Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the applause from the other side, but members have not heard what I am about to say yet, so they might want to retract it in a few moments. I appreciate it and thank them.
As we take our seats and take up the people's business in this chamber, we all share in a privilege of protecting the hopes and dreams of our neighbours, communities and fellow Canadians through the work we do.
As I return here for the sixth time, I am so grateful to once again have earned the confidence of my constituents in Regina—Qu'Appelle, because this seat does not belong to me; it belongs to them. None of the seats in this chamber belong to any of us, including the 's seat. Instead, these seats all belong to the people who sent us here, and they sent us here to get to work. Canadians sent us here to make sure the country works for them, their jobs, their livelihoods, their cost of living, their health care, their environment, the safety of their communities and the security of our country on the world stage.
It is clear that we have a lot of work to do. No matter what party or region we are from, we all have a duty to listen, to learn, to grow and to improve. All of us, on both sides of the House, need to expect more from ourselves and from others.
This is particularly true in light of the results of the last election, in which the people sent a clear message to all of us that the status quo had failed, that the approach of the previous four years was just not good enough.
Canadians want better, and as the strongest opposition in Canadian history, we are going to make sure they get better. We will spend this Parliament proposing constructive solutions to Canada's most pressing problems. We are prepared to work with Canadians of every political stripe, focused on implementing ideas that actually work.
This does not mean we will compromise on the principles that make us Conservatives, and it certainly does not mean that we will shirk from our responsibilities as Her Majesty's loyal opposition to hold the government accountable every day in every way for its ethical lapses, errors and misdeeds. Canada's Conservatives are always prepared to look for common ground, but make no mistake, we will do our job.
It is just as important to recognize that when Canadians voted in the fall election, when they passed judgment on the previous four years, they were rendering a verdict on a four-year stretch in which the Liberal Party wielded virtually unchecked power. While the talking heads and pundits have been working overtime to spin the election results as anything else, the facts of this election are clear: The Liberal Party lost votes and seats in every region of the country. It lost the popular vote and was reduced to a minority government with the weakest mandate in Canadian history.
Canadians sent the Prime Minister a message that requires some reflection, as he himself admits.
Just because the avoided being fired does not mean he gets to act like he had a promotion. To be fair, he gave the appearance that he might be changing. He met with me and opposition leaders early on to discuss shared goals. He made a grand show of meeting premiers and mayors from across the country. However, yesterday in the Speech from the Throne, he revealed that he has not learned a thing, that he has not changed at all, even though the people of Canada sent a message that they demand better: better than four years of unserious, entitled government; better than four years of government that puts the interests of activists and lobbyists ahead of the jobs for Canadian families; better than four years of the 's lecturing others about standards that he himself refused to live up to.
Canadians demand better. They demand a fundamentally new approach by a government that is prepared to rise to this moment in history. Times of fear bring times of division, and Canadians are afraid for their country. We must return to what makes us strong as a nation. We must put a stop to the divisive policies that have pitted province against province and region against region.
Canada was built on the idea that we are stronger when we work together, when we dream together, when big nation-building projects are seen not just as possible but necessary. I believe we can build that kind of Canada again. That is what we came to the House prepared to work for.
Yesterday we were sorely disappointed. This throne speech was supposed to be the first real part of the 's new approach. That is what these speeches are all about. It is a statement of intent about how the government has changed, how it will learn and how it will improve. As I listened to the Governor General, that is what I was waiting to hear, some humility. I am still waiting.
If this Liberal government ends just like the last one, then an opportunity to learn and grow will have been missed and the message Canadians sent to the Liberal Party on October 21 will have truly been ignored.
One of the most important roles of the official opposition is to always be ready as a government in waiting to provide an alternative to the status quo. This is doubly true in a minority Parliament.
Today I want to talk about the challenges our country is facing, as well as the opportunities ahead and the leadership it will need.
