Mr. Speaker, three years ago, Canadians made a choice. They chose to turn their backs on the failed austerity policies of the past, policies that produced stubborn unemployment and the worst decade of growth since the Great Depression. Instead, they embraced a more confident, optimistic and ambitious approach, one that would invest in Canadians again and in the things that mattered most to them, good, well-paying jobs, more help for hard-working families and an economy that would offer every Canadian a real and fair chance at success.
In the years since, we have delivered real progress to the middle class and for people working hard to join the middle class.
We started by asking the wealthiest to pay a little more so that we could lower taxes for the middle class. We introduced the Canada child benefit to help families with the high cost of raising kids. These two measures alone have made a tremendous difference in the lives of Canadian families.
Next year, middle-class families of four will get about $2,000 more each year to invest in the things their families need, whether it is nutritious food or new winter boots for growing kids. The Canada child benefit means that, today, about 300,000 Canadian children no longer live below the poverty line.
To ensure that more Canadians have a safe and affordable home, we introduced the first ever national housing strategy. These investments will remove more than half a million households from housing need and help cut chronic homelessness in half.
To help Canadians have more confidence in their future, we strengthened the Canada pension plan. Younger Canadians can now be certain that more retirement income will be there for them when it is their turn to retire.
For our seniors, we have increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up, thereby improving the financial security of close to 900,000 seniors. We have also reversed the Conservatives' move to raise the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.
All of these policies were specific promises we made. They are now promises kept.
We made these investments because they were the right thing to do for Canadians, for new jobs, better wages and a stronger economy.
As we are seeing, when we invest in Canadians, when we give them the tools they need to succeed, Canadians combine it with their own hard work and deliver some of the best economic results we have seen in a generation.
Today, Canada's economy is strong and growing. At 3%, Canada had the strongest economic growth of all the Group of Seven countries last year, and will remain among the fastest growing economies this year and next.
Our plan is working because Canadians are working. Our definition of a strong economy is one that provides real results for people. That means jobs, good, well-paying, middle-class jobs, jobs that one can raise a family and build a future on.
In the last three years, hard-working Canadians have created more than 550,000 new full-time jobs, pushing the unemployment rate to the lowest level we have seen in the past 40 years.
Canadians are also earning more. For the average Canadian worker, wages are growing faster than inflation. If current trends continue, this year will be the strongest year of wage growth in close to a decade. These are positive results all around. They prove that when we invest in Canadians, Canadians grow the economy for everyone.
We know that there is more work to be done. As the would say, we can always do better. However, Canadians should be happy with and proud of the work they have done to create jobs and kickstart the economy.
Every responsible manager knows that a good plan must have enough room to respond to inevitable changes in circumstances. Canada has had to deal with a new administration in the United States. This situation posed some interesting challenges, if I can put it that way. One of the most important things we have accomplished since the previous fall's economic statement is the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
This was important for the millions of Canadians whose jobs relied on North American trade and also important for Canadian businesses who told us time and again that the most meaningful thing we could do to ensure stability and confidence in Canada's economy would be to successfully renegotiate NAFTA. That is exactly what we did. We have preserved access to our most important market and have provided certainty for the millions of Canadians whose jobs depend on it.
I want to take a moment here to thank Canadians, from all walks of life and all political persuasions, who put differences aside to stand up for our country. To business and labour leaders, members on all sides of the House, mayors from some of Canada's biggest cities and smallest towns, local entrepreneurs and artists from all across our great country, on behalf of the and my colleague, the , we thank them. We were able to stand our ground because we stood on their shoulders.
However, just because we share a trade agreement with the United States does not mean we will always agree with its approach. The current administration has moved forward with an aggressive package of tax cuts for large corporations. That is its rights as a sovereign nation. However, some on the right have lobbied us to match those measures. If we were to do that, it would add tens of billions of dollars in new debt. It would do more to worsen income inequality than to improve it. It would make the services that millions of Canadians depend on less affordable.
Lets us be blunt. Managing a federal budget calls for some tough choices—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Speaker, the fact is that when the members opposite push for an aggressive elimination of the deficit, what they really mean is aggressive cuts in services, cuts that would make life harder for people and for families. That is not what we want for Canada, and it is not what Canadians want for themselves.
We choose a different path: one that is a targeted, measured and fiscally responsible; one that encourages businesses to invest in growth, and create more good, well-paying jobs for middle-class Canadians; one that makes it clear to businesses that if they have a choice to invest on either side of the border, Canada is the smart and sensible choice. This path ensures that our federal debt-to-GDP ratio continues on a steady downward track.
It is worth remembering that we already have the best balance sheet among our key allies, and that our government has made an absolute commitment to maintaining that competitive advantage in a volatile world.
I will tell you why it is important to get the fundamentals right. As much as we are taking positive actions today to help grow the economy and invest in middle-class jobs, the reality is that there are challenges all around us.
The challenges range from the uncertainty about the global economy to concerns about lingering trade disputes to the challenges facing the oil and gas sector in Alberta, which is contending today with very low crude oil prices. The market prices are so low compared with international benchmarks. That is why we are matching our words with actions, to ensure that we can achieve greater market access for our resources in the right way.
Let there be no mistake. We could have ignored the concerns of business leaders, decided not to make the investments and the changes that are part of the fall economic statement, and we would have had a lower deficit as a result. To have done so would have been neither a rational response nor a responsible one.
