That the House: (a) thank the independent non-partisan officials from the Department of Finance for their hard work and evidence-based analysis; (b) acknowledge their most recent Fiscal Monitor which informed Members and Canadians that, for the period from April to November 2015 of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the previous government posted a budgetary surplus of $1.0 billion; and (c) concur in its conclusions and express its confidence in the Deputy Minister and his team.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time, gladly, with the member for .
Over the last eight years, it was an honour to serve the people of Canada, first as minister of natural resources, then as minister of labour, and finally as minister of transport. It was an honour to serve the prime minister, as a member of his cabinet, and the Queen, as a member of the Privy Council. Most important to me—and in my maiden speech in the House this time—it has been a great honour to serve the people of Halton and a privilege I have been afforded in returning to this place to serve the people of Milton. I thank them very much for the opportunity to be here today. I cannot think of a more appropriate motion to rise and deliver in this, my maiden speech of the 42nd Parliament.
We know the last campaign was not really easy for us. It was not easy because governing is not easy. Governing comes with the burden of setting priorities and making tough decisions. Every day in government, we had to make difficult choices. It is true that we were not all things to all people, but it is also true that we did exactly what we said we would do. We made these tough decisions because, for us on this side of the House, promises have value.
The members opposite have inherited the government, and they inherit a burden of making these decisions, but they also inherit a modest surplus, so they can deliver on their promises to Canadians. That is really what the motion is fundamentally about.
The motion speaks to trust. It speaks to trust in our government, in those whom Canadians elect, and in those whom Canadians trust to operate government. I am proud of the legacy we have left for Canada and for this government. I am looking forward, throughout today, to hearing from former cabinet ministers of the previous Conservative government to tell the House exactly what we did, what we have accomplished, and what we have done to ensure the current government has a surplus to fulfill its promises to Canadians.
The former minister of finance, Minister Flaherty, introduced his budget on January 27, 2009. Here we are in February and there is still no budget from the government. What he said was:
To finance Canada's economic action plan, our government is making a deliberate choice to run a substantial short-term deficit.
This temporary deficit is an investment which is necessary to stimulate our economy. It allows us to meet our short-term needs while serving our long-term goals.
...Canada has the freedom to respond effectively to the current crisis, without putting our long-term prosperity at risk. In fact, the situation provides an opportunity to speed up investments that are necessary for our future growth and quality of life.
He said Canadians could be proud of this.
He also noted:
...we made the right choices when times were good. Now, when times are difficult, together we can continue moving forward with confidence.
He also noted, most importantly, that as the economy recovered he fully expected to emerge from deficit and return to surplus within five years. He noted that Canadians regretted the need to run a deficit in order to invest in our economy, and I do believe that to be the case. Our government shared our regret at the time, but it was necessary to choose this course because we knew it was temporary. We chose it because we knew it was what Canadian families and businesses needed.
You will hear from former cabinet ministers from the previous government talk about their individual portfolios and how we worked together to make sure the economy grew and worked together to get to that balanced budget in which Canadians could have confidence.
Minister Flaherty's final budget speech was February 11, 2014. Again, it was an early budget. It is interesting how the government still cannot seem to get its budget out the door. He noted and quoted many of his favourite politicians who came before him. He started by quoting Thomas D'Arcy McGee, who was his favourite Father of Confederation:
...who once said, “We are in the rapids and must go on”. Even as the times get better again, we will stay the course that has worked so well.
He noted Sir John A. Macdonald, who could have been talking about the 2014 economic action plan when he said, “The Government are merely trustees for the public.”
Jim noted that this was why we were so committed to balancing the budget and returning Canada to a position of fiscal strength. This is what is incredibly important and absolutely germane to what we believe in as Conservatives.
He said, “When governments run prolonged deficits, they are spending money that belongs to future generations.” He went on to say that it is deficit spending that actually puts in danger those social programs that benefit our children, the ones that they will depend upon.
He also noted that balanced budgets are important to the long-term prosperity of the country, because they inspire confidence in investors and consumers, and they are the ones who grow the economy and create the jobs.
“Canadians have trusted us with the economy”, Jim said, “and we have delivered.”
Today we have delivered to this new government a surplus, and it cannot be denied.
He concluded that part of his speech by saying, “By doing [the things that we do], we will not only balance the budget in 2015, we will achieve a surplus.”
I would very much like for the members on the opposite bench, the government, to note carefully these words from a very seasoned minister, who was once voted the world's best finance minister, when he said: “let me be clear: A return to surplus is not a licence to spend recklessly.”
We promised a balance budget, and we delivered on the promise. We promised Canadians that they could trust not only our own promises in the last campaign but the promises of all of the parties, knowing that they would inherit from us a clean slate to implement their mandate. Now it is up to them.
Numbers do not lie, facts are facts, and proof is proof, it would appear. The report from the “Fiscal Monitor”, produced by Finance Canada, proves that the Liberals inherited a surplus from our Conservative government.
I hope the members of the current government will reflect on what I have said, and on the words of Jim Flaherty, and think twice the next time they rise in their seats and intentionally mislead the House on facts.
This motion speaks to trust. It speaks to the trust of those who manage the nation's business, in this case the nation's finances. By voting against this motion, the government would be signalling that it has no confidence in the employees of Finance Canada at the highest levels. If it does not trust its own officials, how can it expect them to prepare the budget or manage our finances during these low-growth times?
We know what our legacy was, and we know what we have left. I would encourage the members opposite to think about what their legacy will be, because at the end of the day, regardless of where we sit in the House, those of us who were here before and those of us who have joined our Conservative caucus can be proud to know that we still value the facts, we still value the truth, and we still cherish the value of a promise.
In conclusion, in going through Jim's old speeches, I did note that his final words in the House, in March 2014, had to do with a heckle from the now , who indicated that I should be wearing a muzzle as the . Jim stood in his place on a point of order and asked the member for for an apology for his misogynistic comments. Today it has come full circle. I am here to defend Jim Flaherty's legacy. I appreciate all the work he did for us. We thank him, with the former and the at the time, for the wonderful surplus we have delivered to the opposite bench, the current government, to ensure that it can have the trust of Canadians and do well for our future generations.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to follow my esteemed colleague from and draw everyone's attention to how simple this motion is and to how important it is. It goes to the heart of trust, confidence, and fulfilling promises, as the finance critic has articulated.
There is one thing many of us in business have done over the years, and I am sure the finance minister brings an esteemed business background to the House, and that is deal with the numbers presented by experts in the background of the business environment, namely the accountants and comptrollers. They are the people who actually produce the numbers for accurate decision-making.
What we have witnessed since the start of this Parliament is that the finance minister has had a choice. The Conservatives left a surplus. That is what his department has said to him, and that is what the “Fiscal Monitor” and the PBO have said. In fact, they have said that it is a larger number than what the finance minister said. However, the point is that there was a surplus.
Of course, politics are an odd space in this bubble here in Ottawa that sometimes distorts what the actual facts are. My comments today are centred on cutting through the rhetoric justifying doing something by blaming someone else and pointing a finger at the previous government.
These were the fundamental choices, I believe, the finance minister had to make upon arriving in Ottawa, because the facts are the facts.
The Liberal government came to power with a promise to Canadians to use evidence-based facts and science, words that were repeated over and over again to Canadians. They said they would be different, because they would use facts. They would use the expert evidence given to them. Liberals were given that evidence by their own officials in their own department. They were also told that they needed to go into more of a deficit than was promised, which was a $10 billion deficit, just a small deficit. That is what the said during the election campaign. It was just a tiny deficit they wanted approval for. Of course, what has happened since then is that they were provided with fact-based evidence.
Take, for example, the middle-class tax cut. This middle-class tax cut that will return $6.43 a week to the average Canadian, less than $1 a day, on average, was predicated on a promise that it would be revenue neutral because the government would tax the 1% who make so much more and would redistribute that to provide the middle-class tax cut.
What has happened since that time? The facts have been put on the table, which is that this was a miscalculation. We first found out that it could approach being a $1-billion miscalculation. The government would fall short by $1 billion, which would mean a $1-billion structural deficit going into place. Then we were told after the fact by some experts, again accountants, people who know how the economy works and what the numbers actually are, that it would be more like $1.4 billion. In fact, the C.D. Howe Institute, which the finance minister used to chair, predicts that it will be somewhere around a $2-billion shortfall.
This new way of taking on the responsibilities of government has fallen short. It has fallen short there, and it continues to fall short when the finance minister and his parliamentary secretary continue to contend that somehow they were left with a deficit, which their own finance department has said is a surplus.
It is sometimes shocking to hear the denial of the people who are providing the evidence-based facts in the matter.
I grew up under a pretty simple tenet: “If you're going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.” What we are hearing is the talk but not the walk. We are hearing that we can exaggerate, we can make it look like we can point the finger at the previous government. This is part of the political playbook that has been played over and over again.
The government presented itself to Canadians as a government ready to do business a new way, yet the comes to the table, gets the evidence, and decides, no, it is going to go down that road of the playbook for political advantage to try to point the finger and say, “Now that we're here, things are way too different.” He was wrong doing that because his own department came out with the numbers to say they were left with a surplus.
This is a growing trend. It takes away the confidence, not only of the business community and those who wish to make investments, but everyday Canadians who have yet to find out exactly how they should be managing their money based upon what is coming down the line. We know that a lot of pundits and people who are looking to this action going forward are predicting a $30-billion deficit, but we have no idea, at this point, because we have not been given any of the facts on this matter.
I believe the Liberals should just admit that their numbers are not bad. We have asked over and over again where they got the numbers. They have not been forthcoming with any kind of background as to who the experts were who gave them the numbers to say there was a deficit.
In the real world, in a competitive global economy, numbers matter. Investors and businesses here in Canada, and around the world, need to have confidence that the is basing his projections upon a set of numbers that are facts based upon accurate evidence. I believe that it is better not to broadcast misleading numbers to Canadians and the international community to support his party's political rhetoric. At a time of such economic uncertainty, businesses and investors need to have confidence in the finance minister and the department working behind him.
Today, we have a motion that is based upon independent analysis, hard numbers, and facts, to cut through the political rhetoric.
First, we had the PBO reporting that Canada is on track to post a $1.2 billion surplus for the 2016 fiscal year. Now, the report from the “Fiscal Monitor”, produced by Finance Canada, is telling us that Canada posted a surplus of $1 billion from April to November 2015.
I will wrap up by saying this proves conclusively that the Liberals inherited a surplus from our Conservative government. If the and the Liberal Party do not trust their own officials, how can they expect them to prepare a budget or manage our finances during these troubling times?
