Hon. John McKay PC, MP Speech to the Welland Liberal Riding Association

August-10-09

Hon. John McKay PC, MP Speech to the Welland Liberal Association
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July 18th, 2009


Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you and thank you also for your involvement in your community and the nation’s affairs. It is only with the help of dedicated people like yourselves that we can win the next election. We’re all Liberals so naturally we’re a bit biased, but a Liberal victory in the next election is critical for returning our country to a state of fiscal responsibility, to making it a country that is respected internationally and one that leads the world instead of dragging its feet.

Happily, Mr. Ignatieff has proven over the past months that he is a solid leader ready to take over from a particularly uninspired government.

I first heard of Michael Ignatieff on the CBC’s Massey Lecture Series in 2000. He was giving a talk at the University of Toronto on the rights revolution that has occurred since the Charter of Rights was added to the Constitution in 1982. He talked about Canada’s commitment to human rights as being one of the distinguishing features of our national identity. Deeper than this is our collective commitment to respect for individual and group rights that has brought this country over 150 years of relative peacefulness.

(An audio version of this lecture is available on the CBC’s website at: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/massey/massey2000_pictures.html)

I found him so compelling that I went out and bought his book on the subject.
My next encounter with Michael was during the 2006 federal election when I had the opportunity to meet him in Senator David Smith’s office on Parliament Hill. I brought up his Massey Series lecture and we got into an interesting discussion about the rights revolution and its limitations. We’ve been friends ever since.

Here are a few things about Michael that I’ve learned as his colleague: he’s a good man; he has solid judgement; he is not afraid to speak his mind; he has a vision for this country; he is not fond of the Prime Minister’s divisive and narrowly partisan politics; in the tradition of great Liberal Prime Ministers like Laurier and Trudeau he is here to unite Canadians not divide them; and finally, he is here to win.

The Liberal Party is light years ahead of where it was six months ago. Our membership and donors lists are growing all the time. It has a strategic plan with the organization to back it up and implement it. The Party is attracting the best and the brightest candidates, staff and volunteers.
This is crucially important not only for the strength of our Party but for our nation as well. According to Parliament’s independent budget officer the Conservatives have been running the nation’s finances into the ground and folks in places like Welland have been getting the pointing end of the stick.
We can’t argue that had the Liberals been in power over the past two years that there wouldn’t have been a recession. We can argue however that the country would be in much better shape. With the budgetary measures put in place during the Chretien/Martin years we would have gone into recession more slowly and emerged more quickly.

We left government in 2006 having achieved surpluses every year from 1997-2006. It took the Conservatives just three short years to drive us into the ditch.

They have eroded Canada’s revenue base and spent like drunken sailors. During their tenure government revenue has declined from $240 to $228 billion while they have increased spending from $200 to $230 billion. In November Mr. Flaherty was reporting a modest 1$ billion surplus. In the short time from November 2008 to July 2009 (a mere 9 months) Mr. Flaherty has gone from saying “I’m not going to be the first Finance Minister with a deficit” to reporting a $34 billion deficit in January and now a $50 billion in May.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) is predicting a structural deficit for the next five years. That amounts to a projected $155.8 billion worth of debt. In three short years they have completely wiped out the progress made during the Liberal’s ten years of surpluses and debt repayment (13 if you consider the mess they inherited from Mulroney in 1993). 

To make matters worse the PBO is predicting that if you don’t have a job it’s going to be harder to find one and it will be harder to get EI. For those that have a job your EI premiums will increase. That is why we have repeatedly asked for expanded access to EI as a condition of our continued support. We see it as the front line of stimulus.
As for the infrastructure dollars, they seem to be pre-loaded to announcements but there is little that is tangible.

Meanwhile, in places like Welland the big concern is the auto industry. The industry’s enthusiasm for innovation is bogged down knowing full well that Tennessee, Mexico and China can do repetitive function as well and cheaper than we can. The Conservative government has shown no great enthusiasm for driving innovation in the auto sector or anywhere else for that matter. As my colleague Marc Garneau  has pointed out, Obama has committed six times as many dollars per capita on science and technology research than we have. In fact the Prime Minister has cut $365 million out of their science and technology fund. Yet it is places like Welland with institutions like Brock University and McMaster University that could, with funding for innovation research, lead us out of this economic mess. If they’re not coming up with ideas then its goodbye jobs now and in the future.

Which brings me back to the importance of getting John (Maloney, Liberal candidate for Welland) elected.

It is clear that the Prime Minister has no idea how to get us out of this mess – in fact his first instinct is similar to that of a George Bush Republican. Cut taxes and all will be well. He sees no role for government in education, science, technology, research, etc.

Obama gets it; Ignatieff gets it; Maloney gets it; Harper doesn’t.

Canada cannot afford this government any longer. We cannot afford another Harper mandate. We’ve got a fiscal mess on our hands and a Prime Minister who is either incapable or unwilling to undertake the task at hand. Canada needs serious leadership. Canada needs the John Maloneys and Michael Ignatieffs to step up to the plate and get us out of the ditch.

Thank you.

Hon. John McKay PC, MP