Mr. Speaker, today is an occasion for us to reflect upon the economic events that are unfolding before our eyes. To do so, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
Let us begin with the story of the grasshopper and the ants:
One fine day in winter, some ants were busy drying their store of corn, which had gotten rather damp during the long spell of snow. Presently came up a grasshopper and begged them to spare a few grains. “For,” he said, “I am simply starving.”
The ants stopped work for a moment, though this was against their principles. “May we ask,” said they, “what were you doing with yourself last summer? Why did you not collect a store of food for the winter?”
“The fact is,” replied the grasshopper, “I was so busy singing that I hadn't the time.” “If you spent the summer singing,” the ants replied, “you can't do better than spend the winter dancing,” and they chuckled and went on about the work.
The ants had been responsible. They knew that the sunshine of the summer would not last, that it was merely one season of the year, so they worked hard to accumulate and set aside grain for the difficult times they knew would be ahead. What did the grasshopper do? He assumed that the sun would always shine and that times would always be good, and that therefore he did not need to do anything but dance and sing and play.
It is no so long ago that the sun was shining on the global economy. In the years 2016, 2017 and 2018, things were quite good. The U.S. economy was roaring, having some of the best growth it had experienced in two decades. Commodity prices had recovered from their lows in 2014, and interest rates were as low as one could expect them to be. In fact, it was almost a perfect coincidence of events where growth was high and interest rates were low, all of which maximized the sunshine that blanketed the economic countryside.
Conservatives said, “Like the ants, now is the time to store away the grains, because the sun will not shine forever.” Liberals told us that we should dance and sing and spend. They said that we should spend the cupboard bare and not worry about the bad times, for the good times were here. They said that it was the time to squander those good times and to celebrate in a period of self-praise all the riches that fell from the sky.
Conservatives warned that one day winter would come, that trouble would arise and that we would want then to open our cupboards and find them overflowing with a surplus of supply to get us through those cold, dark months and into the economic springtime down the calendar. Of course, across the way the government said no and that it was going to continue to spend.
What did the Liberals do? In every single year since they formed government, their deficits have been bigger than they promised. They told us that deficits would never exceed $10 billion a year, yet they reached $29 billion. They told us that the budget would be balanced in 2019. That year came and went, and now they predict that the budget will never be balanced. They put us on track to add $100 billion to our national debt.
They did all this while the sun was shining, convinced that the economic laws of the four seasons had been abolished, that bad times would never return and that all we needed to do was sing, dance and spend. It appears winter may have arrived.
I looked at Bloomberg News today at 9:30. I quote:
Canadian markets were battered on all fronts as the collapse in oil sent shockwaves through a country with one of the biggest exposures to the commodity among the Group of Seven.
Stocks cratered 10% with the biggest drop since October 1987, the loonie weakened and government bond yields plunged to fresh records as investor pessimism deepened for an economy that barely eked out any growth in the fourth quarter and is already grappling with the coronavirus.
I emphasize again the last point in the Bloomberg article, that in the last three months of 2019 we had growth of 0.3%, and that was before the illegal blockades and before the coronavirus broke out and started to impact on global economic matters.
I go back to Bloomberg:
The slump in oil will exact another heavy toll on the natural resource-dependent country, which generates about 9% of its gross domestic product from energy and has the biggest exposure to the sector on its stock market at 15%.
Remember, that is the sector the wanted to phase out altogether, and it looks like he is achieving some success.
Not only would the ants be unhappy with the approach the government took to the good times; so too would be Keynes, the great economist leftists these days try to appropriate for themselves. In his great work The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes explained that during good economic times governments should run large surpluses and pay down debt in order to prepare a buffer and allow for economic stimulus when troubled times later come. That is exactly the formula followed by the previous Conservative government.
In the first two years it was in office, it paid off almost $40 billion of debt under Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty. To their credit, Chrétien and Martin in the years prior did likewise. That decision to pay down debt prepared us for the winter ahead. When the winter came, and it was a serious winter, we in Canada were more prepared than any other G7 country. We weathered that grand winter storm better than anyone else because our cupboards overflowed with the surplus of responsible planning and hard work that had happened in the summer months.
The current government, having done the opposite, now leaves us weak and vulnerable as we enter this winter period. Having rendered us so weak and so vulnerable, what can we do now to get us through the winter? We as Conservatives have a plan.
That plan would reduce taxes on workers and entrepreneurs to stimulate hard work, enterprise, investment and consumer activity. It would remove the anti-development barriers imposed by bills and which prevent us from shipping our resources from the Pacific coast, and from building pipelines to deliver them there in the first place.
We would require a two-for-one red tape reduction rule. That is to say if the government brings in one new economic regulation, it would need to get rid of two of them in order to remove the red tape that is holding back our economy.
We would replace wasteful corporate welfare, like the millions for Bombardier, Loblaws, Mastercard and BlackBerry, with lower taxes for all entrepreneurs to unleash their power to generate wealth and get us through these hard times. In other words, we want to unleash the fierce and ferocious power of free enterprise, which is the only source of prosperity that will get us through these difficult times.
We believe in responsible planning for trouble ahead. That planning did not occur, so now we as Conservatives step forward again with a responsible plan to get us through the hard times, to get us over the difficulties and to allow Canadians to fulfill their potential so that anyone who works hard can achieve his or her dreams.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me, speaking on behalf of my constituents, to rise and speak to this very important motion. It is a motion that my colleague from has brought forward, and one that I had the opportunity to second.
Throughout my ongoing consultations and interactions with constituents, I hear about the concerns of the people right across Edmonton Mill Woods. One of the most repeated concerns I hear, especially from those in the energy sector, is that they cannot find work.
Just this weekend I heard the story of James, a constituent in my riding who is just starting a young family. He had a great job, a well-paying job with benefits. He worked for a company that had been in operation in Alberta for over 25 years. Unfortunately he was laid off, as the company was forced to shut down and move its operations to the United States.
James has not been able to find work in over a year because of the economic situation in Alberta. He has seen first-hand the impacts the stalling economy has had on his living situation. It is situations like James' that are leading to the frustration, desperation and hopelessness at the root of the unity crisis we are seeing in western Canada.
To make matters worse, there are an unprecedented number of small businesses claiming bankruptcy. Canadians have seen the government raise taxes, spend wastefully and rack up massive deficits. Canadians are worried, and for good reason.
We are here today for this important debate. We are calling on the government to provide documents discussing warnings or concerns of economic downturns, the potential impact on the fiscal framework, or advice or recommendations on how to deal with them, and that those documents be provided to the House within 45 days following the adoption of this motion.
We are requesting documents going back to November 2015 because today's economic situation is not something that just happened overnight. Many experts have been warning about this situation for many years.
Constituents in my riding of Edmonton Mill Woods and right across Alberta have felt the effects the Liberal government has had on the economy the hardest. Alberta saw four straight months of job losses at the end of last year, resulting in nearly 10,000 jobs lost in a four-month span. That is 10,000 families receiving the devastating news from their family members when they came home from work that they had just lost their job.
Investment is fleeing Alberta as regulations are strangling the energy sector and making it almost impossible to build pipelines in Canada. Instead of reducing regulation and bringing in smart rules to make Canada an attractive place to invest, the government brought in the most burdensome regulations on work. These have resulted in nearly $200 billion in oil and gas projects being cancelled and 200,000 Canadian oil and gas workers losing their jobs over the last five years.
Bills like Bill , the “no-more-pipelines” bill, and Bill , the tanker ban, have unfairly targeted Alberta and have crippled its economy. We have seen the effects these bills and the lack of confidence in the government have had. This was highlighted most recently by Teck's decision to pull its application for the Frontier mine, a project that would have brought 7,000 construction jobs, 2,500 long-term jobs and billions of dollars in investment.
Investment continues to flee Canada while the demand for oil continues to climb right across the world. Foreign investment in Canada is down over 50% since the took power. This was most recently highlighted by Warren Buffet's decision to pull out of a $9-billion liquefied natural gas project in Quebec over concerns about how the government is handling the illegal railway blockades and infrastructure disaster.
This impact is worsened by the increased taxes as a result of the Liberal government. Since the Liberal government came to power in 2015, 81% of middle-income Canadians are seeing higher taxes, with the average income tax increase for middle-income families coming in at $840.