Mr. Speaker, in spite of your best efforts, there are times in the House where cynicism can drive hon. members to focus on division rather than honest debate. The motion that the opposition has chosen to debate today could be described as clever. At first glance, it seems to present an impossible choice: agree with false assumptions or publicly deny our support and appreciation for an institution dedicated to serving Canadians.
In fact, if we were to take it at face value, one might even begin to suspect that the party opposite had suddenly discovered the virtues of evidence-based policy-making. Sadly, I do not believe that this is the case today. Rather, the motion is nothing more than yet another example of the party opposite's contempt for the very professionals that they now want to appear to so valiantly support.
As much as we would all wish the world be made of simple choices, that is just not how the world works. Pretending that it does is a disservice to the quality of debate in the House. Cherry-picking data to use as a political football devalues the work of our proud public servants.
When considering the choices on how to respond to the motion, it is clear to me what the answer should be. The answer should be the truth. The truth is the government's first economic and fiscal update in November 2015 was about being open and transparent with Canadians about the state of the economy. Canadians deserve nothing less.
The November update was produced by the very same finance department that the opposition and all members of the House hold in such high esteem. This non-partisan analysis confirms that circumstances had changed and the predictions made by the previous government in its budget were off by about $6 billion.
Our November economic and fiscal update took into account such factors as low and volatile crude oil prices and a weak global environment. These risks have not gone away and in fact some of them have become much more pronounced in recent months. The numbers are clear and they are in line with the projected deficit for the 2015-16 fiscal year, a deficit that will be the direct result of the actions and inactions of the previous government. No amount of clever wording or spin can change that fact.
Let us take a closer look at the numbers. We know that the November “Fiscal Monitor” being debated today is simply a snapshot and does not tell the full story. In fact, focusing on it alone is disingenuous. True, revenues for the April to November 2015 period have increased from the same period last year, however, it is important to remember that this revenue increase is mostly the result of one-time factors and timing issues.
Economists at the Department of Finance have said that it is due to a few factors such as the following: the $2.1-billion gain realized on the sale of General Motors common shares in April; higher corporate income tax revenues driven by assessments and reassessments for prior tax years; and higher monthly remittances that continue to lag economic developments, since they are generally based on taxes paid in the previous year before being adjusted near fiscal year-end.
The previous government may have banked on one-offs like the GM share sale to feign sound economic management, but let me caution the now opposition against basing their arguments on the snapshots these manoeuvres were designed to provide. It is no different than checking our bank statement before paying off the bills. It means absolutely nothing. When Conservatives sat down and drafted budget 2015, they got it wrong. The question we should really ask ourselves is: did they get it wrong on purpose? As the once said, Canadians are smart enough to call baloney.
The reality is that revenue growth is expected to slow over the remainder of the fiscal year, reflecting economic trends of collapsing commodity prices. It would be short-sighted to believe that these one-time revenue-boosting factors and timing issues can be counted on to bring us into a surplus position in this fiscal year.
Let us make no mistake: the Government of Canada will post a deficit for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
At the G20 meeting, leaders from around the world agreed that this was a challenging time for the global economy. The economists who were counting on emerging economies to help restore global growth were questioning their previous predictions. As a result, the Canadian economy is going through a difficult period in an uncertain global climate.
The Bank of Canada, which we all respect as another institution that provides independent and non-partisan evidence-based analysis, has revised downward its economic forecast twice over the last 12 months and eased the overnight interest rate twice.
Going forward, it is very likely that global economic conditions will remain unfavourable and that subdued commodity prices will persist.
In spite of these difficulties, we are presented with real opportunities to put in place the conditions to create long-term growth. The economy may not be living up to anyone's hopes and expectations, but the good news is that we have been elected on a plan to grow the economy. There has never been a better time to make targeted investments to support economic growth in our country. We are confident that our plan will accomplish this. That is one key reason why I am optimistic about our prospects going forward.
I am also optimistic, after having heard from thousands of Canadians online and when I criss-crossed the country earlier this month as part of my pre-budget consultations. I launched our historic consultations with our parliamentary secretary, the member for . We firmly believe that good planning starts with listening. We are going to continue listening in the coming weeks for great ideas on how to strengthen the middle class and grow our economy.
The concept of open and transparent consultations is something about which the Department of Finance also feels strongly. That is why Finance Canada consults with Canadians on issues large and small, enabling public input on policy options. The department tries to ensure that as many people as possible, whether they represent businesses, groups with special interests, or individual Canadians, get the opportunity to have their say.
I would like to personally thank Canadians for coming out in record numbers to our pre-budget consultations and for participating in Finance Canada-led consultations throughout the year.
I would also like to thank Deputy Minister Paul Rochon and all of the department officials who helped in meeting and engaging with Canadians to a degree that had never before been attempted. While the pre-budget consultations remain open, department officials are already taking their views into account to develop new policies and new approaches.
As we develop our plans for new investments to grow the economy, we will remain mindful of the input we have received from groups such as aboriginal leaders, small business owners, cultural groups, the energy sector, high-tech and telecom experts, and representatives from the financial services industries, among many others.
Let me remind the House that the previous government added $150 billion to our national debt, yet still managed to have the worst economic growth record since the depths of the Great Depression. After 10 years of weak economic growth, this government will grow the economy and create jobs by focusing on the middle class, investing in infrastructure, and helping those who need it most. We will make smart investments that will grow the economy in the short, medium, and long term.
Last fall, we wrapped up a long election campaign at the end of which Canadians voted for real change in Ottawa. They voted for a clear commitment to helping the middle class and investing in our country to grow the economy and create good jobs. Canadians indicated that it was time for a new plan and a new economic direction. They indicated that it was time to invest in people and our communities across the country.
Our government is ready for that challenge. We have already taken meaningful steps to grow our economy, and we will do more.
In December, we introduced a tax cut for middle-class Canadians. On January 1, we made it possible for nine million Canadians to enjoy a significant tax cut every year. This legislative measure is just the first step in our plan for long-term economic growth, job creation and a prosperous middle class in Canada.
The next budget will include the new Canada child tax benefit, another important measure that will provide extra support to the vast majority of families and lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.
Compared to the existing program, the Canada child tax benefit will be simpler, more generous and better targeted toward the families that need it most. It will also be tax-free.
We have demonstrated our commitment. Canadians should have a real and fair chance to succeed, and central to that success is a strong and growing middle class.
Informed by the views of Canadians, our 2016 budget will create the conditions required to advance our plan for economic growth. We have plans to support stronger communities and economic growth through historic infrastructure investments in things that bring Canadians together, with commerce and support, a healthy and mobile population.
We have plans for long-term investments in skills and labour strategies to improve productivity and employment. These investments will grow the economy in the short, medium, and long term. Our budget will also create the opportunities needed for communities to grow and build an even more prosperous and inclusive Canada.
However, as I think about our ambitious economic agenda, including all the accomplishments that the government has achieved since November and all we will do in the coming years, it is difficult to think of any of it occurring without the support and dedication of the public service. I often tell the story of the enormous binders I received from my officials on my first day on the job. I think it was their way of welcoming me to the Department of Finance. Their expertise is nothing short of amazing.
I can confidently speak for all of my cabinet colleagues when I say that we are truly thankful for the help and support we have and continue to receive from our officials. From championing climate change in Paris, to facilitating a renewed relationship with indigenous people across the country, to the G20 meetings, APEC meetings and other global summits, to welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who now call Canada home, to the work they have done to implement our tax cut for nine million Canadians. All of these efforts would simply not have been possible without the input and the organization of the public service.
We will continue to call upon the public service as we work to bring real change to Canadian families. More to the point, the government will continue to value and respect the hard work and evidenced-based analysis that Canada's Department of Finance and all public servants provide to us and to Canadians.
I will conclude by saying that I take no lessons from the party opposite on respecting public servants. Respect comes down to more than a simple vote. It is about valuing their contribution day after day. It is about listening to advice, respecting expertise, and working collaboratively toward a better Canada. It is about little things, like saying “thank you” for a job well done.
Those small things, the important things, may not have come easy to members of the party opposite, but they are what really matters. Frankly, public servants deserve better than to see their work being used so blatantly in political manoeuvring in the House.
Therefore, while the hard-working women and men in the Department of Finance and the deputy minister have my full support, this motion does not. Real support, real change means action, not just words.
Mr. Speaker, it is only today that the is telling us that he was handed a surplus by his officials, as well as a $1 billion surplus by our former government last November. He then prepared his economic update.
When he prepared his economic update, those same officials told him that if he did not do something, there would be a deficit by the end of the fiscal year. The minister chose to do nothing, because he controls spending. He may not control revenues, but he does control spending and he could have closed out the fiscal year with a surplus.
Therefore, the deficit at the end of the fiscal year is his responsibility. When he was preparing his economic and fiscal update with his officials, despite the numbers presented to him, he chose to do nothing and did not make the cuts needed to have a surplus.
We, the Conservatives, left him with a surplus last November. He did nothing and now we are heading toward a deficit, which is his fault. He cannot point the finger at Canada's economic situation, because he controls spending. The Treasury Board controls spending. If the minister had wanted it, he could have had a surplus at the end of the fiscal year.
I have a question for the minister. Why burden future generations with debt? I would remind him that the government does not invest money, it spends money. Business people invest money. The government is currently spending money that we do not have at the expense of future generations, saying that we should take advantage of the low interest rates to borrow money.
The minister does not seem to realize that interest rates are at a historic low and that they will go up. As things stand, 10¢ out of every dollar that Canadians pay in taxes is used to pay the interest on the debt, a sum that represents the entire budget for the .
We have to stop increasing the debt and start balancing the budget for the good of future generations and the economic prosperity of the country.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to say that I will be splitting my time with the excellent member for . He will take the second portion of the 20 minutes allocated to us.
I was a financial administrator before I was elected to Parliament, so I am well versed in making sure that we balance budgets. I am proud to say that at many of the organizations I ran, we received awards for the work we did, including two business excellence awards. We always balanced our budgets and paid down debt, while at the same time ensuring that we were increasing the services we were offering to the population.
That is a good reason why I am a New Democrat. The NDP has a proud tradition of making sure that services are available for the population and at the same time balancing budgets. We can go right back to our founding leader, Tommy Douglas, who was voted the greatest Canadian in our history by Canadians a few years ago. He balanced budgets 17 consecutive times while creating a universal health care system. That was extremely important, because it shows that there can be sustainability in the environment and the economy and in the nation's finances.
