|| That the House take note of the Fall Economic Statement.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table today, in both official languages, the government's fall economic statement.
It gives me great pleasure to update the House on the progress we have made on behalf of Canada's middle class and those working hard to join it. We know that Canadian families are filled with hope and they are not afraid of hard work, including, I might add, our pages. However, for decades now, the middle class has been struggling just to stay afloat. Child care, tuition, the rising cost of living, long commutes, and mounting debt, they all add up.
In the midst of this, the world is changing rapidly. Trade is shifting to Asia and other developing regions. The Internet is transforming how we communicate, live, and work. Economies are facing the challenge of becoming cleaner and more sustainable.
Therefore, a year ago, Canadians asked for our help. They wanted a government that would work with them to secure a brighter future for their kids and for their grandkids.
We took a big first step by cutting taxes for middle-class Canadians and raising them on the wealthiest 1%. Thanks to our Canada child benefit, nine out of 10 families with children get even more help every month. On average, they get $2,300 more per year. It is helping. For hundreds of thousands of children, it means being lifted out of poverty. For some families, it means money to spend on skates this winter. For others, it means paying down debt or saving a little more, and that is progress.
We also improved retirement security for workers today and for future generations, including signing a historic agreement with the provinces to strengthen the Canada pension plan.
We have kept the promises we made to seniors, by strengthening the retirement income system. We restored the age of eligibility for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65. We also increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefits for single seniors.
We made it easier for young people to go to university or college by boosting Canada student grants, and recent grads now get a break on paying back their Canada student loans until they are earning at least $25,000 per year.
We also immediately began investing in our future. The investments we have made in the infrastructure needs of our cities and communities create jobs today, while building up Canada's economy in the future.
I want to thank my colleague, the , for his ongoing leadership in working with provinces and municipalities toward the transformative challenges ahead. He brings a deep understanding of the challenges facing all levels of government in infrastructure development.
Taken together, our measures are creating jobs and helping the middle class to get ahead.
Our economy is growing, just not as fast as we would like. Since the last budget, private sector forecasters have, on average, revised down their outlook for real GDP growth in Canada. This is set against a backdrop of slow growth around the world due to factors such as disappointing growth in the United States and the uncertainty surrounding the U.K.'s Brexit vote.
However, our historic signing of the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, the most modern and progressive trade deal on the planet, shows that even in uncertain times hard work and perseverance can lead to results that will create middle-class jobs.
I want to recognize the passionate and dedicated work of the in getting this agreement over the finish line.
The world is now looking to Canada as an example to follow because of our investments and our inclusive agenda aimed at helping the middle class.
We have the most enviable position of all G7 countries in terms of our debt-to-GDP ratio. We will maintain this advantage and maintain the fiscal anchor that we committed to in the last budget, while continuing our plan responsibly.
Slow growth at home and around the world means our plan is more important than ever. It is time to take the steps toward middle class progress.
Because our challenges and opportunities are long term, I am announcing measures that invest more dollars over a longer period of time, so we can create good jobs now and set our workers, businesses, and communities up for success in the future.
Over the next 11 years, the Government of Canada will invest an additional $81 billion in public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, and in transportation that supports trade and smart cities. This includes a specific commitment to build up and build out Canada's rural and northern communities.
In recognition of unique needs that require a more targeted approach, we are investing an additional $2 billion in our rural communities to ensure they can succeed and share in Canada's overall success.
In all, combined with existing funds, we will invest more than $180 billion over the next 11 years in our towns, our cities, and trade corridors to provide cleaner air and water, better neighbourhoods for our kids, and smarter, more connected communities. This is unprecedented in Canada's history, and it comes at a time when the need is great.
Our communities need to keep people and goods moving. Our most vulnerable citizens need housing. Our kids need and deserve clean air and clean water. Our country needs long-term economic growth.
To solve these challenges, we need to think even bigger. We need reliable partners. Canada's pension funds and institutional investors around the world have world-leading expertise and they are eager to make big, long-term investments in Canada.
I am happy to announce that the Government of Canada is establishing a new Canada infrastructure bank, through which at least $35 billion will flow to help us undertake transformative projects that might not otherwise get built. This bank will allow us to create thousands of jobs, get more projects built, and attract $4 to $5 in private capital for every tax dollar invested. That is progress.
