The House resumed consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to have the opportunity today to speak to the budget implementation act. Ronald Reagan once said, “Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” That quote is often interpreted as tongue in cheek, but it is a fairly good description of the current government's economic policy: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
With this budget bill, we have an opportunity to discuss a whole range of problems in terms of the government's economic plan, problems that are well summed up in that quotation. I am going to address as many of them today as time allows, the first being the carbon tax and the carbon tax cover-up.
We have a government that is imposing new taxes on Canadians at a feverish pace. In particular, through the carbon tax, the Liberals are requiring every province to impose a carbon tax. If a province will not, the Liberals will themselves impose a carbon tax on that province. This carbon tax is not revenue neutral to the federal government, because we know that the government will collect GST on the carbon tax, and the Liberals have consistently refused calls from the opposition not to collect GST on the carbon tax.
The Liberals believe that this is the right approach, but they also believe that Canadians should not have access to the information they used to make their determination. We have an ongoing carbon tax cover-up in which the government refuses to give Canadians basic information about how much the federal carbon tax will cost. The provinces that have imposed carbon taxes have been, in fact, much more forthright with the data.
I would say that if the government has an opinion on the carbon tax one way or another, it should be willing to present the information and the analysis that led it to that decision so that Canadians can see it, agree with it or disagree with it, and have that discussion. Instead, it is a government that, on the one hand, claims to be confident in the rightness of its position, but, on the other hand, refuses to give this information.
We have in this budget bill the government moving forward with its federal carbon tax and continuing to refuse to give information about how much it will cost the average Canadian family. We know this will impose significant costs on the economy as a whole. Canadians have a right to know, the middle class and those working hard to join it have a right to know, how much the carbon tax will cost them.
There is a discussion on how we support economic development, which is always part of the budget and certainly is quite in discussion today. Our approach, on this side of the House, is to say that the best way to encourage economic development is to think about existing businesses and also to think about businesses that do not yet exist and could exist. It is to create the conditions for economic growth, for investment, and for new, innovative ideas, not to prejudge where those ideas are going to come from or what they are going to look like.
Government is inevitably poorly disposed to fully know where the next big economic opportunity is going to be. Economic growth does not happen because the government decides it is going to spend a whole bunch of money on this supercluster fetish we have. Instead, economic growth happens when individual entrepreneurs have new ideas, and they make sacrifices to make investments in themselves and their communities and their own businesses that then allow for growth and job creation. The approach we take is to favour simplification of regulations and tax reductions for individuals and businesses, especially small businesses, that create opportunities.
Under the previous government, we lowered the business tax rate, which actually led to an increase in business tax revenues. Business tax revenues went up as the rate of business taxation went down, and that shows that giving opportunity and resources and mechanisms to the private sector is how to create jobs and opportunity. Even the government was better off from lowering business taxes. We lowered the small-business tax rate. We had it booked in as being lowered to 9%. The current government broke that promise, and then un-broke that promise, at least for now, as a justification for some of the draconian regulatory changes it wanted to make for small business. The Liberals have an on-again, off-again relationship with supporting small-business tax reductions, but Canadian small-business owners know they can go steady with the opposition.
The way Liberals have approached small business to try to make these regulatory changes that increase costs and reduce certainty for small business is not the way to create confidence in our economy or to attract investment. Our approach was to lower personal income taxes, lower business taxes, and, by the way, always to target those tax reductions to those Canadians who needed them the most.
We cut the GST, which is the tax everybody pays. We lowered the lowest marginal tax rate. By any standard of progressivity, the tax reductions that the Conservative government made were more progressive than any the Liberal government has even talked about. In fact, we know from various analysis that have been done that the Liberal government is increasing taxes through the carbon tax and other changes, including the elimination of tax credits and so forth, that hit those in the middle class and those working hard to join it very hard. It also hits small businesses, the engines of economic growth. These businesses are not looking for a government subsidy. They are not looking for a supercluster. They are looking for the regulatory and taxation environment that allows them to succeed.