What we are referencing in this motion is fiscal period returns. That is, as a number of speakers have referenced, really the book that indicates to us what the actual figures are. Anyone can make a budget speech; anyone can talk a good game. We have certainly seen this a number of times with Liberal and Conservative governments in the past.
The reality is that it is the fiscal period returns, the actual year-end accounting of the finances of a province or of a nation, that determine whether or not the finances were actually balanced.
I am pleased to say that the federal Department of Finance, which is surely not a hotbed of social democrats, for the last 25 years has been keeping track of governments in the fiscal period returns, whether Liberal or Conservative or NDP or other governments. It has been making sure that the public is aware of what the records are of those parties in balancing their budgets.
It will be no surprise that the worst party among the three parties represented as official parties here in the House is the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberal Party, at either the provincial or federal level, actually has the worst record in balancing budgets.
Second worst, and only marginally ahead of it, is the Conservative Party.
I am pleased to say, because it is important that the public be aware of this information coming from the ministry of finance, that the best party in terms of balancing budgets, year in and year out, is the New Democratic Party. Our provincial administrations have the best record at balancing budgets and paying down debt.
We have done that while maintaining and enhancing services. We believe very strongly in making sure that there is sustainability in the nation's finances. That means we take positions of principle. For example, when workers pay into employment insurance, that employment insurance should be there when they need it.
As members know, only 40% of workers who are unemployed can access employment insurance. That is because of consecutive so-called reforms, first under the Liberals and then under the Conservatives. The people of this nation, the people who paid into the employment insurance fund, have been cut from accessing that insurance when they are unemployed.
An NDP government would not do that. An NDP government believes in making sure that there is sustainability in finances, but not at the cost of the workers.
When we look at what the Conservatives did in recent years, the same fiscal period returns that I mentioned earlier come up, and I begin to understand why the Conservatives moved this motion today.
The Conservatives began ringing up deficits in 2008. A total of $150 billion was added to our collective debt, a debt that all Canadians must pay. There were six consecutive deficits. Last year, there was a change. The Conservatives realized that the deficits reflected badly on their performance, so they dipped into the employment insurance fund and then sold the General Motors shares to create a temporary surplus that could be presented to the Canadian public just before the election.
It did not work. The public understood all too well that even though the sale of General Motors shares brought money into the government coffers, the government was actually ringing up an average monthly deficit of $400 million from the start of the fiscal year onwards. Even though the sale of the shares created a temporary surplus, this financial claim does not stand up to scrutiny.
When we examine the Conservatives' record, we understand very well why they are perhaps just as bad as the Liberals when it comes to financial management.
That brings us back to this motion. It is a little strange, I must say. We have a motion from the Conservatives that basically says that we should take half of the year and say we are in surplus.
If I had done that with any of the boards of directors I had to report to as the financial administrator and said that we were going to take half the year and say it were the whole year, that that would show the real year-end fiscal situation of our organization, I do not think any of the boards of directors would have taken it seriously.
However, that is what the Conservatives have done. They are taking half the year, with the special sale of GM shares, and are trying to say to the public that it means we are in surplus, even though we know that in an average month it was a $400-million deficit.
I wonder how that translates into other realms of life. If that is the Conservative approach on finances, that we take half a year and try to pretend it is a full year, could a hockey team pretend that half a season is a full season, that they made it to the playoffs because in the first half of the season they did pretty well, even though in the last half of the season they did not do so well? Or should it be half a game, rather than a whole game, or that we stop the game after a period and a half? What would that mean for the testing of our nation's students, if they could go into the classroom and say they will just take half a test because they know half of the material, and that doing so should be enough for them to get a full A for the full test?
It makes no sense at all, whether we are talking about testing, or hockey, or the nation's finances, to take half a year and say, “Let us pretend it's a full year?”
The reality when we look at the Conservative record—and people often vote Conservative because they are told that Conservatives may be better fiscal managers—of the last 10 years, where we suffered so much, in terms of health care cutbacks, and a whole range of other cuts that led to the deterioration in the quality of life of Canadians, there is no doubt that even on the fiscal front, the Conservative record, to say the least, is not admirable. There have been six consecutive deficits, with some of the largest deficits in Canadian history.
We believe that deficits should be applied prudently. When a deficit is used to jig the economy, that is something that could be appropriate. Six in a row, obviously, is not.
I hope my Conservative colleagues will not find me unkind when I say that after six consecutive deficits and after the problems that our nation's finances went through under the Conservative government, it may indicate to me that the Conservatives just were not ready to govern when they took office 10 years ago.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to give my first speech in the House of Commons. I have been up on my feet a number of times, but this is my first official speech.
I would like to start by thanking the voters of Elmwood—Transcona for giving me the opportunity to come to this place and speak on their behalf.
I would like to thank my wife, Janelle, and my son, Robert, who in their own way are working just as hard as I am on the project of providing good representation to people in our hometown.
I want to say a special thanks to my father as well, who served for a long time in this House. He was a great political role model, both on how to conduct oneself in this place, and also on the substantive issues that face the country. He was a great voice for the working people for many years in this place. I hope to continue that tradition here today. I want to thank my mother also, because I know that she was as much a part of that project as he was, the project of providing good representation to the people in Elmwood—Transcona. It is something one always knows, even as part of a family growing up in that, but I think as all members get here it really does impress upon us just how much it is a family effort to be able to do this job and do it well. Therefore, I thank everyone in my family again.
I want to thank all of the volunteers and supporters who helped put me here as well. I intend to honour them by speaking up on the issues that they have sent me here to talk about.
Elmwood—Transcona is a great riding. It is full of people who are down to earth, who work hard for a living, and who have always understood that we face a lot of common challenges. We know we are better off facing those challenges together and addressing them collectively than leaving our neighbours to fend for themselves, because we know that the kinds of problems they are facing the next day may be the very same problems we will find ourselves facing. We know we ought to work together to build a world where we allow for bad times and prepare ourselves so that we have systems and programs in place to help our neighbours and ourselves when that time of need arises. That is why Elmwood—Transcona has always tended to return social democrats to the House of Commons, because that way of thinking is at the core of our program. It is at the core of our vision for the country. It is not just window dressing that we put on at election time. Rather, it is something that informs the policies and positions we present in the House.
Therefore, when I saw today's motion, I wondered if this was the kind of thing that people had sent me here to debate, discuss, and to take a strong position on. A simple snapshot of the fiscal picture at a certain time of year does not represent the entire year of a budget. That is clear. At the end of the day, I think hon. members on all sides of the House know that. I do not think that posturing for cheap political points in the House on that issue is what I was sent here to do. I was sent here to talk about social justice. That is why I am proud to be part of a caucus that, on its opposition day, decided to bring forward a motion on pay equity and to have the House spend its time debating and voting on that. That made me very proud yesterday. There is a lot of good work to do. There is work left to do when we talk about the situation that aboriginal people are facing in this country, or the funding gaps that exist that perpetuate social injustice on and off reserve for aboriginal people, and there are many other people whose causes we have to champion in this House and do something about.
This motion does not speak to any form of economic justice, which social democrats also take to heart. Members have heard us talk here about income inequality.
We are also concerned about income security because we know that individuals' dignity is tied to their freedom to be able to take hold of their own destiny to make decisions about their life and what they want to do. However, there has to be enough money in the bank to be able to make those kinds of decisions, because I think we can all agree that, when we do not have those resources, we do not have a lot of choices. That is why the NDP has always fought to make sure workers get their fair share of what they work every day to produce. Yes, workers have employers who help organize their work. However, as someone who has worked on a number of job sites, I can say that it is the workers who are bringing that value to the work they do every day.
They are the ones doing the building. They are the ones doing the producing. They are the ones filing the paperwork. It is fair that they get a good return on that investment and on that work.
Looking at the numbers, over decades now, we see that it is the same group of people who are producing that value who are getting less of a return on that value. We see that as the corporate income tax rate drops from 28% to 15% in almost as many years. Meanwhile, workers who are getting laid off because of a downturn in the economy cannot access EI, and seniors who worked and paid into a pension plan their entire life are not seeing an adequate return on that. They are not seeing enough to be able to pay their rent and buy their food.
These are issues that really matter to us in this party, not trading points about what time in the fiscal cycle there happened to be more money in accounts receivable instead of accounts payable, when we all know that at the end of the day there really was a deficit, as my hon. colleague has done a good job of pointing out. A one-time sale of GM shares does not address a systemic deficit.
We are here also to talk about environmental justice and to talk about people having the dignity and freedom to make their own decisions. We can only have a good life if we have a planet to live it on. It is reasonable for people to raise concerns about the way we are extracting certain kinds of natural resources. It is reasonable for people to be concerned about what that is doing to the planet. It is reasonable for people to demand a process for approval of these projects that takes those considerations seriously.
It is also reasonable to be concerned about the overall effect of those projects over time on climate change. We are having an unseasonably warm winter. These things do happen from time to time, but they are starting to happen with a frequency that we have not seen before. That is well documented.
These are all reasonable concerns if we look at the evidence. They are not just reasonable concerns; it is a benchmark for sanity that we do take these things seriously in the 21st century.
I am proud to be part of a team that is here to raise that. It was the minority view in the late seventies and early eighties that we were headed down a road that would have serious consequences. We were the first to raise this and we are raising it again here today. I hope we are going to be part of the solution soon, rather than just shouting across the aisle at governments that are listening with deaf ears. That is part of what we were working on at election time.
The other component to social democracy, which the motion does not address, is the democratic component, in keeping with the idea that it is important for people to be able to take charge of their own destiny. It is also important that they have the economic freedom to do that, which means getting a fair share of the value they produce at work. It means having income security. We know people are worried about getting laid off because they do not have access to employment insurance. Some people cannot retire and leave the workforce when they want because they do not have an adequate pension. Workers do not have economic freedom when they are fighting for a better deal but know the government is willing to legislate them back to work as soon as they start to talk about a strike. Those workers are not in charge of their destiny. Certain economists would call that promoting labour discipline, but we see it for what it is, and that is taking advantage of people. It is robbing them of the dignity to take charge of their own destiny.
As much as that is important on the economic side of things, it is important on the political side as well. People need to have political freedom. They need to elect their representatives to this place, and they need to do it in a way that reflects their desire for the country. That is why the NDP has long been an advocate for electoral reform. We have not had a system for a long time, if ever, that has done a good job of that. We are keen to hold the government to account on its promises for meaningful electoral reform.