From the cancelled family tax cut to the cancelled art and fitness tax credit, to the cancelled education and textbook credit, the government has found a way to target every Canadian with higher taxes. As a result of these policies, 48% of Canadians are within $200 of not being able to pay their bills and their debt obligations. One-third of Canadians have no money left at the end of the month and are unable to cover their payments, falling further into debt. Adding to their growing concerns is the worry that the government has mismanaged the economy completely.
Businesses are experiencing the same harsh reality. Businesses are facing new carbon taxes and increased CPP and EI premiums. Thousands of local businesses across our great nation are no longer qualifying for the small business tax rate, or will see it reduced. While other G7 countries, such as the United States, United Kingdom and France, have all embarked on major tax reforms over the past few years to simplify the tax code and lower overall taxes, Canada continues to move in the opposite direction by increasing taxes and regulations, stifling our economy and having taxpayer dollars go up in smoke.
That is what the government is doing, while also spending these increased tax dollars at unprecedented levels. During the first four years of the Liberal government, the added over $72 billion to the national debt. This was after the Prime Minister, during the 2015 debates, promised, “I am looking straight at Canadians and being honest the way I always have been. We've said we are committed to balanced budgets and we are. We will balance that budget in 2019.”
However, here we are at the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year and we are staring at the reality of another deficit and nearly $100 billion added to our debt. There is no evidence that there was any increase in economic growth as a result of the spending.
There is also little to show for the frivolous spending. We can look at the $187-billion infrastructure program that the Parliamentary Budget Officer said resulted in zero increase in infrastructure built in Canada because the infrastructure plan did not exist; the $40 million to BlackBerry, where the CEO of the company candidly admitted he did not need the money; the $12 million to buy new refrigerators for Loblaws, a company that turned hundreds of millions of dollars in profits last year; or the $50-million handout to Mastercard. These examples are priceless.
Canadians are getting the short end of the stick again while seeing their hard-earned tax dollars going to waste and turned into subsidies for these Liberal-favoured companies. Let us contrast this with the Conservative plan that my honourable colleague from laid out.
Being the party of the taxpayer, we outlined our five-step plan focused on tax cuts for workers and entrepreneurs, a plan to phase out the deficit, eliminate red tape and free businesses, end corporate welfare for Liberal-favoured companies, and end wasteful Liberal spending that we have seen over the past four years. These are the types of actions needed to ensure our economy continues to function and that is why we bring forward this motion.
I am proud to support this motion in the House today. Canadians have seen the government raise taxes, spend wastefully and rack up massive deficits. Canadians are worried about the state of the economy, and for good reason, especially given the bleak reality our stock markets reflect today. The Liberals have squandered the good times, leaving us weak and vulnerable for economic turmoil.
As opposed to paying down the debt, the government racked it up while the world was stable and prosperous and spent at unprecedented levels. Canada's economic growth has slowed to 0.3% in the fourth quarter, the worst performance in almost four years, and this was all before the impact of the illegal blockades and coronavirus. The blockades have stifled our economy for weeks and affected small businesses across the country. The 's sky-high taxes, wasteful spending and massive deficits have put Canada in an incredibly weak and vulnerable position, with the possibility of a made-in-Canada recession rapidly approaching.
As we continue to see the effects these illegal blockades have had on our economy and the increased concern of the effects of COVID-19, now is the time for the government to finally be transparent with Canadians, to provide us with its plans discussing warnings or concerns of the economic downturns and their potential impacts on the fiscal framework, and advice and recommendations on how to deal with them. Canadians are worried about what is next. The people in my riding of Edmonton Mill Woods, right across Alberta and across this country as a whole cannot handle more weakness and vulnerability from the government.
Canada's Conservatives have a plan to unleash our economy, reward hard work, eliminate waste and allow Canadians to fulfill their potential. We will continue to be the voice of hard-working entrepreneurs and Canadians today and demand that the Liberals get our economy back on track, so that Canadians can get back to work.
Madam Speaker, as always it is a pleasure to rise in the chamber and, in this instance, to contribute to the debate that largely revolves around the fiscal and economic health of our nation in uncertain and challenging times globally.
The sponsor of the motion went to great lengths to talk down the Canadian economy in an effort to score political points. I disagree with the vast majority of the points that he raised during his debate, so it is somewhat ironic that I plan on supporting the motion because the documents that may exist are not documents that we have any interest in keeping from the opposition nor the Canadian public.
Over the course of my remarks there are a few key themes that I hope to touch on, in order to provide an overview of the current economic and fiscal context in which we find ourselves; to highlight some of the emerging challenges that face the Canadian economy; and to introduce some of the measures that we have put forward in the past few years, which have yielded results far beyond what I thought possible when I was a candidate in the 2015 federal election campaign.
By way of background, it would be helpful to describe the context within which we find ourselves.
Canada is in a very healthy fiscal position compared to other developed economies in the global community. We are well positioned to respond to the kinds of challenges that are now making themselves present.
The narrative that somehow overspending has put us in a position where we cannot afford to deal with the challenges we are now facing is based on false pretenses. I honestly believe that it is designed purely to score political points based on misinformation, rather than making substantive points that contribute to the health of our democratic discourse in Canada.
The fundamentals of our economy are strong. We have seen extraordinary job growth in the past few years. We have seen, as importantly, that growth translate into benefits for middle-class and low-income Canadians. We have seen certain measures improve the competitiveness of our nation's economy and we have seen an overall improvement to the fiscal health of our economy.
Responsible management of the economy is at the forefront of our government. The mandate letter to the from the specifically mandates him to continue to see our national debt shrink as a function of our economy and to ensure that we preserve enough economic firepower to respond, in the event that an economic downturn does come to pass.
We have been planning to invest in Canadians to create growth but also making sure that we have enough fiscal room to operate, should the circumstances demand any kind of a change in course. Sometimes, the fiscally prudent thing to do is to take advantage of opportunities to invest that may exist.
If I look at the status of Canada's economy right now, what I see is a debt-to-GDP ratio that has actually been shrinking and is projected to continue to go down. What I see is the healthiest debt-to-GDP ratio of any G7 economy. Canada is one of only two countries within the G7 to have a AAA credit rating, the highest possible rating with all of the major credit agencies. Canada is one of only about 10 countries on the planet today that have a credit rating of this strength.
In addition, in our federal budgets that we table, we prepare for contingencies to deal with events that we may not have been able to foresee at the time of their crafting, specifically to deal with challenges that may present themselves that may not be apparent on the day a budget is tabled. Having that contingency in place is precisely the kind of thing we do to deal with emerging challenges, and I will deal with a few of them now.
Of course, the spread of COVID-19, or as most Canadian households would refer to it, coronavirus, in recent weeks may not have been something that could have been apparent months ago. When we became aware that this was an issue that needed to be dealt with, we responded professionally every step of the way.
When it comes to something like the coronavirus, I want to make clear that while it is also an economic issue, our number one priority is protecting the health of Canadians. I have been blown away by the leadership of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the level of co-operation with our international partners, whether it is the G7 or IMF on the economic side, or the World Health Organization on the public health side. I have also been blown away with the level of coordination between federal departments through the government operations centre, which was triggered by public safety in recent weeks, as well as the Public Health Agency's coordination of the efforts between the provinces and territories with federal measures that have been put in place.
To those front-line workers who are diligently protecting the health of Canadians, so that my family and I can sleep soundly knowing that we are in good hands, I want to thank them for their professionalism and excellence throughout.
I want to recognize that despite the fact that it is primarily a public health issue, there are also economic challenges that obviously arise when we see threats of this nature. We do not have to have a crystal ball to see that there is an impact on commodity prices when a particular region of the world has such a dramatic drop in demand that it suddenly has an impact on the countries that produce those commodities. This is having a particular impact on the metals and oil and gas sectors that Canada's economy has depended on for a very long time.
We also see that the travel and tourism sectors can be significantly impacted whenever there are affected regions of the world that have travel advisories. It also can have an economic impact at home. My home province of Nova Scotia was set to host the international women's hockey championship in the coming months. Unfortunately, out of concern of public health and safety, that event had to be cancelled. That will have an unfortunate economic impact on the communities that were so looking forward to hosting that tournament.