The Liberal government's approach is totally different. It thinks that the , in his wisdom, knows best where the next big opportunities will come. The Liberals then pick these areas of government spending to create economic growth, allegedly, while increasing the burden on those small individual operators who do not ask for government subsidies, but simply want to be left alone to create opportunity. It is asking successful small businesses to pay more so that other big, well-connected insiders will pay less.
We do not think that is the right approach, spending hard-earned Canadian tax dollars subsidizing business. We do not think that is fair to other businesses that do not receive those subsidies. We do not feel those policies are fair to ordinary Canadians, who have to pay taxes, that then go to already wealthy companies. That is the Liberal approach, which is subsidizing friends and insiders through corporate welfare instead of creating conditions that allow for long-term economic growth and success through innovation.
The approach of the government, on the one hand, trying to constrain the private sector and, on the other hand, wanting to then subsidize things is most evident in the case of its approach to pipelines. All the government had to do, if it wanted pipelines to succeed, was to continue with the successful policies under the previous government, which got four pipelines built and led to a fifth one being approved. The Liberal government will tell us that the Conservatives did not get any pipelines to tidewater except, except.
It was under the Conservative government that every pipeline project that was proposed was approved. It stretches the imagination to think how it expects pipelines that were not proposed to have been built. We approved pipelines through a strong, fair but clear and accessible process to be built. Under the Liberal government, it immediately acted to kill the northern gateway pipeline.
Canadians are probably wondering why the government is buying out and subsidizing one pipeline to the west coast, while it intentionally and then further through legislation is killing another pipeline to the west coast. If it just got out of the way, perhaps we would have two pipelines proceeding to the west coast. Certainly we would have one.
There is the energy east pipeline, which, by piling additional burdens and challenges on, the government stopped. Then, after killing pipelines, intentionally, directly through government policy, it decided that there was actually one in which it wanted to look more interested. We still do not know if the strategy is going to bear fruit. It is spending $4.5 billion buying the existing pipeline, not building a new pipeline or even expanding one. It is spending $4.5 billion buying existing pipeline infrastructure. Then the government says that it will spend a whole bunch more, billions of dollars more, on a project that when the previous government was in place, the private sector was quite ready and keen to build. Now the Liberal government says that it is going to spend all this money to build it.
What happens if it does not work out at some point along the way? It is very likely the government will just be pouring more and more money into something that could have and should have been done by the private sector.
The government's approach to the economy is a failed approach. It is to tax and regulate success, while piling on money in subsidy to everything else. We in the opposition present a strong alternative that will actually lead to economic success in the long term for Canada.
Mr. Speaker, we are proud of the tax cuts we have implemented as a government.
We reduced taxes on the middle class. How did we do that? By increasing taxes on the top 1%. We also reduced taxes on small businesses, and we are proud of that. We know the importance of small business in this economy.
With respect to the child benefit, we increased it, so nine out of 10 families benefit from the increase. Millionaires do not get cheques anymore, but that is because millionaires do not need the cheques from the child benefit. However, nine out 10 families benefit, and it has lifted over 300,000 children out of poverty.
We are so proud of these accomplishments that we have attained through this budget and previous budgets. Also, in this budget, as the member knows, we will be indexing that child benefit, which will start in July.
However, the member's speech today focused a lot on the pipeline question. I have two specific questions for the member with respect to his focus. Is climate change real? If it is, what is his plan?
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had an opportunity with this implementation act to build an economy that would lift everyone up, people who counted on them, instead of just the wealthy few at a top with their tax havens. Unfortunately, the Liberals decided instead to defend the interests of their corporate and privileged, consigning the rest of Canada to the back seat.
Budget 2018 and Bill reveal once again the Liberals' true nature.
I remember in 2004 the damage done to our country after 13 years of Liberal rule, most of those years in majority governments that accomplished little to nothing in the way of fairness and equity for working Canadians. Those Liberals made the most drastic cuts to our public broadcaster, did little to nothing in the way of implementing a universal child care program, nothing to reverse the devastating effects of colonialism on indigenous peoples, except as a last ditch effort to stay in power, and undermined the health care system with cuts to transfer payments to the provinces.
