Because tomorrow is serious business.
Canada is teetering on a recession for the second time since Stephen Harper became prime minister. His ill-advised political pledge to eliminate the deficit he created, just in time for this election, is now risking a deepening recession.
Despite Conservative mismanagement, our economic fundamentals remain sound. We have the technology, we have the people, and we have the resources. We are one of the wealthiest nations in the world in every sense of the word. Today, our economy produces 50 percent more wealth per capita than it did a generation ago.
Nevertheless, Canadians are feeling more squeezed economically than ever before. Despite a shift to two-income households, the current generation of young families faces increasing costs for housing, education, and childcare, and unprecedented household debt. For the first time in our history, older Canadians are saying that their children will not enjoy the same standard of living as they did at the same age.
Meanwhile, our political leaders repeat the mantra that government cupboards are bare. Deep cuts in the tax rate for large corporations have led to a hoarding of cash in big business bank accounts. The Former Governor of the Bank of Canada called it “dead money” – and there’s a lot of it. Over $600 billion, equivalent to 32 percent of our GDP, is held in corporate bank accounts – not being re-invested, not working at all. Dead money. Old-line parties have ignored places to fund needed programs and instead claim there is no new money for health care services, education, pensions, infrastructure, public safety, or scientific research.
There is a serious disconnect between the unprecedented wealth produced by the Canadian economy and the increasing economic insecurity of Canadians. We must take decisive action to build a sustainable economy that benefits all Canadians over the long-term.
We need to immediately build those sectors that benefit from the lower Canadian dollar – manufacturing, tourism, value-added forest products and cultural industries. We need to resurrect federal engagement in tourism promotion and support. We need to embrace the 21st century economic revolution of clean technology.
These steps will assist in confronting the biggest threat to our economic future – the decline in the Harper years of Canadian productivity. For the first time since records have been kept, Canada is falling far behind the U.S. in productivity. More R & D and innovation will come from manufacturing and clean technology. We are a nation of innovators. While Harper’s policies reversed our economic progress, hitching us to our 19th century role as hewers of wood and drawers of water, Canadians are ready for a sustainable, clean 21st century economy.
Because tomorrow is serious business, our top economic priorities are to:
Establish a Canadian Sustainable Generations Fund
Secure Canada’s economic leadership over the coming decade by creating a fund to invest in skills-training, education, energy efficiency, renewables, and emerging technologies.
We will capitalize this fund by expanding revenue through returning corporate tax rates on large corporations to the 2009 level (19 percent), eliminating tax havens and tax credits used by the extremely wealthy, taxing pollution and waste, increasing the efficiency of our tax system, and working with provinces to increase resource extraction royalties.
The time has come to redesign our tax system for the 21st century economy. As a starting point, in line with fundamental principles of fairness, efficiency and equity, we will eliminate the exemptions, special cases and tax breaks for favoured interests. These boutique tax cuts have cluttered our tax code, needlessly increasing its complexity. We must ensure the tax system helps, not hinders, Canadians. These changes will ensure that we capture and secure economic benefits for all Canadians.
Canada is one of the safest places in the world to invest. Rather than investing abroad, the majority of the Canadian Sustainable Generations Fund will be invested here in Canada – in Canadian jobs, education, infrastructure, small-business, and communities.
Roll out a National Sustainable Jobs Plan
Put Canadians to work by investing in well-paying, local, and sustainable jobs in our communities.
Building a sustainable economy is serious business. Boom and bust cycles in the extractive industries have taken a heavy toll on Canadian families and communities, and it’s long past time for us to invest in reliable, long-term, local jobs.
The Canadian Sustainable Generations Fund will make critical investments in trades, apprenticeships, and education, and will ensure that all Canadians have the skills and training to prosper today and contribute to building the Canada of tomorrow. These investments in skills training will complement targeted national infrastructure investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy production, digital upgrades, clean-tech manufacturing, tourism, the creative economy, and emerging technologies.
The gap between the infrastructure funding our cities and towns need, and the funding they receive, is reaching crisis levels – Canada’s infrastructure deficit is estimated to be upwards of $350 billion. We will work to close this gap by committing $6.4 billion per year, one point of the GST, to municipal infrastructure - providing stable, long-term funding to Canadian municipalities, creating good local jobs, and building vibrant, safe, and livable Canadian towns and cities.
We will create a Canadian Infrastructure Bank to provide more robust and innovative financing and investment partnerships, in order to build safer bridges, better roads, world-class water treatment facilities, affordable housing, efficient public transportation, and expanded broadband access – putting thousands of Canadians to work in the process.
We will create additional sustainable jobs by re-introducing and expanding the home renovation tax credit, to create incentives for individuals and companies to make their homes and businesses more efficient and accessible by installing high-efficiency insulation, solar heating and electricity, energy-efficient appliances, and accessibility upgrades. And we will unleash an army of carpenters, electricians and contractors to take outdated and leaky public buildings – schools, universities and hospitals – and plug the leaks that increase greenhouse gases and costs. These changes alone will reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent nationwide.
