OTTAWA, Feb. 19, 2016 /CNW/ - With interest rates at historic lows and the need among Canadians great, now is the ideal time for the federal government to take an active role in stimulating the Canadian economy, Unifor National President Jerry Dias told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance today.
"The retreat of our government from the economic stage has hurt ordinary Canadians," Dias said.
Corporate taxes have been slashed in the name of stimulating the economy, and yet job creation and GDP growth have stagnated, or even fallen, Dias told the committee.
And despite promises that tax cuts would lead to increased investment by business, Dias pointed out that corporate Canada is sitting on more than $700 billion in available cash that it refuses to invest. At the same time, Canadian families are burdened with record levels of household debt, so consumer spending cannot be counted on to stimulate the economy.
"For now, it remains up to the federal government, through fiscal policy, to put Canadians back to work and get the growth process going," Dias said in Unifor's submission to the committee.
Unifor recommends the establishment of a Canadian Development Bank to provide funding for key sectors of the Canadian economy, including energy, transportation and advanced manufacturing.
"With interest rates even on very long-run government bonds at record lows, this is an excellent moment to establish the bank," Unifor's submission says.
Dias also called for a cautious approach to trade agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership, to ensure increased opportunities for Canadians, and for the federal government to coordinate efforts with provincial governments to attract manufacturing investments in Canada.
A key part of stimulating the economy, Dias said, will be infrastructure development – both physical infrastructure and social infrastructure such as health care, education and an expanded Canada Pension plan – including investing in a transition to the green economy.
To ensure maximum benefit from any infrastructure investments, Unifor is proposing requirements for made-in-Canada materials and inputs, local hiring initiatives (especially among vulnerable communities), removal of any requirements for private sector involvement and improvements to accessible transportation for Canadians with disabilities.
As a country rich in natural resources, Unifor is also calling for a multi-dimensional natural resource strategy in key industries such oil and gas, mining and forestry that is socially inclusive, ecologically responsible and economically beneficial.
"Canada needs to move away from simply exporting our raw resources for others to refine or manufacture," Dias said.
A copy of Unifor's submission is available at unifor.org.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.
For further information: Unifor Communications National Representative Stuart Laidlaw at Stuart.Laidlaw@Unifor.org or (cell) 647-385-4054.