We hoped for more progress than setting the bar at red book promises unfulfilled. For close to three years now, the NDP caucus has been calling on the Liberals to actually be the progressive, positive government they promised us in 2015.
This bill betrays all women who believed the so-called “gender budget” would include much anticipated pay equity legislation, because it does not. The Liberals promised pay equity 40 years ago, again in 2016, and again a month ago in the budget speech. Canadians want to know when the Liberals will finally deliver pay equity.
Despite the smearing of its image by right-wing ideologues, the fact is that the public service has done more than the private sector in achieving gender equity in Canada. While there is still work to do on the equity front, women and men from historically disadvantaged groups, such as disabled persons, indigenous peoples, single parents, seniors, young people, and people of colour, are all represented in the public service workforce in greater percentages than they occur in Canada's population. They are employed at all levels of management and labour in the workforce more proportionately than in the private sector.
Labour researchers and academics have pointed out that this advantage is at least in part the result of the fact workers in the Canadian public service have union representation guaranteed under our Constitution. However, recent reports indicate that the equity and fairness established in the public service is eroding as a result of austerity measures, privatization, and contracting out. The effect of this offloading, besides being inefficient, is that public sector workers are beginning to experience greater levels of workplace precarity. We know too that this precarity impacts diverse members of the workforce who can least afford it.
We need to consider the legacy we are leaving to future generations, those who leave post-secondary and graduate schools with a burden of debt that is insurmountable only to face a world where jobs are scarce. When work can be found, it is more often than not part-time, underpaid, without benefits, and short-term. We need to give future generations more than the 's statement, telling them to suck it up and get used to a lifetime of precarious work.
Future generations will need a robust economy because they will incur the burden of supporting us in our dotage with their tax dollars. We need to seriously consider the legacy we leave. However, we also know it is bigger than that.
We need to take care of each other for everyone to thrive. We need to create a Canada where no one experiences the isolation and degrading health consequences of homelessness, poverty, or mental illness, a Canada with free and equal access to education, health care, child care, pharmacare, housing, clean air, and clean water.
We know what works and what does not. If what we want is to create a healthy sustainable equitable economy where every citizen has equal access to opportunity and is able to thrive and prosper, the Canada we know is possible, the Canada that can be, the work begins now, with federal budgets. Sadly, the Liberals' budget implementation act is even more timid than the budget. It offers no real plan to reduce inequities or build an economy that would benefit all Canadians.
I would like to take this opportunity today to speak about the ways in which Bill could have addressed inequalities and build an economy that would benefit all Canadians.
This legislation could have contained provisions to assist rural communities. It does not. The Liberals had an opportunity in their 2018 budget to help rural communities, but instead chose to focus on the interests of their rich friends and their own ridings. In the meantime, they tell people in rural communities to wait for improved employment insurance, cellular infrastructure, and broadband Internet access.
In just the past few days, we have seen announcements from big banks about closing branches in Burford, Blyth, and Clifford in Ontario, and Kipling and Preeceville in Saskatchewan. These closures will leave Blyth and Kipling with no local banking options. In Saskatchewan, the nearest TD branch to Preeceville is an hour to an hour and 45 minutes away.
All of these communities have post offices. A postal banking system would allow members of this community access to banking services that are affordable and competitive, not to mention profitable for Canada Post. In the U.K., corporate banks have actually reversed their opposition to postal banking, because they know it absolves them from the community ire they would experience when they close branches in rural and remote communities, which these banks say do not reap enough profit.
When will the government see the postal banking light? We will have an opportunity in that regard later this session when my motion M-166 comes to the floor of the House for a vote. I urge every member here to support it. We have the opportunity to make effective and progressive change, even if the government avoids it in budget implementation acts. We will have that opportunity very shortly.
A postal banking system would address inequality in this country, something Bill does not do, even though that should be the goal of government in a social democracy such as ours. Instead we see Canadians who live in rural and remote communities, Canadians with low income, and first nations peoples living on reserve forced to use predatory lenders or to rely on the whim of a local business person or local variety store to access their own money.