There is also an economic impact on global supply chains. Canadian businesses that may not be able to secure the products they rely on for the manufacturing process, for example, may not be able to provide their products to their typical end customers or they may have to pay a higher price. It is not lost on us that the events that are global in nature can have a very serious impact on us at home and they can also impact the general business and consumer sentiments. They can cause them to change course in the spending decisions they otherwise would have made.
One of the things we are doing to monitor the economic impact of this outbreak is to make sure that we have the resources in place so that Canada can maintain a world-class public health response. We also want to continue to monitor the impact on businesses and workers and ensure the measures that we are putting in place are going to serve the interests of keeping the Canadian economy operating at capacity.
We have a plan to increase our risk adjustment in the upcoming federal budget to make sure that we are planning for the potential impact that this illness could have on our nation's economy. We can look recently at the blockades that were canvassed in a number of debates in the House in response to the protests tied to the land rights issue in the Wet'suwet'en territory in western Canada.
We have also taken measures to address the economic impacts of the rail blockades. If there is a lesson to be learned from the past few weeks, it is that there is no straight path to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Reconciliation requires dedication and hard work, and we have to recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done. This is a healing process that will involve good days and not-so-good days. We need to continue to show our determination.
Canada is a trading nation and we ship a lot of our goods to world markets by rail. Although it is too early to know the full impact of the blockades, we know that they were extremely challenging and frustrating for businesses and individuals. We have to keep in mind that many Canadians rely on rail transit networks to obtain basic necessities like food, to commute to and from work every day and to earn a living.
Thousands of workers were laid off, and many are still having problems. The situation is having real and immediate effects. Our government is working 24 hours a day to mitigate the economic risks of the rail blockades and to find a lasting solution.
From day one, we knew that we could not take shortcuts and that, no matter how difficult, dialogue was the best approach. Many people have criticized our approach, but it is working. For the most part, trains are running again. The people who were laid off are being rehired. Most of the blockades have been dismantled. In my opinion, the took the right approach even though other politicians proposed simple solutions to a very complex problem.
There is another emerging challenge for the Canadian economy. I do not know if I can even call it that, we have known about it for so long. I would be remiss if I did not raise the threat posed by climate change not only to our environment, but to our nation's economy.
The fact that we still have debates over whether human industrial activity is the primary driver of climate change is beyond me, and the fact that in the Canadian political context we still have debates on whether Canada can play a meaningful role in the fight against climate change is something that, as a representative who cares about this, I simply cannot accept. We cannot address challenges to our economy if we do not deal with the threats posed by climate change.
Canadians are feeling the effects today. We have seen storm surges in Nova Scotia, floods in New Brunswick, heat waves in Quebec and Ontario, droughts in the prairies, forest fires in the west and a glacial melt in the north. They are having a real impact on the traditional way of life of Canadians and on our economies.
Of course, there is also a direct economic impact. When representatives of the Insurance Bureau of Canada testified before the finance committee as part of our pre-budget consultations, they highlighted that in 1990, the losses associated with severe weather events were in the ballpark of $100 million. That number last year was in the ballpark of $2 billion, a twentyfold increase. I do not doubt that their motivations are pure, but I think they are motivated not only by the desire to do social good for our planet and environment, but also, as they represent the insurance industry, by the bottom line. If we follow the money, we can see that it costs more because life on planet earth has changed. We can address these challenges. They also testified that for every dollar in insured losses, three dollars in uninsured losses were being picked up by taxpayers today, whether municipal, provincial or federal. It is the same group of people who are now out of pocket far too much to deal with climate inaction over decades.
It is not just the cost of mitigating disasters or responding to floods that we need to deal with. There are also missed economic opportunities. When we look at the forest fires out west, we see that the impact they had on production, even in the energy sector, was immense.
Something that I am deeply concerned about, as I represent Nova Scotia, is what happened to the lobster fishery in Maine a few years ago because of high ocean temperatures. I fear that a similar kind of consequence will befall the lobster harvesters in Nova Scotia if we do not take action soon. I hope it is not already too late.
We also need to turn our mind to other things, not just the challenge facing our economy when we are dealing with climate change. There is a massive economic opportunity, according to Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of Canada and current governor of the Bank of England. He said there is a $26-trillion global opportunity.
The world is changing and we have to decide whether we want to change with it. If we choose to change and be a part of this transition, we will be at the front of a wave of economic growth that we perhaps cannot contemplate now.
In fact, we are seeing it already today. In my own community, the Trinity group of companies is helping with energy efficiency initiatives. It grew from a shop of about two people to dozens and dozens of employees. It helps homeowners reduce their power bills and emissions at the same time.
We are seeing investments in green infrastructure that are able to create jobs, put people to work and prevent the worst consequences of climate change for future generations. We are also seeing investments in research at St. Francis Xavier University, a university in my own backyard, to the Flux Lab, where Dr. David Risk has helped to discover a new gas leak detection technology that is helping energy companies reduce their emissions. It has put people to work not just in his lab, but at some of Canada's largest energy producers, which have now adopted this technology.
We have put forward the first national climate action plan, and we have introduced more than 50 measures. We expect to see growth in the green economy as a result.
However, while it is one thing to experience economic growth, it is another thing to make sure that it actually benefits everyday, ordinary Canadians. To grow the economy, we have made investments in infrastructure, which put people to work and strengthen communities, and in innovation through our universities, as I just cited. We have also triggered private sector investment.
We have changed rules around immigration to ensure that employers are not missing out on growth opportunities because they cannot find people in their communities to do the work. We have invested in trade to help grow the economy and are now the only G7 economy with free trade access to every other G7 economy.
We have cut the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%, making it the lowest rate of small business tax in the G7. We have also put new rules forward to accelerate the capital cost allowance right now for companies that are investing in ways to increase their production and put more people to work.
What is the result of these investments? There are more than 1.2 million new jobs in our nation's economy, including more than 30,000 last month. We are seeing record low unemployment, with more Canadians working now than at more or less any other point in our nation's history since we started keeping track of those statistics. However, it is cold comfort for someone living in poverty or who cannot afford the cost of raising a family to hear that there are a number of new jobs across Canada or that our GDP has, in fact, gone up.
That is why we have introduced policies like the Canada child benefit, which ended the practice of sending child care cheques to millionaires and puts more money directly into the pockets of nine out of 10 Canadian families. It is why the first thing we did when we came here after 2015 was advance a tax cut for nine million middle-class Canadians and raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% of income earners. It is why the first thing we did when we got here in 2019 was put forward a measure to reduce taxes for 20 million Canadians and eliminate federal income tax altogether for more than one million low-income Canadians. It is why we have advanced OAS benefits, reducing the age of eligibility for old age security from 67 to 65. It is why we have increased the guaranteed income supplement by 10% for low-income single seniors. It is why we made enhancements to the Canada pension plan, which I am learning the Conservative Party now opposes, to ensure our seniors can have a more dignified and secure retirement. It is why we are tackling the cost of education by improving the Canada student grants program, changing the timeline under which students have to repay debt they may have built up while studying, and why we doubled the Canada summer jobs program to put more young people to work.
What we are actually seeing, despite the clever use of statistics by some of the members opposite, is that the typical Canadian household, when we consider the totality of our body of work, is about $2,000 better off today than it was before we took office. More importantly, as we have seen recently, is that more than one million Canadians have been lifted out of poverty in the past few years. We have achieved the single greatest reduction in poverty over a three-year period in the history of Canada. About 334,000 of the people no longer living in poverty, who were living in poverty just four and a half years ago, are Canadian children. This is the kind of policy development that we should be shouting from the rooftops and sharing with the world to demonstrate how to successfully manage the benefits of economic growth to support Canadians.
The Conservatives' attack on the Canadian economy is not, in and of itself, an economic plan. What we have, when we look at the facts, is a rate of job growth that most would not have thought possible when the Liberals were coming into power at the end of 2015. More importantly, we have seen that Canadians writ large are sharing in the benefit of that growth, rather than it being concentrated among the wealthiest 1% of income earners. We have also seen more Canadians lifted out of poverty than almost any member of the House could have imagined four and a half years ago.
