Finance Minister Jim Flaherty:
As I rise in this House today, our nation is at a crossroads. We have passed through some steep and rocky terrain. Much of the territory was uncharted. We were prepared, and we protected ourselves. We are making our way through, and our compass has not failed us. The way forward remains challenging.
Some would urge us to turn at this crossroads. Experience tells us this would eventually lead us backward. We need to keep helping those who need a hand up. We need to stay on course. We can see our destination on the horizon. It is a high point, not only in our nation's history of increasing prosperity, but also a high point to which the world will look for inspiration.
It is a Canada in which our children and grandchildren will surpass us. It is a Canada for which they will be grateful. They will be grateful as we are grateful for the work and wisdom of Canadians before us.
OUR RESPONSE TO THE GLOBAL RECESSION
Canada has been drawn into a global economic recession. It has been deeper and more widespread than any since the 1930s. A year before the crisis, we saw the risk of a slowdown. It originated outside our borders, but we knew it would eventually affect us.
We reduced taxes on Canadian families and businesses, to stimulate our economy. The crisis emerged more quickly and with greater force than anyone could have predicted. Many international financial institutions failed, but not here in Canada. Stock markets around the world plunged deeply. For a time the global financial system was at risk of shutting down.
Our government took immediate action to ensure Canadian banks could keep lending. We kept our economy from grinding to a halt. We worked quickly with our partners in the G7 and G20. In a period of unprecedented uncertainty, we helped lead an effective, co-ordinated global response. To lead our own country forward, we presented a plan, a bold plan, Canada's Economic Action Plan. It is a plan to protect Canadians and create jobs during the global recession. It is a plan to invest in our future growth. That plan is working.
We are in the middle of the largest federal investment in infrastructure in over 60 years. We are putting Canadians to work on almost 16,000 projects across the country. We are building better roads, bridges, border crossings, public transit and college and university facilities. We are providing extra help and training to Canadians who are out of work. We are providing special help to the most vulnerable communities and industries. We are helping businesses avoid layoffs, to keep Canadians working. Through Work-Sharing alone we have helped protect the jobs of more than 225,000 Canadians.
OUR PERFORMANCE IN THE GLOBAL RECESSION
Canada has faced the global recession from a position of strength. Because of prudent government regulation, none of our banks failed. None of them required a bailout from taxpayers, unlike their competitors in other countries. Our government had managed the nation's finances responsibly. We had paid down debt and reduced taxes, consistently and aggressively. As a result, we have been able to take extraordinary measures to protect the Canadian economy.
Like virtually all other countries, we have needed to run a substantial deficit to do so. Unlike other countries, we are in a position to ensure our deficit will be temporary. We can meet our current needs without jeopardizing our long-term growth.
The proof is in our performance.
By key measures, Canada is performing better than the United States and other advanced economies. Leading authorities praise the stability of our mortgage industry. They point to our financial system as the soundest in the world. Before the recession Canada had the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, by far. After the recession Canada will still have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, and by an even wider margin. In 2010 the IMF estimates that Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio will be approximately 31 per cent. In the United States the ratio will be almost 67 per cent. In the United Kingdom it will be 75 per cent, and in Japan, 115 per cent. Their ratios will continue to climb, while Canada's will begin falling in 2011.