area of international competitiveness that those jurisdictions which have the most qualified and knowledgeable workforces will attract the industries of the future, which will provide permanent high paying jobs. In Etobicoke North we already have a head start with an abundance of companies and workers on the leading edge of various technologies like aerospace, advanced engineering and health and life sciences, to name a few.
The government in the recent throne speech and budget recognized the value of innovation. We have committed ourselves to supporting industrial innovation and research and development. In
addition to setting a positive business climate, this is a very legitimate and necessary role for government to play.
We need only look at international competition to realize governments around the world support and encourage their high technology industries. We must do the same in Canada if we are to compete internationally. I am very pleased we are actively and aggressively doing so.
Herein lies the opportunity for Etobicoke North. By supporting industrial innovation in my riding we can continue to develop our leading edge companies. I have already launched such an initiative. I am very confident that in my riding by working together and by working hard we can collectively build a stronger economy and create more jobs.
I also realize the importance of the many other businesses, both small and large, in Etobicoke North that are not necessarily high tech companies. I pledge to work closely with them also. Given the rapidly changing international marketplace, some of these companies are adjusting to these new realities and face difficult challenges also.
The initiative I have put in motion in Etobicoke North involves bringing industry leaders in the riding together to assess our strengths and identify areas in which we can improve. We will assess what impediments or constraints there are to economic growth in our riding.
We will look at so-called industrial clusters in Etobicoke North. The Quebec government, among others, has greatly benefited from this economic development tool, which led to the emergence of Silicon Valley in California.
The city of Ottawa is a role model for all of us. For decades, it was little more than a government town. There were other industries, but the pillar of the economy was the federal government.
Look at all that has been achieved since then. We have become Silicon Valley North. A booming industrial cluster grew up around computer hardware and software and telecommunications, right here in Ottawa.
We can produce the same results in Etobicoke North, not necessarily computer hardware or software, but perhaps in other clusters such as engineering, biotechnology, life sciences or other service sectors.
The recently concluded open skies agreement between Canada and the United States could open many economic doors for us in our ridings if we have the courage and the goodwill to work together.
We seem to have a structural unemployment problem in Canada and throughout the world. Countries like France, Germany and Italy are facing the same challenge. We need to reflect on what is causing this. While I do not pretend to be a labour market expert or an industrial economics expert, I have reached some conclusions of my own.
We know technology is having an impact on unemployment levels. We cannot fight this. In an ironic sense we need to encourage it. As someone who supports the need for our natural resource industries to add more value in Canada, I am continually amazed by those who will not acknowledge that many value added initiatives reduce job levels because they are capital intensive. Often value added initiatives replace labour with advanced technology, replacing people with machines, but pursue value added we must because this strategy produces more wealth for all Canadians.
Labour is priced like any other good or service, and if labour is too expensive business shifts its emphasis to other alternatives. In the early 1990s in Canada our productivity was low. We were losing our international competitiveness. Since that time our productivity has improved considerably to a point where this is no longer an issue. Economists today are focusing on total factor productivity, not just labour productivity, because to be competitive business must optimize its uses of all the factors of production, labour, plants and equipment, technology and financial capital.
We are doing well in this regard and labour productivity is very much a part of this improved performance, but these developments do not necessarily produce jobs. In addition to technological influences on the job market there are many other subtle changes occurring that impact on this; for example, the growth in the services sector and more part time work of all descriptions.
I believe the real impediment for job growth at this time in Canada is a lack of consumer confidence. Consumers are not spending. Our export growth has been phenomenal thanks to the efforts of Team Canada, but consumer confidence is lacking. When consumers do not spend, factories do not expand, new factories do not get built and the service economy suffers also. Why are consumers not spending?
I think the reason why consumers are not spending is because they are unemployed or unsure they will be able to keep their jobs. Similar factors are at work around the world. What can we do? I think we must show the way. Our economy is not big enough to exert much influence on that of other countries, but we can improve the situation here at home. How can we do so?