That comes as a total package. The social democratic vision of the NDP is to give people the power to determine their own destiny by giving them the economic freedom they need to do that. We can do that by addressing problems with respect to social justice. We can do that by giving them a planet to do it on. We can do that by giving them the political freedom to implement it if they so choose, and not to if they do not.
That is why we have been gracious in defeat from time to time and we have worked hard whenever we win, whether it is right now in Alberta with an NDP government or in Manitoba with an NDP government. We are hard-working in victory and gracious in defeat.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to share my time today with the member for .
This is an opposition motion put forward by my colleague from . I was very pleased when she asked me if I would be one of the individuals who would speak to it.
As members can see, the motion thanks member of our public servants, particularly in the Department of Finance, for their hard work and their projections that there would be a budgetary surplus of $1 billion. I like the idea that she is thanking the public servants who work in that department.
I know very well the dedication and commitment of our public servants. I have had the honour of serving in five different portfolios during my career, and I have received a huge amount of support and information from my departmental officials who were invaluable to me.
On the portfolio of Veterans Affairs, which is the one I most recently had, departmental officials did an outstanding job of compiling information and giving me briefing notes, and for that I was been very grateful. Likewise in National Defence and Justice, they could not have been more helpful or on time, and to this day I am very grateful toward them. I am therefore pleased that my colleague from has brought forward the motion thanking the members of the Department of Finance for what they are doing.
The members of the Department of Finance are projecting a $1 billion surplus for this year. I appreciate that this is upsetting to the Liberals in terms of what they had to say during the election campaign. It is maybe one of the first times in Canadian history that somebody is upset that there is a surplus, but we all have our different approaches to this.
I remember during the election when my campaign manager said to me that the NDP was starting to slip in the polls. I asked what the issues were. My campaign manager noted that one of the issues was the fact that the New Democrats wanted a balanced budget and many people disagreed with that. This was one of the first times I was going to say that I agreed with the New Democrats, that balanced budgets were a good idea. I am sorry they lost support on that. I still think it is the right thing for Canada.
I am very proud of the way our government handled the budgets prior to the last election. In fact, I am proud of all the different aspects of what it took to govern the country. I was very pleased with the leadership of our prime minister during that time. I now have the honour of being his seatmate. He was consistent over those 10 years. In my six and a half years as justice minister, he was consistently supportive of standing up for victims and law-abiding citizens and in holding people who committed crimes to account.
His and our government's stand with respect to foreign policy was always consistent. People knew where the Conservative government stood with respect to Ukraine, Israel, and the fight against terrorists. I had the honour to visit various parts of the world. People knew where Canada stood and they were grateful. This was the one thing that was consistent about all the places I visited. People thanked me. They asked me to thank Canadians and our government for our consistency on that.
However, with respect to the finances, again there was consistency in our government in keeping taxes low, to strive toward a balanced budget, and to have responsible spending. Those were the characteristics of our Conservative government. It allowed us to do things that were important to Canadians, and did not break the bank.
I remember coming back here in 2004 and my colleague, the member for , started to lobby the then Liberal government to remove the federal excise tax on 100% Canadian wine. He made a very good point. There was not a huge amount of money being collected by the federal government on Canadian wine, but if it were removed, it would be a huge boost to the wine industry in our area. When the government at that time would not listen to him, he brought forward a private member's bill and gave me the honour of seconding it. He tried to push forward with that.
That is why I am so appreciative of what took place after the Conservatives became government in 2006. In the first budget presented by Jim Flaherty, he brought forward the recommendation that had the support of the member for , the other members in Niagara, and my colleagues British Columbia. It was a huge boost to the wine industry and a responsible way to act.
I can remember, as well, as justice minister, being informed about child advocacy centres when I was visiting Edmonton. At that same time, one was established in St. Catharines. These centres were to help children who had been victimized by crime, having a one-stop family-friendly and child-friendly centre for them to get help. The federal government was not involved with this, but Jim Flaherty and the former prime minister were supportive of it. This did not cost a huge amount of money, but made a big difference in helping children who had been victimized. I have been very grateful to them for those centres.
Now the Liberals are telling us they have some problems. As my colleague, the member for , has said, they have no problem with spending, but they have a problem with financial accountability. It should be the exact opposite. They should be concentrating on financial accountability and controlling spending. We need this in our country.
People have told me that the Liberals will make a mess of the finances and this will guarantee the re-election of the Conservatives in 2019. However, I want what is best for Canada right now. I do not want a mess. We have seen what has happened in other provinces at times when governments irresponsibly spend. It takes many years to correct those situations. This is not what we want.
The Liberals have a different agenda. As we heard yesterday in debates, Conservatives want union members to have the right to privacy. The Liberals want something different than that. We disagree with that, but one thing the Conservative Party will be consistently in favour of is controlling government spending and keeping taxes low. We would have continued with a balanced budget. This is apparently out the window now with the Liberal government. It is a mistake and I think some day Canadians will not only give us the opportunity, but will very quickly realize that this is a huge mistake on the part of the Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to participate in this important discussion.
I want to say hello to my almost three-year-old daughter, Gianna, who I believe is watching this back home. She is probably the only three-year-old in the country who watches CPAC on a regular basis, although when I told her yesterday that I would be giving a speech today, I think she thought we were going to the beach. Therefore, despite my excitement about being able to speak today, she may be a bit disappointed.
In watching this debate today, I wonder if my three-year-old daughter may be a bit disappointed for a different reason. As parents, we all want to pass the best that we can on to our children in the context of our own individual families, but also in the context of social relations. We receive the goods of society from our parents and we pass them on to our children, hopefully improved or at least not diminished.
As Edmund Burke writes in Reflections on the Revolution in France, society is “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society”.
He says later:
...one of the first and most leading principles on which the commonwealth and the laws are consecrated is, lest the temporary possessors and life-renters in it...[should be mindful of] what is due to their posterity...should not think it among their rights to cut off the entail or commit waste on the inheritance by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric of their society, hazarding to leave to those who come after them a ruin instead of an habitation...
We live here in a great country. We can and indeed we must be grateful for the goods of civilization that we have received from our predecessors. We have a duty to pass the goods of our civilization on to the next generation, socially, culturally, and fiscally. However, for reasons unknown to us, and perhaps even unknown to it, the government is betraying this sacred obligation by running massive, totally unnecessary, deficits, creating debts that our children and grandchildren will have to pay off. We are spending massive amounts of money today, and they will have to pay off these debts with interest.
The government is running deficits in spite of the fact that the economy is growing. The Liberals are running deficits not because of a financial crisis, but because the government felt that its only chance in the last election was to outflank the NDP on the far left. It was a cynical political game rooted in the narrow politics of the present, betraying the hard-learned lessons of the past when it comes to deficits and debt, and ignoring the needs of the future. The Liberals' cynical game was to say whatever they needed to say to get elected and let the future worry about itself.
How did the Liberals plan to satisfy all of their spending commitments and keep the deficit under $10 billion? They did not have a plan. Again, it was the narrow, cynical politics of the present, without regard for the lessons of the past or the needs of the future.
The Liberals promised three deficits of $10 billion each, but now we know that they may use up all $30 billion of that deficit commitment in year one. Even a $10-billion deficit would add over $300 to my daughter's share of the debt. However important the needs of the present are, let us have enough regard for my daughter and her generation to pay for present needs with present dollars.
I think Canadians get this. They intuitively get the obligation that we have to generations past and to generations in the future. They get that it is wrong to burden future generations just so that we can have more right now.
Therefore, the Liberals are casting around for an excuse to run a massive, new, entirely pointless deficit. Their strategy is to claim that they were left with a deficit, in spite of clear evidence to the contrary from the Department of Finance and from the parliamentary budget officer. Forgetting the past and ignoring the future, unfortunately, has become the Liberal way.
By contrast, it is important to highlight the realities of the previous Conservative government's very strong fiscal record, which demonstrates mindfulness of the past and the future, as well as the present. In our first years in office, our Conservative government ran significant surpluses, paid down debt, and cut taxes for middle- and low-income Canadians. However, in late 2008, Canada was hit by the global financial crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
At the time of the global financial crisis, the Liberals, then in opposition, presented none of their own plan for the economy. Sometimes they attacked our government for running deficits. At other times, they demanded bigger deficits. We did the responsible thing.
We did what past and future generations would want us to do. We ran timely, targeted, and temporary deficits, stimulating the economy and preserving vital Canadian industries, while also seeking efficiencies and bringing the budget back to balance one year ahead of schedule.
We did this while increasing transfers to the provinces for vital public services, and we did it while further cutting taxes. According to every credible authority, we ended our mandate in surplus. We had the best job creation record, the best GDP growth record, and we have by far the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio anywhere in the G7. We led Canada through challenging economic circumstances; we preserved strong economic fundamentals.
Still today, when the Liberals look back on the global financial crisis, they insist on having their cake and eating it too. Some of the time they tell us that Canada fared poorly during the financial crisis despite obvious facts to the contrary, and some of the time they tell us that Canada did well in the financial crisis but it was only because of Liberal governments of the 1990s.
Other times they criticize the deficits we used to stimulate the economy, and the rest of the time they criticize the spending controls we imposed on the federal bureaucracy, as if it were possible to balance the budget without controlling spending in certain areas.
Here is our position with respect to fiscal policy. A government should run timely, targeted, and temporary deficits only in the face of significant declining revenues or in response to major crises like war or natural disasters. There is no need to cut during these periods provided that the same government can make up the difference during good years. To do this in a timely, targeted, and temporary way is not a betrayal of future generations, rather it is prudent and responsible, because it is a way for the present generation to both create debt when necessary and also to do the work to pay it off.
However, to capriciously run structural deficits far beyond the scope that Canadians were led to believe would occur during the election, to do so in response to no significant decline in revenue or major financial event, is a betrayal of our obligations to our children. It is, in effect, a demand that our children and grandchildren pay in the future for what we do not want to do without today.
Our children do not have a choice in this matter. Profligate deficit spending today robs future generations of citizens and policy-makers of the ability to enact their own ambitious plans. It saddles them with debt that will limit their dreams long after ours have faded.
This is the reality in many countries around the world, countries where the financial crisis was followed by a debt crisis because they had used up all the room they had to bail themselves out. We do not have to go down this road in Canada. That is certainly not where we started from. It certainly is not inevitable.
If we are to now run up large new deficits, it will only be because of an irresponsible political choice, one that the government could have decided not to make and one that the government must take responsibility for.
