‘To them I say: rise above petty politics’

The Finance Minister is, at this moment, delivering the following speech to an audience at the Chateau Laurier. That sound you hear is a great gnashing of teeth in the capital at this hour.

To wit.

Thank you very much for the invitation to be with you today.  It’s a pleasure to address this well informed and distinguished group of opinion leaders.

Merci de m’avoir invité à me joindre à vous aujourd’hui. Je suis très heureux de prendre la parole devant un tel groupe d’éminents leaders d’opinion.

The fall session of Parliament has just started.

It’s a good time for some serious, frank talk.

We have some important choices to make.

Choices that have consequences.

An extraordinary time

We’ve gone through an extraordinary time the past two years.

A synchronized recession, the deepest since the Depression.

A global storm which, though it has eased up, has not yet passed.

We’ve all been affected.

Business owners working hard to avoid layoffs.

Families working hard to make ends meet.

Individual Canadians looking for work in what was initially a bleak employment landscape.

That’s why our Government’s main focus has been – and will continue to be – the economy.

To keep Canadians working, to create good new jobs, and to secure our recovery.

Through the G-7 and especially the G-20, the world has pulled together.

And from the beginning, the world has looked to Canada – first in admiration, increasingly for guidance and leadership.

We’re punching above our weight – far above our weight.

And now the heavyweights are coming to us for lessons.

Proud to be a Canadian

In my travels, at international meetings, I hear it

again and again.

Leaders of the world, looking at Canada and our economy with envy.

Saying “We want to be a Canadian.”

Every time I hear it, I think “ what a time to be Canadian.”

Quand je suis en voyage et quand j’assiste à des réunions internationales, j’entends très souvent le même message.

Les leaders du monde sont envieux du Canada et de son économie.

Ils disent qu’ils aimeraient être canadiens.

Et chaque fois, je me répète qu’il est bon d’être canadien de nos jours.

You’re familiar with the reasons Canada stands out – now, more than ever.

Low, increasingly low taxes.

The lowest debt burden of the major advanced economies – by far.

Rock-solid banks.

A major – and effective – stimulus program.

Almost 430,000 new jobs since July 2009 – more than were lost during the recession.

And a balanced budget on the horizon.

These are huge accomplishments.

Accomplishments that Opposition politicians choose to ignore.

Opposition politicians who talk down our economy for political gain at every opportunity.

To them I say: rise above petty politics.

At an uncertain time, join us in working to strengthen Canada and promote that strength around the world.

Do your job as critics. Criticize this government as you need to. But don’t tear down our country for short-term political gain to do it.

We all have the right to celebrate our performance during the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression and the world leading strengths of our economy..

But even more, we have the responsibility to appreciate.

To appreciate that Canada’s advantages are rare and valuable.

That they are not an accident.

And they are not guaranteed.

They are the result of the choices we have made.

And they depend on the choices we will make.

Our top priority

Tax rates, deficit projections, debt-to-GDP, jobs numbers – they’re impressive, but abstract.

Where they matter is in the lives of Canadians – our families, our businesses, our communities.

Our quality of life, the future of our children and grandchildren.

That’s what’s at stake.

That’s what our government is focused on.

That’s what will remain our top priority.

We cannot and must not be complacent.

Yes, Canada has outperformed during the global recession.

But still too many Canadians are looking for work.

For every one of them, a job isn’t just about putting food on the table.

It’s about using their talents, making a contribution.

It’s about their dignity.

Other Canadians are anxious.

They’re working flat out to pay the mortgage, and wondering if they’ll make it this month.

They want to sign their kids up for hockey, but don’t have the money to spare.

The recession isn’t their fault.

They look to us for leadership, so we can get through it together.

And that means our government’s work must continue.

We must stay on course.

We must implement our stimulus plan fully, and keep helping those who need it.

We must return to balanced budgets, and protect our Canadian advantage.

Nous devons assurer la mise en œuvre intégrale de notre plan de stimulation, et nous devons continuer d’aider les gens qui en ont besoin.

Nous devons rétablir l’équilibre budgétaire et conserver l’avantage du Canada.

The risks we face

But there are risks ahead, serious risks.