We are choosing, once again, to trust Canadians—the people who put their trust in us. We know that if we give Canadian businesses more opportunities to succeed and grow, they will do just that. One of the greatest opportunities for Canada's economy is connected to the global shift toward clean growth.
In 2016, our government worked with provinces and territories, in consultation with indigenous peoples, to reach Canada's first ever national clean growth and climate action plan. It is a comprehensive plan that invests in public transit, phases out coal power, invests in clean energy, prices pollution and supports energy efficiency across Canada.
Conservative politicians here in the House and in some provincial capitals want to bury their heads in the sand and ignore what is happening to the climate and to the economy. They want to make pollution free again and let our kids and grandkids deal with the consequences. We are not going to let that happen. Pollution was free, so we had too much of it. This is the root of the problem, and we are going to fix it.
After three years of strong action, Canada is now poised to lead and succeed in the global clean growth economy, an opportunity that is estimated to be worth $26 trillion in the next dozen years. To help get us there, we are announcing our intention to create an advisory council on climate action that would give our government expert advice on how we can further reduce pollution and encourage economic growth in two crucial areas: the transportation sector and the building sector.
We intend to name two Canadian clean growth leaders, Steven Guilbeault and Tamara Vrooman, to help lead that work.
It is not enough to simply clean up the economy. We need to make a cleaner economy more affordable to middle-class Canadians. That is why our government will not keep any of the revenues from pricing pollution. We will return every single penny to provinces and territories where we collect it, and 80% of Canadian families will be better off as a result.
Our government is confident that if we give Canadian businesses more opportunities to succeed and grow they will meet and exceed all expectations.
To encourage businesses to invest in their own growth and create more good, well-paying jobs, our government proposes to allow businesses to immediately write-off for tax purposes the full cost of machinery and equipment used in the manufacturing and processing of goods.
We will also allow specified clean energy equipment to be eligible for an immediate write-off of the full cost. This will help achieve climate goals and boost Canada's global competitiveness.
In response to requests from the business community, we are also introducing a new accelerated investment incentive, an accelerated capital cost allowance for businesses of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy. This incentive will encourage more businesses to invest in assets that will drive business growth over the long term, setting the stage for more good middle-class jobs across our country.
Our government is also setting an ambitious agenda to make Canada the most globally connected economy in the world. We are already well on our way. With the successful conclusion of the new NAFTA, as well as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, we now have comprehensive free trade agreements with countries representing two-thirds of the world's GDP.
Canada is now the only G7 country to have free trade agreements with all other G7 countries.
We want to give Canadian businesses more opportunities to grow, succeed and create good, well-paying jobs. That is why we are launching an export diversification strategy, to directly support Canadian businesses to grow their overseas sales by 50% by 2025.
Here at home we are going to work with our provincial and territorial partners to remove barriers to internal trade within Canada. Specifically, we will work to find ways to ensure that businesses can transport goods more easily, to harmonize food regulations and inspections, to align regulations in the construction sector and to facilitate greater trade in alcohol.
We will also take steps to modernize regulations so that it is easier for Canadian businesses to grow, and we will do that in ways that continue to protect Canadians' health and safety as well as that of the environment.
We intend to move forward with additional investments that will help Canadian innovators add value, succeed and grow.
Because our economy is doing well, we also have the fiscal room to continue to follow through on the commitments we made to Canadians.
We know that the best solutions for Canada's big challenges come from Canadians themselves. When charities, non-profit and social enterprises have access to capital and investment, they can innovate and go further than government can do alone. That is exactly what we are doing today by launching a new social finance fund.
We have also been working with local residents to reform the Nutrition North Canada program so that this program ensures better access to affordable, nutritious traditional food and is transparent, effective and accountable to northerners and other Canadians.
A key part of Canada's digital and creative advantage is our francophone culture. The protection and promotion of that culture unlocks enormous economic opportunity, not just in Canada but around the world. That is why we are helping to create a new francophone digital platform, in partnership with TV5MONDE public broadcasters.
To protect the vital role that independent news media play in our democracy and in our communities, we will be introducing measures to help support journalism in Canada.
To help sustain Canada's wild fish stocks and the communities that rely on them, we will invest in efforts to rebuild fish stocks. We will also introduce two new funds: a British Columbia salmon restoration and innovation fund and a Quebec fisheries fund to support the fish and seafood sectors in those two provinces.
What these and the other measures in the fall economic statement all have in common is this. They are all part of our government's plan to follow through on the commitments we made to Canadians to strengthen and grow the middle class and to offer real help to people working hard to join it; to grow the economy and invest in the middle class; and to give Canadians the help they need to succeed, by making smart investments to grow our economy for the long term, while we bring the books back toward balance.
That is what Canadians expect of us. That is what we promised, and that is exactly what we are doing.
Mr. Speaker, the has demonstrated that he can do two things at one time. He can give a speech while adding almost a million dollars to our national debt, in the same half-hour. I congratulate the minister, and we know that Canadians will get the bill for that new debt.
Our government has told us, under the leadership of this , that budgets balance themselves. He predicted that this self-balancing budget would manifest in the year 2019, barely a month from today.