I will talk about the kinds of actions all Canadians should expect from all parties in this Parliament: first, support for Canadian families that are struggling with the rising cost of living; second, keeping Canadians safe in an increasingly unstable world; third, creating and sustaining good Canadian jobs in a time of economic uncertainty; fourth, protecting the environment and fighting climate change at home and around the world; and fifth, preserving national unity and healing the divisions between provinces, between regions and between all Canadians.
Let us begin by talking about what should be the top priority for us all: supporting Canadian families who are struggling with the rising cost of living. Too many of the political games being played by the political classes are far removed from the real hardships facing real people.
Over half of Canadians have $200 or less in the bank at the end of the month. They are a breath away from financial hardship. They are vulnerable to interest rate hikes, living as they do on the brink of insolvency.
September 2019 had the highest number of personal bankruptcies since the Great Recession and the middle class is struggling. Over the past three years, the number of food bank users with jobs has gone up 27%. More and more hard-working people are not getting by. People are struggling to pay the mortgage, the rent or their bills.
More and more Canadian families are struggling to put food on the table or gas up the car.
The tax burden is going up. Studies have shown that for an average Canadian family earning $117,000 of combined income, 44.7% of that income, or $52,000, goes to paying taxes, and 53% of that goes to paying federal taxes. Nevertheless, over the past several weeks there has been a chorus of voices from elite corners of Canadian high society demanding that our party endorse the carbon tax. Let me be clear: We will always oppose a carbon tax because we know the real cost it imposes on the Canadian people.
The entire point of the carbon tax is to make essentials more expensive, making it harder to put fuel in the tank. It is about punishing a mom for driving her kids to school, punishing a dad for driving his daughter to soccer practice, punishing a senior for turning up the heat on a cold winter's day. We are not going to support that, especially when the Liberal carbon tax has granted a massive exemption to the country's largest emitters. There are better ways to fight climate change.
It is time to take action to lower the cost of living and put more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians.
Another issue Canadians are looking to the government for leadership on is how we are going to keep them safe in an increasingly unstable world.
Let us not sugar-coat it. The world has become a much more dangerous place. The Government of China continues with an expansionist agenda that is threatening Hong Kong's vibrant democracy and the safety and security of the people of Hong Kong themselves.
Just as important to Canadians, the same Chinese dictatorship continues to hold two innocent Canadians hostage in retaliation to Canada's fulfilling its legal obligation to arrest and extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. I understand that this is a matter of very serious diplomatic sensitivity for the government, and I have no doubt that behind the scenes there is a lot of work being done to secure the safe return of the two Canadians the Chinese government is holding. However, what is incomprehensible to Canadians is that in the face of this blatant attack, the still travelled to China and posed in photo ops to promote China as a place for Canadian investment.
Canadians are asking why the government is still giving $256 million to the Asian Infrastructure Bank so that China can develop infrastructure in other parts of the world. In fact, we found out just recently that this Asian Infrastructure Bank, funded by Canadian tax dollars at a time when western Canadian energy companies are struggling to get their product to market, funded not one but two pipeline projects in other countries. Canadians want to know why the is so silent in the face of such a blatant outrage. He should at least respond to what his own said: “China stand[s] out as [a] beacon of stability, predictability, a rule-based system, a very inclusive society.”
While he is at it, the could also share how his government intends to check the Russian expansionism that threatens countries like Ukraine and the Baltic states while funding cyber-sabotage around the world that threatens our alliances and democratic institutions.
While he is at it, he could explain the calculation his government made in abandoning the State of Israel and Jews around the world when his government curried favour with anti-Semitic factions at the United Nations to earn itself a Security Council seat.
However, most of all we would really appreciate hearing the talk about Canada's deteriorating relationship with the United States, one that was only exacerbated by his own conduct at this week's NATO summit. We understand that President Trump is a challenging negotiator, but Americans are our partners all the same, and no international file is more important to Canadian jobs and livelihoods than the ratification of the new NAFTA.