A universal pharmacare program would create equal access to life-saving and life-enhancing medications for all Canadians as well. I see nothing in this legislation that addresses that need. In fact, we continue with a patchwork system of access to abortion and birth control that creates inequality and forces Canadians who require those services to either pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs or travel unreasonable hours to access these services. Monday was International Birth Control Day. It is the federal government's responsibility to ensure equal access for all Canadians needing birth control, but the government has failed. Access is neither universal, equal, nor affordable across this country.
I give the following by way of example: the NuvaRing is available on public formularies in five provinces and one territory, but not the others; IUDs are available in three provinces, but not everywhere; emergency contraceptives are covered only in Alberta; and Quebec covers the patch, but no other province or territory does.
Canada has a human rights obligation to ensure that everyone in every province or territory has the same access to the highest quality medications. Why then does a woman in Manitoba and Quebec have access to more birth control methods than a woman in Saskatchewan? Making all birth control and all sexual and reproductive medications free for all of us is about fairness and gender equality. That is the reason I introduced M-65 to continue the push for equal access to birth control for all Canadians.
My constituents in London-Fanshawe do not believe the economy is working for them. What they see instead is an uneven playing field, where only the few at the top can benefit, at the expense of everyone else. They struggle to pay their bills and care for their parents and children in a community gutted by the loss of well-paid jobs moving offshore as a result of globalization, with no protection from either Liberal or Conservative governments.
Finally, this 556-page-long bill amends 44 pieces of legislation. During the last election campaign, the Liberals promised to abolish omnibus bills because they are undemocratic, yet they chose to restrict the length of debate on this substantial bill at the finance committee. This is not democracy and it is a far cry from the sunny ways promised to Canadians in 2015.
We can do better. We are here to do better. Canadians demand better. Do not let the Liberals tell us it cannot be done.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me. First of all, I would like to say hello to all the people of Beauport—Limoilou, many of whom are listening today, and to thank them for all their work. They are definitely listening. When I go door to door, many of them tell me that they watch CPAC.
I would like to say something about what the hon. Liberal member for said in response to the speech of my colleague from . She engaged in the usual Liberal demagoguery. She asked if we believed in climate change. I really would like my constituents to listen closely, because I want to make this clear to them and to all Canadians: we, the Conservatives, believe so strongly in climate change that, in 2007, Mr. Harper held a joint press conference with Mr. Charest to announce the implementation of the new Canada ecotrust program, supported by a total investment of $1.5 billion. The aim of the program was to give each province hundreds of millions of dollars to help with their respective climate change plans. It is easy to look this up on Google by entering “ecoTrust,” “2007,” “Harper,” “Charest.” Not only did Mr. Charest commend the Conservative government’s initiative, but even Steven Guilbeault from Greenpeace at the time—and I am certain that my colleague from will find this hard to believe—saluted the initiative as something unheard of.
There is a reason why greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 2% under the decade-long Conservative reign. We had a plan, a plan with bold targets that the Liberals made their own.
Now let us talk a bit about the 2018-19 budget, which continues in the same vein as the other two budgets presented so far by the hon. member for 's Liberal government. I would like to begin by saying that the government has been in reaction mode for the past three years and almost never in action mode.
It is in reaction mode when it comes to the softwood lumber crisis, although we do not hear much about it because the softwood lumber rates are still pretty attractive. However, the fact remains that this is a crisis and that, right now, industrial producers in the U.S. are collecting billions of dollars that they will eventually recover, as they do in every softwood lumber crisis.
The Liberal government is in reaction mode when it comes to NAFTA. They will say that they are not the ones who put Mr. Trump in office, but this is yet another major issue that has been taking up their time in the past year, and they are still in reaction mode. They are also in reaction mode when it comes to the imminent tariffs on aluminum and steel.
The Liberals are in reaction mode when it comes to almost every major issue in Canada. They are in reaction mode when it comes to natural resources development, for example with regard to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. Once again they were in reaction mode, because Kinder Morgan said that it would walk if the government could not assume responsibility and tell British Columbia in no uncertain terms that this was a matter of federal jurisdiction.