Today, the has presented a fiscal update, in which the deficit is three times the size the Liberal Party promised in the last election and in which the deficit will not only be in place next year, when it was promised to be gone, it will actually be bigger than it is right now. In fact, this economic update reports that the deficits for the next five years will all be larger than the Liberals projected just six months ago in the 2018 budget.
None of us on this side is surprised that the and the failed to take responsibility for these promise-shattering deficits. Like most Canadians, we have come to accept that these Liberals never take responsibility for anything, but what is startling about this particular statement is that they just go on doing more and more damage to the fiscal situation of this country, without any concern or hesitation.
What we learned in this document that we did not already know is that not only do the Liberals break their promise, not only will they fail to balance the budget next year as they said, but they now admit that under their plan the budget will never be balanced. There is no time period into the future when they are even committing to returning to a situation where the debt stops growing. That is effectively the election platform they are running on today, that there will be deficits forever and that there could never be an occasion where the government would live within its means.
These two gentlemen of great privilege have inherited enormous fortune: balanced budgets from the previous government; booming U.S. and world economies; a roaring housing sector in Vancouver and Toronto, which has poured more revenue into government coffers; record low interest rates, which make debt more affordable temporarily. All of these factors are out of the government's control but have, through the goddess Fortuna, rained money on the current government, $20 billion of additional revenue, I am pleased to report to the House.
The took that $20 billion and did the responsible thing. He put it against our national debt. He saved it up for a rainy day. He reinforced our foundation against forthcoming storms. I am kidding. He blew every single penny of it, and it was not enough. On top of that windfall, he had to spend $20 billion more.
We are told to take comfort in the debt-to-GDP ratio. All ratios have numerators and denominators. With the lecturing us all about the need to teach us all in the House, as his pupils, he should actually know that. The reality is that the only way for that debt-to-GDP ratio to decline is if inflation and GDP are constantly going up. I just pointed to the factors that the government admits have led to the windfall of revenue before us. That can only continue as long as the world factors, which are out of the government's control, continue on at this pace.
In other words, if a crisis of any kind, another international financial recession, a massive problem with international security, a natural disaster or any other such kind of difficulty, led to the compression of the denominator, then we would face a crisis in the nation's finances. In that crisis, the Liberal government, if it were to keep its promise, something that none of us believe it would ever consider doing, would then be in a position where it would have to raise taxes or cut spending at a time when the economy needs the opposite. Therefore, the Liberals are putting our future in a reckless state of danger by spending our tomorrow on their today.
The second consequence of these growing deficits is this. When governments spend more than they have, they compete for scarce goods and services, which drives up inflation, making the cost of living more and more expensive. We have seen inflation reach nearly 3%, the upper end of the Bank of Canada's range of acceptable levels of consumer price index increases. That is in part, I believe, because the current government is overspending, increasing demand with unnecessary government spending, pouring money into the purchase of the same goods and services that Canadians have to compete for.
Furthermore, when governments borrow, they have to sell bonds. When those bondholders purchase the bond, they get interest in return for it. Why would they lend money to a Canadian homeowner for 2.5% when a rapidly borrowing government will give them 2.75% or 3%? The answer is they would not. That is the reality of the credit markets. When governments borrow, they compete with Canadian consumers and homeowners and drive up the cost of interest on those same people. In other words, while Canadians face record household debt, the government's insatiable appetite for debt is actually making that problem worse, not just in the future but here in the present.
Speaking of the future, we all know that debt today means higher taxes tomorrow. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has indicated that the cost of borrowing for the Government of Canada will rise by two-thirds, to almost $40 billion, over the next four to five years. That is almost as much as we transfer to the provinces to fund our entire health care transfer. In today's update, the government admits that the cost of borrowing is going up. For the first half-year, the increase in the borrowing cost has been 14.3%. That is the combined result of growing deficits and higher interest rates. In other words, at this pace, there will be a massive wealth transfer from working-class Canadians, who will pay higher taxes so that wealthy bondholders and bankers can collect more interest. Even socialist economists recognize that interest on national debt represents a wealth transfer from the working class to the wealthy, because those who own bonds are those who can afford to buy them. One cannot lend money if one does not have money. Therefore, those with money benefit when governments go out and borrow. Instead of the government favouring the have-nots, it once again favours the have-yachts, something we have come to expect from it for a very long time.
We were told that this economic update was going to respond to the attempt by the U.S. President to take our money, business and jobs. So far, the has been prepared to help the President in all of those objectives. His carbon tax, his decision to block pipelines and his massive regulatory state that prevents businesses from functioning here in Canada have driven money out of our country. Canadian investment in the U.S. is up two-thirds and U.S. investment in Canada is down by half, and when money leaves, jobs leave.
A senior at the Business Council of Canada says that the result of this imbalance could lead to half a million jobs lost in this country. What is the government's response to that? Liberals tell us they are going to be bringing forward something called the centre for regulatory innovation. I think that for most people who have dealt with the red tape the government has put forward, the last thing they want to see is more regulatory innovation because so far, that regulatory innovation has meant blocking the northern gateway pipeline. They came up with innovative ways to make it impossible for Trans Canada to build the energy east pipeline. Of course, their most innovative stroke of genius has been to drive Kinder Morgan out of this country by giving them $4 billion of Canadian tax money in order to buy a 65-year-old pipeline that we already had, money that the Texas oil company is now using to build pipelines in the United States of America.
