The House resumed from May 11 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill , which implements certain provisions of budget 2021.
As everyone knows, it is a mammoth and extremely dense bill that contains a wide range of measures. We unreservedly support some of these measures, which we would like to see implemented even if we vote against the budget.
This part of the bill seeks to extend COVID-19 assistance programs, which although not perfect are nevertheless essential, until September. These include the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy. Many businesses that have suffered badly over the past year rely on those programs. Considering how important predictability is in business, of course we are pleased that entrepreneurs will have a clear idea of the programs available to them over the coming months. However, the amounts allocated will decrease gradually throughout the extension period.
However, there is one little thing worth noting. The bill gives the Minister of Finance the power to extend the programs until November 30, 2021, through regulation, without having to go through the legislative process. I believe I am right in thinking and safe in saying that this measure is an insurance policy in case the House is dissolved for a fall election, which would prevent it from enacting a law that would extend the wage subsidy beyond September 27, 2021. I will let my colleagues read between the lines to determine when the government expects the House to resume.
We are particularly pleased that, instead of paying taxes in the year that they received a government assistance cheque and getting a credit in the year that they reimburse the amount, as is currently the case, under Bill C-30, taxpayers will not have to pay taxes on any government assistance that they reimbursed. Those who have just completed their 2020 income tax return could end up paying taxes on the amounts they received through the Canada emergency response benefit. However, even if the government asked them to pay back those amounts, under Bill C-30, any reimbursements made this year make the cheques received last year tax-free.
Another piece of good news is the creation of a hiring subsidy program, which will be in effect from June 6 to November 20, 2021. That program is offered to businesses restarting their activities and hiring or rehiring employees. I am also pleased that taxes will finally be imposed on Internet products and services and Airbnb rentals, which will put an end to the unfair competition that we have strongly criticized.
I would also note the new Canada-wide child care program, even though it is part of a general trend of interference and federal centralization. Fortunately, there is mention of a possible asymmetrical agreement with Quebec and the federal budget statement repeatedly touts the child care system. However, there needs to be assurances that this agreement will translate into full compensation with no strings attached for Quebec for its share of the total cost of the program. Since this federal government likes to interfere in matters that are not under its jurisdiction, I would like to note that family policy and related programs are exclusively under Quebec's jurisdiction.
Bill C-30 provides for a one-time payment of just over $130 million to the Government of Quebec to harmonize the Quebec parental insurance plan with the Employment Insurance Act. Since the eligibility criteria and benefit period for EI have been temporarily modified and increased, Quebec has the right to opt out with financial compensation with respect to the maternity and parental benefits program.
However, Bill C-30 also lays the foundation for a Canadian securities regulation regime, which the Bloc Québécois and Quebec strongly oppose. This bill provides for a significant increase to the budget of the Canadian Securities Regulation Regime Transition Office, so it is not a stretch to conclude that Ottawa wants to strip Quebec of its financial sector. I remind members that the office was created in 2009, and its purpose is to create a single pan-Canadian securities regulator in Toronto. Bill C-30 authorizes the government to make payments to the transition office in an aggregate amount not exceeding $119.5 million, or any greater amount that may be specified in an appropriation act.
Although the Supreme Court ruled on a number of occasions that securities were not under federal jurisdiction, Ottawa finally got the green light in 2018 to interfere in this jurisdiction provided that it co-operate with the provinces and not act unilaterally. History has taught us to be cautious in such situations.
This plan to create a national securities regulator in Toronto is bound to result in regulatory activities transitioning out of Quebec. I will note that the unanimity we have seen in opposition to this bill in Quebec is rather remarkable. All political parties in the Quebec National Assembly, business communities, the financial sector and labour-sponsored funds are against this bill. The list of those who have vehemently expressed their opposition to this initiative includes the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, Finance Montréal, the International Financial Center, the Desjardins Group and Fonds de solidarité FTQ, as well as most Quebec businesses such as Air Transat, Transcontinental, Québecor, Metro, La Capitale and Molson.
This plan is just bad and must never see the light of day. Contrary to what members opposite are saying, this is more than just a dispute over jurisdictions or a new conflict between the federal government and the provinces. This is quite simply a battle between Bay Street and Quebec. It is an attack on our efforts to keep head offices in the province and preserve our businesses.
Keeping the sector's regulator in Quebec ensures that decision-makers are nearby, which in turn enables access to capital markets for businesses. A strong Quebec securities regulator is essential for the development and vitality of the financial sector. In Quebec, the financial sector accounts for 150,000 jobs and contributes $20 billion to the GDP. That is equivalent to 6.3%. Montreal is the 13th largest financial centre in the world.
A strong financial hub is vital to the functioning of our head offices and the preservation of our businesses. It is a well-known fact that businesses concentrate their strategic activities, in particular research and development, where their head offices are located. This new attack on Quebec's jurisdictions risks having us go the route of the branch plant economy, to the detriment of Ontario.
This potential exodus of head offices could have serious consequences on every level of our economy, since Quebec companies tend to favour Quebec suppliers, while foreign companies in Quebec rely more on globalized supply chains. Just imagine the impact that can have on our network of SMEs, particularly in the regions. As we have seen during the pandemic, globalized supply chains are fragile and make us very dependent on other countries. We will not stop fighting against this plan to centralize the financial sector in Toronto.
We will also keep calling out the government for ignoring the demands of the Quebec National Assembly and the provinces and refusing to increase health transfers from 22% to 35%. As we know, the government is ignoring the will of the House of Commons, since a Bloc Québécois motion calling on the government to substantially and permanently increase federal transfers to the provinces was adopted in December 2020.
The government could well have taken advantage of the fact that the deficit announced in budget 2021 was lower than expected, by $28 billion, which is exactly how much Quebec and the provinces are asking for. With massive spending on the horizon, it is clear that by refusing to increase transfers, the government is making a political choice, not a budgetary choice, to the detriment of everyone's health.
It was a long time coming, but Bill finally includes the increase to old age security that this government promised during the 2019 election campaign. However, the increase will amount to only $766 per year, or $63.80 per month, and will apply only to seniors aged 75 and over. The increase will not begin until 2022 and is insufficient for seniors and for the Bloc Québécois.
In closing, we will vote in favour of the bill, because we do not want to deprive seniors aged 75 and over of this cheque. We do not want to deprive businesses and workers of the assistance programs they are counting on, but we will continue to fight to ensure that all sectors of Quebec society receive their fair share in a fairer budget in the future.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to contribute to the debate on Bill , budget implementation act, 2021, no. 1. The budget reflects the unprecedented times we are living in.
My constituents in Vaudreuil—Soulanges, all Canadians and billions of people around the world have had their lives turned upside down for more than a year by COVID-19. Many people have lost loved ones. Schools, day cares and businesses have had to close. Families have been affected by temporary and long-term layoffs.
The magnitude of this situation cannot be underestimated. This is the worst health and economic crisis that Canada and all of humanity have experienced in generations. Our Liberal government had to present a budget that reflected this reality, and budget 2021 does just that.
This is an important budget focused on three key goals: finishing the fight against COVID-19 and continuing to support families and businesses during the pandemic; investing in the economic recovery and in economic growth in the short and long terms; and, lastly, looking ahead by investing in building a cleaner, safer, stronger and more prosperous Canada for our children and grandchildren.
With respect to our investments to finish the fight against COVID-19, I will start by speaking about investments in vaccines, more specifically our domestic vaccine production capacity in the future.
COVID-19 highlighted the importance of rebuilding Canada's vaccine production capacity, which was lost over the past 40 years. Budget 2021 provides a total of $2.2 billion over seven years to re-establish a vibrant domestic life sciences sector. This amount includes a previously announced investment of $170 million for the expansion of a vaccine production facility in Montreal. These and upcoming investments will equip Canada to produce COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines that Canadians may need to combat future biological threats.
As we continue to navigate through the highs and lows of this pandemic, many sectors of our economy are still closed or operating at reduced capacity due to provincial health measures. As a result, many of my constituents in are either out of work or are facing a reduction in income.
To ensure that they continue to put food on the table and support themselves and their families, budget 2021 extends the COVID-19 economic response support measures for individuals by another 12 weeks to September 2021. This includes the Canada recovery benefit, which will reduce gradually over time; the Canada recovery caregiving benefit; the Canada recovery sickness benefit; and it allows for more flexible access to EI benefits for another year, into the fall of 2022. This ensures that those in my riding of Vaudreuil—Soulanges, who are still heavily impacted by this pandemic, including our artists, restaurant owners, tourism operators, those working in the aviation sector and many more, will have the support they need to see it through.
We have also extended benefits for small business owners. Budget 2021 ensures that the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which has helped more than 5.3 million Canadians, will be extended until September 25, 2021.
The Canada emergency rent subsidy, which has already helped more than 154,000 organizations, will be extended from June to September 25, 2021.
Canada emergency business account loans, which have helped more than 850,000 Canadian small businesses, are still repayable by December 31, 2022, but the application deadline has been extended to June 30, 2021.
To help businesses reopen, budget 2021 includes several new programs, such as the Canada recovery hiring program, which offsets a portion of the extra costs employers take on as they reopen.
The objective is to help employers that continue to experience declines in revenues relative to before the pandemic. The program will be available for employees from June 6 to November 20, 2021.
