Editor's Note: As prepared for delivery in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014.
Mr. Speaker, nearly 150 years ago, Canada was founded with fiscal responsibility as its cornerstone. The men and women who carved this great country out of the wilderness simply called it “good government.”
That’s what Minister of Finance John Rose was talking about when he stood before this assembly to deliver Canada’s first budget speech in 1868. He said, “I say that we ought to be most careful in our outlay, and consider well every shilling we expend.”
Now, that’s just old-fashioned English for old-fashioned common sense. And it is that solid, Canadian common sense that has guided our Government through good times and bad.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to present Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2014. This prudent plan builds on our record of strong, sound and consistent fiscal management. It is a low-tax plan to promote jobs and economic growth and support Canadian families. And it is a common sense plan that will see Canada return to a balanced budget in 2015.
Economic Action Plan 2014 sticks to the principles that we adopted when I rose to deliver our Government’s first budget in 2006 during good times. What did our Government do then, when our budget was in surplus and when few could see dark clouds on the horizon?
We paid down our federal debt.
We lowered taxes for families and job creators.
We made sure our fiscal house was in order.
Why did we do this? Because it was the responsible way to a brighter future for Canadians.
Financial prudence now leads to financial prosperity in the future. It leads to opportunity. And so it was that when economic bad times came, our country was better prepared than most.
Since the depths of the recession Canada has led the G7 in job creation. Coming out of the recession Canada had a triple-A credit rating with a stable outlook — which was and still is virtually unmatched among our peers. We have the best net debt-to-GDP ratio among G7 nations.
There are many reasons to be optimistic. There are signs of recovery around us. But there are also troubled waters. The world economy is still fragile — one need look no further than Europe and the emerging economies to see that.
Here at home, household debt is still higher than we’d like to see. And there are still too many Canadians looking for work, and too many employers looking for workers. There is still work to be done.
As my favourite Father of Confederation, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, once said, “We are in the rapids and must go on.” And so, even as the times get better again, we will stay the course that has worked so well.
1. Balancing the Budget
Mr. Speaker, Sir John A. Macdonald — my other favourite Father of Confederation — could have been talking about our Economic Action Plan when he said, “the Government are merely trustees for the public.” And that is why we are so committed to balancing the budget and returning Canada to a position of fiscal strength.
When governments run prolonged deficits, they are spending money that belongs to future generations. Deficit spending endangers social programs we benefit from and our children will soon depend on.
We also recognize that balanced budgets are important to the long-term prosperity of this country, inspiring confidence in investors and consumers, whose dollars grow the economy and create jobs, and ensuring interest rates stay low.
Canadians have trusted us with the economy and we have delivered. As we have promised, our Government remains committed to balancing the budget in 2015.
But I must be clear. We did not do this on the backs of ordinary Canadians or Canadians in need, or at the expense of our provinces and territories. We did not cut the programs Canadians rely on. We did not cut transfers to our provinces and territories — money they use for things like education and health care.
Rather, we did this by getting our own fiscal house in order. And, Mr. Speaker, that is exactly how our Government will continue.
Our Government has reduced direct program spending for the third year in a row in 2012-13. That is something no other government has done in decades.