Abolish tuition fees for college, university, and skills training programs, and slash student debt for students and their families.
It’s time to break the status quo on education in Canada and abolish tuition fees for college, university and skills training programs.
Whether Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, or Finland, many of the world’s most successful economies have proven that expanding the public education system to include post-secondary increases prosperity, equality, productivity, and economic competitiveness.
We will start investing in Canada’s future by abolishing tuition fees for students without adequate financial means, including removing the inadequate 2 percent annual cap on increased funding for post secondary education for all First Nations and Inuit students. Through consultation and collaboration with provincial governments and universities and colleges, by 2020 we will abolish tuition fees for post-secondary education and skills training for Canadians, guaranteeing that income is never a barrier for qualified students. It is widely recognized that Canada’s success depends on an educated population, yet we burden youth with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt.
As our plan to abolish tuition fees is being phased in, we will invest in the success of current students, jumpstart the Canadian economy, and give our graduates a hand-up by implementing a debt-forgiveness program. Our plan will eliminate any existing or future student federal debt above $10,000. We will abolish charging interest on new student loans and will increase available funding for bursaries.
It is unacceptable to the Green Party, and should be unacceptable to every Canadian, that the unemployment rate among Canadian youth is twice the national average. The actual youth unemployment rate is likely much higher as many young people have given up on finding that first job and are no longer counted.
Investment in Canadian skills, training, and education is a proven means to create real jobs, and is the backbone of Canada’s future as a sustainability superpower. But for many young people just getting out of school, they face a Catch-22. They cannot get hired in new jobs because they lack experience. But unless they get that first job, they’ll never have experience. Greens will create a national Community and Environment Service Corps, which will provide $1 billion/year to municipalities to hire Canadian youth to do work that needs to be done.
Partnering with First Nations for truly responsible resource development in the long-term public interest
Building a new era of nation-to-nation respect and partnership starts with recognizing First Nations’ inherent rights and title. We will work together to negotiate comprehensive Indigenous self-governance arrangements, and bury the Indian Act. Our Council of Canadian Governments will, for the first time, engage First Nations, Métis and Inuit leadership as full partners in inter-governmental decision-making – for the good of us all and not solely on indigenous issues.
We recognize that First Nations communities have been at the forefront of stalling irresponsible resource development projects like the Enbridge pipeline. We will work with First Nations and with the provinces to ensure that the responsible development of Canada’s natural-resource wealth benefits all Canadians, beginning with the consent of the peoples on whose traditional territories they exist.
Truly responsible resource development means securing Canada’s endowment of living systems and natural wealth, by setting strict rules on industrial development to eliminate waste and environmental pollution, limiting foreign control over Canadian resources, and putting an end to high-risk plans for new raw bitumen export pipelines and tankers.
By investing heavily in advanced skills training, expanding support for trades and apprentice programs, and capturing additional value by processing resources here in Canada, we will create good jobs in the resource sector and in local communities. All while ensuring Canadians who call this place home have a say in developing our resources.
Putting Canadian small business owners first
Ensure Canadian small business owners and entrepreneurs have access to the funds they need to create local jobs and revitalize local economies.
Small businesses and the Canadians who own them are the central driver of our economy. They create more jobs than any other part of our economy. And those incomes and profits remain in the community, providing stable employment. As an added bonus, their flexible nature allows them to respond to environmental and market demands well before large corporations take action.
Putting Canadian small businesses first means reducing red tape for small business owners and enacting “Think Small First” legislation to ensure that new federal laws and regulations enhance, rather than hinder, an economic environment where local businesses and entrepreneurs can thrive.
We will create federally-funded $1 billion per year Green Technology Commercialization Grants to accelerate emerging technologies and give Canadian entrepreneurs a head start. By facilitating increased access to early-stage financing, the Green Technology Commercialization Grant will help our entrepreneurs compete internationally. It will help good ideas and emerging technology get to market, growing our sustainable economy and creating good local jobs and opportunities in our communities.
Supporting local food and small-scale producers
In a time of dominance by global industrial food systems, we want to rebalance the equation by creating resilient local economies fueled by local growers, farmers, and producers.
Markets for local and organic food are growing rapidly, and a new generation of young Canadians want to try their hand at farming. Yet starting out remains a daunting prospect, requiring financial risk that many young would-be farmers are unwilling to take.
We believe that Canadians who want to enter into agriculture should be supported to do so. We will fund community supported agriculture, farmers’ markets, small-scale farms and producers, and the wineries and microbreweries that Canadians love.
Finally, we will shift government-supported research away from biotechnology and energy-intensive farming and towards organic and sustainable food production. We have the successful twenty-plus year legacy of Environmental Farm Plan assessments to build upon in which tens of thousands of family farms voluntarily adopted more efficient farming practices.