Budget 2021 also includes an expansion of a worker support program that I know will have positive impacts on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Canadians in the years ahead who may find themselves diagnosed with an illness that will require them to take time off work, and that is the extension of employment insurance sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. During my personal battle with cancer, I know how important it is during and after chemotherapy to focus on one's well-being, on one's mental health and on healing.
Budget 2021 proposes funding of $3 billion over five years to deliver on our promise in 2019 to extend these benefits by almost three months. This extension would provide approximately 169,000 Canadians every year with additional time and flexibility to recover and return to work.
The extension of the support programs for families, workers and business owners to September 2021 is vital to the health and safety of many families and businesses in .
We promised all Canadians that we would be there for them during the pandemic, and that is what we are doing with budget 2021.
We also promised seniors that we would be there to help them. Since 2016, our government has worked hard to do just that. We have already increased support for 900,000 of the most vulnerable seniors across Canada, made historic investments in affordable housing, and invested billions of dollars in mental health care.
In budget 2021, we are continuing on that track by offering a one-time payment of $500 for seniors aged 75 and over in August 2021, as well as a 10% increase in old age security payments starting in July 2022 for seniors aged 75 and over.
We also invested over $3 billion to improve long-term care and $3.8 billion to build an additional 35,000 affordable housing units for Canadian seniors.
For young Canadians who are anxious about their future job prospects in the coming months and years, budget 2021 provides the support they need to build skills, get on-the-job training and start their careers. This includes $721 million to connect Canadian youth with employers that will provide them with over 100,000 new quality job opportunities and a historic $4 billion in a digital adoption program to help 160,000 businesses make the shift to e-commerce, which will create 28,000 new jobs for young Canadians.
It provides $708 million over five years to ensure that we have 85,000 work-integrated learning placements and $470 million to establish a new apprentice service that would help over 55,000 first-year apprentices in construction and manufacturing Red Seal trades.
Finally, it provides an additional $371 million in new funding for the Canada summer jobs program in 2022 and 2023 to support approximately 75,000 new placements in the summer of 2022 alone.
Further, to respond to the mental health impacts of this pandemic, as part of an overall investment of $1 billion in the mental health of Canadians, budget 2021 proposes to provide $100 million over three years to support innovative mental health programs for populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including health care workers, front-line workers, youth, seniors, indigenous Canadians and racialized Black Canadians.
Finally, budget 2021 includes unprecedented investments in the protection and preservation of nature and action against climate change. To enable Canada to reach the ambitious goal of protecting 25% of our nature by 2025, budget 2021 invests $4 billion for small and large-scale conservation projects and $3.16 billion to plant two billion trees across Canada by 2030. To help Canada not only meet but exceed our Paris agreement targets, budget 2021 invests $8 billion in the net-zero accelerator supporting green technology and renewable energy and creating well-paying jobs in the process.
It also invests $1.5 billion to purchase 5,000 electric public transit and school buses, helping to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, provide cleaner air and reduce noise pollution in our communities. In addition, to help communities like mine in Vaudreuil—Soulanges that have already begun to experience the impacts of climate change with two record floods in just the last four years, budget 2021 will strengthen climate resiliency by allocating $640 million to the disaster mitigation and adaptation fund for small-scale projects between $1 million and $20 million in eligible infrastructure costs. For communities like mine, with smaller municipalities, this change is going to make all the difference.
With that, I strongly encourage every member of the House to support the measures proposed in budget 2021 and in Bill . These measures will allow us to—
Madam Speaker, over the course of the debate on Bill , there have been many points of view shared. Many of my colleagues on this side of the House have justifiably raised concerns about the deficits and levels of debt the current government is accumulating, and the impact this debt will have on Canadians for generations to come. They have skilfully illustrated that, despite the 's description of her budget as a plan for jobs, growth and resilience, it falls dreadfully short of a real plan for economic growth that will create jobs for Canadians.
One of my colleagues has sounded the alarm about the impact of the government's inflation-inducing borrowing and spending plan and the real impacts this has on the daily lives of Canadians, whether they are trying to buy a home or pay for groceries. Of course, we cannot ignore the vast body of evidence confirming that the current government has proven itself very skilled at convincing Canadians of their grand promises of action on priorities like rural Internet, infrastructure spending and housing. The lack of meaningful results is, at worst, a betrayal of the Canadians who trusted this ; or, at best, the vacuous panderings of an individual whose life experiences prepared him only for being famous.
While all of these issues are important and have yet to be addressed by the government, I intend to focus my comments particularly on what would appear to be the centrepiece of this budget for the : a national child care program. There can be no doubt that access to affordable child care and early childhood education is a wise investment in our economy and can help ensure all Canadians are able to realize their full potential in the workforce. Personally, I believe a system designed to respect the choices of parents in the best child care options for them makes more sense than a massive government program, which, by the way, would cost $30 billion over the next five years, then roughly $9 billion annually thereafter. This proposal highlights yet another example of the federal government making a commitment in an area of provincial jurisdiction without the corresponding commitment of dollars needed to fund a program that most provinces simply cannot afford.
Here is a brief history, that I am sure all of us know. One of the primary reasons for Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick federating to form the Dominion of Canada in 1867 was the desire to fund the transcontinental rail link and to build a common market that would spur economic opportunities for the provinces and lessen the impact of any adverse economic policies of the United States. The new federal government was also designed to stabilize public credit. That was one of the first items of business in 1867 when the new Dominion of Canada assumed $72.1 million of the $88.6 million of existing provincial debt.
The British North America Act assigned the big expenses of settling, building and defending this new country to the federal government, and the provincial governments were responsible for, at the time, the less expensive services like education, hospitals and municipal institutions. Despite this original design, immediately after Confederation, the provinces had spending commitments higher than their revenue. This led to the creation of the dominion subsidy from the federal government, which was calculated at 80¢ per capita and, including other transfers in support of specific legislation, cost the federal treasury about $2.8 million or over 16% of total federal spending. This country was born into debt and the national government was established, in part, to manage that debt.
Now, fast-forward through those early nation-building years of World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, all eras where the federal government borrowed heavily to grow the economy, win a war, save the economy and win another war. Following the end of World War II, the economy expanded exponentially as did the level of government intervention in the daily lives of Canadians. New programs were introduced by the federal government, including unemployment insurance in 1940, the family allowance in 1945, old age security in 1952, the Canada pension plan in 1965 and the guaranteed income supplement in 1967. During this period, the dominion subsidy program evolved into the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act in 1957, which was due in part to the federal government's desire to promise nationwide health and social programs, all made possible because of a 50% cost-sharing commitment from the federal government.
By the 1970s, the federal government had established an outrageously complex cost-sharing system with the provinces to partner in the costs for expanded health services, education and income security programs. All of this and a program of equalization payments to poorer provinces was funded by debt, which was funded by an exponentially growing economy. Then, 1973 hit and an already-slowing economy and increasing inflation were compounded by a quadrupling of oil prices. Government debt grew faster than ever, without the corresponding economic growth to pay for it.
Interest rates skyrocketed, unemployment soared and Canada was in trouble. While tax reform in the eighties, the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement and significant deregulation of key sectors of the economy certainly helped spur economic growth, by the 1990s Canada was in a fiscal crisis with growing debt-servicing costs and an economy not growing fast enough to pay for it. Between 1995 and 1997, the Chrétien government was forced to cut spending to save Canada's finances. In that time period, the government cut direct program spending by almost 10%, but it cut provincial transfers by 22%.
While the fiscal imbalance in our Confederation existed from the very beginning, federal expansion and intervention in provincial jurisdictions exacerbated that imbalance. While the federal government failed to ever really fully meet those original commitments made to provinces, the debt crisis culminated in the 1990s with the federal government solving its debt problems by abandoning the provinces and also the municipalities. By 2007, with federal finances back under control, a new formula for provincial transfers was established that increased transfers, but not nearly enough to meet the demands on provincial services that the federal government helped create and agreed to pay half the cost of.
In the Parliamentary Budget Officer's most recent fiscal sustainability report, he noted, “subnational governments will face ever-increasing health care costs”. He also continued to say, “For the subnational government sector as a whole, current fiscal policy is not sustainable over the long term. We estimate that permanent tax increases or spending reductions amounting to 0.8 per cent of GDP...would be required to stabilize the consolidated subnational...net debt-to-GDP ratio at its current level of 25.7 per cent of GDP”.
In his report on budget 2021, the Parliamentary Budget Officer cautioned that the government's $100-billion stimulus spending could be miscalibrated, meaning that based on the current recovery it is not likely necessary, while he cautioned that the government's plan to continue borrowing could exhaust its fiscal flexibility in the medium to long term.
We have provincial governments, many of which are drowning in debt and a federal government borrowing and spending wastefully, all while advocating its responsibility to fully fund its share of provincial programs like health care, and now the federal government offers to add a new child care program to the provincial balance sheets with a promise to cover half the costs.
How could the premiers ever trust the government to live up to this latest promise, when the broken promises of the past are threatening the financial future of almost every province in the country? Clearly, German philosopher Georg Hegel was correct when he wrote, “What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”
This budget is a buffet of spending, paid for with massive debts and designed to perpetuate the government's promises of being all things to all people. The government is not only ignoring the financial struggles of the provinces, struggles created in part by federal interference; budget 2021 seeks to push the provinces even further into debt.