All of this has taken place while we have maintained a healthy fiscal framework that allows us to respond to the changing dynamics of the global economy. If members do not want to accept my word on this, I would invite them to read the report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who confirmed this to be the case just a few short weeks ago.
Yes, the world is changing and yes, there are challenges. However, Canada is up to them now and will be as long as we remain in government.
Madam Speaker, before I begin, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague, the member for . It is an honour for me to start things off.
On a more serious note, the global economy is in bad shape. The New York and Toronto stock exchanges both temporarily suspended trading this morning because stock prices were plummeting too quickly, as we also saw when the European stock exchanges closed. This is very worrisome, and it can be attributed to the panic created by the oil crash, which in turn can be attributed to the threat currently facing the global economy because of the coronavirus. I would add that even before those two events that caused stock markets to plummet, the global economy was beginning to show signs of a downturn. It was clearly already struggling.
According to widely reported statistics, global growth was pretty weak in 2019 at 2.9%. It is generally understood that when growth is at 2.5% or less, there is a serious risk of global recession. Things are not going well. Europe is also struggling, as it was even before the problems related to the coronavirus arose. The same is true in Asia, especially in Japan, China and other countries in the region.
In North America, the situation is not as bad, but growth is weak and, since the global economy is interconnected, the risks are real. We often get the impression that economic crises, no matter how big or small, happen roughly every 10 years. In fact, the last one was in 2008-09.
The global economy is struggling and now it is sustaining external shocks that we could not see coming, like the coronavirus, the plunge in oil prices and the resulting repercussions. The coronavirus is creating fear, which has crippled tourism all around the world. Some large regions, for example in Italy or China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, are under quarantine. We can expect an additional slowdown and, since both local and global economies are interconnected, these shocks are likely to have adverse effects on all economic sectors.
If the economy were on a strong footing, then this shock would be temporary and the economy would return to normal growth after a few months. However, as I was just saying, there are already signs of a serious economic slowdown. The current situation might be bad enough to have a serious impact on the economy and plunge us into that phase of the economic cycle we call “recession”.
The problems of the tourism industry, the quarantines and the reduction in personal expenditures could result in the classic scenario of a decline in demand that would possibly trigger an economic crisis. I am certain that our colleague could tell us more about Keynesian analysis and possible solutions later today. I will be there because it will be very interesting, and I invite all my colleagues to come and listen to him.
In his analysis of the current situation, renowned economist Kenneth Rogoff, from Harvard, is introducing a new element by suggesting that there could also be a risk of a supply shock as the coronavirus could cause a downturn in supply. The global economy is so interconnected and supply chains so diversified that a quarantine in a given region, such as China, could slow production of a component used in the manufacture of cars, transportation equipment or other goods. A single missing link could halt and even paralyze the entire production chain in a given economic sector. This possibility is worrisome and the economist Rogoff has more to say.
The Chinese economy is now twice as big as it was during the SARS crisis in 2003. Every segment of the economy is in massive debt. Individuals, businesses and local governments all rely on income coming in regularly to be able to make payments, since they are all over-indebted and over-leveraged. This becomes very worrisome if a zone is quarantined. Individuals, businesses and municipalities will no longer be able to make their payments, which could cause a cash crisis. Everyone knows that China plays a big role in the international economy. This situation is very worrisome.
The economy could slow down because of a drop in demand and also a drop in supply. Basic economic theory tells us that a drop in supply can cause a drop in production, leading to an increase in prices and inflation rates. This is particularly worrisome because the potential inflation could make the traditional methods we rely on to recover from recessions less effective.
The reason inflation has been so low over the past few years is that the primary goal of most central banks is to keep inflation within a target range of 1% to 3%. I would add that it is also due to increased trade worldwide. All this interconnectedness has lowered production costs in every sector, which could explain why inflation has not gone up. However, if the coronavirus sets off a panic and countries start closing their borders, the gains from increased international trade could drop off, leading to an inflation problem.
As I mentioned earlier, the global economy was starting to show signs of slowing down, and we are now facing two problems, namely the coronavirus and the oil crash. Let us hope this is only temporary. However, it is extremely important that governments around the world take concrete steps to help us recover as fast as possible. These problems are so serious that they could mark the beginning of a crisis, and that is deeply troubling.
Naturally, the government will have to make use of its traditional tools. We have seen the Bank of Canada, which operates independently of the government, cut its policy rate. There is also public spending. The parliamentary secretary told us earlier that it is important for Canada to maintain a world-class health care system.
Canada's health care system belongs first and foremost to Quebec and the provinces. It falls under provincial jurisdiction. The federal government's role is to provide adequate funding for the health care system in accordance with its previous commitments, but we are seeing exactly the opposite. I would like to remind members that Quebec's former finance minister, who was a member of the Liberal Party, accused this government of engaging in predatory federalism because it is not honouring its commitment to provide better funding for health care. That really says a lot. There is still no social housing agreement between Quebec and Ottawa. Money for infrastructure is not being disbursed. These fundamental tools would be useful in dealing with current problems, but the government is making the process more difficult than it needs to be. Things are not moving as fast as we would like.
No short-term solution is very effective in boosting supply in an economic downturn. The crisis is an excellent opportunity to move toward the economy of the future. The parliamentary secretary was talking about a transition economy. In my opinion, the government really needs to get on that and stop insisting on remaining in the last century's economy. The price of oil has just dropped. It does not make any sense that the oil industry is receiving more government support than any other industry. We are talking about over $20 billion with cost overruns. That is what was announced just over a year ago. The government is stuck in the past. We need to diversify the economy, and Quebec has everything it takes to succeed in the transition economy.
Madam Speaker, I will discuss our position on the motion and share some of my own thoughts on this request.
As the Bloc Québécois critic for access to information and ethics, emphasis on ethics, I think it is important to explain what I think this motion is really about.
First of all, as several people have said today, the Bloc Québécois obviously agrees with the motion that an order of the House do issue for any document prepared by any department, agency and Crown corporation since November 4, 2015. Obviously, documents produced by any department should be disclosed and available to all parliamentarians.
I am a new member of the 43rd Parliament, and I have a lot to learn, but I know there are fundamental things we must do to be transparent, open and easy to understand, not opaque. Information relevant to public opinion must be entirely accessible. Dialogue is a conversation between two or more people about a particular subject.
The Access to Information Act requires that, upon taking up their positions, ministers proactively publish briefing materials within 120 calendar days of their appointment. The title and reference number of memoranda prepared for ministers by a federal institution must be published within 30 calendar days. Briefing notes prepared for the appearance of a minister before Parliament must be published within 120 calendar days after that appearance.
At present, there is no policy that provides for the proactive disclosure of these documents. Individuals must make a request to have access to all these documents pursuant to the act. They must then obtain a response within 30 days, unless an extension is warranted by the circumstances.
With respect to proactive disclosure, the Access to Information Act provides for time frames that are generally much longer than the 30 days to act on a request. It authorizes institutions to not act on a request for documents when they have already been made public. The commissioner has no oversight over documents that require proactive publication, including the application of exceptions. That is a step backwards with respect to the current law.
The commissioner recommends extending the scope of the legislation to ministers' offices, organizations that support Parliament and organizations that provide administrative support to the courts, with an exception to prevent any breach of parliamentary privilege and any violation of judicial independence.
The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics made the same recommendation in the previous Parliament, a few months ago, with an exception related to parliamentary duties.
Today we should be talking more about the urgent need to amend this legislation, which is flawed. Considering all these aspects, that is where we stand regarding this disclosure request. I will put it another way. Whether or not we are talking about legislation, I think this is really about transparency, plain and simple. Transparency is an attitude that ensures clarity, intelligibility, and complete accessibility to information relevant to public opinion. Once we achieve that, then dialogue can begin. I have heard the government talk about dialogue on several occasions recently.
I would therefore expect transparency to include initiating a genuine dialogue. Let's not forget that dialogue helps build trust and significantly enhances the level of discussion.
I would like to share an example that demonstrates the benefits of transparency. In the early 2000s, I was working for a wood processing company. It was a hundred-year-old company with over 200 employees. I was working for the chief communications officer. Although the company was privately, not publicly, owned, we made the decision to release all of the company's financial statements, good or bad, on a regular basis.