The fact is that 80% of our GDP depends on trade. We need an effective foreign policy to ensure that our allies and trade partners continue to trust us and trade with us.
Whether we are talking about steel industries in Ontario, aluminum industries in Quebec, our forestry industry in B.C., our agriculture and agri-food industries, including our supply-managed sectors, the auto sector, the aerospace sector or the hundreds of thousands of workers who depend on our energy sector, Canada's economy, Canadian workers and Canadian jobs depend on having a government that will stand up for our country no matter what.
This brings me to what should be another very important government priority: creating and sustaining Canadian jobs in a time of economic uncertainty.
Let us have some true moral clarity in the House right now. As I speak, a network of foreign-funded activist groups is trying to permanently shut down Canada's energy sector and drive hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of work. They have already done lasting damage to the economies in western Canada and to the livelihoods of thousands of families who depend on the development of our oil and gas to pay the bills. Every single member of the House should be expected to stand up and be counted. Do they stand with the activists or do they stand with the workers of Canada?
These groups take foreign funding and interfere in our discussion around energy and pipelines in this country. It has never made any sense to me why there are loud voices in this country, including many from the government benches, that want to ban and block the exportation of Canadian energy to foreign markets. Meanwhile, they do nothing when tanker after tanker of foreign oil comes into Canadian markets.
When Canadians make these decisions for themselves, they should be doing it by themselves. That is why a core Conservative commitment is to ban foreign-funded activist groups from participating in the approval process for large energy projects.
I can stand here confidently on behalf of every single member of the Conservative caucus and say with certainty that every single one of us will stand with Canadian workers every single time. Therefore, we are going to fight for pipelines, for lower taxes and for reduced regulations to make Canada the best place in the world to invest, start a business and create jobs. This will include repealing Bill and the tanker ban that has signalled that Canada is closed for business.
We will seek to diversify our trade relationships to reduce our dependence on the United States. When we, the Conservatives, were in office, we negotiated free trade and investment agreements with 53 countries, while protecting our business interests. We will put the same amount of energy into breaking down trade barriers in Canada as we will into standing up for free trade beyond our borders.
I hear it from our provincial counterparts and I hear it from businesses: It is time to build a true single market inside of Canada that can compete with trading blocs around the world and other single markets. We can do all of this while living up to our responsibility to future generations when it comes to environmental challenges like climate change.
Fighting climate change will require honesty and it will require co-operation, but first is honesty: Canada produces less than 2% of global emissions. China alone produces over 27% and saw a 4% increase in CO2 emissions just in the first half of 2019.
That is why our Conservative plan focuses on exporting Canadian green technologies and on substituting coal in China with clean Canadian natural gas and carbon capture technology. It is because we know that Canada can make a real difference by taking the climate change fight globally. Imposing a carbon tax on seniors will not do that. Even if it were possible to drop Canada's emissions to zero, it would not make a dent in our shared global obligation.
As well, if the Liberals do take climate change seriously, why would they rely so much on imposing taxes on essential things that are known to be unresponsive to price increases? It is time to stop targeting Canadian commuters and seniors and instead focus on innovative market-based policies that prepare Canada for the future and can ensure we make a real impact on global emissions. A real plan must offer a global vision for fighting climate change.
We can fight climate change without imposing taxes on parents who are taking their children to school. We need to invest in new technologies and establish a higher standard for big polluters so that they reduce their emissions at the source.
Finally, I want to talk about the gravest danger facing our nation's prosperity and the steps we can and must take to preserve national unity during this time of peril.
We are facing a time when our country is being divided between east and west, between English and French and between urban and rural. Even the divisions between generations continue to grow. No Canadian can afford to be oblivious to this threat, least of all members of this House. As a proud MP from Saskatchewan, I would caution all of our colleagues from across Canada to not underestimate the deep alienation and anger that people of my province, along with our neighbours in Alberta, currently feel about their deal in the confederation.
