‘That’s the difference between Stephen Harper and me’

Michael Ignatieff lays out his economic vision for Canada

The prepared text for Michael Ignatieff’s speech in Toronto this afternoon.

Humber College is in my riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore. President John Davies and some students from Humber are here today. Thanks for the great work you do.

I’m going to talk about what Canada’s been through, the challenges we’re facing, and where we should be going. And I’ll present a Liberal alternative.

Before I do, I want to reflect on the last week in Ottawa.

I was watching a game on television the other night, and in the break I caught one of those Conservative attack ads, saying that I was only in it for myself and that I was going to create this scary coalition with the “socialists” and the “separatists.”

Well, by the end of last week, those “socialists” and “separatists” were propping up Stephen Harper.

As they say, a week is a long time in politics.

At the end of that week, our party stood up and voted no confidence in Stephen Harper’s government.

It was a question of principle.

How can we have confidence in a government whose ambition is limited to their own survival?

A government that defines success as not being in as much of a mess as the United States?

Stephen Harper has been prime minister for four years. So ask yourself:

Are we better off than we were four years ago?

Is our economy stronger?

Our health care better? Our voice in the world more resonant?

The answer is no.

How can we support a government that is so smugly satisfied with achieving so little?

That promises to create 190,000 jobs, then loses half a million?

That can’t supply nuclear isotopes for cancer and heart patients?

That sends body bags to First Nations reserves, and doesn’t have the decency to apologize?

And how can a credible opposition support a government that can’t be trusted with the public finances of our country?

A year ago, Stephen Harper told Canadians our public finances were in surplus—when we were heading into the red even before the crisis hit.

In January, he gave us a thirty-two billion dollar deficit. Then it ballooned to fifty. Now it’s fifty-six billion.

You can’t count on a government that can’t count.

Let’s face it, after this performance, Jim Flaherty might be able to get a job on Wall Street—but he’d never get hired on Bay Street.

Liberals are used to inheriting Conservative mess and cleaning it up.

It wasn’t long ago that Brian Mulroney fudged the numbers. And let’s not forget—Mike Harris and Ernie Eves fudged them too. And I’ll tell you who remembers, better than anyone—Jim Flaherty. He was there.

And what did Dalton McGuinty and Greg Sorbara do first? They opened the books and told Ontarians the truth.

A new Liberal government in Ottawa will do the same.

Upon taking office, we’ll conduct a full audit of our public finances. We’ll open the books and find out where we really are.

That’s step one.

We’ll also make the Parliamentary Budget Officer independent, so that we never have to go through this again. No more wishful projections. No more false promises.

Next, we’ll develop a prudent and transparent plan to get our finances in order.

It will be a balanced plan. If we withdraw the fiscal stimulus too abruptly, we risk a return to recession. Economists call that the “w”-trajectory—and it’s a risk we must avoid. But if we withdraw the stimulus too slowly, we risk burdening our children with debt.

We will find the right balance.

Mais nous ne prendrons pas ces décisions tant que nous n’aurons pas des chiffres dans lesquels nous pouvons avoir confiance. Nos cibles seront claires et crédibles.

Pour atteindre ces cibles, nous devrons savoir contrôler les dépenses. Mais, croyez-moi, il y a un monde de différence entre l’approche libérale de l’approche conservatrice lorsqu’il est temps de se serrer la ceinture.

Pour Stephen Harper, réduire les dépenses, ça veut dire couper l’aide aux plus vulnérables d’entre nous. Ce n’est pas l’approche libérale. Ce n’est pas mon approche.

We will balance the books without making the most vulnerable pay the price.

But let’s be clear.

Expenditure control alone can’t dig us out of the mess Mr. Harper has left us.

We need to get this economy growing again.

Mere recovery isn’t going to be good enough.

Il ne s’agit pas seulement de se relever. Il s’agit de se remettre à grandir ensemble—pour créer de l’emploi, pour générer davantage richesse et pour reprendre notre leadership dans le monde.

Dans les derniers mois, nous avons vu des signes de reprise. Et nous nous en sommes réjouis.

