The Honourable Mr. James Rajotte, MP for Edmonton-Leduc, was the guest speaker at the Leduc Regional Chamber Luncheon on February 1st.
February started off with a bang for the Leduc Regional Chamber of Commerce and they weren't shy about sharing their good news, nor should they be. February's luncheon was a complete sell out about a week before the event took place, which is certainly something to crow about on it's own, but on top of that the Chamber welcomed 13 new members this month which had them hit their 650 member mark for businesses!
Once everyone had convened at the Nisku Recreation Centre for a delicious buffet lunch whipped up by the friendly staff, the first order of the day was for the Leduc Representative's former Publisher, Neil Sutcliffe, being honoured with an award for his longtime service to Leduc and area. Neil had recently retired after spending 36 years at the helm of the Rep.
It was then that the Executive Director of the Leduc Chamber, Stefanie Schulz, stepped up to the microphone to introduce the main speaker for the afternoon, whom she stated was a man who is passionate about this region and a great dancer as well, Edmonton-Leduc MP, Mr. James Rajotte.
Mr. Rajotte's topic for the day was an economic update since, he commented, the economy is the #1 topic for us right now. He began by saying that we have had a very good record in Alberta since 2009, with 9 out of 10 jobs created being full time positions. He went on to state that Canada's banking system is the soundest in the world, and has received honours for that over the previous five years in a row, and economists are ranking Canada as the best place in the world in which to do business over the next five years. However, he teased, you do have to take economist's predictions with a grain of salt, as they have also predicted 12 of the last 5 recessions in this country! Quoting a Led Zeppelin tune, he commented that "The Song Remains The Same" for now here in Canada.
He then posed the question "What now going forward?", and answered with the government continuing to focus on reducing the deficit. Stating stats that the deficit has come down from 55 billion in 2009 to 26 billion currently, he informed everyone that the Conservative government would not be "downloading" everything onto the Provinces by cutting education and health care. Mr. Rajotte instead claimed there has been, and would continue to be, a 6% increase in health care dollars every year until 2016.
Another topic that has been brought to his attention many times is the issue of a worker shortage. The predictions are for a shortage of 600-700,000 workers over the next several years. He stated that the government is looking in many different directions in order to fill these positions, including initiating programs to get older people and seniors back into the workplace, youths, aboriginal peoples, and people with disabilities, as well as foreign workers.
In last year's budget he shared that the number one request was to extend the hiring credit, which had been done, and the Red Tape Reduction Program was still ongoing as well. He reported that the government is also currently working on reducing import tariffs, with the eventual goal of completely eliminating import taxes by 2015 for the manufacturing trades and certain others as well.
Mr. Rajotte made a point of addressing concerns over the reasons that Canada recently signed a Foreign Investor Protection Policy with China. He stated, in a nutshell, that it was to keep the rules and regulations stable for Canadian investors, but he also commented that he would be happy to discuss this issue more in depth with interested parties over a cup of coffee.
However, he did avow that while Canada needs investment from outside the country, that it is not in anyone's interest to have our energy industry owned by other countries.
Mr. Rajotte drew his presentation to a close by making a few comments regarding aboriginal affairs, particularly regarding the Idle No More movement that recently created a short lived blockade on the QEII at Gateway Park. He pointed out that when people say the government hasn't done anything in years for the aboriginal people, he states this is incorrect. Citing over 30 reservation schools that have been built from the ground up, as well as over 200 that have been renovated in the last few years, hundreds of private homes that have been renovated and repaired, investment in over 700 business ventures, and the settlement of more than 80 land claims, he has to object to the claim that nothing has been done.
Mr. Rajotte said that in speaking with Clarence T. (Manny) Jules, former Chief of the Kamloops Indian Band, and a man who has dedicated his life to the betterment of First Nations People, it really stuck with him when Manny quoted Chief Joseph's famous words; "Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself — and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty." Manny then said to Mr. Rajotte, "We were free traders long before your people came to this country, and we need to return to that."
After sharing that experience Mr. Rajotte answered a few questions from the audience before returning to his seat with a loud round of applause following him.
The luncheon came to a close with the ladies from the Chamber reminding everyone to vote online at the chamber website for their favourite customer service nominee to be honoured with the award for Service Excellence at the sold out Fire and Ice Gala taking place on February 23rd. The last day of voting is February 20th, and over 1000 votes have been received so far for the worthy nominees.
And as an early reminder, the March Chamber Luncheon will be taking place on Friday March 1st, so make sure you reserve your tickets early so you don't miss out!