The new infrastructure bank will allow us to identify a pipeline of projects on which we can base our long-term investment decisions. In short, the bank will change how we plan, fund and carry out large infrastructure projects in Canada. That is progress.
To prosper in the future, we will need to hone Canada's competitive edge. Canadians are highly educated and skilled. We have what it takes to succeed. That is the story potential investors do not hear often enough around the world.
I am announcing today the creation of a new institution, the invest in Canada hub, whose job it will be to go out and sell Canada to the world.
In a world in which some think that it is best to close borders, Canada stands out as an example to follow in terms of inclusion and managing diversity.
We have an enviable fiscal position, and an educated, skilled and, in particular, a resourceful population. Investing in Canada will allow us to redouble our efforts to create good jobs for the middle class by attracting foreign investment.
To create good Canadian jobs, we need strong global partnerships. Our global skills strategy will further support Canadian companies by making sure that they can attract top talent and can have timely access to the specific skills and international expertise that will allow them to scale up, create good Canadian jobs, and thrive right here at home.
Thanks to the stellar work of the , Canada is also taking full advantage of our diversity to support long-term economic growth.
Just last week, The Economist magazine remarked about Canada:
|| The warmth of the welcome is as striking as the scale of the intake.
That is progress.
It is not just what we are doing, it is also how we are doing it. We listen, we partner, and we collaborate. Those are not just words. They are at the very core of who we are as a government.
That is why our fall economic statement also contains measures to provide greater accountability for government spending, to put an end to secrecy at the Board of Internal Economy, and to ensure the independence of the chief statistician and the parliamentary budget officer. That is progress.
Decades from now, when my kids tell the story of when their dad was finance minister, I want them to be able to look back and see our government's first year in office as the year Canada began on the path towards a new, modern economy. We are well on our way.
Compared to one year ago, nine million middle-class Canadians pay lower taxes. About 3.2 million families receive the Canada child benefit, which by 2017 will have helped reduce child poverty by about 40%. If there is one number I want Canadians to remember today, it is the 40% reduction in child poverty.
Nine hundred thousand single seniors will be more financially secure.
Fourteen on-reserve boil water advisories have been lifted in indigenous communities since budget 2016.
We have built or improved 2,700 dwellings on reserves. Across the country, infrastructure projects are creating good jobs and also making communities more dynamic.
However, we are not done, not even close. We will continue to do what confident, ambitious countries do: invest in our own future. We will work with others to do it as well.
As members know, the Advisory Council on Economic Growth has provided me with invaluable insights on the challenges and opportunities ahead. I thank them for their great work and advice.
Our work is also informed by all those who have taken time to participate in pre-budget consultations, by our municipal, provincial, and territorial partners, and by international partners.
We also rely on the great work of the finance committees and all members of both Houses of Parliament, who we know wake up every day looking for ways to leave a better Canada to the next generation. I thank them for their service, and I look forward to working with all of them towards a strong middle class and a better tomorrow. Merci.
Mr. Speaker, a year ago, the Liberal Party was elected on a platform of a small deficit, a modest deficit of $10 billion in the first year. That was its promise, and what did it do? It did exactly the reverse.
For a year now, the Canadian economy has been going from bad to worse. No permanent jobs have been created here in Canada since this government came to power, and here is the abandoning his responsibilities, not to mention other things, when he ought to be here responding directly to Canadians’ needs, especially since what they need is a strong economy.
Today we see the government spending without any common sense. It does not have control of its spending. It has devised new taxes that collide head-on with our businesses, that is, our entrepreneurs, our job and wealth creators. What is more, for a year now this government has been cancelling tax reductions that taxpayers had been promised, which were designed to help them make their personal choices with more money in their pockets. On the contrary, however, the government has raised taxes and income taxes. So it has failed in its task.
That is why it is today presenting us with an economic update. This was a perfect opportunity to straighten out the situation and admit that it had tried something that did not work. But the government is doing just the opposite.
This is what is so sad. It is quite normal to see a minister of finance doing an update six or eight months after a budget just to be sure to steer the economy on a good track and with good sense. Unfortunately, the government has failed to take this opportunity to get the Canadian economy back on track for the Canadian people.