All of this shows that the Prime Minister is not the great diplomat he pretends to be across the globe, and in celebrity news and other media. He is such a poor diplomat that he was unable to avoid the softwood lumber crisis with Obama. He is such a poor diplomat that he has supposedly had a wonderful relationship with Mr. Trump for the past year and a half. He speaks to him on the telephone I do not know how many times a month, but that did not prevent Mr. Trump from taking deliberate action against Canada, as we saw today with the tariffs on steel and aluminum.
I would like to make a comparison. We, the Conservatives, were a government of action. We negotiated 46 free-trade agreements. We sent Canadian troops to Kandahar to demonstrate our willingness to co-operate with NATO and the G7 and to make a show of military force. We invested hugely in national defence, increasing our investments from 0.8% to almost 1.2% of the GDP following the dark days of Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government. We settled the softwood lumber issue in 2007, during the last crisis. We implemented the national shipbuilding strategy, investing more than $30 billion to renew our military fleet, to renew the Canadian Coast Guard’s exploration fleet in the Canadian Arctic, and to renew the fleet of icebreakers. The first of these icebreakers, the majestic Diefenbaker, will soon be under construction.
Let us not forget that we also told Mr. Putin to get out of Ukraine. There is no doubt that we were a government of action.
When the budget was tabled, several journalists said that it was more of a political platform than a budget. I find that interesting. In their opinion, the political platform contained no concrete fiscal measures to prepare Canada for tomorrow, for the next 10 years, or for the next century, as our founding fathers intended in 1867. Rather, it contained proposals, in particular concerning social housing. The NDP must be very happy. The Liberals promised billions of dollars if the provinces gave their assent. That was a promise.
The Liberals also made proposals concerning pharmacare. Once again, they were conditional on studies demonstrating the usefulness of such a plan. That, too, was a promise. The promises go on page after page in the budget, and it is obvious that it is a political platform. That is why the Liberals used the word “woman” more than 400 times, 30 times on each page. That is just demagoguery and totally abusive.
I would like to quote a very interesting CBC journalist, Chris Hall. Since he works at the CBC, the Liberals will surely believe him. He said that the government recently spent $233,000 to organize round table discussions to find out whether Canadians understood the message, and not the content, of their budget. I will quote Mr. Hall:
In particular, the report said the findings suggest middle-class Canadians—the very demographic the Liberals have been courting since their election with both policy initiatives and political messaging—don't feel their lives are getting better.
They are correct in thinking that their lives are not getting better. Even Chris Hall concluded, in light of these studies, that the 2018-19 budget is not a document that provides guidelines, includes concrete measures, or outlines actual achievements in progress. It is a political document that proposes ideologies.
The budget also contains a number of disappointments and shortcomings, precisely because it does not contain any actions. It does not respond to the fiscal reforms enacted by U.S. President Trump that give American companies an undue competitive advantage.
The 2018-19 federal budget does not address the tariffs on aluminum and steel either, although we all saw them coming. It does not specify what measures will be taken to implement carbon pricing. Most of all, it does not say how much it will cost every single Canadian. You would think it would at least do that. Some analysts say that it will cost approximately $2,500 per Canadian per year.
This budget is full of proposals but has no concrete measures, and it perpetuates broken promises. Instead of $10-billion deficits for two consecutive years, we have $19-billion deficits accumulating year over year until 2045. This year, we were supposed to have a deficit of $6 billion, but it has reached almost $20 billion. The Liberals also broke their promise to balance the budget. This is the first time that the federal government has not had a concrete plan to balance the budget.
We were supposed to run up deficits in order to invest in the largest infrastructure program in history, because with the Liberals everything is historic. Only $7 billion of the $180 billion of this program has been injected into the Canadian economy.
This is a very disappointing budget and, unfortunately, dear people of Beauport—Limoilou, taxes keep going up and the Liberal carbon tax is just the start.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to talk about the budget implementation bill.