If members of the government wish to be generous to their friends, let them do so with their own money. However, the government has no money of its own, it only has the ability to spend the money earned by Canadian taxpayers. As such, it should adopt the requisite humility that normally comes with being entrusted to discharge someone else's property.
It is not too late. I say to the government, “Do not capriciously run massive, totally unnecessary deficits. Do not saddle my daughter with your debt, she does not deserve it. Do not distort the facts to obscure responsibility. Take responsibility. Look squarely on the numbers given to you by the finance department and the parliamentary budget officer. Take responsibility, and do right by present and future taxpayers.”
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my colleague, the hon. member for .
With today's turbulent global economy, the motion before us is certainly timely and the stakes in this debate are very high. Let me be clear, the stakes are high and the economy is struggling because of the actions and inactions of the previous government. Indeed, the projected deficit for 2015-16 is a direct result of an economic program that left no contingency in place for low crude oil prices, and failed to take into account weakened global growth.
The previous Liberal government left behind a $13 billion surplus in 2006. The Conservative government squandered that surplus and accumulated an additional $150 billion in new debt, while still managing to deliver the worst growth record since the Great Depression. All of that was coupled with no plan for supporting the middle class, no growth agenda, and no plan to invest. The only people who believe that the previous Conservative government left behind a surplus are the Conservatives themselves. Canadians know better.
Quite simply, what is at stake is a new direction for our economy. During the election campaign Canadians said it was time to make meaningful investments in people and in our communities all across the country, from coast to coast to coast. After 10 years of weak growth, our government has a plan to grow the economy and create jobs by focusing on the middle class, investing in infrastructure, and helping those who need it the most. We are committed to leaving our children and grandchildren with a more sustainable and prosperous economy.
However, our plan needs to be realistic, sustainable, prudent, and transparent. That is why we have continued to listen to Canadians through the government's pre-budget consultations. When we set out to do these consultations, we wanted two things. The government wanted to involve as many Canadians as possible and we wanted to do things a little differently. The numbers really do tell a story. To date, the combined total number of Canadians we have reached through our channels amounts to more than 150,000 individuals. What is more, the Department of Finance has received more than 3,500 formal submissions. That is more than triple what the Conservatives managed over a six-month time frame. We did it in just two months last year.
Since early January, the connected with university students across Canada through Google hangouts and Facebook live on three separate occasions, giving the government valuable insight into the current concerns of young Canadians from across the country. More than 8,000 students tuned in to hear from the Minister of Finance at the Dalhousie University Facebook Live event. Since then, many more have replied online. At the second Facebook live event in Calgary, the government had over 70,000 tuning in live to watch the Minister of Finance take questions from students in a town hall format. That is openness and transparency, and that is doing things differently.
The pre-budget consultation hashtag, #pbc16, is still being used widely by Canadians to discuss ideas on how to implement our plan to grow the economy, and by commentators and MPs from across the political spectrum. Through these pre-budget consultations, we are engaging with Canadians, looking for input on how the federal government can support the middle class and those working hard to join it, how we can best invest in infrastructure to grow the economy, and how we can ensure that the most vulnerable do not get left behind again.
Personally, I want to assure Canadians that we are listening. We hope that this renewed interest in the political process by Canadians will make a better country for all of us, for our families, and especially for our communities. I know that the Canadian economy is going through a difficult period, and I know that the is doing all he can to support people affected by this crisis, especially those living in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We believe that in the face of this challenge, there is a real opportunity, an opportunity to put in place conditions that create long-term growth and an opportunity to do something that the previous government failed to do in its 10 years in office.
That is why in the coming weeks we will be announcing a new advisory council on economic growth. It will be composed of people from various backgrounds with experience in both the private and public sectors, and will not be just composed of Canadians. It will include leaders and citizens from other countries, people with global experience in growing a successful and inclusive economy. The mandate of this advisory council will be to help us think about how we can best tackle our longer term economic challenges. I am personally proud to serve in a government that is thinking critically about the kinds of investments that we need to spur the growth in our economy.
Although the previous government squandered a $13 billion surplus and added $150 billion to the country's debt, it also managed to have the worst growth record since the Great Depression. Members across the aisle should remember that it is their party's record, that is their economic legacy of 10 years in office.
All members would agree that investing in economic growth is the best way to improve our country's outlook in the short, medium, and long term. The previous government gave the illusion of responsible fiscal management by wrapping up debt and posting surpluses based on inflated growth projections.
Now is the time to be better, to make meaningful investments while being realistic about our fiscal situation. Together we can overcome the challenges we face and to seize the opportunities to grow our economy together.
Where does the path to prosperity lie? It lies through delivering the kind of real change that all Canadians can be proud of. It lies through investing in our economy to create jobs, and in strengthening the middle class and helping those working hard to join it. It comes through committing to a higher bar for openness and transparency in government, and it comes from delivering on all of our commitments to Canadians.
We are confident that our plan will accomplish these goals, and that is why the government is optimistic about our country's prospects going forward. Given that, I encourage all members to vote against this motion. The official opposition has had its chance to govern and now it is our turn.
Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to address today's motion and reassure the hon. member that we support the officials in the Department of Finance. They are consummate professionals who are working hard drafting our government's first budget. Like the members on this side of the House, they know that a snapshot in time is just that. It does not tell the whole story. It is like looking at one's bank account before paying the bills.
Let us make no mistake. The projections outlined in the economic and fiscal update show that there will be a deficit in budget year 2015-16 as a direct result of the previous government's failure to prepare for a downturn in global oil prices and volatility in the global market.
Happily, we have a plan. After 10 years of weak growth, this government has a plan to grow the economy and create jobs by focusing on the middle class, investing in infrastructure, and helping those who need it most.
As the recently said, we fully intend to take all means necessary to support an economic growth strategy that will benefit all Canadians.
Our government was elected on ambitious economic measures. We know that there has never been a better time to make targeted investments to support economic growth. If the members opposite are patient, we will certainly provide them with our vision for the future and the details of these targeted investments.
Let me describe our starting point. As we embark on an agenda of economic growth and long-term prosperity, there is no doubt that we are facing considerable headwinds. Globally, we continue to experience what the International Monetary Fund's managing director, Christine Lagarde, famously called the “new mediocre”. In its latest world economic outlook, in January, the IMF said that it expects global growth to pick up modestly to 3.4% in 2016 and 3.6% in 2017. This is down 0.2 percentage points for both 2016 and 2017 compared to the October 2015 world economic outlook.
Although the recent performance of the U.S. economy is encouraging, the emerging economies, especially China, are causes for concern. Global crude oil prices remain at levels less than a third of what they were mid-2014, reflecting a persistent global oversupply and softening demand. What is happening beyond our borders has real and tangible effects for all Canadians.
In Canada, our economic performance in the first half of 2015 was poor, mainly due to collapsing oil prices in 2014. It has become obvious that growth in Canada will be lower than was expected in the previous government's last budget projections, in April 2015. This, of course, has important implications for our current fiscal situation. Indeed, the Department of Finance's own numbers in the economic and fiscal update, tabled in this House, show this. I find it strange that the members opposite only seem to respect the numbers from department officials when they feel that they can score political points with them. I urge them all to review the economic and fiscal update, and in the spirit of respect for this country's public servants, admit that they are dead wrong in believing that we will not be in a deficit by the end of this fiscal year.
The previous Liberal government left behind a $13-billion surplus in 2006. The Conservative government squandered the surplus and accumulated an additional $150 billion in new debt while still managing to deliver the worst growth record since the Great Depression. The “Fiscal Monitor” referred to in the member's motion is a snapshot in time and does not tell the full story.
Tough economic times call for bold measures to support the middle class and those working hard to join it. We in the government are prepared to implement these measures.
We maintain an enviable position here in Canada, with a low debt-to-GDP ratio, abundant natural resources, and one of the most educated and talented workforces in the world. Keeping our debt-to-GDP ratio on a downward path throughout our mandate remains a central plank of our economic agenda, alongside balancing the budget by the end of our mandate. To achieve this, our policies will strike a balance between fiscal responsibility and our commitments to Canadians.
One of the most important pillars of our plan is strengthening our middle class, the backbone of our economy, whose members have gone too long without a raise. This is why one of the government's first orders of business was to table a notice of ways and means motion to cut taxes for the middle class. We would cut taxes for nine million Canadians by asking the wealthiest 1% of earners to kick in just a little more. This is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do for our economy.
The middle-class tax cut and the accompanying tax changes would help make taxes fairer so that all Canadians would have the opportunity to succeed and prosper. I am pleased to note that Bill , the bill to implement these measures, is now being debated in Parliament. The middle-class tax cuts would mark an important first step in our plan for economic growth.
Going forward, the government will introduce proposals in the budget to create a new Canada child benefit. Changes under the new child benefit would begin in July 2016. In addition to replacing the universal childcare benefit, which is not tied to income, the proposed Canada child benefit would simplify and consolidate existing child benefits while ensuring that the help is targeted to those who need it most.
Taken together, these measures will help strengthen the middle class and those working hard to join it, putting more money in their pockets to save, invest, and grow the economy. More broadly, they will help grow our economy in the context of a difficult global economic climate so that all Canadians benefit.
The second challenge the government faces, and the most important one, is creating long-term conditions for strong and durable economic growth. The international community, as well as leaders right here at home, have more or less arrived at the same conclusion: targeted investments in infrastructure are key to driving economic growth. With interest rates at historic lows, now is the right time to invest. Canadian cities have been growing at a rapid rate, and all governments have a shared challenge in making investments in infrastructure that create economic advantages for Canada and more sustainable urban areas.
For the next decade, we will make investments in social infrastructure, like affordable and seniors' housing, in green infrastructure, like water-treatment systems, and in public transit. We have pledged to make historic investments in Canadian infrastructure, and we intend to follow through. These investments will aim to get Canadians moving and will open more cost-efficient trade options for our exporters. These are big, meaningful measures that can have a significant impact on our long-term growth.
Unlike the previous government, we do not intend to recklessly add to the national debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren by making reckless and politically motivated investments. Rather, we intend to make smart investments that will build an even more prosperous country for our children and grandchildren.
Given the government's clear objectives listed today, I would strongly encourage hon. members to support the government in our efforts to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy.
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with my colleague, the member for . I thank all the members who are in the House today to debate the motion before us, which is on an important subject.
I am disappointed to see that my government colleagues and my New Democrat colleagues are planning on voting against this simple motion, which thanks public servants for their independence and expertise in conducting a financial analysis of government data.