I will be concentrating my efforts in Etobicoke North. If all members did the same in their ridings, the cumulative effect would be substantial. What role can the federal government or an individual member of Parliament play? Cynics would say there is no role for us. I say the opposite. I would not have sought public office if I did not believe I could make a difference. The same can be said for all of us, I am sure.
Am I talking about a large interventionist role for the federal government? Definitely not. I believe in the wisdom of the markets but I also know that from time to time markets can fail. As a member of Parliament I will play the role of a catalyst to bring industry, labour and governments together in Etobicoke North. I will make businesses in the riding aware of the support the federal government can offer in the areas of technology and innovation.
I will also be working closely with the schools in my riding and other excellent educational institutions in Etobicoke North such as Humber College. Through this work I hope to support education and skills development for young Canadians and youth employment. Young Canadians in Etobicoke North and throughout Canada need hope for the future. I commit myself to work with them.
Last week I had the honour to present the Prime Minister's award recognizing teacher excellence in mathematics, technology and science to Mr. Larry Tracey at the Elms junior middle school in Etobicoke North. These pockets of excellence need to be replicated and recognized across Canada because students are our leaders of tomorrow.
What role can industry play to address the structural unemployment we are now facing? As I said earlier, I believe the federal government can create the policy and business environment that is conducive to business investment activity. This I believe we are doing.
By 1997-98 our government will have achieved the initial deficit target of 2 per cent of GDP, one of the lowest if not the lowest of all industrialized nations. We are going about this task in a determined and responsible way. I can say from my experience in management and government that the pace with which we are proceeding reflects an understanding that when we deal with budget reductions of this magnitude, what we are really doing is reinventing government. Reinventing government if it is to be done in a responsible and caring way, cannot be done in one or two years.
The federal government can also assist business in areas such as technology and innovation as I said earlier. Governments alone cannot create lasting jobs. Only the private sector can do that. I am very proud to have worked in the private sector and I believe I understand the demands on business and the competitive environment in which they operate.
Business acknowledged in the 1960s and 1970s that it also had a social responsibility. These responsibilities first manifested themselves in areas such as corporate philanthropy, investment in human resources training and development, environmental protection, information disclosure and other areas such as those.
Canadian business has responded so well to the new realities in the past. I would ask business leaders in Canada: Are we focused exclusively on the pursuit of shareholder value and enhanced share prices to the exclusion of some other very important corporate responsibilities, such as the responsibility to people and communities? How many more times do we need to hear about a company that has downsized, right sized, re-engineered or restructured with resulting massive layoffs or job cuts all at a time of record corporate profits?
How many executives today remember that when they were at university an undergraduate degree paved the way to a job in corporate Canada? For the younger executives the requirement may have ratcheted up to a masters degree. Today there are countless young Canadians who have more formal education than that, yet they cannot find jobs.
I ask executives in Etobicoke North, and throughout Canada for that matter, to consider the following questions: How rational and balanced are your corporate human resource policies through the medium and long term? How could you productively put people to work to grow your business? As a member of your community, could your company be doing more to give people a chance to demonstrate their value to your business?
All of us in the House understand the business imperative of the bottom line. I recognize that industry is not one big social program. Many companies however are re-examining their staff cutback policies and are looking at ways to develop and grow their businesses. A number of business analysts have concluded that large wholesale staff reductions have generally not produced the winning results that companies may have expected.
The industry I am very familiar with for example, the forest products industry, through the Forest Sector Advisory Council is working closely with the federal government exploring ways in which even more jobs can be created in this industry. It is encouraging to learn also that a major Canadian bank has recently launched a program designed to provide mentoring, business support and loans to young Canadian entrepreneurs.
I am confident that businesses will rise up to the challenges we all face as Canadians and that, like Team Canada, we can all work together to build the future. Like public authorities, unions,
interest groups and citizens, businesses must help in tackling the task ahead.
For these reasons I will support and I urge all members in the House to support the budget implementation bill before us. Implementing the budget will allow the federal government to play its rightful role in the jobs and growth agenda, building quality and permanent jobs for all Canadians now and for the future.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Budget Implementation Act, 1996