Mais soyons francs. Ces signes de reprise, nous les devons aux Canadiens,  pas au gouvernement conservateur.

In the last few months, we’ve seen some green shoots. And we welcome them.

But what recovery we’ve seen comes down to Canadian resilience, not the Conservatives’ performance.

They can’t take the credit. They don’t deserve to.

Look at their record on infrastructure.

This summer, Conservative MPs announced twelve hundred projects across Ontario. Only two hundred of them actually got funding.


And across the country, it’s even worse—only twelve percent of approved infrastructure projects are actually underway.

The stimulus was supposed to create jobs, promote recovery, and work quickly.

It hasn’t happened, and we know why. It’s been held up at the Cabinet table, while Ministers bicker over who gets to bring home the bacon to their friends.

In Ontario, Conservative Cabinet ministers took home two-to-three times the average, when their ridings had unemployment levels that were half the average.

Across Canada, Conservative MPs dished out an average of twenty-four million dollars to their own ridings, while comparable opposition ridings got a third less.

Governments are supposed to help everybody, not just the people who voted for them.

Governments are supposed to tell people the truth.

Les gouvernements sont supposés aider tout le monde, pas seulement ceux qui votent pour eux.

Les gouvernements sont supposés dire la vérité aux citoyens.

Well, here’s the truth:

Right now, nearly one-in-ten Ontarians is out of work.

In Windsor, one-in-six people doesn’t have a job. Think about that. One-in-six. For a classroom of thirty kids, you’ve got five families who can’t find work.

In Ingersoll, Suzuki is permanently shutting-down production of the XL7 SUV. Stirling Truck closed down in St. Thomas, Navistar in Chatham.

In Welland, John Deere’s closing—eight hundred people out of work. GDX, which makes auto parts, has let more than a thousand people go so far.

In Hamilton, they used to say that Stelco shutting down was the “nightmare scenario.” Well, it’s happened. Fifteen-hundred people lost their jobs.

And then there’s Toronto. Canada’s financial capital. Well, we’ve got ten percent unemployment in the GTA. That means that on every residential street in this city, there’s a family—or two, or three—that’s lost a breadwinner.

We approved a Southern Ontario Economic Development Agency in the budget. That was in January. Nearly nine months later, not a dollar has flowed.

Is that supposed to be good enough?

This is what we’re facing. And we know there’s more to come.

Forecasters predict that two hundred thousand more Canadians are going to lose their jobs, on top of the million-and-a-half that are already looking for work. And this government flatly refuses to create a national standard for EI.

We need to take a hard look at ourselves and ask: Where is our country going? What’s the game plan in a game where the rules are changing?

Canadian workers know we’re not just living through a temporary downturn. We’re in the middle of a global restructuring of the economy.

Mr. Harper doesn’t get this, but Canadians do.

Many of the things we’ve sold aren’t what the world wants to buy anymore. Many of the jobs we’re losing aren’t coming back.

Canada’s economy is entering uncharted waters. The global stimulus package put enough public investment into the world’s economy to pull demand forward by a year. But that public investment is temporary—it’s going to wind down as country after country hits the deficit wall.  And when they do, the private sector has to be ready to provide jobs.

That’s why we need to plan for growth beyond recovery. That’s why we can’t just be thinking about how to get out of the hole we’re in. We’ve got to figure out how to hit the ground running—fast—once we climb out.

We’ve got to figure out how to grow.

And achieving that growth is where the difference between Liberals and Conservatives plays out. Liberals believe growth won’t happen on its own—that you can’t grow our economy without a government that leads.


Un gouvernement libéral fera grandir notre économie de trois façons.

Premièrement, en misant sur l’entrepreneurship, la technologie et le savoir-faire canadien.

Deuxièmement, en investissant dans ce que nous avons de plus précieux, les Canadiens eux-mêmes, les individus autant que les communautés, qu’ils soient dans nos villes ou dans nos régions.

Et troisièmement, en étant davantage présents là où ce sera payant : en Inde, en Chine et dans les autres pays émergents.

A Liberal government will grow our economy in three ways.

First, by standing up for Canadian entrepreneurs, Canadian technology, and Canadian know-how.

