Federal cabinet minister addresses local businesses

James Moore, Minister of Industry, gives an update on the economy during a stop in Cranbrook on Wednesday.

Federal Minister of Industry James Moore was in town on Wednesday to address the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce. Joining Moore above is former Kootenay-Columbia MP Jim Abbott

Federal Minister of Industry James Moore was in town on Wednesday to address the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce. Joining Moore above is former Kootenay-Columbia MP Jim Abbott

James Moore is optimistic for the future.

That was the message from Canada’s federal Minister of Industry, as Moore delivered a keynote address to business leaders and local politicians at a special Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Moore, who is the MP for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, has served in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet since 2008, first as Minister of Canadian Heritage and then as Minister of Industry since 2013.

In his address, Moore focused on the state of the economy, touching on the economic recovery from the 2008 recession, the benefits of free trade agreements with countries around the world and the barriers to inter-provincial trade within Canada.

In front of a crowd featuring Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt, City Councillors Wes Graham and Danielle Cardozo, along with Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, current Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks and former MP Jim Abbott, Moore touched on Canada’s economic health internally and its place in the global marketplace.

“I think we have a lot to be proud of as Canadians about where we are,” said Moore. “The Canadian economy is prosperous, it is growing. We have, for the past decade, we have led G7 countries in economic growth, we have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in all the G7. We have the best jobs numbers in all of these countries since the dearth of the recession. 1.2 million net new jobs have been created since the recession and the world has taken notice.”

Moore noted that Canada has a AAA credit rating, the soundest banking system in the world as rated by the World Economic Forum and the most tax competitive economy in the world for business startups.

As examples, Moore pointed to billion-dollar investments by Chrysler and Ford into manufacturing in Ontario and added that Burger King, currently headquartered in Florida, will be moving to Ontario in order to launch global operations.

Moore also trumpeted the achievement of a balanced budget despite economic uncertainty.

“We are the only country in the world that is approaching a balanced budget, we have effectively a balanced budget—we will definitely have a balanced budget when we table our budget this spring—but we’re the only country to balance our budget without raising taxes,” Moore said.

“And better than that, not only did we not raise taxes, we lowered taxes. The only country in the world by a wide margin.”

However, while Moore celebrated the state of the economy he also had a warning.

“The greatest threat to the Canadian economy can actually be summarized in one word, and that’s complacency,” Moore said. “It’s the assumption that we will always have it as good as we have it today, no matter what.”

On the subject of the economy, Moore touched on free trade agreements that Canada has with the U.S. and Europe that gives access to the economies of 43 countries around the world.

While he touted access to the global marketplace, Moore also lamented the barriers of inter-provincial trade.

By example, he brought up the ban on cross-border sales of wine and alcohol.

While provinces legislate the ban to protect the beer and wine producers, it prevents growth and expansion to larger markets, he said.

“That’s good local politics, but it’s horrific economics,” Moore said.

Another example he dropped was that due to Canada’s free trade agreement with Europe, Europeans can bid for Canadian government contracts, and Canadians can bid for European government contracts.

However, a British Columbian can’t bid for inter-provincial government contracts.

“This is not good for Canadians, this is not good for the Canadian economy,” Moore said.

Compounding the problem is that a solution to removing those inter-provincial trade barriers requires each and every single province and territory coming together in agreement.

“It seems like a no-brainer, then you get into the Constitution,” Moore said.

Rural broadband was another topic Moore touched on, noting that the East Kootenay region is one are of the country that has struggled with the needed infrastructure for high-speed internet access.

He also teased that the federal government would be making an announcement towards June for broadband access in the region.

“Digital connectivity is an essential part of making sure this country stays prosperous and we keep moving forward and that rural and remote communities really and truly feel a part of the Canadian family,” Moore said.