When the took office, three of the world's most respected pipeline companies were ready to put shovels in the ground. Kinder Morgan was going to build Trans Mountain. Enbridge was going to build northern gateway and Trans Canada was going to build energy east. They had the financial commitments, the applications in and they were ready to go and all three of those companies have now left. What does the government offer? A centre for regulatory innovation.
However, that is not all. I should give the Liberals credit for another very exciting announcement they have made in regard to regulation. They are going to make the building code available to all Canadians for free and just in time for Christmas. That is if Canada Post is not on strike and unable to deliver the building code to those Canadians who are anxiously waiting to receive it.
That is the plan that the Liberals have to unwind the massive regulatory obstacles that have driven our oil, our money, our businesses and our jobs right into the arms of Donald Trump and nothing in this announcement today will reverse that direction. In fact, the government has backed down on NAFTA, giving President Trump everything he asked for and getting nothing in return that we did not already have.
We on this side of the House will stand up for the common sense of the common people, the people who understand that budgets do not balance themselves because those people, unlike our leader, have actually had to balance a household budget. A future Conservative government would recognize that we cannot spend what we do not have and we cannot borrow our way out of debt.
I conclude today by challenging the government. I know how painful it is for the Liberals to hear the truth, the painful truth from which they have for so long tried to turn away their eyes. Unfortunately, they have to face up to the fact that they shattered their promise to balance the budget next year, they have built up massive new debt not only for future generations, but for present-day Canadians, the cost of government is driving up the cost of living and that is leading to a serious crunch on the backs of everyday Canadians, Canadians who know what it is like to live within their means.
This is why a Conservative government will make sure that the budget will be balanced in the medium term, to deal with the massive deficits accumulated by the Liberal government and previous governments.
The Conservatives recognize that Canadians work hard for their money and they must balance their own budgets. As a government, we will help them and will not make things harder for them, like the current government is doing.
As the official opposition, we are calling on the government to meet Canadians' demands, tell them how the budget will be balanced, create a plan to do so, and lower taxes so that Canadians can keep the money they earned.
We will put forward a government in the future that will stand with those who know how to balance a budget, because they do so in their own households and they expect the very same of the Government of Canada. Under a Conservative government, they will get no less.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start out by saying how very disappointed I am in the mini budget that the just presented.
I would like to start by saying I am startled at how rapidly the government has fallen completely out of touch with the needs of Canadians. The verdicts are already coming in. Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, who is respected by all Canadians, says that “We're deficit-financing the corporate sector”. That is just one of the reactions to this mini budget.
There is nothing in the mini budget that addresses the profoundly unequal tax system that we have in place. Real corporate tax rates are estimated to be less than 10%. Nothing addresses that. Nothing addresses the web giants and the fact that they are simply allowed to do business in Canada and get off scot-free. There is nothing that addresses some of the priorities that Jagmeet Singh, I, and the member for presented just a few days ago to the .
If the Liberals are saying that they want to see Jagmeet Singh in the House of Commons, all they have to do is call a by-election. That is what the people of Burnaby South are asking for.
There is nothing in this mini budget that deals with pharmacare and the Canadians who are struggling with the lack of pharmacare and the businesses that are having to pay billions of dollars a year to finance pharmacare. There is nothing in this mini budget that deals with the profound housing crisis we are seeing in our country. I will give a few examples later on, but the reality is that housing is in crisis. There is a shortage of affordable housing in this country, but this mini budget does nothing to address it. There is nothing that addresses the profound inequalities facing indigenous children, who are often going to schools that are financed up to $10,000 less per pupil, per year than schools for other Canadian children. Nothing in the budget addresses that.
However, there are gifts. There is a billion dollars' worth of gifts to Bay Street. Unbelievably, given the times we live in and the record levels of family debt Canadians are experiencing—the worst family debt crisis in the industrialized world—it is incredible that in the mini budget papers just circulated, there are big tax incentives to buy things like plush corporate jets and limousines. I confirmed this with the ministry of finance officials. Unbelievably, if one buys a corporate jet, one would get a more accelerated tax write-off. If one buys a plush limousine, according to the Liberal government, one would get an accelerated write-off. The question I have for the that I hope he will answer over the next few days is why is he acting like Santa Claus to Bay Street and like Scrooge to everyone else in this country?
For regular Canadians, they see nothing in this mini budget, and I am talking about people like Jim who is right outside the House of Commons. Any Liberal member can go down the street and see him. Every day he is on the bridge between the Château Laurier and the East Block. He begs for money, because there is no pharmacare in this country. His medication costs him about $500 a month. He cannot work and so he has to beg, because he does not want to burden his children, and there is no pharmacare for him. There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses the challenges Jim faces.
There is nothing in this mini budget that in any way addresses the challenges that Heather in my riding faces. Heather has a child, a daughter, and lives with both her daughter and her mother in a one-bedroom apartment while rents keep going up. She works for minimum wage and does not know how much longer she can keep the apartment. If she loses her apartment, she does not know where she and her family will go. There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses that housing crisis in this country.
There is nothing in this mini budget that helps John, a senior who is homeless now, because with the rising rents, his pension just did not keep up. For a time he lived with a friend, and when that did not work out, he ended up on the street. There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses the challenges he is facing. He is not facing a challenge with lack of access to corporate jets and limousines. He is facing the challenges that many people in Canada are facing, and this out-of-touch government has done nothing to respond to his needs and concerns.