We need a real plan that manages public debt and invests strategically to stimulate real economic growth that will create jobs. We need a plan that will restore fiscal balance to our Confederation. Restoring that balance will better prepare the federal treasury to manage the impending fiscal problems, grow our economy and build a stronger and more prosperous Canada.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to join all of my colleagues in the House, albeit virtually from my riding in Edmonton Strathcona.
Today, we are talking about Bill and the budget that the Liberal government has brought forward. I will begin by talking about the things that I support and was happy to see within the budget.
I was delighted to see that child care was included in the budget. The NDP has been calling for a national child care strategy for decades. It was wonderful to see that the Liberals have finally listened to us. They did not just listen to us: People within the Royal Bank, chambers of commerce across the country, child care advocates and representatives from provincial governments have called for a national child care plan. They recognized that if we did not have child care put in place, and if we did not deal with child care in a meaningful way there would be no recovery for so many working families across the country, and there would be a very stunted recovery, particularly impacting women, leading to what has been dubbed the “she-cession”. We were happy to see child care included.
Of course, I have concerns that this may be a promise and may not be something that is actually done. We have seen the government make promises before and not follow through with actions, so my colleagues within the NDP and I will be keeping a close eye on this to make sure that it is not just a campaign promise for the Liberal government but actually something it will implement.
I am also a little worried that the government has not done the work that needs to be done in terms of making sure that the provincial governments are going to take the need for child care seriously and implement it. As members know, I come from Alberta. In Alberta right now, Jason Kenney has already said that he has concerns about implementing a child care program. I know that women and working families in my province desperately need that support. This is something I will certainly be keeping my eye on as we go forward.
Obviously, we were also very happy to see the establishment of a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour. We heard, in 2015, Justin Trudeau openly criticize a proposal that the NDP had put forward, so it is good to see that this is a part of the budget, and we were very happy about that.
However, I will also talk a little about some of the shortcomings of Bill and the budget. I will focus my comments today on the impacts that Bill C-30 and the federal 2021 budget have had on my riding of Edmonton Strathcona.
As members may know, Edmonton Strathcona is an incredible riding. It is the heart of Edmonton. Downtown may be the brain of our city, but Edmonton Strathcona is the heart. It is the heart of the arts community, and is where so many of the small businesses and restaurants in Edmonton operate. It is home to all of the best festivals: the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, the Fringe Festival, Heritage Day and a number of other wonderful events. It is also where many of the post-secondary institutions in Alberta are located. The University of Alberta's Campus Saint-Jean, King's University and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Souch Campus are all located in my riding of Edmonton Strathcona.
When I look at this budget, I am looking at what some of it looks like for my constituents, and I will start with post-secondary education.
As I mentioned, Edmonton Strathcona is home to many post-secondary institutions, and many students, professors and parents live in the riding. They are very concerned that post-secondary education is becoming inaccessible. It is too expensive and becoming something that only the elite and wealthy can access.
I spoke with students from the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, Mia and Suzanne, who are deeply worried about post-secondary education in Alberta. They are worried about whether students will be able to afford to attend university and what it means when only the wealthy can attend. They are deeply concerned that students will graduate with mountains of debt that will impact their ability to buy a home, start a family or begin their career.
In November 2020, I brought forward a motion calling on the government to immediately implement a moratorium on student loan repayments. The House voted unanimously in support of that motion, yet nothing happened. There was no moratorium put in place. Students were still expected to pay back their student loans in the middle of the pandemic and in the middle of what we know has been a devastating time for young students and recent graduates.
We know that 58% of young people have felt the negative impacts of the pandemic on their fiscal situations. Instead of letting students fall into debt, we have called on the government to help by reducing their debt. We have called on the government to eliminate up to $20,000 per student. The Don't Forget Students group and the Canadian Federation of Students called on the government to do more for students. The fact that this budget has not done enough for post-secondary students and for recent post-secondary graduates is a big problem for me. It is a big problem for my constituency and for students across the country.
There is another thing that we really wanted to see within this bill and I am very disappointed that we do not see it, particularly as we are in the middle of a global pandemic. This bill does nothing to give us any of the supports that we need during a global pandemic. There is nothing here for pharmacare, dental care or additional support for mental health care.
Canadians have been waiting for pharmacare for over 60 years. It would make sure that the medications they need would be included in our health care system. Twenty-three years ago, the Liberals first promised Canadians a national pharmacare program. They have repeated that promise over and over again, yet we still have not seen it. In fact, recently the Liberal Party voted against the NDP's proposal for a pharmacare bill and, of course, there is nothing in this budget that makes us feel like it is coming.
We have had five public commissions on pharmacare. We have had study after study, including the Liberals' own Hoskins report in 2019, say that Canadians needed pharmacare, that pharmacare would save money and that we have that obligation, particularly during a global pandemic. Unfortunately, that is not part of what we saw in this bill.
While we were happy to see that there was a small increase in the amount of OAS for seniors over 75, it was deeply concerning that it would not help all seniors. It is a pittance, and not enough for seniors to get out of poverty and survive this pandemic. We saw massive amounts of money go to support for-profit long-term care centres. Instead of giving the money to our seniors to help them, we have seen the money go to the wealthy.
I said that I would be speaking about what the impacts have been on my riding of Edmonton Strathcona, but I want to very quickly talk about international development, humanitarian assistance and where this budget falls on that front.
A report prepared by Cooperation Canada, which is a leader in civil society work on international development, stated:
COVID-19 is not a fleeting crisis. It calls for political leadership and strategic investments to make up for the 25 years of human development progress lost in the first 25 weeks of the global pandemic.
It also says this budget missed that opportunity. Groups that provide humanitarian aid around the world asked for 1% within this budget, and they did not get that support.
Members may say that pharmacare, child care, support for seniors, artistic communities and our international communities all cost money, and wonder where is it going to come from. That is the biggest problem with this bill in my mind. We did not take the opportunity to make sure that the wealthy paid their fair share. We did not take the opportunity with this budget to make sure that the ultrarich would be contributing to our communities and our Canadian priorities. We have seen CEOs use the wage subsidy program to lock out their workers in my riding of Edmonton Strathcona. We have seen the ultrarich make $78 billion over the course of this pandemic, yet there is no wealth tax. There is nothing that will make the wealthy pay their share and help us as we go forward.
While I am happy to see that the Liberal government is finally taking some steps on a national child care program, and while I am happy to see minimum wage raised to $15 I am disappointed, once again, that the wealthy are given a free ticket while regular Canadians are expected to pick up the tab.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill , the budget implementation act.
The problem with budget 2021 is that it is focused more on the political fortunes of the Liberal Party than on rebuilding the economy post-pandemic. That is not just me, the Conservative member for Langley—Aldergrove, speaking. The former clerk of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch is quoted as saying that budget 2021 is an “intergenerational transfer of debt and risk [that] is unprecedented.”
Mr. Lynch continues:
As a political statement, it should yield electoral dividends. As an economic statement, it favours short-term consumption over private-sector investment, sprinkles...[dividends] initiatives far and wide, adds heavily to the federal debt, and misses an urgent opportunity to rebuild our longer-term growth post-pandemic.
He is not happy with it, but look who is smiling. The left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is smiling. Its senior economist, David Macdonald, advised the to ignore “ongoing and needless concern about federal interest payments.”
Those pesky debt servicing costs take all the fun out of the party. Let us all just agree the budget will balance itself. That it is modern monetary theory at work, and we should not be surprised this is coming from the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Modern monetary theory says the following: Debt and the deficit do not matter. Why do we even keep track of them because they do not matter? The only thing that matters is inflation, and as long as we keep inflation under control, everything is going to be good and fine. The proponents of modern monetary theory will tell us that inflation is under control, that it is more or less within the Bank of Canada's target range of 2%. Just recently it has gone up a bit, and I am happy to hear the member opposite acknowledging that at least there is a difference of opinion on whether inflation is just a blip or it is long-term and deeply embedded.
Let us hear what ordinary Canadians say about inflation. Talking to many small businesses in my riding of Langley—Aldergrove, I am hearing that they are having to compete to get good workers to come back to work. They are competing with each other, which of course is a good thing, but they feel they are also competing with the federal government. They are being told that maybe they need to pay their employees more if they want them to come back to work. That to them sounds like wage inflation.
I have talked to young families, and there are many of them in my riding of Langley—Aldergrove, who are struggling to buy a house. There is a housing affordability crisis going on. That is not unique to my riding of Langley—Aldergrove, although British Columbia's Lower Mainland seems to be ground zero for this housing affordability crisis.
I ask members to consider a hypothetical family that 15 months ago, at the start of the pandemic, decided it would take one more year to save up for a down payment to buy a first home. Today, that family is somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000 further behind. The goalposts have just been moved further. No matter how hard families kick the ball, and no matter how well they play the game, they are not keeping up. They are losing ground. If we tell them there is no inflation, they are not going to believe us.
I have talked to contractors who are working in construction in the housing industry. If we tell them there is no inflation, they will tell us about increased prices for lumber, plywood, steel, concrete and any products related to construction. The prices are going up. If we tell them there is no inflation, they are not going to believe us.