The Liberal plan, which consists in borrowing senselessly and creating colossal deficits, is not working. A hundred thousand new jobs had been predicted for 2016, but none have been created. I want to remind the Liberals that there are still two months left before year-end, so they should pick up the pace a little. The opportunity has been missed.
Instead of giving the kick-start needed to get the Canadian economy and management of public finances back on track, the government keeps doing exactly the same thing—hitting the gas and crashing straight into the wall. That is what today’s economic update is from the Liberal government. It is very bad for the Canadian economy and for all Canadians.
As I mentioned earlier in my question, the key figure in this update from the government is $31.8 billion. Let’s round that off to $32 billion. That’s $32 billion in additional expenditures over the next five years that had not been budgeted six months ago. What improvisation, what lack of vision, what lazy management!
It would have been nice if those people realized that managing the public purse and the Canadian government calls for a long-term vision that gives taxpayers' wallets the respect they deserve. Unfortunately, those people keep spending as if it were no big deal. That is what worries me.
The documents they tabled are very interesting, but some essential information is missing. What is the Liberal government's game plan to pay back the $32 billion in additional expenses over the next five years? Will it raise sales and income taxes? Will it place an additional burden on workers who get up every morning and work so hard? Will it place an additional burden on the businesses that create jobs and wealth, as it has been doing for the past year? Not a word about that.
The easy way out, the lazy way out, is to borrow the money and get our grandchildren to pay up. I have a lot of respect for the . Earlier, he ventured onto thin ice when he talked about how proud his children will be down the road. Unfortunately, I have to remind him that his children and grandchildren, along with mine and those of all Canadians, will have to pay for bad Liberal management later. That is the Liberal Party's legacy.
I want to remind everyone that this government was elected on its promise of a modest $10-billion deficit and that it gave us a $30-billion budget. Today's plan offers no strategy for setting things right. That is what really worries us as Conservatives, but it is also what worries us as Canadians, because we are the ones who are going to have to pay for this later.
This economic update does include a few worthy elements, or at least, elements that show us where we are heading. One of those is the government's plan to create an infrastructure bank.
My only question about this new structure is why? Why did the government table and propose a new structure for the Canadian economy? We can earn money from offshore without any difficulty. We can invest public money and private money in infrastructure without any difficulty. We have the tools for the that. We have PPP Canada for that.
Why create a new structure? Why create new red tape? Why create something new? The minister should consider things like that. Is it for friends of the Liberal Party, or whatever? Is that the case? Why create this new infrastructure? We have all the tools we need to attract new money from offshore. Now the Liberals are talking about the Canadian hub. That is not bad, but we still have the tools for that.
Is it true that the government has just discovered that offshore money can be brought into Canada? I have some news for the Liberals. It is not new. They have seen some offshore money come here, and maybe that is a big surprise for them. In the last 150 years this country has had an open market. That is why we welcome foreign money. This country needs to welcome foreign money with open arms to create wealth and jobs here in Canada. We do not need another Liberal government to do that. We still have that.
Here is another funny thing. I had the privilege of reading the books and all of the minister's updates. Maybe I was not aware, but the minister did not talk about the parliamentary budget officer in his budget speech. That is quite interesting because he talked about him in his economic update.
The minister wants to give even more powers to the parliamentary budget officer. I found the following statement on page 34 to be quite ridiculous, to put it mildly: “...the parliamentary budget officer will report back to Parliament and parliamentarians with research and analysis...”
Wow. Big deal.
I would just like to remind our friends that the parliamentary budget officer already prepares reports. The problem is that the Liberals refuse to acknowledge them. Just last week, the member for wanted to table two reports by the parliamentary budget officer that gave Canadians the facts on management of public finances. However, the Liberals refused to allow it to be tabled. They have the right to disagree and to challenge the report, but they refused to table it.
Now they are crowing over their fine principles and say they want to give more powers to the parliamentary budget officer. They should start by showing him respect. That would be a good start.
I can perhaps understand why he would be a little embarrassed to talk about the parliamentary budget officer. This man has very good resources. I should have said “this person”. It just so happens that he is a man, but it has nothing to do with gender. These days we have to be careful. Mr. Speaker, you can count on me to be very careful.