We commend their expertise, because last November, they confirmed that for the period from April 1 to November 30, we left a $1-billion surplus to the current government.
I was disappointed to hear the say earlier that it was, in fact, a deficit. Facts are facts and truth is truth: at the beginning of November 2015, the government inherited a $1-billion surplus from the previous government.
What did the do with that surplus? He claims to have done an economic update, and with some economic growth projections, he will end up with a deficit at the end of this fiscal year.
What we are telling the is that he has the power and all the freedom he needs to balance the budget by March 31 because the government does not have a revenue problem—it has a spending problem.
The minister is in charge of spending. When the economic update came out in November, the government could have made decisions to ensure that the surplus it inherited from the previous government would still be a surplus on March 31. It could have made the tough decisions that needed to be made instead of putting future generations in debt.
During the election campaign four years ago, we told Canadians that we would balance the books by 2015. We had to make tough choices and major decisions to do that. We also told Canadians that we would not balance the books on the backs of the provinces by cutting transfers. We also told Canadians that we would not balance the books by raising their taxes. We did not raise Canadians' taxes; we actually reduced them.
We also told Canadians that we would look in our own backyard and continue to control our spending in order to balance the budget. As the former minister of small business and tourism, I had to make some tough decisions and, yes, make cuts in my department. All of my cabinet colleagues had to do the same thing, in order to ensure that we would not leave structural deficits for future generations.
We did our job, and I am proud to have reduced the small business and tourism budget by 20%. On a percentage basis, that was the largest cut made by the government of the day, although, certainly, that department's budget is quite small. Nevertheless, it was still 20%. That was money that the Canadian Tourism Commission used to promote Canada abroad and bring visitors to Canada. Despite that 20% cut, the commission was efficient. It maintained its promotion programs abroad and changed its way of doing things. It did as we asked; it was very thrifty and found ways to save money.
The people at the Canadian Tourism Commission, now known as Destination Canada, did a good job, and the statistics are there to prove it. The numbers for 2015 show that there was a 10% increase in international visitors as compared to 2014. The commission continued to hold targeted advertising campaigns in various countries, including the United States, India, and European countries. Tourism increased even though the commission's budget was smaller. The commission was able to make that happen within its budget. There was also an 8.4% increase in international visitors as a result of the investment that the commission made. I trusted the managers at the Canadian Tourism Commission to make the right cuts and to use the money they had to promote Canada in order to continue to attract international visitors. That is what they did.
All my colleagues from other departments did the same thing. We kept our promise to Canadians and we can be proud of the $1-billion surplus that we delivered last November.
I am very disappointed to see that this government plans to stimulate the economy by spending money that we do not have. Canadian families know that, when they are strapped for cash, they should not start spending more and living beyond their means. They know that, in times like that, they have to make tough choices, cut back on their spending, and save for a rainy day. They are responsible people.
What does the government do when times are tough and economic growth is at only 2%, 3%, or 4%? It says that it is going to spend to stimulate the economy, when its credit card is already maxed out.
A maxed-out credit card means that it is time to start repaying debts. That is what the government should be doing. It should be leaving money in the pockets of Canadians to stimulate the economy. That will help them spend more and allow entrepreneurs to invest. Instead, the government is taxing Canadians, and future generations will have to pay off that debt.
Today, while the interest rate is quite low, 10¢ out of every dollar that Canadians pay in taxes to the Government of Canada is used to pay the interest on the debt. However, everyone knows that the interest rate will go up in a few years because it is at a historic low. It cannot remain artificially low. When it increases, the cost of the interest on the debt will be even greater to the government. The cost could increase to 12¢ or 15¢ out of every tax dollar.
Today, the interest the government pays annually on the debt represents the entire budget for the Department of National Defence. That is a lot of money. That is why the government needs to manage this responsibly, continue to have a balanced budget, avoid burdening future generations with debt, and certainly lower taxes. Parliamentarians are not the ones who create wealth. Canadian business people create wealth.
Let us help entrepreneurs to be productive by lowering their taxes, signing free trade deals to help them export their products to other countries without tariffs and quotas, and by cutting red tape. There is still quite a bit of inefficient federal red tape. Entrepreneurs end up spending more time filling out government forms than doing what they do best, and that is working for themselves and creating wealth and jobs.
Let us not forget that since people who create wealth have to pay taxes, this also helps the Government of Canada. Government spending is not going to stimulate the economy, but fiscal responsibility and lower taxes will.
As I only have two minutes remaining, I will close by saying that the current 's approach has failed around the world. Consider Greece, which failed to stimulate the economy by spending. Today it is bankrupt. We do not want structural deficits, but that is where the government is headed. This year's deficit will exceed the estimated $10 billion, and a deficit will be posted next year and the year after that. We will have to live with structural deficits, which will hurt the Canadian economy.
I encourage the minister and the government to vote in favour of the motion and to adopt a responsible economic policy.
Mr. Speaker, for 15 years in this House, I represented Crowfoot, and now with the boundary changes it is a pleasure to stand here and represent Battle River—Crowfoot.
It is a pleasure to stand in this House on this topic. The motion we are debating is this:
That the House: (a) thank the independent non-partisan officials from the Department of Finance for their hard work and evidence based analysis; (b) acknowledge their most recent Fiscal Monitor which informed Members and Canadians that, for the period from April to November 2015 of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the previous government posted a budgetary surplus of $1.0 billion; and (c) concur in its conclusions and express its confidence in the Deputy Minister and his team.
As the former minister of state for finance, I am pleased to advise the House that in my experience working with the finance department and the deputy minister of finance, past and present, the current and the former deputy minister, and all their officials, they provide a remarkable service to Canadians. I think most of us would acknowledge that the public service, and certainly the finance department, does that. They help keep Canada's government of the day implementing the policies that are brought forward in budgets, and in other initiatives at different times, or the different implementations of different measures as they are brought forward. The finance department officials are experts. The officials at Finance Canada worked to help ensure that the Government of Canada achieved a $1 billion surplus for the period of April to November 2015.
As the Liberals go forward, amassing huge budgetary deficits, Canadians will understand that these deficits are of the Liberals' own making. The report from the “Fiscal Monitor” produced by Finance Canada proves that the Liberals inherited a surplus from our Conservative government. The parliamentary budget officer has also substantiated this fact.
If the Liberal Party engages in deficit spending, it will be 100% as a result of its own actions. It did not take long. The Liberals began down the track of deficit spending very quickly. Only a few days after the election it became apparent what its agenda was. Balanced budgets were made possible for Canada because of our Conservative government's responsible approach and commitment to putting in place initiatives to foster job creation, to help build economic growth in Canada's economy.
We knew that we could not move the Government of Canada into a position of ongoing structural deficits. That would appear as a lack of discipline to investors and certainly to Canadians. Our economic action plan was put in place to move the government to a position of budgetary surpluses in 2015.
We accomplished that one year earlier than what was originally anticipated because of extra growth in the economy. That is one point that has been missed here today. The Liberals and the NDP's position is that we came from a deficit and left with a deficit. That is not what happened.
In 2014, a year ahead of schedule, we had a $1.9 billion surplus, and building on that surplus, from April to November, we had another $1 billion surplus.
The heated rhetoric by the Liberal government demonstrates that it is already feeling the pressure of its broken promises and its growing debt. The Canadian economy is not a game. Choices have consequences. The stakes are high. Budgets do not magically balance themselves. Jobs, families, and housing are all affected by the management or mismanagement of Canada's economy.
By voting against today's motion, the government would signal that it has little confidence in the employees at the highest levels of Finance Canada. These employees are experts who do not play the same political game as the Liberal Party. They are non-partisan. The Liberals are trying to deny the voice of those officials at Finance Canada when they come here and misrepresent those officials' findings in the “Fiscal Monitor”.
The Liberal government would be adopting what I call the Sergey Lavrov type of politics. We read about him today in the National Post. He is the foreign minister of Russia who basically made an announcement about Ukraine that was completely wrong. I will quote what it says about him:
He has not been foreign minister for 12 years because he is an idiot. He was lying. He knew he was lying, and he knew everyone knew he was lying and he did not care.
I would never use those words in Parliament about anyone, but let me say that we do not want the government to take the Sergey Lavrov position on how to deal with whether we had a surplus or deficit. Canadian officials at Finance Canada are not lying. The publishers of the “Fiscal Monitor” have no political axe to grind. They have no hidden agenda. They have no political agenda. They are not concerned with what other economists may say about the numbers, facts, and figures they publish. They publish the facts and the figures.
If the Liberals command that Canada be plunged into budgetary deficits, then the department will chronicle that and will help the Liberal government facilitate its measures. The department monitors closely how much the deficit will be. They know how vast and how large it is and how it is growing. They can tell the anytime he asks how slow the economy is or how fast it is growing. That is what they will do. They have spoken about last year and it is very clear.
Our Conservative government asked the department to help balance the budget, to help us with the federal budget. They helped us keep tabs on our progress in our program. They always knew how close or how far we were from balancing the books. They say that before the Liberals formed government, Canada was in a $1 billion surplus. We were in the black. Canada actually had a budgetary operating surplus of little over $1 billion.
They will not say this is a good thing. They will not tell the Liberals that the massive budgetary deficits they will amass are bad. They will only tell the Liberals how fast they are spending Canadians' money, and more and more it is becoming taxpayers' money that taxpayers do not have.
They will keep accurate specifics on how much spending the Liberals are doing. They will help the Liberals understand many things that it would seem they do not understand today, including monetary policy, fiscal policy, the debt-to-GDP ratio, etc., etc.
The government's top priority should not be about changing history and bringing forward false facts. The government's top priority should be job creation. It should be focusing on economic growth. It should be focused on long-term prosperity for Canadians. The Liberals should take action on cutting taxes for job-creating businesses, investing in research and development, expanding markets for Canadian businesses abroad so that as an exporting country we can deliver our products around the world. They should deliver on support for job-creating infrastructure and establishing the framework for responsible development of our natural resources.
Canadians know that our previous government did those things. It steered Canada throughout the great recession and created over 1.2 million net new jobs from the downturn in 2009. These were overwhelmingly private sector jobs, full-time, well-paying jobs. According to KPMG, total business tax costs in Canada were the lowest among the G7 countries. We wanted people investing here in their country, in Canada. These costs were 46% lower than our chief trading partner and actual competitor at the time, the United States.
As I mentioned earlier today, Bloomberg ranked Canada as the second-best place in the world to do business. Why was this? Did this success just happen? Do budgets balance themselves? It does not occur overnight. It requires tough decisions, sound judgment, and a focus on priority.