Second, by investing in the Canadian people in every region of the country.

And third, by going where the growth is—India and China and other emerging economies.


Of the thirty major world economies, we rank thirteenth in terms of expenditure on Research and Development. That percentage has fallen since the Conservatives took office. They have actually cut funding to our research councils.

A Liberal government will do more, not less, for our innovators and researchers.

Nous allons promouvoir l’innovation et la croissance dans tous les secteurs de notre économie, y compris le secteur minier, le secteur manufacturier, la forêt et l’agriculture. Parce que même dans nos domaines traditionnels, nous devrons savoir innover pour prospérer.

We will offer incentives for small and medium businesses to hire and train workers, especially young workers hardest hit by unemployment.

We’ll make a priority of manufacturing research and commercialization, to help our businesses bring new products and new technologies to market.

We’ll tackle the challenges in our venture capital markets, to drive more private investment to Canadian biotech and high-tech entrepreneurs.

And we’ll help manufacturers invest in plant and machinery, to improve their productivity.

Under Stephen Harper, where do you think we rank, out of thirty leading economies, in terms of labour productivity growth?

Twenty-sixth. Twenty-sixth out of thirty.

We’re not just falling behind, we’re falling out of the race.

We can’t grow our economy unless we turn our productivity around, and fast.

We also need to invest in our success stories.

A Liberal government will stand up for flagship Canadian companies, made-in-Canada technologies and key intellectual property—with an investment review process that protects our national interests. We will welcome foreign investment, but we’ll require foreign companies to build and sustain Canadian jobs and head offices.

Stephen Harper dropped the ball on Nortel. He let a Canadian champion fail, and sat back while invaluable pieces of intellectual property were sold off to foreign bidders. The fact that the Conservatives have refused even to review that sale is astounding. It’s dereliction of duty. It’s the Avro Arrow all over again.

Nortel wasn’t a one-off mistake. There is a pattern of dereliction. Inco and Falconbridge, Stelco, Alcan, Canadian nuclear medicine. The Conservatives are not standing up for Canadian industries and Canadian workers.

Pendant 50 ans, nous étions responsables de la production du tiers des isotopes médicaux utilisés sur la planète. Sous le regard de Stephen Harper, Chalk River a été fermée deux fois. Et plutôt que de régler le problème, il a abandonné et il a tourné le dos au monde.

Un gouvernement libéral n’abandonnerait pas leadership canadien en médecine nucléaire; un gouvernement libéral le renforcerait.

Le Canada prospère quand le Canada agit en leader.

Nous ne pouvons pas laisser aller notre avantage concurrentiel. Un gouvernement libéral ne laissera pas le Canada être devancé.

Canada prospers when Canada leads. We can’t trade away our competitive advantage. And under a Liberal government, we won’t.

We can’t grow our economy unless we keep the price of our goods globally competitive. That we need to be most efficient users of energy in the world.

And after four years of Conservative rule, we’ve fallen behind.

The ecoENERGY renewable power program is running out this fall. The Conservatives are letting it expire. The comparable U.S. program was extended until 2012.

President Obama is putting six times more per capita into clean energy and research than Stephen Harper.

We’re investing less in renewables than the State of Alaska.

When it comes to clean energy, Stephen Harper isn’t just behind Barack Obama. He’s behind Sarah Palin.

Bâtir une économie durable, compétitive, avec de l’énergie propre, doit devenir un enjeu national. Ça ne peut pas se faire sans un leadership fédéral.

Et en ce qui concerne les changements climatiques, nous allons établir des politiques fortes et non plus attendre après les autres. Monsieur Harper attend après Washington. Nous, nous n’attendrons pas.

Nous allons créer un système national de plafonnement et d’échange de carbone avec des cibles absolues. De cette manière, nous entrerons à la conférence des Nations Unies sur les changements climatiques à Copenhague la tête haute. Nous y entrerons en leaders, pas en lâcheurs.


Second, we’d grow our economy by investing in people and communities.

We would enable our cities and communities to invest in transit and water systems—and we’d do it by permanently increasing the gas tax transfer.