I believe there is one thing we can agree on with the Liberals, and with the other people in this House, and that is that the solution to fight inflation is to grow the economy and to make sure the economy is producing goods and services in sufficient quantities to meet the demand of the buying public. That is the solution. Unfortunately, this budget does not do that. It misses the mark.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has noted that a significant amount of the Liberal spending in this budget will not stimulate jobs. Nor will it create economic growth. This is a budget that focuses on redistribution of wealth, borrowing money and quantitative easing, but does not encourage private investment.
We have heard on numerous occasions from members opposite that even during the Harper years, Conservative governments engaged in deficit spending. Of course, in a time of crisis, that is exactly what a central government needs to do. It has tools available to it. Debt financing, quantitative easing, tax incentives to encourage further investment and even printing money are all tools available to and must be employed by a central government during a time of economic crisis to ensure there is liquidity in the marketplace. We all agree on that. Where we disagree is when the central government needs to step on the gas and when to ease up, when to pump liquidity into the marketplace and when to step aside to let private enterprise take over.
Do not forget that the Liberal government, even during good times, the first four years of its mandate, did not balance the budget. There was full employment, good government revenues and economic growth, yet there was one deficit budget after the other. I do not think Canadians have confidence in the government to see us through this crisis. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have a great track record of managing Canada's economy during a time of economic crisis, the most recent being the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 when Canada came out stronger than any other G7 country.
Today's Conservatives stand ready, willing and able to take the lead again to do the hard work to get our economy back on track. The Liberals focus on Ottawa-centric policies; we focus on private investment.
Talking about government-centred programs, I will focus briefly on the latest iteration of the $10-a-day universal child care proposal that has been put forward in the budget once again, as it has been put forward many times over many years. I will quote from a recent study report by Cardus, a think tank. This is what it says about the national child care proposal, “The norms of modern work, particularly that of modern working mothers, will be poorly addressed by a nation-wide system, rooted as it is in proposals that were first advanced in the 1970s.”
If there is one thing we learned about Canada and Canadians during this COVID crisis, it is that they are resilient, creative, inventive and engage in entrepreneurial problem-solving. A lot of Canadian families have taken the opportunity during this COVID crisis to move out of urban centres into more suburban centres to get a bigger house for the kids, a bigger home office, maybe two home offices, one for mom, one for dad and maybe even a third one for the kids if they do their school work from home. We should ask these families what they think about a centralized Ottawa-knows-best national child care policy. We should ask them what they want.
I have a few suggestions, three good ideas, that I hope the Liberals will accept. First, they should take the billions of dollars that they are planning to spend on national child care and give it directly to families and allow them to do what they feel is best. Second, let us create more housing by encouraging provincial governments and municipalities to increase supply. Rather than tinker with demand, let us increase supply. Finally, they should do something about rural broadband so we can all work efficiently from home.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today. It is always an honour to speak in the House, especially in a time where we remain virtual. It is much better to be in the House to speak.
I would like to thank my colleagues, the member for and the member for , for their presentations today about what we believe is important when talking about the budget implementation bill.
Governments have historically had three sources of revenue: tax, borrow or print money. This process has been around for governments for a long time. The Egyptians, 3,000 years ago, had an extensive twice-yearly collection of grains that they could then distribute in less productive times, for government workers or lesser classes. The Incas has a similar system in the Americas.
Over time, forms of governments that have been ruling have taxed those they are in control of with some form of payment, be it commodity, currency or even servitude. The ruling authority would decide on the use of the collected tax. In my family history, going back to Scotland in 1207, there was a tax collector. He is part of my family history. The collection of taxes has been going on for thousands of years.
When it comes to taxes, people can pay, resist or be non-compliant. Penalties for non-compliance varied over time. Many of us remember the Boston Tea Party and how the American colonies resisted paying taxes.
Since 1867, in Canada, taxes have been based on trade. It was a trade-based type of tax. In 1916, there was a corporate tax. There was a world activity going on called World War I. In 1917, there was a temporary Income Tax War Act, combining corporate and a new individual tax to be reviewed after the war, after World War I.
After World War II, in 1948, the temporary act was replaced by the Income Tax Act, the basis for what we have today, which should be totally thrown out and redone, as it has only been tinkered with for the last 60 or 70 years.
Different levels of government in Canada have taxation. The federal and provincial governments can rack up debt, but municipalities cannot. We have huge debt in both federal and provincial governments, but the municipalities have figured out how to do it without creating that long-term debt.
Over two calendar years, we have had an economic snapshot, a fall economic update, but no budget. Finally, Canadians will be able to understand, maybe, for themselves what their tax dollars will pay for.
When phone books were still being printed some years ago, there were times they were used as substitute booster seats for children to reach the top of the table at dinnertime. Phone books are not printed too often these days, but at 724 pages, this budget could be a fitting substitute. There are 724 pages jammed with Liberal promises, promises that will add to the federal debt of more than $1.2 trillion. It is a great tactic to make certain Canadians never read it; it is so long and complicated.
In fact, we heard before that the current added more debt than all the other prime ministers before him combined. That is quite an infamous accomplishment. I have listened to Liberals extolling accomplishments, and it almost sounds like they are making acceptance speeches for an Oscar. It may not be the award that many of my constituents would like to give them for this budget, one with $100 billion, not million, unaccounted for. However, what is a few billion between friends.
This is taxpayer money. I often hear the say, “We will take this debt on our shoulders.” It is the taxpayer money and taxpayer debt, and it is their children and their grandchildren's debt. Is it printed money by the billions on a weekly basis on which the government has depended? This modern monetary theory is interesting: print all the money it wants and do not worry about the debt. That does not work at the municipal government level or at the personal level, so how can it work at the federal level.
This is not a new idea. Government spending based on a backed commodity, like the holding of gold, is many centuries old. However, it was disrupted a few times in those days, too, when there was an oversupply of gold at certain times.
Paper began to appear as a writ of value for governments to replace rare metals currency, but it was backed by rare metals—not now. When governments produce volumes of paper currency with no backing or faith in the currency, what happens?
Many of us have heard the stories of Germany in the 1920s. There was hyperinflation, spending rapidly as the value dropped. A wheelbarrow full of money could buy a loaf of bread one day, but not the next day. The Great Depression brought stock market paper with no value. More recently, there was the 2008 bank depression. Greece, Venezuela and other countries just printed bigger numbers on their bills and there was still no value.
What is the Liberal government doing with this budget? If the government continues this trajectory, by 2026 Canada will have spent $39 billion on debt interest payments alone. That is more than child care at $8.3 billion, more than EI benefits at $25.6 billion and more than the Canada child benefit at $27 billion, all of which are programs in this budget.
We must look introspectively and ask ourselves where this money is coming from. It is being generated as numbers on a screen and then printed on expensive paper, or plastic bills these days, which is another resource sector product. The government will be printing more money than it earns from Canadian taxpayers. Is this a recipe for disaster? I know what my constituents think, and it is not a pretty picture.
What is the government promising for Canadians? I have heard about many government programs, but what drives the economy despite this incredible spending on government programs and increase of government employees? Does the private sector not build the economy by producing services and products of value? It employs people to do this. The companies and the employees then pay taxes that support the needs of society.
Do government programs build the economy based on printed money? This has not worked in other countries or historically. Each person in Canada now owes an average of $33,000 in federal debt. Does the Liberal government want people to depend on it instead of gainful employment? I would hope not, but does this budget do that?
Canadians and future generations will be saddled with the burden of the government doubling the national debt, and for what? I cannot wait for members to ask me about government programs. What about the $100-billion recovery line in the budget? Is that more government jobs?
I speak with my constituents in mind. They are hard-working, no-nonsense, results-driven people. Do they want a budget with handouts? No, they do not. We have incredibly intelligent, innovative, hard-working people in my constituency and across this great country who are willing to invest in businesses and hire productive people to produce services or products that are valued. Is the government interested in doing that with this budget? My constituents question that. If the government was as focused on getting Canadians back to work as it is on marketing and slogans, my constituents would be better off.
In this House, parliamentarians must follow certain standards of House procedure and conduct. It would be impossible for me to accurately convey the feelings my constituents have, using the words they have spoken to me. I would be subject to reprimand and would certainly be compelled to retract my comments.
All parties agreed to temporary measures to address the difficulties in conducting House business going forward, but since then, even though we have adapted new methods of representing Canadians in this House, we have been more dysfunctional than ever. Though this new online method has been streamlined, it took many months of tedious technical tinkering. Nothing will be a viable substitute for the ability to look a colleague in the eye and have a conversation about our constituents.
The spending promises are at an all-time high and there is no plan to balance the budget in the future. Generations of Canadians will be paying for the Liberal government's promises. The snowball effect of this pandemic on every sector of the economy, on every moment of our lives going forward will not be easily forgotten. I remember the 20% interest rates on my mortgage, and that was a response to inflation in the 1970s. Can members imagine what that would do to my constituents' mortgages today?
Canada's future does not rest in a slogan, a campaign or even a single political party, but in the determination of our people to work, to innovate and to flourish.
Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to be here in the House.
Of course, when I speak from home, in my riding, it is important, but when I am here, I find that my words have even more importance.