Our government had that focus. I wish the Liberals well as they move forward with our economy. I want to see people working. I come from a province where right now there is a massive challenge in the oil and gas sector, with hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.
We want job creation. We want balanced budgets. We want lower taxes because we know our record is a good record.
Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. It is a question that is worthy: would we continue?
We had the largest infrastructure program that the federal government has ever been involved in. Those are the facts. The Liberals are talking about a larger one now. That is fine. However, at the time, it was the largest infrastructure spending that we ever had.
What did we do? We began by saying we would double the gas tax rebate to municipalities and get it out the door earlier so they could be involved in the construction period. Every municipality across this country applauded that measure. We did not tie it to any jobs. We said, “You can pick your priorities. You, municipalities, can take that money and put it where you want. We want that out the door. We're going to make it permanent. We're going to double it.”
We did that, doubling from what the Liberal Party had done.
Then we indexed it. Then, we said that we would continue to invest in the largest Canada building fund across the country. We did that.
Why did we do that? We did that because the world had moved into this recession. Prior to it, we had paid down close to $40 billion in national debt, we had lowered the taxes, lowered the GST. That is the record of the previous government.
Then, when the world moved into this recession, not created here in Canada, we started spending. We did not spend enough at the time. The Liberals felt we should have spent more, as did the NDP. However, we did not spend without a plan. We said, “We're going to invest in infrastructure, we're going to come out of that and back to balanced budgets.”
In this election, the Liberals have said they are going to spend up to $10 billion in deficit this year. Yet, now, everyone says, “There is no upper limit here” and they spend, spend, spend.
We worry for the economy, business worries for the economy, job creators worry for the economy, and they worry about the government that is a big-spending government and just straight big government.
Mr. Speaker, I must say I am genuinely intrigued by the opposition Conservatives' new-found appreciation for the hard work and evidence-based analysis offered by the independent, non-partisan officials from the Department of Finance. Previously they tried to muzzle everyone. As I have been listening to the debate, I really thought I was in Wonderland.
It is, however, very unfortunate for Canadians that the opposition only came to the realization about evidence-based and factual information after leaving office. Regrettably, the Conservatives made it clear while they were in government that they preferred the advice and analysis of outside organizations to that of the Department of Finance. Unfortunately, because of that, we see the current economic crisis and the challenges we face.
Our government's first economic and fiscal update, produced by the very same finance department that the opposition suddenly holds in such high esteem, confirms that the predictions made by the previous government in budget 2015 were off by around $6 billion. This means that our government inherited a projected deficit of $3 billion for 2015-16, which is a stark contrast to the $13 billion that the previous Liberal government left them in 2006. After inheriting a $3-billion surplus, we have to work hard to ensure that we balance the budget, as promised.
Canadians elected our government to address the whole range of myths and other challenges that the previous government left us. We are doing so by implementing an ambitious economic agenda that will get our economy growing again. Our work in advancing this agenda is well under way. The only people who believe that the Conservative government left behind a surplus are the Conservatives themselves. Canadians know better.
Let us get some facts right. The previous Conservative government claimed a surplus without booking the $3.4 billion payment it made in July. It claimed a surplus by withholding $1 billion from veterans, the DND cuts, the lapsing of funds, and the list goes on. Instead of smoke and mirrors, let us acknowledge the fact that the previous Conservative government left us in a deficit. Conservatives do not want to acknowledge that they were the worst economic managers. They had eight consecutive deficits and they are still claiming that they left us with a surplus. The reason they are so terrible in managing the economy is that they do not realize that the budget is for a full year, not a monthly fiscal snapshot. It is like people looking at their bank accounts after payday but before they make their mortgage payments. We do not really know what expenses the Conservatives left for the next government.
As mentioned, the previous Liberal government left behind a $13-billion surplus in 2006. The Conservatives squandered it and accumulated an additional $150 billion in new debt while still managing to deliver the worst economic growth since the Great Depression. They must make note of all this. Those are the facts. All of that is coupled with no plan for supporting the middle class, no growth agenda, and no plan to invest.
The “Fiscal Monitor” cited in the opposition member's motion is a snapshot in time, as I said, and does not tell the full story. It is like counting chickens before they hatch. The economic and fiscal update presented in the November statement by the Liberal government gave Canadians a transparent picture of our economic and fiscal situation.
Let me begin with an important example.
When we took office, in just over 100 days, we made it our immediate priority to deliver a tax cut for the middle class. We took actions on the understanding that Canadians should have a real and fair chance to succeed, and central to that is a strong and growing middle class. In December, at the earliest opportunity, we delivered on this commitment.
Effective January 1, 2016, our proposed middle-class tax cut reduced the personal income tax rate from 22% to 20.5%, which provided $3.4 billion in annual relief to nine million Canadians, and that is a lot. Single individuals who qualify will see an average tax reduction of $330 every year, and couples who qualify will see an average tax reduction of $540 every year. To help pay for this middle-class tax cut, the government is asking the wealthiest 1% of Canadians to contribute a little more. We therefore created a new top personal income tax rate of 33% for those earning in excess of $200,000.
With these measures, we are already delivering on what we promised to Canadians. This is just one example of what we have accomplished as a government.
In our first 100 days, we appointed the first ever gender-balanced cabinet. We have championed climate change at the Conference of the Parties in Paris, and out of the momentum of those meetings, have now met for a second time with our provincial and territorial partners to determine the right path forward for Canada on this critical file. In 100 days, we have done more than the previous Conservative government ever did.
We have also renewed our relationship with Canada's indigenous peoples through the full endorsement of all 94 recommendations proposed in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including a new inquiry into missing and murdered women.
These accomplishments do not take place without the hard work and commitment of our government.
It is interesting that, with the Conservatives' motion, they now believe strongly in facts. They did not want facts when they eliminated the long-form census, muzzled scientists, and did not listen to the Department of Finance.
We need to work together and defeat a motion which is filled with fallacy.
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to address the House on what I believe are important issues. More often than not that is the case when we are dealing with financial bills. Although this is not a bill, it is an interesting opposition day motion. When I first read it, I found it a little hard to believe. It would appear that the official opposition is trying to shape what history should look like as opposed to what history is going to reflect in the 2015-16 budget year.
As has been pointed out, the only ones who believe there might have been any sort of a balanced budget or even a surplus would be those who sit on the Conservative benches. Canadians will not be fooled. The reality and the facts speak very clearly as to whether there is a deficit versus a surplus in the 2015-16 budget. It is a deficit. One needs to be very clear on that. However, I can appreciate why the Conservatives would try to give the impression otherwise.
The way I will approach that is to briefly make comment on one of the questions.
A member made reference to the and his trip to western Canada, particularly to the province of Alberta. I am a member of Parliament from the Prairies. I say that to highlight the fact that I am concerned with what is happening in the province of Alberta. I sit in the northwestern caucus of the Liberal Party. Whether it be the Liberal members of Parliament from Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and my home province of Manitoba in the northern region, there is a strong advocacy coming out that caucus with respect to what is taking place in western Canada, which is that a healthy western Canada economy helps all of Canada. We all benefit from that.
Therefore, we are happy the is in Alberta. He went there yesterday. He is working with the premier and is working and meeting with different stakeholders to try to not only get a better, more comprehensive understanding but to also indicate that this government genuinely cares and is prepared to take action, unlike the previous government.
The former government would often talk about it. However, rarely did we see any significant steps taken to try to improve the conditions. A good example of that is the whole energy east pipeline issue.
For many years the Conservatives failed at being able to establish an inch of additional pipeline, not to mention that throughout their term in government they were unable to get any pipelines to tidewaters. For the first time a national government is working with the different stakeholders, coming up with a process that will better enable us in the future to get oil to our tidewaters through an extension of our pipelines.
Going specifically to the motion before us, let me provide very quick comment with respect to the civil service.
The Liberal Party, and myself personally, have the deepest amount of respect for the civil service. It has done an outstanding job over the years. In fact, countries all around the world look to Canada to provide leadership on the issue of how to provide good quality public service through a healthy civil service. Therefore, we should commend those who represent us so well, both from a service and leadership point of view, and the positive impact they have with respect to allow us to make good, solid, sound policy decisions.
I want to comment on the deficit, the debt, and the reality, as I often refer to it.
The Liberal Party took governance back on October 19 after the election, when we saw the winds of change in every region of our country.
Shortly thereafter, in November, the was sworn in and we provided an economic update to the House. During that economic update, it was made very clear that there in fact was no balanced budget, or surplus, that because of the policies of the previous government, Canada would be in a serious deficit situation. Nothing has changed since then. We recognize there will be a deficit.
The Conservatives do not want to hear that because they have tried to portray a certain image, which is just not true, that they know how to manage an economy and finances. The former minister was wrong. They were not successful in the previous 10 years.
Deficit and debt are two different things. If we speak strictly of debt, Canada has a debt somewhere in the neighbourhood of $640 billion. When we look at that total picture, we will find that the previous Conservative government and the Brian Mulroney Conservative government added more than half of that accumulated debt. It is from those two regimes. That is substantial.
When we talk about deficit, it even gets worse. The Conservative Party inherited a multi-billion dollar surplus in 2006 and converted it into a multi-billion deficit. That was even before the recession hit. It has run a deficit every year since then, including in 2015-16.
I spoke to the budget when it was introduced last year and indicated back then that the books were cooked, that there was no balanced budget. I cited several reasons. Then in the month of July, the Governor of the Bank of Canada confirmed there was a running deficit.
There is no credibility or merit to the Conservatives proclaiming any sort of a balanced budget or surplus. In the last eight years, they have done nothing but deficit financing.
We in the Liberal Party acknowledge that at times there is a need to go into a deficit situation, for example, if we want to invest in infrastructure programs and incentives that will enhance and grow Canada's middle class and those wanting to join it. Now is the time to do that. The economy needs the government to play a role. There will be deficits.
However, we have heard from the and our government that there will be a balanced budget under a Liberal regime in time. We have been transparent, honest, and open to Canadians right from the get-go. The only party in the House that can clearly indicate to Canadians that they have been fully transparent on the issue of finances and deficit financing has been the Liberal Party of Canada, and in particular, the Prime Minister of Canada.
Our party has a record demonstrating to Canadians and reassuring them that we can deliver balanced budgets. However, for now, we are looking at it from the point of view of investing in Canada. We will invest in infrastructure, housing, and programs like the Canada child benefit program that is coming up.