The global economy remains fragile.

In Europe, several countries are struggling to maintain control of their finances, with implications well beyond their borders.

In the United States, our main export market, the unemployment rate remains a full point-and-a-half above ours.

Around the world, the growth we saw earlier this year has slowed.

And beyond the economic risks, there is, I regret to say, a political risk.

That is the risk of an unnecessary election, an election that would jeopardize our economic recovery, just as we enter the home stretch.

Canadians don’t want an election.

Our government isn’t seeking one.

But the opposition coalition – the Michael Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois coalition – has been consistent in one thing, if only one thing.

From the beginning of the global economic crisis, they have put their own self-interest above Canadians.

Par contre, la coalition de l’opposition – celle de Michael Ignatieff, du NPD et du Bloc québécois – a été constante à un niveau, si ce n’est que le seul.

Depuis le début de la crise économique mondiale, elle a agi dans son propre intérêt plutôt que dans l’intérêt des Canadiens.

More than once, when they’ve thought they had a shot at seizing power, they’ve threatened to force an unnecessary election – knowing it would put Canada’s recovery in jeopardy.

I’ll come back to this risk in a few moments.

For now, to appreciate what’s at stake, let’s look at our recent history.

Real benefits, strong leadership

We are proud of our record.

Just five short years ago, Canada was led by a weak, dithering, and directionless government.

Support for Quebec sovereignty was on the rise.

And our ability to defend Canada’s sovereignty was on the decline.

Waste, mismanagement, and corruption were rampant on the inside.

And regular Canadians – the people who work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules – were left on the outside.

Today, our government is strong.

Our federation is united.

Canada is standing up for its sovereignty and interests on the world stage.

And Canadians have received real benefits that deliver real support for the real world:

cutting the GST;

introducing the $1200-per-year child care benefit;

delivering the Tax-Free Savings Account;

we did all this and more, while protecting health care and pensions.

But most important, we met the challenge of the global economic crisis head-on, with our world-leading Economic Action Plan.

First we took preventative action.

We paid down debt when times were good.

We strengthened our already strong banking system.

We injected tax cut stimulus into the economy before the crisis.

And we rejected Michael Ignatieff’s proposal for a job-killing carbon tax.

Once the crisis hit we didn’t panic.

Instead we went to work.

We listened to Canadians in one of the largest pre-Budget consultations in history

We fast-tracked our Budget – the earliest in Canadian history.

We delivered further tax cuts.

We enhanced EI benefits for those hit hardest by the global recession.

And we made job-creating investments in roads, bridges, buildings, and other infrastructure that will leave a legacy for future generations.

The risk of an unnecessary election

Ladies and gentlemen, an unnecessary election would put all of this at risk.

Not just Canada’s amazing accomplishments in recent years.

Mesdames et messieurs, une élection inutile risquerait de tout compromettre.

Et je ne parle pas seulement des impressionnants accomplissements des dernières années.

Not just our hard-won, world-leading status.

But also our long-term growth and prosperity.

The ability to invest in the priorities of Canadians.

The quality of life of our children and grandchildren.

Throughout the recession, the Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois coalition has demanded we raise taxes.

Demanded we take more money from the pockets of hard-working Canadians.

Their leader has vowed to reverse tax cuts for job-creating businesses.

He refuses to rule out raising the GST back up to seven percent.

He refuses to rule out a carbon tax – an idea he came up with, a job-killing tax on everything, rejected by Canadians in the last election.

He even supports a new tax on iPods.

Under an Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois government, nothing would be safe.

No part of our economy would be spared.

No taxpayer would avoid the hit.

What’s the supposed benefit?

The coalition promises massive, new, permanent entitlement programs.

Programs we can’t afford.

Programs that would make more room for government, and less room for growth.

We can’t afford such risky economic management

The costs are too high.

It’s not just in the coalition’s across-the-board tax hikes.

It’s not only big government reaching into your pocket for more and more of your hard-earned money.

The real cost of these reckless promises is in the lives of Canadians, our families, businesses, and communities.

Experts estimate the Michael Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois tax hikes would kill almost 400,000 jobs.