There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses the concerns of Paul, a local businessperson. He wants to compete but has two problems. He is paying for a medical plan, a drug plan, for his employees, because he wants to treat them well. He hopes for universal pharmacare in this country, because it would make a difference to his bottom line. He also says that it is very difficult to get workers now because of the lack of affordable housing. He says that if he wants to have workers, they need to have access to housing. However, nothing in this mini budget responds to his needs.
As well, nothing in this mini budget responds to the needs of Rajinder and Rah, who are among the many Canadian families experiencing the record level of family debt, the worst in our history and worst in the industrialized world, caused by Liberal policies.
Nothing in this mini budget addresses any of the needs of the people I have just mentioned. Therefore, we say in this corner of the House that it is time to put the private jets and the limousines aside and time for a government that prioritizes, in its budgets and in the House of Commons, the people of this country.
That is our priority, but the government seems to have totally different priorities.
Réjeanne is a person with a disability who sometimes experiences homelessness. Last year, she told me she needs a government that meets her needs. She is on medication and has housing issues, but nothing in this mini-budget addresses those needs.
Then, there is Ronda. Her two children go to school in an indigenous community so she has to live with the fact that her two children receive far fewer services than other students. The government spends about $10,000 less on them on average. She would like her children to have a better future than she did, but she has a hard time with the federal government's failure to provide adequate funding for schools. Nothing in the speech we just heard suggests that the government intends to meet those needs.
All of these people seem to have been forgotten. In contrast, people on Bay Street can now buy cheaper planes because taxpayers will be subsidizing that. They can even buy limousines because apparently the Liberal government again wants to use taxpayers' money to subsidize limousine purchases.
The priority should have been to create a fair tax system, since our system is deeply flawed. While about $20 billion is invested every year in offshore tax havens, the government just added another $5 billion in tax loopholes for next year. We in the NDP believe that investments should stay at home.
After having to fight the Conservatives for two years and the Liberals for three years, the Parliamentary Budget Officer finally got the information he needed from the Canada Revenue Agency to begin a study next spring. The Parliamentary Budget Officer's first study shows the discrepancy between the amount of corporate taxes that should be collected and how much is actually coming in.
A fair tax system is a priority for us, because that would allow us to invest in people and balance the budget.
Large corporations, which, since the Second World War, have been paying about 50% of all taxes in Canada, will now pay only 20% of the federal government's revenues, based on the speech we just heard. This shows how important it is to have a fair tax system. This economic statement does absolutely nothing to change that.
What should this mini budget have contained? We would have applauded the if he had stood up and announced a universal single-payer pharmacare plan for all Canadians and that he was going to make sure that all businesses would benefit as a result, because that would help the competitiveness of Canadian businesses. Our businesses are now paying $6 billion for pharmacare.
Tommy Douglas fought in the House of Commons for medicare. Medicare was not just good for every Canadian, but also for Canadian businesses. The average advantage per employee, per year is $3,000 for a Canadian business compared with an American business. Each employee that a Canadian business hires because of our universal medicare system has a $3,000 advantage. American companies have to pay into those plans; Canadian companies do not.
Imagine if the had stood and announced universal single-payer pharmacare. We all would have applauded, as the business community would have also.
This mini budget should have contained an announcement that the government would now take seriously the affordable housing crisis we face in this country. If the had stood up and said the government was going to put money into affordable housing instead of $5 billion into a variety of tax incentives that can go, unbelievably, for plush corporate jets and limousines, as if those were a priority, we would have applauded. We would have applauded if he had stood up and said the government was going to put $3 billion to building affordable housing, as was done after the Second World War. Within 30 months, 300,000 housing units were built across this country because governments at that time understood the importance of having a roof over every single Canadian's head. The should have stood up and announced an emergency housing plan right across this country to make sure that all Canadians have a roof over their head as soon as possible. He should have said that was what the government was going to do. He should have said that was the government's priority. If he had said that, we all would have applauded, but he did not.
He could have demonstrated an interest in green energy. We know that it will take a lot more than an advisory panel on climate change to shift Canada toward green energy and the new economy.
Even if Jagmeet Singh influenced the minister with regard to one of these criteria, he should have announced a real plan to implement green energy and ensure a transition toward green energy in Canada. Not only would that have been good for Canadians and for combatting climate change, but it also would have stimulated the economy. The countries that are investing in green energy are the countries that are currently benefiting from it, and Canada is doing virtually nothing.
The also could have announced that the government would put an end to the inequalities that exist in indigenous communities with regard to funding for education and ensured that every indigenous child in Canada receives the best possible education, the same education and the same funding for education as every other Canadian. He could have announced that, but he did not.
The basic income pilot project in Ontario was cancelled by a Conservative government that seems to want to attack all the programs that really help people. The finance minister could have announced that the government would fund the last year of the study on basic income so that we would know the results of the study. He could have done that, but he did not. That is the problem.
In his speech, the minister spoke about private planes and limousines and he addressed the need for major corporations to have greater access to these items. However, he forgot about ordinary Canadians, and yet they are the ones who should always be our priority.