I would just like to take a moment and thank my constituent, Paddy Bossert, for the beautiful pin she gave me. She and Dale Bossert have been big supporters of Calgary Midnapore for some time. The pin is a quill and ink, and she says it is because I have such lovely handwriting. I believe my staff would beg to differ with her, but nonetheless, I thank Mrs. Bossert very much for this beautiful pin I am wearing in the House today.
I appeared on Alberta Primetime with the previous speaker, the member for , where I quoted two articles regarding the budget that I am going to mention here again today. The first one was an Andrew Coyne article. Andrew is of course seen as somewhat Conservative but also seen as, I believe, a very reasonable individual. His comment in his opinion piece was that this was “a budget about everything, except how [we are going] to pay for it”. Those words really resonated with me.
The other article I referred to was a Rosenberg article in The Globe and Mail. This article indicated something I thought was very interesting, which is that the budget used to be an economic document. It used to be a document about the economic future of Canada. In fact, this is how I was raised, which is that one's family brings in so much money a month, spends a certain amount and then a certain amount is left for savings. It was really an education for me to arrive in the public policy world and find that it is about spending priorities for the fiscal year, whatever they are. Rosenberg's other point was that this budget was not even an economic document, it was a social engineering document designed to vote-grab, which really puts a sad commentary on the government and this budget.
What makes me the most sad is that I really believe every Speech from the Throne and every budget is an opportunity to face the future with confidence and with possibility, especially at this time of coming out of a pandemic. Right now it is hard for Canadians to see the future and have hope. This document did not do that.
We have seen the terrible vaccine procurement and distribution throughout Canada resulting in the delay of a return to life as we once knew it. What we need to do is restart Canada. Our economy is crumbling. Never mind the debt and the deficit my colleagues talked about previously, as well as inflation and money supply. In the last question, it was said that someone's daughter actually thought Canada could print money.
There is just so much supply as a result of the government and a lack of goods. Trade is also failing under this economy. There is a container crisis affecting shippers, distributers and businesses. I actually had someone in my riding tell me that they paid $2,000 to ship a container from China prior to this pandemic and that the price has now gone up to $8,500 a container. This is a cost they are going to have to pass on to consumers.
Interest will start to go up. We will see it start with variable rates and it will increase and increase. With household debt, people are paying down their credit cards but now we are seeing them take on this debt with housing prices. As well, small and medium enterprises are struggling.
Mental health during this pandemic has been horrible. I was very proud to host a session with a psychologist in my riding last week on parenting teens in a pandemic, in an effort to help the next generation of Canadians who are looking for some hope in this pandemic, a way out of this pandemic, which this budget did not provide. I received so many sad notes from seniors, who told me they are completely depressed and even contemplating suicide. We need to restart Canada.
I have advocated tirelessly for the aviation sector within the House. The National Airlines Council of Canada put out a statement, which said that:
As vaccination rates continue to climb globally countries are announcing plans for the safe restart of their travel and tourism sectors, drawing on analysis provided by the European Centres for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the US Centres for Disease Control...“Yesterday the National Airlines Council joined with over 60 other industry organizations in writing to the Prime Minister on the urgent need for Canada to move forward with a restart plan for the overall economy and for the travel sector. Countries that successfully plan will not only safely restart aviation and their overall economy, they will take jobs and investment from countries that do not. We must get moving now on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians in every region of the country whose livelihoods depend on travel and tourism”....
It is not just here, but other jurisdictions are restarting. They have a restart plan. I will point out some examples brought forward to me by the Business Council of Canada, which said that:
Other jurisdictions have paved the route for us to follow. In February, the United Kingdom unveiled a four-stage “roadmap out of lockdown”, with clear guidelines to mark the journey back to a more normal life. For example, in “Step 3”, most businesses in all but the highest risk sectors are allowed to reopen while adhering to public health guidelines.
We need to restart Canada.
The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance for those who are fully vaccinated and outlines which activities are now considered safe, including domestic travel without the need for testing or quarantine. Right here within Canada, here at home, Saskatchewan recently unveiled a three-step reopening road map that clearly links the lifting of restrictions to vaccination milestones. For example, once 70% of those 30 and older have received one dose, 150 people will be permitted to gather in public, indoor settings provided they adhere to physical distancing and mask guidelines. We need to restart Canada.
Further along that reopening plan for Saskatchewan, in phase 1, May 4 to June 1, we see reopening previously restricted medical services; phase 2, reopening retail and select personal service facilities; phase 3, reopening places of worship, increasing indoor, public and private gatherings of 15 people and outdoor gatherings to 30 people; and phase 4, reopening child and youth day camps, outdoor pools and spray parks as well as libraries, museums, galleries and it goes on and on. Canadians are waiting for this. We need to restart Canada.
However, we need to be smart about this restart. We need not only the government but Canadians to think about the restart. I want every Canadian to think about, when the pandemic is over and when their benefits run out, whether they will they have a job, and if not, why? Did their restaurant close? Did their retail store close? Why? If a person owns a business, is their business safe?
The next question I want Canadians to ask themselves is: What did they not get to do this winter or spring because of no vaccines as a result of this government with no vision and no restart plan? Did someone around them pass away? Was there a surgery that was denied? Did someone have to quit their job in an effort to home-school? Did they have to quit their beer league? Was it like my son who had to go without his hockey league, which gives him so much exercise and happiness?
More importantly, I want Canadians to ask themselves what they want their future to look like. Do they want to own a home? It is not going to happen under this government in the direction that we are going. Do they want to have a family? They might not be able to provide food for them because of inflation and the price of groceries and gas, which is at 127.9 cents a litre in my hometown of Calgary. Do they want to have a car? Why does it have to be an electric car? Why can it not be a car run on diesel? By the time this government makes any effort to get the infrastructure up for electric cars, we will have moved on to hydrogen.
We need to do this restart plan intelligently. However, Canadians' lives do not have to be how the government designed them. They have an opportunity for change. They have an opportunity for choice. This government had an opportunity and it failed. We need to restart Canada.
Madam Speaker, today I am speaking to something very historic, which is the budget implementation act for the largest and most anticipated Liberal deficit budget in Canadian history. Usually when history is being made, there are those who will be remembered well and those who will not be.
Judging by this budget, it is clear that the current government will not be well thought of by future generations. These generations will be the ones tasked with the consequences of this massive Liberal deficit budget, one that will mean higher taxes than what we pay today, fewer services, higher inflation and bigger debt servicing costs. All of these factors will vary based on the policy choices made in the years to come, but as a whole, they represent a much higher likelihood that future generations will not be as well off as folks are today.
I know how hard my great-grandparents and grandparents worked to make this country as strong and prosperous as it is today. They sacrificed through two world wars and a depression, building their families while keeping our country's finances under control. I think of my parents' more recent generation, which sacrificed so much in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the last Liberal government drastically cut spending and services for Canadians while leaving their tax burden the highest in Canadian history to date. All of these sacrifices are at threat of being made in vain because of the lack of fiscal accountability and responsibility shown by the Liberal government over the past five and a half years, particularly in its new plan for future years.
We are facing unique challenges, and the Liberals have proven in this budget that they are not up to dealing with them. The fact is that we cannot count on the factors that previous generations counted on to make and keep our country prosperous. There is no postwar baby boom around the corner, and the steady flow of skilled immigrants to this country is likely to tail off in the near future, as the rest of the world wakes up to the demographic aging crisis and the implications of mass population decline. Fewer and fewer productive taxpayers will be around to service the ever-increasing annual deficits and debts.
Many of the commodities and goods that have made Canada an economic powerhouse are at risk of being phased out by the policies of the World Economic Forum and our own Liberal government. Goods such as oil, automobiles and minerals are at risk of facing drastic reductions in production because of demand destructive policies implemented by woke governments.
Even with the growth in electric vehicles, the scarcity of necessary raw materials such as copper, cobalt and lithium, among others, will make these transportation solutions less accessible for working families. With Liberal legislation like Bill in the previous Parliament, it is unlikely we will even get new mines permitted in time to benefit from any green commodity booms, making us beholden to foreign global competitors such as China, which will set prices for our consumers and control market supply.
The confluence of factors that made our country prosperous, such as a young population, high immigration, fiscal responsibility and increasing consumption of resources, has been inverted. Now we have an aging population, out-of-control debt, and soon-to-be-more-limited immigration prospects, and the resources that have made our country prosperous in the past are being phased out. Nowhere in this Liberal budget did I see a direct plan to address these challenges. It is a failure.
On the environment, which makes up a significant part of this Liberal budget, I see other key failures. The natural resources committee is studying low-carbon and renewable fuels. I agree with the consensus that we need to do more in this area in order to be competitive economically and lower carbon emissions. I was interested to learn that the Liberals have launched a new tax credit to promote carbon capture utilization and storage. There is a big catch, however. On page 168 of the budget, the Liberals make clear, “It is not intended that the investment tax credit be available for Enhanced Oil Recovery projects.”
This is a slap in the face to my constituency. It basically means that Alberta and Saskatchewan should not bother applying. It will significantly undermine investment in carbon capture, which is already effectively being used in my riding at the Sturgeon Refinery, which has sequestered over one megatonne of carbon dioxide in under a year. We could create tens of thousands of jobs and produce the lowest diesel emissions in the world, but the Liberals have essentially barred them from accessing this tax credit.