Everyone was surprised by the numbers. There were many different reactions. Some people could not believe that the economic situation could have such an impact on them. They thought that if it continued, the company would really have to take action, and that could hurt them.
What was the outcome? The quality of the products shot up. This enabled the company to make up ground on sales and exports, which require higher quality in a market that is evolving significantly.
Because the company was transparent, all of its members were more aware of how they could be affected. There was no need to ask employees to maximize their efforts to overcome the obstacles created by the market downturn.
Alternatively, what happened when we presented results that were a little more positive? This reassured employees that the company was healthy and that their jobs were safe. It also improved productivity. Employees wanted things to continue to go well in the hopes that they would one day get a raise.
The Bloc Québécois works for taxpayers. We do not manage private funds.
Would it not be better to use a day like this to debate fundamental concerns and make the health, safety and prosperity of our fellow citizens central to our discussions and dialogue?
I do not even dare calculate how much it is costing us today, March 9, to debate a request that should be accepted by the government in any case.
For all of these reasons, I think that we should be debating more fundamental issues, namely the prosperity, collective well-being and sustainability of our industries.
In closing, I hope that today's motion and any other motion like it need never again be part of such an official request. I hope that from now on, we will be able to work together on urgent and important issues. Otherwise, I might be inclined to think there are documents in the public interest that cannot be disclosed to parliamentarians.
It should come as no surprise to learn that the government lacks transparency and is hiding things from us. When that happens, it prevents all parliamentarians from working toward the common good, even though that is what we were elected to do.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with a very dynamic member of Parliament, the member for . He will be taking the second half of this first round for the NDP.
There is no doubt the NDP will support this motion. What member of Parliament could actually stand in this House and say that he or she opposes transparency and getting this information out about what the government has prepared in terms of an economic downturn. No member of Parliament worth his or her salt would be opposed to that transparency.
As a number of other members have indicated, it is really unfortunate that it has to be an opposition day motion to compel the government to bring forward information that it should be presenting to parliamentarians anyhow. This should be part and parcel of Canadian democracy. Regardless of whether we are talking about a majority government or a minority government, the issue of transparency and full disclosure should be always present.
I am happy to see my Conservative colleagues have learned a lesson from the many years of the Harper government where there was no transparency and the Conservatives were not forthcoming on this kind of information. They appear to have learned their lesson. That is very good. Hopefully the Liberal government has now learned its lesson and the transparency that not just parliamentarians but all Canadians are entitled to will be brought forward.
When we talk about the economic downturn in terms of the preparation the Ministry of Finance or other ministries may have done, it is particularly relevant today when many people see the threat of COVID-19. In some countries we are seeing the spread of that disease in a very unfortunate and tragic way for many victims. We need to know what the economic impacts are and what the government has prepared in terms of an economic downturn that is linked to that virus.
I would like to talk about two other aspects of economic downturns. Regardless of whether we are talking about COVID-19, the fall in oil prices or anything else, there are two considerations that have to be front and centre in the deliberations of this Parliament.
When we talk about the economic downturn, we always forget to mention how it affects ordinary people. Over the past few years, Canadians' quality of life has diminished. There is no doubt about that. There have been cuts to services and today there is a gap in the services provided to the public.
In reality, the economic effects of this downturn have resulted in Canadian families having the highest level of debt among all industrialized countries. This debt is due to the federal government's lack of foresight. The effects of the economic downturn on the finances of ordinary families means that 50% of all Canadian families are $200 away from not being able to pay their monthly bills.
We need to look at those two elements and consider the fact that Canadians have the highest family debt load in industrialized countries and certainly the highest family debt load in Canada's history. At the same time, half of Canadian families are $200 away from insolvency in any given month. We have to wonder why, when we talk about economic downturns, we neglect the fact that Canadian families are worse off than they have been.
Over the last couple of decades, we have seen the deterioration in the quality of life of Canadians. There is the housing crisis where tens of thousands of Canadians do not even have a roof over their head. Nearly seven million Canadians do not have access to the medication that is so vital to keep them in good health and in many cases to keep them alive. Millions of Canadians do not have access to basic dental care.
The week before last, we talked in this House about the importance of having basic dental care rather than a tax cut for people with six-figure incomes. Even though the government voted against that, the reality is that it has touched a chord with the Canadian population. Last week, which was a riding week, people in my riding were talking to me about the importance of bringing basic dental care into Canada.
We see the deplorable state of indigenous communities because of the lack of investments made.
When it comes to the economic downturn we are talking about, whether it is for COVID-19 or any other reason, the reality is Canadians have felt for decades that they have not been the priority.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer tells us that $26 billion a year go into offshore tax havens. Wealthy and profitable corporations use them and basically take taxpayer dollars that should be invested for the benefit of all and, with impunity, put them overseas. We have seen massive handouts for the banking sector and handouts such as $12 million to Loblaws for a fridge. There have been many other cases of corporate welfare.
This simply indicates the extent to which the current government and the previous government lost their way in responding to the needs of Canadians. When we are talking about economic downturns, the priority has to be to put Canadian families first, to start investing in pharmacare, basic dental care and affordable housing, and make sure that indigenous communities finally get the investments they have been deprived of for decades. All of these things will help turn around the economic downturn that Canadian families have felt.
There is another element and this is a key one. The issue of climate change has had a profound impact on our economy. Two weeks ago, the Insurance Bureau of Canada came to the finance committee and talked about $5 billion a year in insured liabilities and another $5 billion in economic costs. That is a $10-billion price tag for climate change, and that is growing. As members know, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is talking about that rising to $45 billion a year over the next couple of decades.
When we talk about economic downturns, the importance of making that shift to put in place the transition to ensure workers are taken care of and investments in clean energy are in place is more critical than we could possibly imagine in our nation's history. Instead, we have a government that is spending over $17 billion to subsidize the Trans Mountain pipeline debacle, something that does not have a business case. The pipeline simply could not be built by the private sector, so the government took it over and is now hemorrhaging money for Trans Mountain. At $17.1 billion, it is a money-losing project. Over $100 million was lost last year. When I asked the at the finance committee at what point the government was going to stop throwing money at Trans Mountain, whether it was $25 billion, $30 billion or if the sky was the limit, he could not reply.
At a time when we see the economic impacts, the downturn related to climate change, and it is crucial to make those investments into clean energy and transition our economy, we instead see the current government, like the previous government, throwing money at the oil and gas lobbyists. It seems to have a limitless capacity of putting in place oil and gas subsidies instead of cutting back and curtailing those subsidies and putting them into clean energy, where I know energy workers in Alberta would want to see those investments. I know when we talk about the 100,000 capped oil wells in Alberta and Saskatchewan and the tremendous potential for geothermal energy, they would want to see those investments. Instead, we see the government hemorrhaging tens of billions of dollars to provide support for Trans Mountain.
These are the issues when we talk about the economic downturn. We need to start making these investments to transition now, as the economic downturn related to climate change hits us. We need to start reinvesting in families to ensure that families are no longer left behind. That is the motive behind the green new deal motion, private member's Motion No. 1, that is before Parliament, which we hope to bring to a vote at some point this year.
These are the kinds of things that will make a difference in the lives of families and protect our country and our planet. I certainly hope that the impacts of climate change and the economic downturn that is related to them are taken seriously by all members of Parliament.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on this motion before the House.
As members have heard, New Democrats are supporting this motion, which calls on the government to ensure that the House receives tabled documents when there are warnings about economic downturns or potential impacts on the fiscal framework of the government, or when it gets advice or recommendations on how to deal with them.
The timing of this motion could not be more appropriate. Today we have seen the biggest drop in the TSX since 1987, and oil prices have dropped about 30%. We are seeing the impact on Canada of concerns about COVID-19, the coronavirus that is spreading globally, and the uncertainty that it is bringing. We know, when we see oil prices plummet like this, that the result will be the loss of thousands of jobs in the energy sector. It is going to impact families and communities in Alberta and across this country, because people commute to the oil sands to work there. This is going to have an impact on those who are vulnerable right now and struggling to get by. We know that household debt is skyrocketing, that 50% of Canadians are within $200 of becoming insolvent. This will quickly have an impact on those people.
In my riding alone, 10,000 jobs are reliant on tourism. As we can imagine, people are very concerned about travel and tourism being affected by this global crisis.