Coincidentally, that’s virtually the number of jobs Canada lost, but has since regained, during the recession.

Behind those 400,000 jobs are real Canadians, real families.

They deserve better than a Liberal leader who would risk their jobs, their livelihood.

I know he’s been abroad for a long time.

But here in Canada, you don’t tell people what to worry about.

You listen to Canadians and they tell you.

They are worried about their jobs.

The economy.

They’re worried about political agendas that will mean more spending paid for by their hard-earned tax dollars.

That’s a night-and-day difference from our Conservative government under Stephen Harper.

The record shows we take a principled, practical, and prudent approach to leadership.

The coalition led by Mr. Ignatieff has its own agenda – power, power, power.

While their leader is untested and unready, their ideas are not.

They have been tested – and they have failed.

Bigger and bigger government.

Endless red tape.

Higher and higher taxes.

Any coalition that would give the NDP access to taxpayers’ wallets should strike fear in regular Canadians.

What’s more, any coalition that would give a veto on national policy to a party dedicated to the breakup of our country is unacceptable .

A clear choice

Canadians are tired of political instability.

They are tired of elections every two years.

And they know we need a stable government, to ensure our economic recovery and long-term growth.

Les Canadiens sont fatigués de l’instabilité politique.

Ils sont fatigués des élections aux deux ans.

Et ils savent qu’il nous faut un gouvernement stable afin d’assurer la reprise économique et la croissance à long terme.

There is going to be an election, sooner or later.

The coalition may make it sooner.

Regardless, when it comes, Canadians will face a stark choice.

The outcome will be a majority government, one way or another.

A stable, national majority under Stephen Harper’s leadership.

Or the reckless coalition of Michael Ignatieff, the NDP, and the Bloc Québécois.

Of course they deny they’ll officially join forces.

But they did it before.

They’ll do it again.

And that is the choice we will face.

That is the risk we must avoid.

The consequences are just too great.

In the global recession, the ship of state has had a difficult voyage.

But we can see the harbour lights.

And that’s just when a would-be captain and his ragtag crew are trying to storm the bridge.

If they seize the wheel, ladies and gentlemen, they’ll have us on the rocks.

And that’s not how this voyage should end.

The Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois tax hikes would not only jeopardize our recovery from the global recession.

The coalition’s policies would also squander our Canadian advantage, and limit our long-term prospects.

They would set us on the same downward spiral other countries are now trying desperately to escape.

Heads and hearts

On that happy note …

Of course we know how the coalition will try to frame our government.

Because we won’t make promises we can’t keep, they’ll say we’re harsh and mean.

But not spending beyond our means – not raising taxes on hard-working Canadian families – that’s not about being harsh.

It’s about keeping us safe.

It’s about ensuring Canadians can provide for their families.

That their government can provide the priority services they need and expect.

That their children and grandchildren can look forward to a great future in the best country in the world.

That we can be ready to meet a crisis, and come out of it even stronger.

Families get this.

Small business owners get this.

Canadians get this, and that’s why they get what our government is doing.

That’s why they can trust us.

That’s why they know Stephen Harper’s leadership is the kind of stable, responsible leadership our country needs.

The opposition coalition will say we should be warm and fuzzy.

I admit I’ve been known to get into a scrap, if it’s something I really care about.

Well, seeing up close for two years what our country has been through, what the world has been through;

seeing how Canadians have handled themselves, how our country has distinguished itself in the world;

and knowing what’s at stake for our economic recovery and our long-term prosperity;

I’m willing to enter the fray.

As for the need to be warm and fuzzy, I think our fellow citizens expect more than sentiment from their government.

Canadians don’t separate their heads from their hearts.

We need the prudence of the former to achieve the aspirations of the latter.

Our history shows we’re willing to work hard, to work together, and to make tough but balanced choices when necessary, for the sake of our achieving our shared goals.

L’histoire montre que nous prêts à travailler dur, à collaborer et à prendre au besoin des décisions difficiles mais équilibrées, dans le but d’atteindre nos objectifs partagés.

A country as great as Canada couldn’t have been built any other way.

And our Conservative government under Stephen Harper wouldn’t do it any other way.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

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