We’d flow money right through the municipalities, to the people on the ground who know where the money is needed most—in community infrastructure.  Economic development in our regions depends on building networks of broadband, bridges, and asphalt.

Si vous ne pouvez pas avoir de communication cellulaire ou l’Internet  en Gaspésie, comment voulez-vous développer le tourisme? Nous ne voulons pas un Canada où les espoirs et les opportunités ont quitté les régions pour les grandes villes.

We want a Canada where you can build a future in the rural, remote and northern communities where Canadians want to succeed.


Finally, a Liberal government will grow our economy by going where the growth is—India and China and other emerging economies.

Stephen Harper hasn’t been to India. And he refused his only invitation to China. Our market share in both countries has fallen since he took office. We’ve run our first trade deficits in thirty years.

We can’t afford to keep losing ground.

A Liberal government would learn from our success under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin—and bring back the Team Canada trade missions.

We’d also enhance the commitment to our gateways—Atlantic and Pacific—key to our export performance.

In the last year, Stephen Harper has only delivered 15 percent of the Pacific Gateway funding he promised. That’s an 85 percent failure rate.

We’d also lead in our relationship with the United States.

“Buy American” protectionism freezes our manufacturers out of state and municipal procurement markets. Those markets are worth eight hundred and sixty billion dollars. Canadian jobs depend on our government getting us the needed exemptions.

Other non-tariff barriers are hurting us, as well.

Country of Origin Labelling requirements mean that Americans pay more for food and Canadian pork and beef producers pay with their livelihoods.

Également, le resserrement à la frontière et les nouvelles exigences pour les passeports sont en train de faire entrave au commerce et au tourisme. Le nombre de visiteurs au Canada en provenance des États-Unis est tombé à son plus bas depuis une génération.

After four long years, all the Conservatives can point to is charter flights for NHL players. If that’s the extent of their success, you know how much our relationship with the Americans has deteriorated on Stephen Harper’s watch.

It’s not enough to spend a few days in Washington, have your picture taken, and call that a plan.

We need a full court press here. From the White House to the state house, we need to use every instrument of Canadian influence.

We need to enlist our American business partners and get them to see this isn’t a Canadian problem alone. Europe is tearing down borders and tariff barriers. The whole of North America will lose out if we don’t stand up together against protectionism and a thickening border.

We can’t move forward on these challenges without federal leadership. A Liberal government will provide it.


Tout ce que nous faisons doit s’intégrer dans une stratégie de croissance globale.

Nous allons travailler avec les provinces et les territoires pour investir dans nos étudiants, dans nos professeurs et dans nos chercheurs.

Nous allons travailler avec les grands leaders canadiens. Nous allons nous battre pour eux. Nous allons leur ouvrir de nouveaux marchés à l’étranger pour qu’ils créent plus d’emplois.

De l’Atlantique au Québec, au Nord de l’Ontario, à la Colombie-Britannique, nous allons aider notre secteur forestier à mieux transformer le bois.

Souvenez-vous : Stephen Harper a annulé un plan d’aide pour l’industrie forestière de 1,5 milliard de dollars du précédent gouvernement libéral.

Nous, nous étions prêts à offrir des garanties de prêts, et à aider les entreprises à se moderniser. Stephen Harper a tout annulé sans rien proposer d’autre.

Nous n’avons plus les moyens de tant d’erreurs. Nous méritons mieux.

If we bet on Canadian entrepreneurship, Canadian technology, and Canadian know-how—

If we invest in people and communities—

And if we go where the growth is—

We can do more than just recover. We can launch Canada forward, toward a better future.

But all of it depends on setting the right frame for growth—and directly addressing Canadian fears about the future.

People across Canada are still reeling from last year’s crash. Canadians want to know that what happened to their pensions, savings, and investments won’t happen again.

Canada hosts the G8 in Huntsville next year. We can use that moment to propose new regulations to create financial stability in global markets.

A Liberal government would expand the G8 to include the members of the G20, and we would offer to host and fund a permanent G20 secretariat in Canada.

That’s Canadian leadership. That’s what’s been missing these past four years.

At home, we will keep our tax rates competitive.

En juin, monsieur Harper a dit : “nous n’augmenterons pas les charges sociales.”