I am deeply concerned about the most vulnerable, such as those who cannot afford a place to live. The government has made a commitment to house 50% of the homeless in the next 10 years. Clearly, that is not good enough. There are people who cannot afford medicine and have to make a choice between whether they will pay rent or eat or fill their prescriptions. There are people who cannot get jobs because they are missing teeth or living in chronic pain because of dental work they require, and the government still has not delivered on a plan to help these very vulnerable people, as well as everyday Canadians who are working hard to make ends meet.
We are seeing housing costs skyrocket. It is impacting people in our communities and it is impacting the business community. There are six chambers of commerce in my riding, and the number one concern of every one of those chambers is affordable housing. It is limiting growth and making it difficult for even small business owners to find places to live. The government has not delivered on these very important concerns that people have been bringing forward and that we have been relaying here to Ottawa.
We have a climate crisis. The IPCC has called on all governments across this incredible planet that we share to reduce global emissions by 40% by 2030, and the government still does not have a plan to meet that important threshold. We have 12 years to do it, but we have not seen action.
We have not built the resiliency to diversify our economy, to protect us when commodity prices crash in the way we are seeing today. Here we are, at a time when the wealthy, CEOs and big corporations get bailouts. Loblaws received $12 million in its bailout and Mastercard received $50 million. In the meantime, Mastercard is still charging small business people some of the highest merchant fees in the world. The government has proposed a 1.4% voluntary rate for interchange fees, whereas in Europe it is 0.5% and in Australia it is 0.3%. The government is constantly protecting big corporations, maintaining the CEO stock option loophole and supporting tax havens, which is an economic leakage of $26 billion a year that could pay for an affordable dental care plan for Canadians.
We know the government has maintained the same health care transfers that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives put forward, which is leading to chronic underfunding of our health care system. There is overcrowding in our hospitals. Rural communities are unable to attract doctors or invest in primary health networks, things that are absolutely critical to make our health care system more efficient and to serve Canadians.
As we see the government fail to deliver on these transfers, it really does affect the most vulnerable, especially seniors or people with compromised health. Now we have a crisis upon us. With the coronavirus fast approaching our country, our health care system is not prepared to deal with it in the way we should be able to. This is something that could have been mitigated had we not been doing corporate giveaways and helping the wealthy move their money out of this country.
We know that the Conservatives continue to cut services, so we are concerned. When we talk about an economic plan, what does that economic plan look like for maintaining services and helping those who are struggling to make ends meet? New Democrats are looking for a plan with real transition. We are talking about the health care system, and this is the government's opportunity to beef up transfers to the provinces so that we can be better prepared when a crisis like the coronavirus hits our country.
We need a pharmacare plan. New Democrats put forward the costing of our pharmacare plan and showed how it would actually save money in the end and ensure that people would not have to make those difficult choices.
We also put forward a proposal in the House for a dental care plan, which the Liberals defeated. The plan would have limited the middle-class tax break for those who earn over $90,000 so that anyone earning less than $90,000 would receive the dental care they need. What an opportunity this would have been. It would have been good for the GDP. It would have taken the pressure off the small business community that is buying private insurance for its employees and is unable to afford it. It would have ensured that there would be fewer lost days in the workplace and that employers were taking care of their number one asset, their employees. We know that these are critical opportunities for investment.
We hear a lot about the housing crisis. Yesterday, on my way to Ottawa, I was at the gas bar and ran into my good friend Thomas. Thomas has been homeless for almost a year. He has told me that there is just nowhere to live and that he is unable to get a good job. Thomas is indigenous, and the government still does not have an indigenous urban housing strategy or a rural housing strategy for indigenous people.
Everyday people in my riding who are working two or three jobs cannot find a place to live. Single parents are especially vulnerable. The government talks about its housing plan, but it is being delayed. The housing plan should be front-ended, not back-ended. New Democrats are calling on the government to speed up its investments when it comes to helping the most vulnerable.
As for clean energy, right now is the opportunity for the government to come out with an emergency package for Canadians to deal with the drop in commodity prices and invest in a future for Canadians by investing in clean energy and a climate bank, as we proposed in our campaign. The government could invest into a climate bank and into clean energy across the country, especially in areas that will be hit the hardest by the drop in oil prices.
In my riding, constituents are desperate for salmon restoration funds. The government needs to invest in the future and ensure we bring our salmon back to abundance, which is key to our economy and food security. It is also key to our ecosystem and culture. Port Alberni, which is the only deep sea port on the west coast of Vancouver Island, is looking for a floating dry dock. An investment like this would help alleviate the pressure on floating dry dock space, which is clearly needed between Oregon and Alaska. It is an opportunity to create jobs.
My colleague from talked about indigenous communities that are bringing diesel into their communities. There is a community called Hesquiath that has been working with the government, but the process has been dragged out. This is the time to invest in communities like Hesquiath so they can get off diesel and operate on clean energy. These communities are waiting for these important strategic investments.
With regard to firefighting capacity, we know that firefighting season is coming upon us. We need to invest in firefighting capacity so that we can attack these issues when fires come up across our country. We need a strategic plan. There is a great company in my riding called Coulson Aviation, and the government has done some great work with it, but this is an opportunity for us to expand that work.
We need a plan right now to deal with the crisis at hand. New Democrats are calling on the government to do the right thing and come out with an emergency aid package that is going to benefit Canadians.
Madam Speaker, if the word appears in the list of inappropriate words, I shall retract it.
Actions speak louder than words, and Canadians are very wary of efforts to incite hatred and suspicion. Canadians are not a violent people and it is time for the Liberal Party to quit using law-abiding citizens, like firearms owners, to whip up their left-wing base. The Liberals need to stop wasting taxpayer dollars to create problems that only cause divisiveness.
Today's motion requires information paid for with taxpayer dollars to be made available to all Canadians. I can understand why the government refuses to be open and transparent with Canadians when we see where the government is paying for advice from, with what has been made available.
The former minister of the environment took the step to create the Canadian institute for climate change and handed it 20 million of our taxpayer dollars for a report supporting her view. I quote from independent analysis by the informed observer Parker Gallant, no relation, on what that $20 million in taxpayer dollars cost Canadians:
Should one read a report titled Canada’s Top Climate Change Risks issued July 2019 by the “Expert Panel” on “Climate Change Risks and Adaptation Potential”, you would probably think the “Charting our Course” report recently issued by the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices (CICC) was an update but it wasn’t! What a comparison of the two reports highlight is words spoken by the former Minister of the Environment... who said: “if you repeat it, if you say it louder, if that is your talking point, people will totally believe it”. The latest CICC report exemplifies her quote and us taxpayers have provided the CICC with $20 million to ensure we “totally believe it”!
The first report’s “Expert Panel” are part of the “Canadian Council of Academies”. The council, launched in 2002, has managed to survive on $45 million of our tax dollars for the past 18 years. They are required to produce five reports annually when directed by the Federal Government. Their report on Canada’s climate change risks came about as a result of a direction from the Treasury Board of Canada. Seven (7) individuals on CCA’s “expert panel” and “workshop participants” are a part of CICC’s “expert” group and another eight (8) of those experts at the CICC were also cited as references in the CCA’s report. One of those was Blair Feltmate, Chair of the Intact Centre at Waterloo University. Needless to say, both reports lean heavily on the insurance industries information about how “climate change” has increased insurance claims. Catastrophes are forecast in both reports and similar comparisons are made to past events blaming them on “climate change”. The latter includes the Fort McMurray wildfires with estimated insurance claims of $1.4 billion. The CBC reported on the fire stating: “Provincial wildfire investigators have established that the fire was most likely the result of “human activity.”
On page 2 of the CCA’s report they have a map of Canada and have highlighted 10 of “Canada’s Top Climate Change Risks” and one of them is: “Lower Great Lakes water levels, affecting shipping, hydropower production, and recreation”. As noted above the CCA report was published in July 2019 two years after Ontarians were told Lake Ontario had just experienced a “100-year flood”. Even worse flooding occurred in 2019 setting new records. Apparently the “experts” involved in preparing the report failed to absorb the well-publicized news at that time and said nothing about “Plan 2014”!