So we have to be very careful when we are talking about the person.
The parliamentary budget officer talked about so many things that the Liberal government has failed to recognize. We are not talking about doing something. We are just talking about recognizing something. The government has failed to recognize the reality of the facts. I will give the House some examples.
Since the minister mentioned the Canada child benefit in his speech, let us talk about that. The Liberals' speeches bring a tear to my eye. They are saying that they are going to help individuals, families, and everyone. However, in their election platform, the Liberals promised to implement this program at no cost. That is not true, because the parliamentary budget officer's report, which the Liberals refused to table, indicates that the Canada child benefit will create a $3.4-billion deficit. They were only off by $3.4 billion. That is what helping families looks like.
However, what is really incredible is that they forgot to index. They simply forgot that, in four or five years, the cost of living might go up. I had the opportunity to talk about this on Friday, but seriously, this does not make any sense. Any lowly administrative technician in any company who forgot to index would immediately be shown the door.
In every business when someone forgets about indexation and inflation, that person would be told to get out, but the minister is still in his chair, even if he forgot about inflation and he missed the target by $3.4 billion.
The Liberals are also talking about revenue-neutral tax changes.
We are not talking about zero cost. We are talking about the deficit of $1.8 billion. This is totally unacceptable. The Liberals were elected in the hope of no deficit. They were elected, in this case, with no surplus. Now, they are talking about $1.8 billion.
The same project, the same plan, does not directly touch 65% of Canadians. Why?
There will not be any changes to the taxes of Canadians who earn $45,282 a year or less. Sixty-five percent of Canadians will not be affected by these tax adjustments. What is worse is that the main beneficiaries of the Liberal's approach are those who earn between $140,388 and $199,999 a year. Are people who earn $190,000 a year part of the middle class? I am not sure, but they are the ones who will benefit the most from this measure.
We did not get these numbers in a Cracker Jack box. The parliamentary budget officer gave them to us. These new measures to create jobs and wealth have done nothing. According to the parliamentary budget officer, no new permanent jobs have been created under this government. I laugh when I hear the Liberals saying that they want to give the parliamentary budget officer more authority and control. Maybe they should start by respecting and accepting the figures he gives them in an neutral and objective manner.
There is absolutely nothing in this update for the hard-working entrepreneurs of Canada. On this side of the House, are concerned about entrepreneurs because they are the backbone of our economy. We pay them a lot of respect, and the government should respect them. These are the people who create wealth. These are the people who create jobs. It is not the government that creates jobs.
The government should give the tools to create jobs to the creators of wealth, the entrepreneurs. It is not the government that is doing that. It is the entrepreneurs.
What do we find in this update today for small business? Absolutely nothing. There is absolutely nothing for those who work so hard, who wake up every morning and risk a lot to create jobs. They risk a lot, and there is nothing for them in this update.
Let us talk about mortgages. A month ago, the , without any notice, introduced new rules for mortgages and a new way to calculate them. It is very difficult. We all recognize there is a problem in Vancouver and Toronto. However, to fix this problem in Vancouver and Toronto, the government is applying new rules from coast to coast to coast.
That is not exactly the way to do things. The reality is that for young families just starting a life, whose dream is to have a house, it will be more difficult thanks to the Liberal government that introduced a new way of doing things without consulting people and without prior notice.
In this unfortunate situation for the Canadian economy, the example comes from on high. When a government gets itself elected on a promise of a small $10-billion deficit and then proudly, shamelessly, signs off on a $30-billion deficit, they may think that it’s party time, they can spend as they wish and there are no more restrictions. This is not a realistic or a responsible way to manage the budget. A deficit is a bill that we pass on to our grandchildren, who are going to have to pay for today’s mismanagement.
Furthermore, Canadians never voted for uncontrolled budgets; Canadians never voted for a government that was going to spend heedlessly; Canadians never voted for a government that was going to run a deficit three times what it predicted and then six months later was going to review that amount so as to heighten the deficit and spending even more. Canadians have been swindled by the Liberal party, and we are now suffering all of the consequences. That is why a radical call to order is needed for this government, which has failed in its job.