There is so much on the horizon. I believe Canadians, for the first time in many years, have good reason to be hopeful for good governance, something that has been lacking in the last eight to ten years.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with the excellent member for .
Today's motion is quite simple and has two objectives. The first objective is something that we do not often take the time to do as politicians, but it is still important. I am talking about thanking those who dedicate their lives to public service. Today, we want to thank our experts at the Department of Finance, specifically, but we want to also thank all public servants.
The second objective is just as simple, and it involves recognizing that two and two equals four. As my colleague from pointed out, in the latest “Fiscal Monitor”, Canadians learned that for the period from April to November 2015, and I hope that my colleagues opposite are listening closely and that they cleaned out their ears, the previous Conservative government posted a budget surplus of $1 billion. That is the truth.
Today, all the members of the House are invited to support a concept that is important to all Canadians and all parliamentarians: the truth and the facts. The Conservative government posted a $1-billion surplus, just days after the election on October 19. That is a fact.
Our first objective is to thank public servants. Throughout my political career—this is now my 10th year—and even before that, I myself have been a federal public servant. I worked for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in a regional office in Quebec City. I still deeply admire the work ethic of the men and women who worked there and who are still working to improve the lives of our first nations people. I know people who left after dedicating their lives to improving the lives of first nations people, as well as young people who entered the public service with plans to do the same. I have so much respect for public servants.
While I was a minister, I had the opportunity to work with public servants at Veterans Affairs, including deputy ministers Suzanne Tining and Mary Chaput and their team. The people working here in Ottawa and in Charlottetown care so much about improving the lives of our veterans and making sure that all Canadians are aware of the sacrifices they made. That was from my time at Veterans Affairs.
More recently, I was the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, with deputy minister François Guimont and his team. I have nothing but praise for them at a time when our country needed an effective public service focused on protecting people from the terrorist threat. Mission accomplished, I say. I thank the public servants at Public Safety Canada, who did amazing work in concert with the people at the Department of Justice and other departments that were involved. Because of their work, our country is now safer from the terrorist threat. Who do we have to thank for all that? Our great prime minister, of course, but also a team of dedicated public servants.
It is quite simple. We should not overthink things today and just read the motion for what it is. As I just illustrated, there are very good reasons to adopt the motion. However, as we know, this is Parliament, this is politics, and, unfortunately, the current government seems to have a problem with facts and figures. It is worrisome because we saw our current go to Paris early on in his term and talk to international stars about sustainable development. He tried to impress them by saying that he would take $2 billion of Canadian taxpayers' money and distribute it here and there around the world. Obviously, Canadian taxpayers are going to foot the bill.
As everyone knows, we have a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% over 2005 levels by 2030, and we have to invest that money here at home in order to meet that target.
However, the government decided to take taxpayers' money and put $2 billion elsewhere. The government also decided, as soon as it took office, to take taxpayers' money and create a deficit.
In my riding, some people earn $40,000 a year, while others earn $90,000. They work at Rotobec, Plastique Micron, and Exceldor, and they are not part of what the government calls the middle class.
However, those who earn $150,000, $200,000, $300,000, or $500,000 a year are part of the Liberal government's middle class, and the tax cut that the Liberals plan to give them is going to create an $8-billion deficit. That is the reality.
The Liberals were bragging over cocktails in Paris, while mortgaging the future of generations to come by putting them into debt. That is what the government opposite is doing just months after taking office.
One thing that we cannot accept is playing fast and loose with the truth. That is why we are respectfully reaching out to the current government in a constructive manner. We are calling on the government to acknowledge the facts, namely that there was a $1-billion surplus in December, and to thank the people who dedicate their lives to the public service, such as the employees of the House of Commons.
We managed to balance the budget because we worked hard to do so. It is quite easy to say yes, pull out one's chequebook for anyone who asks and write a cheque. Anyone can do that. Santa Claus likes to do that, too. However, the government is accountable to taxpayers, and we were very responsible in that regard.
When our country was facing an economic crisis, we did not hesitate to invest to stimulate the economy. We also managed to avoid structural deficits. That is where the current government is headed. I demonstrated that we were heading towards nearly $10 billion in recurring deficits before this government even tried to present its tempting measures.
Unfortunately, the government did not bother to consult parliamentarians or set up an advisory committee on finance to find out what direction we wanted to take as a country. That is what I did in my riding, and I have some recommendations that I would like to submit to the . These recommendations will help our seniors.
Instead of throwing money out the window, will the government help our seniors? Will it keep its promises concerning the guaranteed income supplement for our poorest seniors? Will it keep its promise about more generous pension indexing? Those are some of the things I heard, but the government did not hear, because it did not consult Canadians.
I would like to share a brief quote. This week I read a book about former president Ronald Reagan.
Here is what Ronald Reagan had to say about Jimmy Carter's tax scheme to raise the taxes for those earning more: “getting the most feathers as possible from the fewest...in order to minimize the quacking”.
Can we steepen the tax brackets any more than they are without being totally unfair to those who work and earn and make this country go?
The question President Reagan asked at the time is relevant today.
We should continue to invest in Canadians in order to create wealth, but we must acknowledge the facts. Let us support the very clear motion that is before us today.
In November 2015, the federal government had $1 billion in its coffers, and we thank our public servants, who do a great job.
Mr. Speaker, in this place, we spend Canadians' money. It does not come from us; it comes from them. When we make decisions around program expenditures, we are spending Canadians' money. What we discuss in this place is how we do that, why we do that, at what level we should do that, and how it benefits the economy. At the end of day, we are spending people's money. This is money that they earned. Therefore, it really behooves us to be accountable to them on how we are doing that.
There was a question that came up in debate about why this motion is important. It is important to the people who give us their money, who entrust us here to make decisions on how we spend their money, because it sets the stage for the government's narrative on how much money it is actually spending. The reality is that this year's “Fiscal Monitor” stated that their research and analysis shows that the current government was left in a surplus position. These are department officials in the public service, people who members across the aisle cited over and over again in the previous Parliament. That should be important to the people who give us their money and entrust us on how to spend it. Why? It is because what we are hearing from across the aisle is that there is no end in sight for government spending. That should concern all Canadians, because we do not have the money to pay for what it is spending.
Every day across this country, people make decisions on how they spend their money. They try to make ends meet. They make decisions on whether they are able to put their kids in a sporting program or how they are going to pay their rent. These are decisions that everybody has to make, and they make decisions on whether they can afford to do that. That choice is what is important. Therefore, for the government to continually say in the House that it is already in a deficit position so it should spend to high heaven is a problem for Canadians. They should be paying attention to that.
What Conservatives are asking government members to do today is something that they should take to heart. They should look at the fact that the statistics and the research of government officials show that we are in a surplus position; ergo, the big deficit position they put us in is their choice. It is their choice and they need to be accountable to Canadians on that. This is about accountability. They should have to tell their constituents that they put them in a $50-billion deficit position this year, they mortgaged their children's futures, and they should be able to explain to their constituents why they are doing that.
During the campaign, we did not hear a lot about “why” from the government. We did not hear a lot from the Liberals about why they want to go into deficit. To quote my colleague opposite in the last round of questions, he said deficits can be a good thing. What he should have said, and this belies the underlying philosophy of the Liberals, is why they want to make this program expenditure and how they predict it is going to affect the economy, x, y, and z. No, they are focusing on spending, spending, spending, and that spending comes out of the wallets of the people we represent. We have to be accountable for that. There is a huge fallacy the Liberals put in place when they talk over and over again about spending our way out of a bad situation.
I want to direct my colleague's attention to the annual fiscal tables, table 3, and look at the revenues. This is straight-up revenues in millions of dollars. If we look at that over the last 10 years, we will notice that last year the Conservative government, if I am reading this table correctly, had one of the highest levels of revenue coming into the government coffers for expenditures. However, the Conservatives did that while the federal tax burden was at its lowest level in 50 years. Therefore, there was a high level of government revenue coming in and yet Canadians, the people who give us their money, were paying less taxes. Why is that? It is because when people have more of their own money in their pockets, the economy grows. They are better off.
At the heart of this motion, the Liberals need to admit that they were left in a surplus situation. Now they need to go to Canadians and tell them why they are going into a massive deficit situation of their own choosing with, and here is the rub, no plan to get out of it. They should be able to tell Canadians, in two or three years, here is how these program expenditures will bring us back on track.
What do we have instead? The rhetoric we get instead out of the government is, let us make a checklist of absolutely everything we can do to hamper the Canadian economy right now. Point in case: Last night, the of this country was in Calgary. He was asked a very simple question. He was asked if the National Energy Board, our regulator in charge of conducting arm's-length scientific review processes for major infrastructure projects, green-lights the energy east pipeline, will his cabinet approve it.
Reader's Digest notes on his comments were long and obfuscating: “we will see”. He told a job-creating company to forget investing billions of dollars into the review process or going to their investors or their workers and saying that they would take a risk and build some job-creating infrastructure, forget the sanctity of the scientific review process. “I do not know, maybe we will approve it; maybe we will not. It is up to me.” That puts the chill on investment. That is what drives down government revenues over time.
Why is it important to support the motion? We left the Liberals in a surplus position. They should have to go to Canadians. They should have to go and tell them why we are in a deficit position of inordinate magnitude.
During the campaign, the Liberals said that their platform was fully costed. We are already at the point where they are well over that, just on the one area of responsibility. I am responsible for talking in the House about the Syrian refugee initiative. That platform was not fully costed, not even close. The Liberals have an accountability to Canadians.
I am happy to stand up and argue in this place on how we spend Canadians' money, but the Liberals should not lie to them. They should not tell them that we are in a deficit situation when we are not. They should not tell them that government officials the Liberals use to produce their budgets and their projections are wrong all the time. How else are we supposed to be accountable to Canadians?
For every Liberal who will stand up in this House and vote against the motion, I hope that all of their constituents write to them and ask why they would lie about the position we are in. Why would they do that? At least they should be honest with Canadians about how they are taking their money and spending it.
In a time of economic downturn, the government proposes to increase premiums for the CPP. That is not what people need right now. They do not need more money coming off their paycheque. It is the same thing with increases in EI premiums. That says to job-creating companies that maybe they will not be able to hire another person because their operating expenditures are going up. When we raise taxes on job-creating companies, they have to make a choice on whether they can invest in a new project or hire more people.
Again, table 3 in that report shows government revenue increased while the federal tax burden was at its lowest level in 50 years. The Liberals' logic is flawed. They owe it to Canadians to be honest. Every single one of them who gets up and votes against the motion in this place has a lot of explaining to do.