What I have to say might come as a surprise to my colleagues opposite. I want to talk about something I like in this bill. That might come as a surprise because it is something I rarely do, but this is an issue that is important to me. This bill allocates a significant and much-appreciated amount of money to scientific research, which was a priority for many people in my riding and the greater Montreal area. I am pleased to see that a portion of the money to be invested in research centres, in university centres, will be going to basic research. That is something important that we, the NDP, along with other political parties, have advocated for for years. This is an investment in the future that will help us better understand our world; that is something worth talking about.
Okay, I am done with the praise. Now for the criticism. I have been generous. Although there are investments in scientific research, there is unfortunately very little for the university sector. There are a few crumbs for student debt and tuition fees. I want to talk about universities because, unfortunately, very few people do. So many students finish school with huge debts of $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, even $50,000. Consider a young couple trying to start a new life with a burden like this. Our bold young heroes go to the Caisse populaire hoping to be able to buy a house or a condo. It seems odd that they would ask for a mortgage when they already have such a huge debt. Once again, it would have been nice if the Liberals had kept their election promise and looked at the issue of student debt. Unfortunately, they did not, and our students will continue to suffer. We find that deplorable.
Now I will address health care. No one will be surprised, because I mentioned it yesterday. I also asked my colleague from London about this earlier, and I will reiterate that I do not understand why the Liberal government decided to tax medical cannabis. Medical marijuana helps people, and it used to be exempt from tax. For reasons neither I or anyone else can understand, the Liberal government decided to put a tax on it. This will have a major impact on these people. Often, it is the only medication that helps them control their pain. Some of them have had serious operations and others are cancer survivors. Earlier, my colleague pointed out that, in some cases, marijuana can help our veterans get through certain illnesses or post-traumatic shock. Now, people may have to choose between taking their medication and buying their groceries because they may not be able to pay the additional cost due to the Liberal government’s tax. I would like some answers.
While we are on the topic of medication, there is something missing in the budget. I want to talk for a few minutes about what is missing in the budget. A government has to make choices. We can talk about what is in the budget, but often what is missing in the budget is more important and has a greater impact on people’s lives. Take pharmacare, for example. I was talking about medical marijuana just now, but pharmacare would make a major change in the quality of life and purchasing power of Canadians across the country. Prescription drugs are too expensive, and that places a considerable burden on our elderly, who are often low earners. How is it that we are not covered for dental or vision care? How is it that we do not have a universal public drug insurance plan?
As my colleague mentioned earlier, Tommy Douglas, former premier of Saskatchewan, was clear. According to him, the first step is to ensure that everyone has access to medicare with hospitals, doctors, and nurses. The second step is to make sure that people have access to home care and are able to afford their medications. We have not yet accomplished the second step, but we hope that we will soon because it has a major impact on people's quality of life and their ability to take care of themselves. We are the only country in the world with a public health care system that does not also have a public pharmacare program. The two must go hand in hand.
It is really the combination of the two that is truly effective. We want a universal public pharmacare program in co-operation with the provinces. It is true that the Government of Quebec already offers such a program, but it is flawed, and some people still have to pay for drug coverage in group insurance plans, which is extremely expensive. With regard to the labour market, this is always an issue that comes up in collective bargaining because increased drug costs is what puts the biggest strain on the health care system. If our health care spending seems out of control, it is mainly because we do not have a good universal public pharmacare program.
My colleague from referred to the fact that the Liberal government keeps making cuts to health care transfers, a trend that began under the previous government. Absolutely nothing has changed in that regard.
According to our estimates, over a 10-year period, the federal government cut health care transfers by $31 billion compared to what the provinces were previously getting under the federal-provincial agreement that was negotiated. Reducing the annual growth of federal health transfers has had a major impact on our hospitals, on our ability to take care of people, and on emergency room wait times, which can reach up to 20 hours or even 24 hours. We think that could have been changed, but there is nothing about it in the most recent Liberal budget.
There are certain things missing from the bill that could make a huge difference in people's lives.
One example is a public child care program. We have one in Quebec. It used to be even better, but it is still pretty good. More spaces would be nice. If there were a federal Canada-wide program, that would help the Quebec program as well as Canadians in the other provinces, who currently have nothing. Those people receive a cheque, which, granted, is a little better than before, but it covers only two or three days' worth of private child care. Children usually need to go to day care 20 days per month. When child care costs between $40 and $60 a day, people start to wonder whether they should go to work for minimum wage or stay at home. This leads to lost productivity. This is also unfair to women, given that, still today, they are often the ones who have the responsibility—I almost said the burden, but it is not a burden to look after one's children, it is fun—of caring for their families.