Plan 2014, for the benefit of Canadians who have not heard of it, is the policy of the federal government to create 26,000 hectares, or 64,000 acres, of wetland by flooding homeowners in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence water basin, which includes the Ottawa River watershed. What happens when homeowners who are being adversely affected by catastrophic flooding dare to question the Liberal policy to flood their homes? They are viciously attacked by the Liberal government's hand-picked Liberal appointees shilling that policy.
Canadian co-chair Pierre Béland is one of three recent Liberal appointees on the International Joint Commission that is overseeing Liberal flood policy. I found his comment to the volunteer president of the United Shoreline Ontario, telling her to effectively “shut up”, deeply offensive. His shallow attempt at a superficial apology, after he was called out for his comment, was even more offensive when he dismissed the concern of flood victims.
For the record, here is the response to Chairman Béland from the president of a group of flood victims trying to get a fair hearing from an insensitive government that paid $20 million, taxpayer dollars, to hear that the problem with the lower Great Lakes is “not enough water”.
“Yes, you have deeply offended...as a woman and as a mother, as a homeowner and a flood survivor, as a volunteer and as an advocate, and as a Canadian with a right to be heard and not dismissed by those in power. Thank you for your explanation justifying why I was so deserving of your response. We consider our position to be balanced and evidence-based. We are asking for balance. Your description of my bias is your own. To address your claim, we indicate that 250 is foreseeable while also explaining that nobody can predict. If you listen to the recording at both the Toronto and Kingston events this week, you will hear exactly, which is being repeated at all events, 'Plan for the worst, hope for the best.' Perhaps you might consider how shipping has an exclusive focus and hydro has an exclusive focus, both of whom are extremely well-funded, and have incredible power and access to both the IJC and the media. The shoreline is unfunded, unrepresented and absolutely exhausted from trying to desperately be heard. Your flippant, misogynistic and rude email has simply reinforced the shoreline does not have a respected nor genuine position at the table. I will resign from the USO effective May 1, under advisement that the Canadian chair of the IJC has suggested 'her' to take a break.”
Liberal appointee Béland has lost all credibility with Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I am speaking today about our important opposition motion. Just so everybody remembers what it is, I will read that motion again. I believe it is vital that the House is provided with documentation “discussing warnings or concerns of economic downturns, their potential impact on the fiscal framework, or advice or recommendations on how to deal with them” that any department, agency or Crown corporation has produced since 2015. That is what we are talking about today.
In 2015, the promised that he would have a few $10-billion deficits, small deficits, before returning to a balanced budget in 2019. Do members remember that? Teeny-tiny deficits and then everything would be rosy in 2019.
We know what happened. The budget deficits turned out to be a whole lot larger than $10 billion annually. The year 2019 has also come and gone and despite promises made, we are nowhere near a balanced budget, not even close. In his first four years, the added more than $72 billion to the national debt. That is just disgraceful. The Bank of Canada has now slashed its interest rates, citing negative outlooks for the Canadian and global economies.
A responsible government would have prepared for a downturn. A responsible government would have set money aside for future uncertainty. We are certainly seeing that uncertainty now. It is absolutely a financial mess. A responsible government would have paid down the debt during years of economic growth. However, the Liberal government has not been responsible. Instead of showing leadership, the Liberals doubled down on unnecessary spending. They called it investment and investing in Canadians.
Let us just think back at some of those wise investments. The Liberals gave $50 million to Mastercard, a multinational company that made $16 billion in 2019 alone, and Mastercard gets $50 million. They gave $12 million to Loblaws to buy new fridges. They are basically giving more than $600 million as a bailout to the media. Here is a whopper: They spent $1,900 on cardboard cut-outs of the . How is that for value for money? They spent more than $12 billion on the still unbuilt Trans Mountain pipeline after scaring away investors. There is also the $256 million the Liberals gave to the Asian infrastructure bank to build pipelines in Asia. It seems the foreign pipelines are the only ones the Liberals can get built.
There is also the $186-billion infrastructure program. It has been a huge failure. In fact, it is now being audited by the Auditor General because of the Liberals' lack of transparency and accountability to Canadians. The bottom line is that the Liberals have failed to responsibly manage Canadian tax dollars. That failure has left Canada much more vulnerable to global economic downturns. We are seeing that right now.
Across our country, Canadians work hard to live within their means. They know that racking up credit card debt just is not sound policy. It leaves them unable to manage unexpected expenses, yet that is exactly what the Liberals have done in Canada. The Liberals have done what is easy instead of what is best for our country.
Let us compare this to the actions of the previous Conservative government.
Prior to the global recession of 2008-09, the Conservatives had paid down more than $37 billion in debt. This allowed the government flexibility to meet the fiscal challenges of the recession head on. That was why Canada had the mildest and shortest recession of the G7 countries.
In a 2010 report, Philip Cross, then chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada, said:
One reason for the relatively mild slump is that Canada was better positioned to weather the global recession than other large western economies, primarily due to savings as reflected in our national balance sheet.
He went on to say:
...strong balance sheets in Canada stood it in good stead to endure the recession and emerge into recovery. The recession was shorter and milder in Canada than in other G7 nations, partly because the flow of credit was not disrupted as it was in other nations and a large pool of savings was available to finance spending when income fell temporarily.
That was good fiscal policy under the Conservative government.
However, The Liberals have deliberately done the opposite. It sounds like a bad Seinfeld episode. That is the reason, in the elections of 2015 and 2019, the Conservatives promised voters that we would be responsible and that we would balance the budget. We knew that a responsible government needed to be prepared for global downturns.
The chickens are coming home to roost. We see what happens with global downturns in the situation we are in now. Just today, we saw the stock market plunge. Trading was actually halted. To say the least, the economic outlook is very grim. Now the Liberals will have to deal with that from a position of weakness. True leadership requires fiscal restraint.
Despite the Liberals wasting billions of dollars, they failed to build the key projects that would have helped Canadians weather this storm. The Trans Mountain pipeline is still nowhere near complete. Both the energy east pipeline and the northern gateway project are gone, thanks to the Liberals. The Teck Frontier project that promised thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of revenue was killed by government dithering and delay. Even Warren Buffett is moving his money out of a Quebec project, citing “the Canadian political context”.
In total, more than $160 billion worth of investment have been lost under the 's watch. This is a direct result of the policies he and his Liberal government have advanced.
Take, for example, Bill , or the no more pipelines bill. Bill C-69 would make it even harder to build a new project. Many critics do not see how any new projects can be built under this new regulatory process. There was widespread opposition to this regulation, including from provincial governments, industry, communities and indigenous groups, yet the Liberals went ahead with that harmful legislation anyway.
The bottom line is this. We have to return to fiscal accountability, to balanced budgets and to paying down the debt. This is what is showing up today and it is a disaster.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to respond to the member's motion on the economy.
As members are aware, our government has been advocating its plan to build an economy that works for everyone, and our plan is working. Since we introduced it back in 2015, our plan has invested in Canadians and their communities, invested in the things that people need to build a better future for themselves and their families and in the things that create new opportunities for Canadians and support strong economic growth.
One of the first actions our government took was to introduce a tax cut for the middle class, which benefited more than nine million hard-working Canadians.
We introduced the Canada child benefit, which is providing more money to those families that need it the most. By doing so, we have helped lift more than 330,000 kids out of poverty and have given them a better start in life.
We increased the guaranteed income supplement to provide low-income single seniors with greater financial security in their retirement. We strengthened the Canada pension plan by working in co-operation with provincial partners so Canadian workers would have more money for their retirement.
We cut taxes for small business, from 11% down to 9%, to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses and create more good, well-paying jobs in our communities and across our country.
With Canada's first-ever national housing strategy, we have helped make it more affordable for people to buy their first home. We have invested in the construction of more affordable housing in communities across Canada. Particularly, in my community, we have created over 2,000 subsidized housing units in over 2,000 new building units, with respect to our national housing strategy.
As a result of the hard work of Canadians and these investments, Canada's economy is resilient. Canadians have created more than one million new jobs over the past four years and stronger wage growth has helped more people get ahead. However, we still know that there is more work to do.
People are concerned about the cost of living. They are concerned about the global economic situation and developments arising from outside our borders. They worry about the impact these developments will have on their homes and communities. Therefore, I would like to make it clear today that as long as these efforts and sorts of changes are there, our government will keep working to help Canadians overcome them.