It is out of line with our trading competitors in the U.S., where under the 45Q policy, a more limited tax credit is available for enhanced oil recovery producers. Why are the Liberals turning their backs yet again on the energy industry of this country, especially when they are taking the important step of decarbonizing their operations with expensive investments in carbon capture?
Is the real reason that the Liberals cannot stand to see a successful, sustainable hydrocarbon industry in this country? That is the only reason I can see, and it is shameful. It is shameful because it exposes that the Liberals are not really interested in finding the most cost-effective solutions for carbon emissions. They are only interested in looking for solutions that come from groups that are not interested in working with our oil and gas sector.
The government claims it is not picking winners and losers in this industry, but its actions speak differently. I am proud that, under a Conservative government, we would support carbon capture across all industries, regardless of whether they are engaged in enhanced recovery or not. Under the Conservatives, our emissions would be significantly lower, while growing jobs in our oil and gas sector.
I am over halfway through my speech and I have not even mentioned the government's failure during the COVID-19 pandemic. We all recognize that Canada is going through a tough time. We have been in and out of lockdowns for over a year now, and it is taking a huge toll on families and small businesses. That is exactly why, over the past year, the Conservatives have supported the government by allowing it to pass massive income support measures on an expedited basis.
We trusted that the Liberals would take that goodwill and do the job right, or at least that, if they did the job wrong the first time, they would make it right as soon as possible. Unfortunately, they did the opposite. They have used this pandemic and the political logjam in this Parliament to govern as if they had a majority, threatening a snap election in a health crisis rather than working with opposition parties to do what is best for Canada.
We see it in question period on a daily basis. Our basic questions are met with disgust. Ministers do not even bother to listen to the questions and choose to throw around unparliamentary language accusing the opposition of lying or misleading Canadians. They have no interest in hearing constructive criticism or implementing our proposals for positive change.
For example, let us look at the Canada emergency wage subsidy. In theory, it is a great program aimed at protecting jobs and our economy, yet as I read through the company quarterly reports, I am shocked by how many profitable businesses have been using taxpayer dollars, delivered on a silver platter by the Liberals, to pad their bottom lines. Many of these companies took these benefits while laying off hundreds of workers, yet the Liberals put no strings attached. There is no accountability for these businesses.
I read in the budget that the Liberals have a big solution for this. They will claw back the wage subsidy for companies that raise executive pay. I thought it was a joke. These companies are spending billions on share buybacks and dividends, and the Liberals are saying that, if they raise executive compensation, they will claw it back. It is laughable. It is a feast for big business and government relations executives put on by the , and the taxpayer is footing the bill.
We need to chart a new course to maximizing growth in the years to come while returning to fiscal responsibility by setting a clear plan to get our country back to a balanced budget and address the rising debt load and face the challenges of tomorrow. We have faced them before, as in the 2008 financial crisis. Under Conservative leadership, this country came out stronger than ever, and we are ready to do the hard work to get our country back on track to secure our future.
In my short time to speak today, I have raised serious problems with the Liberals' economic mismanagement, whether it be their poorly designed programs, or their programs designed to outright exclude important industries and regions in this country. I have highlighted some deeply concerning trends, such as the threat of a reduced population, lower immigration and an aging population. These are challenges that would be difficult for governments to face even at the best of times.
What we have seen from the Liberal government is that it has a willingness to spend whatever it takes to get re-elected rather than spending to face the challenges of the future today. It is clear that only a Conservative government can get our country back on track and secure our future.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking this morning about Bill , budget implementation act, 2021, no. 1.
My colleagues will recall that the Bloc Québécois voted against the budget because some of our important conditions were not included. However, we will be voting in favour of the budget implementation bill, which contains plenty of promising measures.
All the same, that does not mean that we will be giving up the fight, in particular with respect to health transfers. In my opinion, it is inconceivable that a government that is running a deficit of more than $350 billion this year still refuses to help the levels of government that have the responsibilities stipulated in the original agreement.
The federal government used to pay 50% of the costs, not 22%. At this rate, it will only be paying 20% five years from now. What the provinces and Quebec are unanimously asking for is 35%. That corresponds to $28 billion, which by purest coincidence is equal to the leeway that the government decided to subtract from its deficit. I certainly think the Liberals could afford this.
Our other major condition was a decent increase in old age pensions. I am not talking about the increase of about $1.75 given to those who received the largest increase. That will just about buy them one extra coffee a year. I am talking about a decent increase of $110 a month, which is not asking much.
It feels like we keep repeating the same things. Sometimes repetition is the only way to get a point across. At a time when the government wants to launch a recovery plan involving more than $100 billion in spending, how can it justify not giving seniors some breathing room by providing $110 a month?
It is a small amount. These people will not be putting it in the bank for later, they will be spending it. That is exactly what we need for our economy this year. We need a recovery, some breathing room, help for these people who were hit so hard by the pandemic.
Another concern we have about Bill C-30 is that it lays the foundation for a Canadian securities regulation regime. Historically, the Bloc Québécois has always been opposed to this, and we are not alone. The Quebec government and Quebec's business community are unanimous in rejecting the idea. The Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, Finance Montréal, the International Financial Center, Mouvement Desjardins, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ and most companies, including Air Transat, Transcontinental, Canam, Québecor, Metro, La Capitale, Cogeco and Molson, all agree.
Why are all of these economic stakeholders in Quebec saying that Quebec should not be losing more control to Ontario?
It is because this amounts to an attempt to move a strong financial centre to Toronto. I know that I am in the House, that I must remain calm and watch my language, but it is pretty darn hard to stay calm when faced with this constant financial expropriation. What the government wants to do is to make Quebeckers dependent, so that they think they need the rest of Canada and that they want to remain a part of it. That is the bottom line.
Why fix something that is not broken?
Quebec's securities commission is extremely effective, and it is important to have a strong economic centre. This is the institution that insisted on keeping the Montreal Stock Exchange in Montreal even after it was sold to the Toronto Stock Exchange. I will be so bold as to say that, if it had been up to Toronto, there would not be a stock exchange in Montreal anymore.
There are many jobs involved. The financial sector accounts for 150,000 jobs and contributes $20 billion to the GDP. Montreal is the 13th-largest financial centre in the world. The 578 head offices in Quebec account for 50,000 jobs. Since these are head offices, these jobs are not just ordinary jobs. They are 50,000 well-paying jobs that create more jobs. When a company's head office is located in Quebec, because that is where the financial centres are and where decisions are made, the company tends to hire within Quebec and to adapt its strategy accordingly.
That is what the federal government wants to eliminate. Well, I have news for the government: We will not allow it. We will work on it and propose amendments. I hope that the people in the government will see reason and defend Quebec's interests. I would remind them that there are elected officials from Quebec in their party.
Of course, Bill C-30 is massive and does not cover everything. We do applaud the extension of the special assistance programs, such as the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program, until September 25.
However, I think that the rates are dropping rapidly. Companies are not quite back on their feet yet; we need to make sure that we do not take this assistance away too soon, since companies need predictability. Last week, I received more calls from companies that have held on so far, but they are telling me that they may not be able to hold on for much longer. This is not the time to cut them off.
The creation of a hiring program is a good idea. Disallowing bonuses for senior executives of companies that received the wage subsidy is an excellent idea. I hope the rule will be applied to the letter.
Speaking of wage subsidies, I cannot help but make a brief interjection. It is a shame that I cannot refer to the presence of members in the House, because I would have definitely named someone. My Conservative colleague who spoke previously referred to the wage subsidy several times, bemoaning the fact that the government gave wage subsidies to companies that give bonuses, and yet the Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP all received the wage subsidy. They have the gall to make accusations and feign outrage. It is crazy.
Sometimes I think I am dreaming. I hear a member say something and I wonder whether he really dared repeat it. Members ought to have a little decency. I am launching an appeal to the three political parties that misappropriated public funds. That is the polite way of saying what I think. I am asking them to give the money back, because it is Quebec and Canadian taxpayer money. They should not use public funds for campaign purposes, especially if they refuse to amend the laws governing the public financing of political parties. It is doubly sickening.
They announced measures in the budget to tackle tax avoidance. That is fine, but they seem pretty minor to me. More needs to be done. I know that they are sick and tired of hearing us talk about this because it is a really sore spot for them, but when are they going to do something about tax havens? If they had the courage to take action in this matter, we would have a budget surplus rather than a deficit. Let us get moving on this.
The argument that government members cannot vote in favour of Bill , which aims to facilitate the transfer of SMEs, including farms, because this constitutes tax avoidance really raises my hackles. It is mind-boggling.
There are a few small positive measures on zero-emission vehicles. It is also an excellent idea to extend the tax deferral on patronage dividends for cooperatives. The industry has been asking for this for ages. However, I wonder why they have not made this measure permanent rather than extending it for another five years.
Would members like to know the real reason? The government wants to keep these people dependent and in line. In three and a half years, or four years, they will have to start begging their generous government to extend the measures again. People are more compliant in those situations. The government wants to keep us dependent, and so do the Canadian securities regulators.
The Bloc Québécois will be there to fight this.
Madam Speaker, it is always an incredible honour to rise and speak on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay.