According to one study by an economist by the name of Mr. Fortin, when Quebec created its child care program, roughly 70,000 women returned to the workforce. This social measure has a very positive impact on women and on productivity, since it means more people in the workforce. It makes a difference.
Let us now talk about social housing. Housing is the biggest expense for every family. People in Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal spend 40% to 50% of their income on housing. That plunges them into poverty.
The Liberals made fine promises on that and then announced billions of dollars. Sadly, those billions of dollars will not be available until after the next federal election, and in some cases they are allocated for after the 2023 federal election. The housing crisis is real. Families have real needs. While some parents skip meals because their housing is too expensive and they do not have enough money to put food on the table, the Liberal government is putting things off until later.
What can the government do to fund a good social housing program? It can tackle tax havens, tax evasion, and tax loopholes for CEOs who earn tens of millions of dollars annually. Again, this budget is truly a dismal failure.
The Liberal government signs new agreements with tax havens and does absolutely nothing but tell us how much it is spending, which in the end is inaccurate. We lose $8 billion to $15 billion a year to tax evasion and our agreements with tax havens. We do not need to wait for the United Nations, the OECD, or the G7 to take action. We can take this on ourselves because we have bilateral tax agreements with some tax havens and certain countries. Bilateral means that there are only two players, namely Canada and another country.
Why are we unable to sit down and renegotiate these agreements? Losing billions of dollars in taxes makes no sense. We need that money for our universities, our hospitals, and social housing. It would make a difference in people's lives.
I hope that the Liberals will eventually understand this.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here to speak to this budget implementation bill. My speech today will be called “promises, priorities and plans”. When we put a budget together, we should consider the amount of money we will need to keep all the promises we have made. Of course, there is not an endless amount of money in the world so there is a need to prioritize those promises we have made to ensure we hit the important ones and put those first.
Then it is important to have plans. We all know that without plans, we may spend a lot of money and not really accomplish anything, which we have seen an incredible amount of from the Liberal government.
With respect to promises, one of the early promises made by the government, which we hear repeatedly, was that it would run very small deficits, a small deficit of $10 billion in the first year, coming to balance in the fourth year. However, we have seen double that deficit in the first year, double the deficit in the second year, and triple that deficit in this budget. There is no end in sight with respect to balancing the budget. It is certainly not going to be in the fourth year of the mandate. Now it looks like it may not be until 2045. This is promise was broken into about 1.5 trillion pieces.
The other thing is that a lot of promises were made that were extremely important to rural communities across Canada. The first one was the restoration of home mail delivery, which for people who are living in very rural places, especially those who are elderly, is a very important service.
Even more important than that was the promise about infrastructure money. Members can remember that we were going to spend infrastructure money to create jobs and get the economy going, and that money was going to be spent on roads and bridges in municipalities. This is a critical thing in ridings like Sarnia—Lambton, where we have a lot of roads and bridges that need to be fixed, and the municipality certainly does not have the money to fix them. I was disappointed with the last budget when the government took $15 billion from those municipalities and put it into the infrastructure bank. Of course we have seen nothing come out of that whole situation.
Then there was the Asian Infrastructure Bank to which the government gave another half a billion of taxpayer dollars to build roads and bridges in Asia, which is not helping the rural community at all. Thus was another broken promise.
One of the most disturbing promises broken by the government was that of openness, transparency, and a higher ethical standard. Every time we ask questions about what is in this budget, such as the carbon tax that is outlined heavily in the budget, the government refuses to say how much it will cost the average Canadian taxpayer. The average Canadian taxpayer wants to know. If it is not a bad number, then why is it afraid to say it? Obviously, if it does not want to tell Canadians, it is because it is bad news.