The damage done over the past four years is significant. Today, 175,000 Alberta energy workers are unemployed. Proud Canadian companies like TransCanada and Encana are moving their businesses to the U.S.
After only four years of Liberal rule, the Bloc Québécois, 32 sovereignist members strong, has returned with a vengeance. Premier Legault had specific requests. The Liberal government did not consider any of them, yet the Bloc members have decided to support the throne speech anyway. During the election campaign, the Bloc claimed to be the voice of Premier Legault, and this is the result. Only the Conservative members will stand up for Quebec's interests, not the Bloc.
The rifts dividing our country are deep, but they can heal. The first rule of medicine is to do no harm. That is why we must relegate the rigid ideological approach of the first Liberal term from the front pages to the history pages. We must focus on the things that unite Canadians.
I still believe that Canada can be a place of big dreams and that the same spirit that built the Canadian Pacific Railway, the TransCanada Highway and the St. Lawrence Seaway still exists today. We can still achieve big things together. This country can work for both the west and the east and for all provinces in between, but only a Conservative government has the vision to do just that.
I do believe that national unity is not something that we do; it is something that happens when we get the big things and the little things right. Our role as an official opposition is to fight for Canadians who, inadvertently or not, are hurt or left behind by the government's agenda, so we will show up every day. We will be ready to do our job.
We will use every tool at our disposal to oppose the items on the government's agenda that could harm Canadians.
We will constantly be at the ready, with better policies and a better plan to replace the government when it falls.
Canadians can no longer afford a government that gets the big questions wrong. We know we have a better program that will help unite Canada, create jobs, help Canadians make ends meet, and allow more Canadians from all races, regions, genders, religions, sexual orientations and languages to pursue their dreams and build a better life right here in Canada, right here at home.
On behalf of Canada's official opposition, I therefore move:
That the motion be amended by adding the following:
“and wishes to inform Your Excellency that Canada is threatened by:
Declining productivity and competitiveness, a rising cost of living and challenges to our society which requires:
Offering a plan for tax relief for Canadians with a path to a balanced budget,
Restoring Canada as an attractive place to invest,
Addressing social challenges that limit the ability of Canadians to achieve their full potential, and
Developing a real environment plan that strengthens the competitiveness of our economic sectors and tackles global climate change;
A weakening position within an increasingly uncertain world, which requires:
Confronting threats such as the regimes in Moscow and Beijing and protecting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic,
Developing a principled foreign policy that stands with traditional allies such as NATO, Ukraine, and Israel, and
Facing the rise of protectionism and strengthening the relationship with our largest trading partners;
A national unity crisis, which requires:
Respecting provincial jurisdiction and scrapping the carbon tax,
Stopping the attack on the Western Canadian economy, and
Restoring confidence in our national institutions, starting by returning ethics and accountability to the federal government.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to respond to the speech from the Leader of the Opposition.
One of the things we have listened to and heard from Canadians over the past number of months of the election campaign and subsequently is the need for us to collaborate in the House, a need for us to work together. One element of that will involve actually listening to each other in the House.
My team gave me an excellent speech to read in response to the 's speech, but this morning, I am choosing not to read it because it was written yesterday. I want to take the time to really listen to the Leader of the Opposition, who shared his thoughts on the work this Parliament will be doing and his vision for the best way to help Canadians across the country.
This is indicative of the new approach we need to take. Instead of merely reading a speech that itemizes everything we have done and everything we want to do, a speech that brings together all the elements in the excellent throne speech delivered yesterday, I would rather respond to the Leader of the Opposition's speech by addressing each of his points individually.
Unfortunately, as I go through the elements that the hon. laid out in his speech, I will have to stray a bit from them. There are some really important issues that matter to this country and to Canadians that he did not develop, dwell on or share his perspective on. First and foremost is the issue of indigenous reconciliation.