Increasing the basic personal amount to make life more affordable for Canadians, and support the economy, is one of the best ways we can do that. That is why we have proposed to increase the basic personal amount to $15,000 by 2023, which will benefit more than 20 million Canadians. This will mean that nearly 1.1 million more Canadians will no longer pay federal income tax in 2023. It will put $3 billion back into the pockets of Canadian households in 2020, with this amount rising to $6 billion by 2023. Those $6 billion will help make life more affordable and keep our economy growing. Those $6 billion are on top of the support we have already delivered for the past four years.
We are investing in Canadians to support a growing economy. As a result of our middle-class tax cut, the Canada child benefit and the changes we have proposed to the basic personal amount, a typical family of four could be better off by more than $2,300 per year, compared to 2015. When the proposed changes to the basic personal amount are fully implemented in 2023, this same family could be better off by more than $2,800 per year compared to 2015. These changes mean that more families can now pay for things that will make a positive difference in their children's futures, things like healthy foods, warm clothes for the winter, and sports and music lessons.
We are also supporting Canadians and the economy with the introduction of Canada's first-ever national housing strategy. This 10-year, $55-billion investment will give more Canadians a place to call home. By doing so, it is lifting 530,000 families out of housing needs and reducing chronic homelessness by 50%.
Our enhanced guaranteed income supplement means there is now greater income security for close to 900,000 seniors, about 67% of whom are women, and this has helped 50,000 vulnerable seniors out of poverty.
These are just a few examples of how we are investing in people and in the things that grow our economy and give people a better quality of life. The last four years have proven that our plan is working. There is more money for families to help grow the economy, more livable communities, more good jobs and more than one million people no longer living in poverty.
In the face of current global changes we will continue to advance our plan in a way that is fiscally responsible. We will continue to reduce the federal debt relative to the size of our economy.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has concluded that current government spending is sustainable over the long term and that our fiscal plan gives us the room we need to confront new and evolving challenges and keep our economy growing. Canada's net debt-to-GDP ratio remains low and on a downward track. That puts us at an advantage with respect to our group of seven partners. Our relatively low level of debt is a real competitive advantage, one that our government is fully committed to maintaining.
Even though our economy is doing well, we need to be ready to respond to whatever challenges might arise. We need to continue to build confidence in the Canadian economy, making sure that the world continues to see Canada as a great place to invest.
Canada is only one of 11 countries in the world with an AAA credit rating. This strong rating reflects the confidence that others have in Canada's economic strength. We build this confidence by making our businesses more competitive. We have cut taxes for small business twice, from 11% down to 9%, as I mentioned earlier, making it easier for them to succeed and create more jobs. Today, Canada has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7 as a result of federal and provincial actions.
We will preserve and build these advantages to keep Canada's economy strong in the face of current challenges. We will continue to ensure that all Canadians can share in the benefit of this growth by making life more affordable and investing in new opportunities and investing in Canadians.
We have seen what can happen when we invest in Canadians. They take that help, combine it with their own hard work, and the result is a strong and growing economy.
With more than one million new jobs in just four years and record low unemployment and poverty rates, we will continue to advance our plan for middle-class prosperity over the coming years.
I would like to thank the member for the opportunity to make this clear today. I want to thank the members that spoke earlier about our plan. Again, our plan has been working with the introduction of the Canada child benefit, middle-class tax cuts, cuts on small business from 11% to 9%, and making Canada a place to invest in businesses so they can grow and scale up. We want to continue investing in Canadians so that we can see this prosperity not only now, but also in future generations.
Madam Speaker, I am really happy that we are having this debate in the House today. It has been very interesting to hear everyone talking about the economy. It is very important to their communities.
In my community the issue of affordability and the issue of how to deal with child poverty are issues that come up frequently. We are tackling a lot of these issues today, and that is very helpful.
When I look at the wording of the motion, one thing that is disappointing is that it is very focused on getting information about the negatives. We do need to know the downturns, but if we are going to chart a path forward, we also have to know what we are doing right.
There is a glass that is half full or half empty. Somewhere in there is water in a glass. Let us look at it. Let us look at what is there and where we are going.
I would say that yes, recent events have meant that we are in unusual times. That is going to have to be taken into account when we are looking at the budget and when our government is creating its budget. Let us also look at where we have gone and where we are going.
Today, we are facing challenges that we could never have foreseen last fall. The world has changed a lot in the last couple of months but, despite all that has transpired, as we go into the budget process, we are in a good position. We are confident we can continue to plan to invest in Canadians and to keep Canadians working. That is something that I know everyone in this House cares about.
Our fundamentals are strong. We have heard about that from many members who spoke before me. Canada's economy is sound and growing at a solid pace. As has been pointed out as well, economic growth in Canada is expected to be one of the fastest growing among G7 countries.
What I would like to begin with is something I feel has the biggest impact in my community, across the city of Toronto and across our country, and that is the impact of the Canada child benefit on responding to child poverty. It has been tremendous. We do not actually talk about that enough.
When I talk with community members, they tell me they have seen the impact in their own lives. They have seen the impact of the ability to buy warm clothes for their children during the winter, their ability to buy healthy food and their ability to register their kids for programs.
This is something that really hits home for me because before I was elected I had a conversation that really stood out as far as a person expressing their needs is concerned. This conversation was with a woman who talked about wanting to register her daughter for soccer.
At the time we had a child fitness tax credit, but the problem was she did not have the money in hand to be able to pay for the registration or to pay for the soccer cleats. Therefore, she did not benefit from that tax credit and her child was not able to play soccer. It is really and truly a terrible thing that she was faced with that decision between healthy food and registering her child for soccer. She could not do it.
I sometimes hear from across the way reminders of the child fitness tax credit. Well, it did not help people in my community who are struggling to make ends meet, but the Canada child benefit has put money back into people's pockets. It has had a very true and important impact on child poverty for families across this country.
The Canada child benefit is non-taxable and it is indexed. That is what poverty activists were asking for. They were asking that it be indexed and they would respond to it. Now people like the person I was talking about are doing better because they have the money directly in their pockets. It is not just about activities. The Canada child benefit is directly impacting child poverty across our country.
Statistics Canada, in February 2019, put out a survey. It found that in 2017 there was an increase in the median after-tax income of Canadian families and unattached individuals of 3.3%. For the two prior years there had been no growth. Part of that was higher wages being paid by Canadian employers, but the other part that was having an impact was the Canada child benefit.
One of the most interesting things for me, because I am very interested in food policy, is the impact of the Canada child benefit on food insecurity in our country. Anecdotally, when I have spoken with people who work in our local food banks and food support programs, they have told me they have seen fewer families with children coming to the food banks. That is an amazing thing.
What was really important to me was to see that there has been a study done specifically on this issue. Valerie Tarasuk is from the University of Toronto and she is an expert in food security issues. She and Erika M. Brown of the University of California in Berkeley did a study called “Money speaks: Reductions in severe food insecurity follow the Canada Child Benefit”.
In their conclusion, they stated:
...we identified improvements to overall food security status among Canadian households with children across the income spectrum following the implementation of CCB. Decreases in the probability of experiencing severe food insecurity were significant and more pronounced with declining economic circumstance, suggesting that CCB, and more specifically, increases to the country's child benefits, disproportionately benefited vulnerable households.
As long as CCB benefits are indexed to inflation...we anticipate that these improvements will persist.
That is a tremendous thing. If members are interested in food security and these issues, this is very important.
In addition, Statistics Canada recently put out Canada's official poverty dashboard, which gives a snapshot of income security and poverty across our country. It shows that Canada's poverty rate dropped from 12.1% in 2015 to 8.7% in 2018.
Now, there is still more to do. I was talking about a glass being half empty or half full. There is still some air in there to fill it with more water. However, we have still seen a tremendous impact in our own communities. I certainly see it in mine. I see the need, the continuing need, but I see that there are tangible improvements. I want to continue to work on this with my Liberal colleagues and my colleagues across the way, because all of us are here to make sure our communities are strengthened. That is what we would all like to see.
I am so happy we are here today talking about the economy and the impacts in our communities. We need to keep having these discussions.