Beyond not telling them how much it will cost, it will not even tell us what it will accomplish. The has been asked multiple times at committee, and here in the House, what kind of a greenhouse gas reduction she expects from this, and she has no answer. There is a huge amount of money being spent in the budget in this area. There is a huge amount of tax that will be paid by Canadians, yet there is no openness and transparency from the government with respect to those issues.
The government promised not to use omnibus bills, and here we are again with this huge budget bill. So many things have been snuck into this bill that if we did not really read all the pages, we might not be aware of them. My colleagues to the left have already talked about the medicinal marijuana issue and the taxes associated with that. However, more so, there is language in the budget bill that suggests that if people had a drug information number, they would be exempt. The fact remains that there is no drug exemption number for any medicinal marijuana because of the variability of all the components. Therefore, that is just another misrepresentation in the budget bill.
With respect to the taxes on cigarettes' portion of the bill, there is an escalating tax that continues to go up in perpetuity, without any parliamentary vote and without Canadians being able to talk about that. This is the same kind of deceptive tax that was put on beer and wine. It is fine for the government to put a sin tax on something when it wants to, but when it wants to hide a tax in there that continues to go up and generates revenue for the government, and it sneaks it onto page 324, Canadians may never get to that.
Therefore, there is no openness and no transparency in omnibus bills.
As members know, I am a passionate advocate for palliative care, so I was very excited when the government said it would spend $3 billion on home and palliative care in the 2016 budget. Then the government updated the 2017 budget and said that it would spend $6 billion over 10 years. It was a little more paced out, but at least it was something. I was really disappointed to see the word “palliative” removed from the 2018 budget. It was taken out altogether, even though the government supported my private member's bill, Bill , on consistent access for palliative care for all Canadians. Surely, if we want there to be consistent access, we know we will have to plan something to back up that promise and put money in the budget. I was very disappointed there was nothing in the budget on that.
I will go to priorities.
One would think that in a country with one person out of six being a senior, maybe seniors would be a priority, but no. The Liberal government took position of minister for seniors away, and there is relatively nothing in budget 2018 that will help seniors, many of whom really struggle to afford to live and pay for many of the things they need, such as cataract surgery, perhaps hearing aids or dentures. I certainly heard this when I went door to door. A priority has been missed.
Then there is the agriculture sector. Agriculture is hugely important in Canada. Everyone can agree that we need to eat. This is one of our largest industries. What is the government doing? First, it is loading all kinds of bureaucracy on the Canadian agriculture industry that does not apply to other people. It has taken away pesticides without any replacement. Those very pesticides are used by countries that then import their food to Canada, putting us at a competitive disadvantage. Most recently, it decided it would not allow the sale of premixed feed that contains antibiotic. This product has been sold safely for quite a number of years. Again, it is a burden on our industry that is not on other industries outside of the country that ship products into Canada.
There is very little support for research in agriculture, very little support for the industry overall, and total betrayal when it comes to the agreement that was made with respect to the TPP, that farmers would be compensated for the quota they had to give up. That is gone. They still have to give up the quota, but they do not get the compensation. It is another broken promise for the agriculture industry.
Regarding health care, the government's priorities are really screwed up. The government putting $80 million in a budget to get people to stop smoking tobacco is a wonderful thing. However, to then put $800 million in the budget to get people to start smoking marijuana just does not seem like the right message from a health point of view, especially when we consider the danger to children.
Then there is the $7-billion slush fund. I am not sure what kind of priority that is backing up in an election year, but I can only guess. That is a disappointment as well.
Then there are plans. We do not see any plans. We have talked about how there is no climate change plan and no answers on the carbon tax. What about NAFTA? The Liberals have known for over a year that tariffs could be put on the steel industry. There is no plan and no money in the budget to address that whatsoever.
What about this $4.5-billion pipeline? Members can hear that my voice is a bit hoarse from having a $4.5-billion pipeline that is 65 years old being shoved down my throat. Where was the plan for that in the budget? It is missing.
Overall, when we look at this budget, we can see that when it comes to promises, priorities, and plans, the Liberals have broken their promises, their priorities are definitely screwed up, and they have no plan to achieve anything. That is a super disappointment.