We are gathered here today, and every day, on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. As we move forward as a country, we have to include every Canadian and ensure they have a real and fair chance to succeed. For far too long in these houses of Parliament, we have not properly walked the road of reconciliation, which is a difficult road to be sure. It is one that will have setbacks and challenges as we walk it, but one on which we can make real progress, not just for indigenous Canadians but for all Canadians, as all Canadians have asked us repeatedly in recent elections to do. To continue to step up on indigenous reconciliation is something that we on this side of the House will do. I am sure it was a simple oversight on behalf of the . I know that many people on the other side very much want us to work in partnership and in respect with indigenous peoples in the country.
He also did not touch on the health challenges and health opportunities we have as a country, to move forward on the big things that will make a real difference for Canadians, whether they be national universal pharmacare, ensuring that every Canadian can access a family doctor or ensuring that there are clear outcomes and expectations on mental health care right across the country. These are the things, along with home and palliative care, on which we intend to work.
We understand they are elements we will need to work on with the provinces, in respect and in partnership, because of provincial jurisdiction. That is why I am pleased to have begun some of those conversations already. I am very pleased to have an outstanding and team, along with our deputy prime minister, who will engage directly with the premiers of provinces and territories across the country to move forward on keeping Canadians healthy.
Now the challenge for me is to respond to the Leader of the Opposition's speech, so I will go over his list of priorities for Canadians.
I do not think any Canadian anywhere in this country will be surprised to hear me say that, aside from those omissions, we agree with what he identified as Canadians' top concerns: the cost of living, affordability, the safety of Canadians abroad, ensuring the availability of good jobs for Canadians, fighting climate change and, lastly, national unity.
I think it is worth taking a look at each of those issues as well as some of the points he made and how he thinks we can address those issues. I want to show not only that we know how to listen, but also that we want to work with all parties in the House of Commons.
I will first address the question of affordability.
The recognized that many Canadians are feeling anxious about their personal finances, about the path forward for themselves to retirement and about the path forward for their children to getting good jobs in the future. There are concerns about the rising costs of living. Questions of day-to-day expenses, the costs of housing and everyday purchases keep Canadians anxious. We agree entirely. That is why the Liberal Party set out four years ago to focus on the middle class and the people working hard to join it. What we proposed in this Speech from the Throne, and in this mandate as we move forward, is to respond to that in concrete and tangible ways.
A number of the initiatives we put forward in our first mandate have started to have significant positive effects on Canadians, but we know there is much more to do. The very first thing we did in the last Parliament was put forward a tax cut for the middle class by raising taxes on the wealthiest 1%. We knew that lowering taxes for Canadians was something that would make a difference in their lives and would demonstrate that we understand the anxiety people are feeling. That is the very first thing we moved forward with. We propose, in this 43rd Parliament, that the very first thing we do once again is lower taxes for Canadians.
We are planning on putting forward very shortly a proposal to raise the basic minimum exemption that people pay on their taxes to $15,000. That means that thousands of Canadians will no longer have to pay taxes at all, because they make less than $15,000. Many more will see their tax burdens decrease significantly. If we are looking for common ground in this House of Commons, as we are, this proposal significantly resembles the proposal put forward by the to help at the lowest levels of our tax system.
The put forward a proposal that would help Canadians. We only have one small issue with it, which our proposal actually fixes, and I do not think it is a proposal that the Leader of the Opposition or his team will be preoccupied with. I think they can support it, because the change we made is to make sure that as we lower taxes for low-income Canadians and the middle class, we do not actually give any extra advantages to the wealthiest Canadians. The small hiccup in the proposal that the Leader of the Opposition put forward was that it would benefit someone making $400,000 a year, rather than someone making $40,000 a year. We are ensuring that the help we are giving to Canadians by lowering taxes really goes to those who need it most. That will help with affordability.
The second big thing we did as a government four years ago was introduce the Canada child benefit. We stopped sending cheques to millionaire families like mine and that of my colleague, and we started giving more money to those who need it most: low-income and middle-class families. This measure has helped lift over 300,000 Canadian children out of poverty.