Canadians know and believe that the government has lost control over public spending. Canadians can see day after day that this government is not keeping its commitments, that it is spending wildly and leading Canada to a medium- and long-term budget impasse. I want to point out that our children and our grandchildren, as well as those of the , who broached the same subject himself, are going to have to pay for the mistakes that are made here. The road ahead is absolutely worrying.
I believe that, in the end, what we have to retain from this budget update is that the government is headed down the wrong road, onto which it first turned nine months ago when it tabled its budget. After getting itself elected on the promise of a minimal deficit, today it has lost control over spending.
It was a tremendous opportunity today to get back on track, to pay respect to hard-working Canadians, because what we are talking about today is taxes. We are talking about the money Canadians and entrepreneurs send us. Every morning millions of Canadians wake up, go to work, work hard, and see half of their salaries go to taxes. At the very least we should respect them and respect what we have been elected for.
The government was elected to run a small deficit. That is not the case. What it is doing is all wrong. Unfortunately, this is a cost that all of us here and all Canadians will have to pay.
To conclude, as Albert Einstein said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Unfortunately, this government is doing the same thing, and we are going to hit a wall because of it.
Mr. Speaker, let me read from the Liberal electoral infrastructure announcement of August 27, 2015. It states:
|| A Liberal government will make the largest new infrastructure investment in Canadian history. Our plan will:
|| Nearly double federal infrastructure investment to almost $125 billion—from the current $65 billion—over the next decade, reaching an additional $9.5 billion by year ten....
Page 15 of the Liberal Party platform, on the subject of infrastructure, states that the infrastructure bank would “provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects” and “provide loan guarantees and small capital contributions to provinces and municipalities to ensure that the projects are built.”
I understood from this that the Liberals were committed to massive public investments to update our infrastructure and that they would do this through their deficits. Canadians also understood this. The reason is simple. Never did the Liberals mention anywhere in their platform that their intention was to privatize public assets. Never did the Liberals mention anywhere in their platform that their intention was to privatize the revenue streams of assets, and never did the Liberals mention anywhere in their platform that their intention was to allow for tolls and user fees to become the rule for public assets.
However, this is where we are in this so-called economic and fiscal update.
I wonder how Liberals in the House, especially those who proclaim to be progressive, feel about the direction their own party is taking.
The Liberals' master plan has become clear: they want to privatize everything. That became clear on October 20. That is when we found out that the Liberal government contracted the Credit Suisse investment firm to study the benefits of privatizing Canadian airports.
Never mind the fact that the Liberals never uttered a single word about privatizing airports during the election campaign, which is a huge problem in and of itself. Is there not a single Liberal MP in the House who has a problem with the fact that the Liberals are contracting a firm whose raison d'être is to buy infrastructure, including airport infrastructure? Is there no conflict of interest when the government asks that firm whether it should sell it its infrastructure? Is there not a single Liberal member in the House who can see the obvious conflict of interest in the awarding of this contract?
I will explain this to the House in simple terms. Credit Suisse has a vested interest in the privatization of Canadian airports because it buys airports, and now the Liberals are asking this company if they should privatize their airports. This is a troubling trend because the Liberals also stacked the so-called advisory council on economic growth with infrastructure privatization proponents. One of them is Dominic Barton of McKinsey & Company. He is the chair of the council. He has been with McKinsey & Company for five years, and in that time, he has been a proponent of infrastructure privatization around the world.
In June, once he had begun his intensive research to determine what the Canadian government should do to grow the economy, he wrote an opinion piece that was widely disseminated and features the following thought right in the middle of the piece:
|| In some cases, funding can be found without raising taxes: governments can create revenue streams by instituting user charges, capturing increases in property value, or selling existing assets and recycling the proceeds.
Asset recycling: how green.
|| Governments can also do much more to encourage private investment, starting by providing regulatory certainty and the ability to charge prices that produce an acceptable risk-adjusted return. Even more broadly, they can take steps to create a market that more efficiently connects institutional investors seeking stable, long-term returns and projects that need financing.
It looks like Mr. Barton reached his conclusion before the good old advisory council on economic growth even completed its report.