I think if anybody had said in the House last March that we would still be in COVID now, dealing with lockdowns and the crisis of this terrible pandemic, it would have been impossible for any of us to even imagine finding a way through.
We are getting through this pandemic, but it is really important to point out that there are still serious gaps and problems, and I think many lessons that should have been learned have not been learned.
I was reading an article this morning that talked about the political malpractice that has occurred in Canada at the provincial and federal levels, with leaders refusing to look at the crisis of the pandemic and recognize what we are dealing with. We remember Premier Kenney dismissed COVID as less harmful than influenza, yet we see the ICUs in Alberta being overrun and 25,000-plus deaths in this country. Premier Doug Ford promised to use an “iron ring” to protect seniors in long-term care. The only thing he did was put an iron ring around the investors to keep them from being charged for the horrific negligence that caused the deaths of our loved ones, parents, cousins and grandparents in long-term care facilities. There needs to be a day of reckoning over these issues.
I raise this because people in my region are very tired. They are dreaming of being able to sit on a patio and have a beer with their friends. They are counting the days. The people of Canada have carried their weight. They have done an incredible job of following the rules, being responsible, doing what was necessary and taking on incredible emotional, psychological and economic burdens. The longer we go without a way of saying we can truly put this behind us, the harder it is going to be, and I am very concerned that many businesses will not be coming back.
This past weekend there were 128 new cases of COVID in the region of Timmins. We have cases at the Monteith jail. We have cases now at the OPG centre in Cochrane. We have multiple cases at the Detour Lake mine site where contractors are going in and out. We have 17 new cases in the Fort Albany First Nation, and I understand there are now cases in Attawapiskat. This is deeply concerning, given that we have many communities on the James Bay coast where sometimes 15 or 18 people live in a house and there is no place to do proper self-isolation. When I see 17 new cases over the weekend in Fort Albany, big alarm bells go off. The City of Timmins is now under a state of emergency because of COVID. The community of Moosonee has 38 cases with a very small hospital. It is under a state of emergency.
I am asking the federal government to commit the resources necessary to help our communities get through this. We need the surge capacity that was promised to be on the ground now. We need to be able to put the supports in place for the health units, hospitals, doctors and front-line workers who are dealing with people in very marginalized situations and do not have proper places to stay. I think of the staff at Living Space in Timmins who work with the homeless. They are on the front lines of the medical catastrophe that is unfolding in our communities and we need to have supports for them. I am asking this of the federal government, and will be following up with the , because we need that support there now to keep people alive. All of us who have come through the three lockdowns and the 15-something months of this crisis with hope on the horizon agree that we cannot lose any more people to this.
I see the government pat itself on the back again and again on the vaccine rollout, but let us be realistic. Right now only about 2% of our population has had the second dose. Until a person has had the second dose they are not free of COVID, so this idea of a one-dose summer is ridiculous. We need to have enough people with two doses to ensure that we can safely go back to living the lives we have all been missing for so long and see the loved ones we have been unable to see.
It raises questions about the decisions that were made. I know those in government do not like to be accused of making a wrong decision in a time of crisis, but we have to look at the fundamental problems that happened with this pandemic. We were fundamentally unable, as rich a nation as we are, to make our own PPE. The government and our , who I believe is the last of the Davos defenders, believed the free market and big pharma would look after us.
We saw the United States and the U.K. invest heavily in their domestic vaccine production. We have some really wonderful vaccine companies trying to get off the ground now. The lesson we need to learn from this is that never again can we be in a situation where we are dependent on big pharma and other countries to try to meet this nation's needs.
With Connaught Labs, we had a world-class vaccine facility that served us for 100 years. Brian Mulroney got rid of that. I never hear the Conservatives talking about what a brilliant idea it was to sell off such a national treasure to their friends in private business. If we had Connaught Labs right now, I bet many more people would have their second dose. There are lessons to be learned from these issues.
In terms of Timmins—James Bay, some very positive steps have been taken, which are really important to recognize.
I want to say congratulations to the Franco-Ontarian community in Timmins on the construction of its new cultural centre, the Centre culturel La Ronde.
That organization plays a key role in developing the Franco-Ontarian community. I am very proud that the federal government has invested $2.5 million in the construction of this new building for the Centre culturel La Ronde.
In addition, the federal and provincial governments have invested $2 million to support the Fire Keeper Patrol in its efforts to combat the opioid crisis in our region, particularly in downtown Timmins.
There are many, many good things we have seen with investments. On FedNor, the Liberal government has finally agreed with the position the New Democrats have taken for years: We need FedNor as a stand-alone agency. FedNor is the only economic development agency that has been the poor cousin. It has been a project of the industry department. What we needed all along was a stand-alone agency, because the economy of northern Ontario is as different from the economy of southern Ontario as the economy of Alberta is from Toronto's. We are resource-based and need to have investments coming back.
I applaud this in the budget. People think I am just going to get up here and beat on the Liberal government. On any given day, that makes me get up in the morning, but we have to recognize that when we make good investments we should be talking about good investments. The investment in FedNor is really important. It has been a lifeline to many of our businesses. It has kept our communities going through this time.
I pushed and worked with the federal government on the fire keepers proposal. We are being hit by a massive opioid crisis, not just in Timmins but across the country. A great program came forward in the Fire Keeper Patrol, where indigenous people work on the streets 24/7 to deal with the homeless and the opioid crisis. That funding is essential right now. Marginal populations, such as those who are homeless, are a vector for COVID, so the fire keepers are on the ground doing this.
I would like to point out we received a record $2 million in funding for Canada summer jobs. That will hire over 526 students this year in communities from Attawapiskat in the far north to the farm belt down in Earlton. This is all important.
The Liberals always ask me why I was so angry about the Canada student service grant they signed off on with the WE brothers. We worked with the federal government. Every MP in the House worked with the federal government to put in place a plan to get students hired. We could have had those students hired last summer. Instead, the program went to the WE brothers, fell off the tracks and has been a disaster ever since.
I am glad to see these investments to hire our young people. I am glad to see the work going on with FedNor and the fight against the opioid crisis, but I am begging the government for help. We need help right now to deal with the crisis of COVID hitting our communities, working people, young people and indigenous people.
Madam Speaker, we have before us the government's budget implementation act, a disastrous piece of legislation that runs counter to the Canadian spirit and threatens our way of life now and in the future.
Canada, as I see it, is a great frontier nation, a nation characterized also by a great frontier spirit. To be Canadian is to set out into the unknown in pursuit of a better life.
Indigenous peoples who survived in these vast and beautiful but harsh lands since time immemorial were living and surviving on a frontier. The first European settlers who came here for resources, space and greater freedom pursued opportunity on a new frontier where the outcomes were highly uncertain. Loyalists who left their communities came north because of a commitment to ideals that had been betrayed by the American revolution. Former slaves also came north, risking brutal reprisals to find freedom in the land they had never seen. Pioneers risked starvation by moving west for more land. Successive generations of immigrants still today come to this new frontier to discover new things and new opportunities, leaving the familiar behind.
This is the Canadian story, one of sacrifice and boldly setting out for adventure, opportunity, security and justice.
Today, when the comforts of indoors are available to most of us, many still pride themselves on keeping this frontier spirit alive by encountering nature in all its elements at all times of the year: skiing, hiking up mountains, sleeping in tents when we do not have to, going for long walks in the middle of the woods through rough terrain even when no one is chasing us and ignoring the stove and microwave to cook food outside. We have braved the elements to get here and survive here, and now we venture out into the cold, the rain and bear country purely for the fun of it. Consciously or not, this is because we are proud of an identity and heritage that connects us with the grubby struggle of the outdoors. We are still a frontier people.
In the first instance, when people chose to leave the ease and comfort of a country or region of origin and when they chose to set out into a place that seemed inhospitable, they were clearly not just acting for themselves. For so many, the sacrifices of the present are consciously made to give something better to the next generation. Those who first venture onto a frontier are laying the groundwork for their children and grandchildren who will grow up on the frontier with the benefit of a new wealth in land and resources, and with the benefit of the security created by the hard work of their forebears.
This, too, is essential to the Canadian story. These national virtues are of hard work, courage and sacrifice in service of the next generation in the hope we can always say to our children that they will have joys, comforts and opportunities that we did not see.
Part of living on a frontier and living a frontier spirit is recognizing that we have to work for everything we have and we will be able to keep the things we built. With a bounty of natural resources in front of us, we can combine our labour with those things and so establish a future for ourselves and our families through dogged and relentless effort. The character of indigenous peoples and of those who immigrated here as well as the circumstances of the country itself made this possible and created communities of relative equality where opportunity was available to all.
This was very different from many old-world countries where resources were often more scarce and where domestic or foreign aristocracies often lived in idleness, benefiting through exploitation. These kinds of societies, where opportunities were not available to most people, have been understandably ripe for political doctrines emphasizing violent redistribution. It is an interesting feature of the history of European colonialism in general that less naturally hospitable areas like Canada ultimately have done better economically than many parts of the world where it is easier to survive.
History shows that early colonizers of warmer regions were more likely to be privileged people seeking wealth through the exploitation of indigenous peoples and slaves and the expropriation of existing wealth. Our country, on the other hand, was colonized by a greater proportion of less privileged European migrants who were prepared to work hard to survive instead of import slave labour. The circumstances of harsher environments such as Canada's also compelled a greater degree of initial co-operation between newcomers and indigenous peoples.