However, we recognize that more work needs to be done, and I do not want to use my time talking about what we have done over the past four years. I would rather talk about what we plan to do moving forward. We want to increase the Canada child benefit for families with children under the age of one. I think everyone here can get behind such a measure. As we know, it costs more to care for newborns than it does to raise children who are three or 13 years of age. This measure will truly help families, and we know it will help boost people's confidence in their future and in their children's future. This will also help reduce the anxieties that we know many Canadians experience.
We also acknowledge that housing is a concern for so many Canadians. That is why we recently developed a national housing strategy that will improve affordability and access to housing for Canadians. However we, of course recognize that we still have a lot of work to do.
We have worked with municipalities and provinces to respond to the very real need for housing. We recognize there is more to do and that is why we are continuing to invest in infrastructure. We look forward to bringing in the Canada housing benefit, which will be a portable benefit based on going to families rather than to a specific apartment or location. This will give families a broader range of choices in affording the housing they need in order to build a future for themselves and their families.
We also recognize that far too many young Canadians, far too many first-time homebuyers are seeing greater barriers to buying their first home as housing prices rise across the country. Even with economic growth and more jobs, we know that people are facing anxiety, and that any delays in millennials or others buying their first home ends up accumulating in missed opportunities to build the equity throughout their lives that would afford them a good retirement. That is why we put in place the first-time home buyer initiative a number of years ago, which provides money to first-time homebuyers that lowers their mortgage costs and makes buying their first home more affordable. However, that is something we have done already.
What we are proposing to do as a next step around housing affordability is to make sure that people in high-cost markets, like Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, Victoria or the GTA, have a larger benefit. That would allow more people to buy their first home, even in places where the cost of housing is significantly higher than other places. Our focus on affordability and supporting the middle class, as well as the people working hard to join it, runs through everything we do.
What was interesting about the 's comments on this is that he talked about the carbon tax as being a significant cost for Canadians. If he is serious about reducing people's anxiety about the future and reassuring Canadians about their ability to tackle new challenges and support their families, it would be good if we were able to lay out the actual facts of what our plan of putting a price on pollution means for Canadians across the country.
First of all, to prevent pollution from being free anywhere in the country, we wanted to work with the provinces to ensure that they could create a price on pollution in a way that suited each province and its realities. That was the starting point. We would rather not have to bring in a federal backstop anywhere across the country, because we know that provinces have varied needs and perspectives and should be able to determine their own way of fighting climate change and putting a price on pollution to make sure it is not free anywhere in the country. However, we also need to make sure that everyone across the country is doing their part to prevent pollution from being free anywhere in the country, and that we have a level playing field. That is why, rightly, in our pan-Canadian framework to fight climate change, we expect a similar level of equivalency and stringency right across the country.
There are a number of provinces that do not believe it is important to fight climate change or to put a price on pollution. Therefore, we have to move forward in bringing in a backstop.
However, every single dollar collected from a particular province for the price on pollution will be returned to that province. Most important, average costs for an average family in that province will be less on the price on pollution we added than the climate action incentive we return to them at tax time before the full year is up. Therefore, very simply and clearly put, in the provinces in which there is a federal backstop, that is, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and soon Alberta and Manitoba, the average citizens of those provinces will be better off with this price on pollution than they would be had there been no price on pollution. Indeed, in a province like Saskatchewan, where the is from, I can point out that families will be hundreds of dollars better off every year with this price on pollution. If one wanted to truly bring down the temperature and the anxiety in the west, pointing out that fact might actually help.
We recognize as well that fighting for better affordability for Canadians means fighting the challenges of poverty that far too many Canadians continue to face. That is why initiatives like the Canada child benefit and our fight against poverty have helped in lifting over 900,000 Canadians out of poverty over the past years. That is something on which we know there is much more work to be done. For every family we have seen lifted out of poverty, there are more families we need to help. That is what we are going to focus on in the coming years.