I mentioned earlier Tommy Douglas, who fought lobbyists. Lobbyists were always saying not to put in place medicare because they really wanted that money for themselves. However, Tommy Douglas stuck with it. He pushed and pushed, and today we are all proud of his accomplishments. This was why Canadians, just a few short years ago when they had the chance to vote on the greatest Canadian of all, chose Tommy Douglas as the greatest Canadian. He always kept in mind people. He always kept in mind the needs of real people.
Jagmeet Singh is like that. He grew up in an environment where he had to push to succeed. He lived with racism and he had to take over when his father fell sick. He had to ensure his family was taken care of. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He had to work hard for what he accomplished.
That is the story with most Canadians. They push forward. However, most Canadians also occasionally need a government that reflects their interests. They need a government that realizes we need things like universal single-payer pharmacare; that when there is a housing crisis, the federal government responds, it does not give more corporate tax breaks; that when there is huge inequality, as we see with indigenous communities and education systems, the federal government actually steps forward and addresses it. That is what Canadians expect.
We need a plan to bring Canadians out of the worst family debt crisis and the worst housing crisis in our nation's history. We need a government that is actually going to respond to the kinds of needs that are being expressed right across the length and breadth of our vast land, and being expressed very effectively and coherently. However, seemingly, all of those concerns are not listened to by the government.
At the beginning of my speech, I said that it was startling how rapidly the government had fallen out of touch. There is no better evidence of that than this mini budget today, which deals with the kinds of incentives at which most Canadians will be shaking their heads. If we ask Canadians, and I will be asking my constituents, my bosses, when I go back to New Westminster—Burnaby in the next day or so, if they think the priority should be more corporate jets and more limousines for Bay Street, I do not think too many of them will tell me that they should be the priority. However, if I ask them if they think universal single-payer pharmacare, addressing the housing crisis and addressing inequality in indigenous children's education should be priorities, I know they will tell me that they should be.
The government has lost its way. It does not seem to understand what the priorities of people are, and I find that saddening. However, I also think it is a clear message to all of us as Canadians. Since the government has lost its way, has become stale and really is out of touch, it is time for a new government. Next year, in October, Canadians will be able to make that choice and elect Jagmeet Singh as Prime Minister of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, today's statement is somewhere between an economic statement and the Speech from the Throne. It is heavy on the blah-blah-blah, and light on anything tangible. We were treated to many lovely images, fine words and slogans, but that is about it. It is like an Easter egg: it is nice on the outside, but completely hollow on the inside.
People say that the federal government is out of touch and the just gave us an excellent example of that. It is out of touch with Quebec, out of touch with Quebeckers, disconnected from the real world and unaware of the real needs. The statement is full of rhetoric and utterly meaningless. The needs and challenges remain. The truth is that Ottawa is completely disconnected.
An economic statement is supposed to do three things. First, it should provide an update on the actual state of our finances in terms of problems and solutions.
Second, it should complete the budget, fill the gaps and correct the omissions. There was no shortage of those. The government being out of touch is certainly nothing new.
Third, it should allow for adjustments when the situation has changed and requires realignment.
An economic statement is those three things. It is not complicated, but in this case the government is zero for three.
First, the economic statement does not tell the real story. A few weeks ago, $2 billion in expenditures magically appeared in the public accounts because the government wrote off a loan to Chrysler in Ontario. It will soon be GM's turn, to the tune of another $2 billion. Then, the loan to the Muskrat Falls dam of almost $10 billion will magically appear there as well, since everyone knows that Newfoundland will never be able to repay that debt.
We never see or vote on loans and guarantees, we just pay for them. That does not give us the real story. These three loans alone represent a charge to taxpayers of close to $15 billion. Quebeckers will pay their share but get nothing in return. The government is keeping quiet about this and is therefore not proposing any solutions to the problem. There was not one word about this in the economic statement. There was nothing about going looking for the money where it really is by cutting subsidies for fossil fuels.
It is high time the government honoured the promise made ten years ago to close the tax haven loophole, which has, in fact, become a sinkhole that is swallowing public funds.
The Conservatives are outraged by the deficit. Oddly enough, when they are told that eliminating tax havens and oil subsidies would cut the deficit in half, they no longer protest quite so loudly. Neither does the government.
Today's statement has no substance.
Second, the economic statement should have filled the gaps in the latest budget. Quebec just had an election. Poll after poll invariably concluded that health and education are the priorities, but neither is mentioned in the budget. Transfers have been capped at 3% since last year. However, in Quebec, health care costs and system costs continue to rise. Ottawa is simply reducing its share.
Our nurses, our patients and our health network end up paying the price. Wait lists are growing. When people opt for private care because the public system does not meet their needs, Ottawa threatens to make more cuts, which just makes things worse. Everyone knows this is not sustainable.
Everything I just mentioned about health care could be said about education. Teachers are also exhausted. This sector has the same problems, except education transfers have been capped at 3% for nearly 15 years. Health and education are where Quebeckers have a real need. These are the priorities, but this statement made no mention of either. The government seems to be too highfalutin to see the needs and understand the priorities.
Third, an economic statement is meant to allow the government to adapt throughout the year to changing situations. Once again, we all have reason to be disappointed.
I would now like to say a few words about the recent tax cuts made by Donald Trump. I am not bringing that up because it is important. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that it would not have any impact. I am bringing it up because the Conservatives would have us believe otherwise. Let us be frank. Our corporate tax rates are already competitive.