Michael Sabia is also a member of the advisory council. He is from the private sector and for the past few years has headed up the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. He is also a strong advocate for the privatization of infrastructure. Once again, here is something he said in a speech given to the Toronto Board of Trade:
|| For long term investors, infrastructure offers something that’s not easy to find today: stable, predictable returns in the 7% to 9% range with a low risk of capital loss—exactly what we need to meet our clients' long term needs.
Those are Mr. Sabia's own words.
The privatization of infrastructure is therefore definitely in the interest of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. It wants a piece of the pie.
Mark Wiseman is also a member of the advisory council. He is a senior managing director of investments at BlackRock, a private investment firm with $4.7 trillion in global assets under its management. This firm is even larger than the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which is a big deal in its field.
BlackRock has a vested interest in privatization. It seeks out assets and infrastructure. Mark Wiseman is part of the advisory council that is advising the on economic growth.
Once again, that is a conflict of interest, and they do not even try to hide it. How can people like Michael Sabia and Mark Wiseman, not to mention Dominic Barton, be included in this group that is supposed to make recommendations to the government, when those very individuals stand to benefit?
Worse still, on October 20, 2016, they did indeed table a report with recommendations that, if implemented, would bring their firms billions of dollars in returns, and would probably also earn these individuals millions of dollars in bonuses.
What does the think of all this? He was quoted in The Globe and Mail on October 20, after the release of the Barton report. He said:
|| As we think about how best to amplify our impact on infrastructure investment in this country, we need to create ways for institutional investors to invest in our country...So we’ll move forward in a way that will allow us to attract institutional money and it’s not conditional on any other government activity around government assets.
His last sentence in that quotes means, “We will bring in the private sector to take over and control our highways, our ports, our airports, our water treatment plants and we will move the public sector out of the way”. That is exactly what it means.
With the economic and fiscal update, it becomes clear that it was the plan all along. Now with the Canadian infrastructure bank, which I will call the Canadian privatization bank, that will be funded to the tune of $35 billion by the federal government, the Liberals are hoping to leverage $165 billion from the private sector.
As the Canadian Federation of Municipalities suspected, $15 billion of the funds promised to municipalities and communities will be hijacked to be put in this bank.
Now there is a $200 billion question. How can we give these private investors a 7% to 9% return, and this is what Michael Sabia would like to see, on their investment on highways, on ports, on airports and on water treatment plants, on power distribution and other public infrastructure? Those private investors, and yes, we are talking about pension funds but we are also talking about private equity firms, will not invest out of the goodness of their hearts. There are maybe some generous people and companies, but their investors will be looking for a return, and a high return.
The math is simple. We will have to impose tolls and user fees in places where there are none. Where there are currently user fees, we will need to jack them up to get the return the investors want.
The next question is this. Who will invest in this privatization bank? To hear Liberals talk, we would think it would only be pension funds. We will ask the CPP and the Caisse de dépôt et placement to invest.
As I said, BlackRock is a private equity fund worth more than $4,700 billion in assets under management, and by a strange coincidence, it will actually be hosting a meeting of interested investors in Toronto in two weeks. That is strange coincidence.
It is as much of a coincidence as seeing Mark Wiseman of BlackRock being a part and a member of this advisory council on economic growth.
Not only will pension funds be part of this privatization bank, so will private equity funds and banks. Obviously, if it is opened to private equity funds, to banks in Canada, it has to be opened outside of the country as well. Therefore, welcome funds from all over the world. I really think Canadians were not looking forward to the possibility of Saudi Arabia owning Pearson Airport when they heard Liberals talking about infrastructure during the campaign.
By the way, this economic update also announces that the Liberals will be looking at increasing thresholds for review on foreign investment takeovers to $1 billion from the current $600 million. Once again, this is surely a coincidence, but this will mean that even more foreign takeovers will be rubber stamped and merely rubber stamped. There will be no oversight over that, especially on infrastructure. This fits very well with this privatization scheme that we see.
Finally, let us not forget that the search for high returns usually also brings about boondoggles. I will ask my Toronto colleagues to remember Highway 407.
I would remind my friends from Montreal everything that happened with CHUM.
How, then, have we come to consider so openly the possibility or the need to privatize our infrastructures? Well, last Thursday, Dominic Barton told the Standing Committee on Finance what he has been saying for the last five years. I will say it in English, since he said it in English:
“Our view there is we want to leverage private capital because we see the infrastructure gap being about $500 billion in Canada. There is no way that public money can fill that gap.”