Puis, il y a quelques semaines, il a annoncé une augmentation des charges sociales de treize milliards de dollars.

John McCallum, our Liberal finance critic, asked the Conservatives a simple yes or no question: Is Mr. Harper’s hike of EI premiums a tax increase?

The finance minister’s parliamentary secretary stood up and said “no.”

Let’s tell Canadians the truth.

We need to have an actual discussion about what to do about EI premiums, and when. But, instead, the Conservatives are just bringing in a tax increase, without admitting that they’re doing it.

You can’t have an honest debate with a government that only plays games.

All of this brings me to the fundamental distinction between Stephen Harper and the Liberal Party.

Back in July, after the G8 Summit in Italy, Mr. Harper gave an interview to The Globe and Mail, in which he said, and I quote:

“I don’t believe that any taxes are good taxes.”

Think about that for a moment.

“Je ne crois pas qu’aucune taxe soit bonne,” a dit Stephen Harper.

C’est une déclaration renversante pour un premier ministre.

It’s an astonishing statement for a prime minister to make.

We pay taxes, Mr. Harper, so that premature infants get nursing care when they’re born; so that policemen will be there to keep our streets safe; so that we have teachers to give our kids a good education.

We pay taxes, Mr. Harper, because we’re all in this together.

It costs us something, but it makes Canada the place it is: a place where we look out for each other.

But Stephen Harper doesn’t think that way.

Stephen Harper thinks no taxes are good taxes because he believes that the only good government is no government at all.

Liberals say no.

We don’t believe in big government, but we do believe in good government. If we give up on good government the way Mr. Harper has, then we will cease to exist as one great people sharing one great country—and Liberals will never let that happen.

That’s the difference between us and them.

That’s the difference between Stephen Harper and me.

His is an ideology of the past. An ideology that’s contemptuous of anyone who sees government as a means to do good.

It’s an ideology that vaporized the day Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy a year ago.

When Wall Street crashed, even the most ardent free marketeers turned to government to save the free market.

The last year has proved government’s value, as the guarantor of risk of last resort in the capitalist system.

The last year blew Stephen Harper’s ideology out of the water.

Liberals believe in good government. Canadians believe in good government.

You can’t get growth without good government. But growth alone is not enough.

Canadians want their economy to grow again so that we can be the just and compassionate society we want to be.

And let’s be honest, we’re not as just or as compassionate as we could be. We still have promises to keep.

Last week in Ottawa, I met a man who is suffering from ALS—Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s debilitating, tragic and terminal.

His wife came with him and they told me that under the EI system, she can only access six weeks of benefits for compassionate leave to look after the man she loves.

Six weeks of compassionate leave.

Is that the best that Canada can do?

We’ve just got to find the resources, the growth in our economy, so we can keep our promises to the people—like that loving wife—who represent the best of us.

Recession must not make us mean. It must not divide Canada into two—into haves and  have-nots.

Of the thirty wealthiest countries in the world we’ve got the seventh-largest GDP per capita.

But where do you think we rank in terms of poverty? Nineteenth.

Or infant mortality? Twenty-fourth.

That’s what I mean when I say, “we can do better.”

A Liberal government will grow our economy so we can invest in national early learning and childcare, for every Canadian child.

A Liberal government will grow our economy so we can improve our health care system, with a national strategy for health promotion.

And so we can help our seniors age with dignity, by securing pensions and strengthening the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

That’s why we need growth. So that—

Every Aboriginal Canadian gets a world-class, not a second-class education.

Every new Canadian is empowered to build and serve our country.

And every farmer can make a decent living and hand their farm on to their children

Où les politiques agricoles trouvent leur origine à la ferme et non à Ottawa.

Où les artistes ont l’appui et le respect qu’ils méritent.

Et où un droit humain tel que “travail égal, salaire égal” est protégé.

We can keep these promises.

We can restore our faith in our government and in ourselves.

And as we near our country’s hundred-and-fiftieth birthday, in 2017, we can build a prosperous, compassionate Canada, proud of our achievements, and ready to take on the world and win.

We can do better—and we will.

Thank you.