Here is something no one ever talks about. In the United States, employers pay for medicare. In 2017, that accounted for a mere $14,900 U.S. per employee. The lack of social safety net in the U.S. is costing them a fortune, so no, we do not have any problems in that regard.
In any case, a race to the bottom approach is not the way to remain globally competitive. We need to develop the sectors in which we are strong. In Quebec that is the clean energy sector. If Ottawa would support our electrification of transportation efforts, we would have clean cars, but the government preferred to spend our money on a pipeline.
The government indicated in the economic statement that it is going to implement a tax credit with regard to the production of clean energy. I am not against that. It could be worthwhile for paper mills and biomass enterprises. However, we need to be aware of one thing. In a number of provinces, private companies produce electricity. If they start generating clean energy, then Ottawa would give them a tax writeoff, and Quebec would have to pay for part of that.
Quebec has Hydro-Québec. Since it is a government-owned corporation, it will not be entitled to the tax credit. If that is all Ottawa does, it will be subsidizing the “bad guys” so they are not quite as bad, and Quebec, a world leader in green energy, is back at square one, without a penny, for doing the right thing. What a great deal. Let's face it, that is an odd way to promote the green economy.
Our high-tech sectors could use some support, but Canada invests very little in business-led research and development. The innovation fund will not help our high-tech companies. Instead, that federal money will just make up for the lack of innovation elsewhere.
As for agriculture, the government signed a new trade agreement that creates another breach in supply management. We were expecting a firm commitment in terms of compensation, as the Prime Minister had promised, but once again, nothing.
Then there is Davie. Davie did not get anything from the naval strategy, and only a few crumbs after that. Whenever we asked the government when Davie would get a fair share of the contracts, we kept being told, “not now, later”. It should be now. That is what an economic statement should look like, but no, once again, Davie suffers. Soon the Liberals will be trying to woo workers before the election, but for now, they get nothing. They are just as predictable as the Conservatives.
There was nothing about how e-commerce is disrupting the economy, either. Nothing for businesses that are competing with Amazon, which does not have to charge sales tax on purchases under $40. How are our people supposed to compete against a giant with an unfair advantage? Our small businesses are going to take a beating, and Ottawa is not doing anything about it. Obviously, people are asleep at the switch.
Internet giants are another example. They are hurting our media, our artists and our culture, and they are competing unfairly. I applaud the government's initiative to support our media. Well, actually, it announced plans to support our media, but not until the next budget. Press freedom and information quality are essential in a democracy, so I welcome this initiative, but I am not getting too excited. As long as the government refuses to do something about Internet giants and their unfair competitive advantage over our media, it will not solve the problem. If it does not solve the problem, it is part of the problem. Ultimately, every one of us and democracy as a whole will pay the price. The government needs to take meaningful action to support our media.
To sum up, the Bloc Québécois is disappointed. If we were to grade the economic update on looks alone, I would give it a B, but the true yardstick is the measures themselves and whether they will meet people's real needs in terms of health, education, tax fairness, agriculture and support for strong economic sectors. On that score, this economic update is vacuous. The only real measure coming on line right away is accelerated depreciation. Something that minor could have been addressed with a planted question. All the rest is fluff.
We give the government's economic statement an F for failure.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to respond to the hon. 's presentation.
I will note that I have never seen a display as rude as the heckling of the Minister of Finance during his speech in this place. I wish that did not happen in this place, because it brings disrepute on us all. I disagreed with much of what the Minister of Finance said, but we owe respect to the officers of this place and to our executive in a government. We are here as members of Parliament to hold the Liberals to account, not to ridicule them as if we were in a school yard.
I apologize for taking a moment to act like a schoolmarm, but I just could not help myself.
To the matter in front of us, I want to say how disappointed I am that in an opportunity to respond to the intergovernmental panel on climate change report that we must hold global average temperatures to 1.5°, that the document apparently did not cross the 's desk. This is not an issue that can be pigeonholed, where the cabinet can afford to say that the or the can worry about whether our children will have a livable planet, because that is just one of those other issues that is less important than its finances.
For every member in this place, particularly to the and his cabinet, no issue comes close to discussing whether this planet will be habitable for human beings in the lifetime of our children. It is a rather important issue and it is completely ignored in this document.
Let us look at what was discussed. We have to be serious about ensuring we change our plan so Canada is not be held up as it was recently in the scientific study and earlier referenced in this place. If every country on earth followed Canada's plans for climate, we would not hold to 1.5° and we would be in the worst category there is. We would be in with China and Russia, taking this planet to 5.1°, which is a level of danger that can only be described as an existential threat to the survival of humanity on this planet. That means it is important.
Let me put it very clearly. Climate change is not an environmental issue. Climate change is a security threat that eclipses all of the terrorists one could find on the planet. It is a security threat that should awaken in every responsible member in the House a determination to rise up and meet that challenge.
I am convinced Canadians from coast to coast want to be given the tools. They want to know what they can do. We should ask the Rotary clubs, the Lions clubs, the church groups, every volunteer organization in our country what they would like to do. If they want to start installing solar panels, we could help them. If they want to plant trees everywhere, we could help them with that. If they want young people to know what they can do so they to make a difference and to protect their future, we could be there for them. We need leadership.