I agree with him on the $500-billion figure for the infrastructure deficit. We can agree on that point. But let us remember that the tax rate on corporate profits has been reduced by the various governments from 28% to 15%, resulting in a minimum annual loss of $10 billion to $20 billion. It could be even higher.
In reducing corporate income tax, it was hoped that companies would reinvest that money. That did not work, since the real investment rate has been pretty much constant over about the last 10 years, if not more.
What happened in the end? Certain companies have been enjoying massive tax cuts for the last 15 years. Those cuts have limited the capacity of the different governments, including the federal government, to invest in things like infrastructure. Those companies that benefited greatly from tax relief and made no investments in return are now telling us that they have the money to help us with our infrastructures, because the government can’t do anything anymore. Who said that cynicism was dead?
Where was the Liberals' promise of privatization during the election? We never heard a word about it from the Liberals during the campaign. On the contrary, when we talked about tolls and the Champlain Bridge, they said that there was no way they would ever impose a toll on the Champlain Bridge. That might be true, but they will place a toll and a user fee on everything else.
When did the Liberals tell Canadians that instead of the public infrastructure and the public investments that were promised, they would actually pay user fees and tolls instead of seeing their taxes go where they should have gone? Never. I can understand my Conservative friends being frustrated right now, and they have good reason to be. What the Liberals are bringing forth is basically a Conservative scheme. Let us not be blind about it.
In the last Parliament, the Conservatives were not so bold to go that far and now they are doing the job for the Liberals. I can understand why they would be frustrated because that would fit perfectly in the Conservative fiscal plan of years past. Now we have what supposedly is a progressive government. We have a government that tries to convince Canadians that signing onto the trade agreement, which was negotiated by Conservatives, is a progressive trade agreement.
Now the Liberals are trying to convince people that the GHG emission levels, which were set by Conservatives, are progressive targets. I cannot wait to see how they will be able to explain that the privatization scheme they are putting forth now is actually a progressive privatization scheme, because that makes no sense.
Yet the Liberals seem inclined right now to go where Conservatives did not even dare to go. That raises very important and very tricky questions that they will have to answer in the next few years. Setting up this privatization bank will not be done tomorrow, even though we see elements in this budget right now. It will not be done even in the next few weeks or the next few months. It will take a while.
Members can be sure that we will be here, watching what the Liberals are doing and denouncing that, because this is never what they intended to do during the campaign.
Canadians deserve the truth. If they were to have the truth from Liberals during the campaign, they would have been told to expect that the only way, according to them, to invest and fill that infrastructure gap would be to privatize, to bring in the private sector to privatize the revenue stream and eventually to install tolls and user fees. If that had been the case, we can be sure Canadians would have wondered whether they should vote for the Liberal Party.
I will say it: this is a betrayal. Canadians will be right to feel betrayed, to feel that they have not gotten the truth from this government. When they travel on highway 20, or the 401, when they see that Toronto’s Pearson airport has been sold to a Saudi investment fund, they will be right to wonder if they really voted for this and if they really agreed to the government going in this direction.
It will be the same when they see the government trying to bribe the provinces, who are being fiscally throttled at the moment. The government will offer them an amount of money from this privatization bank, they will be able to privatize their power distribution network, and that way they will have money to invest elsewhere with private sector support. That is precisely what this investment bank is proposing.
I will at least give the credit for having spoken part of the truth. I will repeat what he said, because it is incredibly revealing of the lack of sincerity the Liberal Party is demonstrating. I did not want to use unparliamentary language.
According to the Liberals, what does this mean?
“So, we'll move forward in a way that will allow us to attract institutional money”, which means pension funds, private equity, and so on, “and it's not conditional on any other government activity around government assets.
How could this be any clearer? The wants to give the private sector a large stake in Canada's infrastructure. In this sentence he is saying that the public sector, namely the government, will get out of the way. That is called privatization. The Liberals are going to have to answer this question many times in the next few days, weeks, months, and years.
The House can rest assured that we are going to challenge the government at every stage of this public infrastructure privatization bill.