We have to look at the advice we have had from serious studies of how we get to a place where we have security for our future, a planet that will not only sustain life but will allow us to thrive. We have had the benefit of a very hospitable planet ever since human beings first emerged as homo sapiens and left our monkey cousins behind. We have had the benefit of a very beneficial climate. We are at risk of losing it for good.
What would we do if we wanted to put ourselves on that good path? We know that because work has been done. The advice of the deep decarbonization project, which I will refer to quickly, is to first get all fossil fuels out of electricity, decarbonize our electricity grid, improve our east-west electricity grid so there is good connectivity for British Columbia to sell to Alberta, for Quebec to sell to all of the Maritimes and so on. The east-west grid needs work.
Then we want to get all the fossil fuels out of it and ensure we are able to go off fossil electricity entirely. That does not mean Alberta's plan of going off coal and going to fracked natural gas. That does not do it. It is about the same amount of greenhouse gas. Therefore, we do all of that and then we get rid of the internal combustion engine and go to electric vehicles. Then we ensure that every single building in the country is retrofitted to the highest energy efficiency standards, which will employ, according to the trade unions I have talked to about this, four million Canadians. That means jobs for more workers than we actually have needing jobs.
We take this apart and compare it to this document. What do we have on the priorities for removing barriers to trade within Canada? We have nothing on the barriers to selling electricity.
These are the four high profile areas identified by the government in a time of climate crisis. These are the four areas where there will be an opportunity to improve internal conduct of trade. It is going to improve the transporting of goods in the trucking industry. It is going to harmonize food regulations. It is going to align regulations in the construction sector. It is going to facilitate greater trade in alcohol between the provinces and territories across Canada.
I am not against any of those things. However, where is the east-west electricity grid anywhere in this discussion? Where is there any awareness of what needs to be done, how it could stimulate our economy, how it would create jobs and how it would protect our future?
As I look—
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the courtesy very much, so my friends in this place can hear me.
The east-west electricity grid is a very important part of putting together what we need to do to address the climate crisis. When I talk to groups in my riding, I say this to them. If they had a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces on a table in front of them, but they had lost the lid of the box, it would be very hard to solve the puzzle. However, if they paint the top of the box, it looks like this: get carbon fuels out of electricity; move our vehicle fleet to electric vehicles; do fuel switching for everything else, tractors, fishing boats, forest equipment using biodiesel; ensure all our buildings are as energy efficient as possible; and stop exploring and developing any more fossil fuels than the level we have now and use it domestically instead of trying to put it in pipelines to ship it to places that are not interested.
Instead, there is a pipeline reference in this document. Page 93 tells us what we already know, that we have spent $4.5 billion on a 65-year-old pipeline, and it refers to the idea that we may expand and build an additional one, but it does not indicate the price tag. If anyone wants to know the price tag for expanding the now owned by the Government of Canada Kinder Morgan pipeline, it is an additional $10 billion to $13 billion on top of the $4.5 billion we already have spent for an existing pipeline. It is actually referred to in the following sentence:
Should construction of the Expansion Project be permitted to recommence prior to a sale of the Trans Mountain entities, the Government will record construction and other associated expenditures as adding to the book value of the asset.
However, the opportunity cost of spending $10 billion to $13 billion on an expansion of that pipeline is extraordinary. Not only in this document, but in any document of the Government of Canada or document of the prior owner, Kinder Morgan, will we find a cost benefit analysis of what it really costs just in economics to build a pipeline to ship bitumen offshore.
The reason the Alberta Federation of Labour and Unifor, the biggest union representing oil sands workers, intervened at the National Energy Board to oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline was because it cost jobs and it did not diversify markets either. If anyone wants to track the real-life examples of where the dilbit goes that reaches the port in Burnaby now, it mostly goes to California. It is not diversified markets; it is just moving our oil, solid bitumen, not even crude, to the same places it can go over land.
If we are serious about this, if we want to be serious about a climate crisis, which is real, and we want to respond to the needs of Canadian society, this is not the document to produce.
We do have other critical issues in the country and while the climate crisis is an existential threat, I really do agree with the New Democratic Party's response, which is this would have been a good time to start getting pharmacare going, to give us that commitment, maybe in the spring budget, but we need pharmacare in the country.
I also know Jim. The hon. member mentioned him earlier. He is a veteran and he sits outside by the bridge next to the Chateau Laurier. He cannot afford his medications without people giving him money. We are the only country with universal health care that does not provide universal pharmacare. While we are at it, why are we not implementing Vanessa's Law, which was passed in the 41st Parliament, to take big pharma to task and make it publish its drug results? There is a lot we need to do in our country and this document does not say that we are committed to doing those things.
There many nice words in the document, I am not saying there are not. I welcome any document that says it is time we take the charitable sector seriously. However, there is nothing about when we will pull up our socks and live up to our commitments to make poverty history by increasing our overseas development assistance to 0.7% of our GNP. That commitment was made years ago, and we are falling backward compared to where we were under former prime minister Brian Mulroney. That was the highest it ever was with respect to our charitable sector, 0.45%, in 1992.
To wrap up, the late Jim MacNeill, a great Canadian who wrote the Brundtland report, said that the single most important environmental document prepared by any government was its budget.
This fall mini-budget fails entirely to respond to the single largest threat to our children's future. Let us hope that before we go to COP24 in Poland, we will see the government step up and say that it wants to be the climate leader it promised Canadians it would be.