The history of European colonization is therefore one of richer regions becoming poorer and poorer regions becoming richer. This contrast shows the uniqueness of our national experience and the particular impact of the frontier spirit that relatively poorer newcomers to Canada brought with them.
Of course, inequality and exploitation have been and are in certain respects present in Canada today, and they are present any time governments seek to impose unmanageable burdens on workers and on families. However, those who fight back against exploitation do so from a commitment to cultivating and maintaining our national frontier spirit, where anyone can build and where those who choose to build new things can benefit from them. To maintain abundant opportunity and the benefits of this frontier spirit, we must continue to be willing to use our natural resources and to make them available to those who work on and develop them.
The opportunities of the new frontier are not gone. Still today, the option has always been available to go west or north and earn a living through hard work. This is why socialism has never taken root here, because for most of our history, we have been able to provide opportunity and access to resources for those who are willing to move to the frontier and pursue them.
In addition to providing opportunity for all who seek it, our frontiers have supplied the rest of the nation with wealth and resources unimaginable in other countries. We do not have to live on a frontier to benefit from living in a frontier nation.
However, sadly, there are those in our politics who do not believe in this frontier spirit, who have been suspicious of our resource development sectors past and present, who have preferred the comfortable status quo to the challenge of growth and who have tempted us to put the comforts of the present ahead of the opportunities of the future. The extent to which the government represents such an attack on the frontier spirit of our nation has been an unfolding reality.
The government initially promised small deficits for the short term and a balanced approach to spending in resource development. However, now it has bet big on something more radical. This budget unveils a plan to run massive, historic deficits in perpetuity, financed by borrowing and outstripping the borrowing of any previous national crisis. This is a budget that seeks a decisive break with our history. While there are claims about growth coming from undefined jobs in the future and dreams of greater workforce participation facilitated by state-run day care, the only actual articulated policy in this budget is more spending financed by the printing of money and the continuing, unprecedented assault on those resource and manufacturing sectors of our economy that have driven our frontier spirit and have been the mainstay of our prosperity.
Simultaneously, the government is proposing less production and more spending. The national resource sector is being undermined at every turn, including even projects with net-zero equipment built in, even projects that will demonstrably lead to reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by displacing dirtier foreign sources. It should be obvious that increasing the availability of child care is only going to increase workforce participation if there are actually jobs available to work in.
Any student of history can figure out where this is all leading. This is the path of hyperinflation and a national debt crisis. This, in turn, will create radical inequality between everyday people and well-connected insiders. This is how we undermine trust in public institutions and exacerbate social divisions. This is how we impoverish a once great nation.
There are those who say that this cannot happen in Canada, that our nation is immune to these things, that our national success has been the product of particular characteristics, choices and circumstances. In particular, it has been our frontier spirit, the fact that we are the kind of people who look at a naturally occurring pile of asphalt and say, “How can I squeeze the oil out of that?” We are the kind of people who understand that prosperity comes from hard work, not from printing money. This is Canada. However, if our leaders continue to seek a different course, then there is no reason to believe that our historic success will continue.
Canada's current government is the most left wing of any government in this nation's history. Other governments have sought to develop our resources and redistribute the surplus, but the current government is blocking growth and development at every turn, while actively seeking to redistribute that which has not been created. It will tell us “Don't worry, your efforts are not required because we are going to take care of things. We are going to take care of you whatever it takes.” However, whatever it takes it not going to work if we are not putting anything in the tank. We can only run on empty for so long.
The government will say that its spending will create growth, but its approach to growth emphasizes central planning and the alleged wisdom of bureaucratic predictions about industries of the future. Central planning of economic development has never worked in the past and has always increased inequality and social resentment. Nations that have relied on government planning instead of on the spontaneous genuis of people have never prospered except temporarily and by imitation and expropriation.
It is time that Canada's leaders turn their attention to the need to secure our future. Securing our future requires an all-hands-on-deck approach to the economy, one that leverages the hard work, ingenuity and sacrifice of all people from all backgrounds, in all sectors and in all regions of our national economy. Securing the future means innovating in the way that we deliver public services instead of re-promising the unkept promises of the 1960s. Securing our future means restoring our commitment to paying for the things we buy today rather than passing the bill on to the next generation.
The source of our prosperity is not the printing of currency, central planning or the distribution of government largesse. It is the ingenuity and courage of the Canadian people. Securing our future is about celebrating our frontier spirit as survivors, as immigrants, as builders and as innovators. I am proud to be opposing this budget.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak today to the budget implementation act. It is a budget I would name after the Rick Moranis film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
, but I am going to call it “Honey, I Sunk the Kids”. I would have used a different word for “sunk”, but that would have been unparliamentary language.
Why would I call it that? It is because of the massive intergenerational debt that we are passing on with very little thought or oversight of what it is going to do to our children and our grandchildren. How bad is it? It is $500 billion added in just two years and $700 billion of debt added over the next five years.
By the time I am done my 10-minute speech and five-minute question and answer period, $7.3 million will be added to the debt that Canadians will owe. People my age will remember Lee Majors as Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man. That would be just about 13 minutes of today's time with the government's spending to rebuild him better.
In the budget, one of the big problems I have, as someone from Edmonton, Alberta, is that there is almost nothing for Albertans. There are well over 700 pages in the budget, yet next to nothing for the province. It has been described in our province as a slap in the face for Albertans.
Going through the budget, I saw it mentions pipelines several times. Hurray, but it mentions a talent pipeline; a vaccine pipeline, and we see how the government has failed on that; a genomics talent pipeline; an innovation pipeline; and a pipeline of PPE. We are going to see tomorrow in the Auditor General's report on PPE how the government has funnelled taxpayer money to people connected with the Liberal Party and other insiders, but it mentions a pipeline of PPE in the budget. What about a pipeline of oil and gas? Guess what, there is no mention of that.
We have seen what is going on in Michigan right now with Line 5. If Michigan shuts down Line 5, it will cost tens of thousands of jobs in Sarnia, Ontario, and other places, and it will probably double the price of gas, yet there is nothing in the budget to address that issue.
There is also no mention of the fact that Alberta's oil and gas industry is the largest employer for indigenous workers. At the operations committee we did a study on government procurement for the indigenous and every single witness from the indigenous community stated that the only one doing its job was the oil and gas industry. It was not the federal government. It was failing, but the oil and gas industry was providing wealth and prosperity for the indigenous communities. In this budget, we have nothing.
We have heard repeatedly in my riding that small businesses that opened just before or during the pandemic were left out of all the support, including the wage support and the rent support, through no fault of their own. I used to be in the hotel business, and it takes a year, two years, or even longer now with all the regulations, to build a hotel. If people had the misfortune of deciding to invest before COVID started, they were cut out from the support of the government.
We have asked repeatedly, in the House and at committee, for the government to address that. Each time, Liberals stand, hand over heart, and say small businesses are the backbone of the economy, but they are not going to do anything. There is nothing in the budget to address that.
A friend of mine in the riding, Rick Bronson, has a comedy club in West Edmonton Mall called The Comic Strip. He employs almost 100 people. He opened a new one in British Columbia just before COVID happened. It is no fault of his own, but he is shut out from the government program. Again, we have asked repeatedly to help small businesses, but there is nothing for them.
In Alberta, we had two main asks in the budget, one was money for carbon capture research. The premier shot for the moon asking for billions, so I was expecting maybe a billion less. No, we ended up with a plan with carbon capture tax incentives, but only if it is not used for enhanced oil recovery. We have spoken to all the big players and the junior players in oil and gas and they have all said the same thing. There is no economic way forward for carbon capture without it being available for enhanced oil recovery.
On the one hand, the Liberals put out a carrot, and on the next hand, they hit people with a stick. In the budget there is some money for carbon capture research, with $20 million next year to $220 million over the next five years.
Let us think about it. Oil and gas, even at reduced prices, is still our number one export. It absolutely dwarfs the automobile industry, and it dwarfs aerospace, yet we get a pittance toward tech research for it. To put it in perspective, the government has given wealthy Tesla owners $100 million in subsidies to buy Tesla cars, half as much as it has given to the entire oil and gas industry for carbon capture. It shows very clearly the current government does not care about Alberta and that it really does not care, when push comes to shove, for the environment.
The Liberals also did not fix the unfair cap on the fiscal stabilization program that punishes Alberta because resources are included in that. They changed it to benefit Quebec and Ontario, but they continue to discriminate against Alberta by adding a ceiling if oil and gas resource revenue is put in there. Since 2014, Albertans have been net contributors of over $110 billion to the federal purse. What we get back is a slap in the face.
Going back to carbon capture, there is $20 million next year for carbon capture research. Also in this budget is $22 million for a recognition program for atomic workers from the 1950s, during the Korean War era. It is wonderful that we are recognizing the work of people done 70 years ago, but there is as much money for a recognition program for the 1950s as there is for vital carbon capture research. It again shows the priorities of the current government are not working people and certainly not those in Alberta.
Of the 739 pages total in this budget, pipelines are only mentioned five times. The word “supports” shows up 1,000 times, and the word “benefits” shows up 1,300 times. “Productivity”, though, only appears 39 times and “competitiveness” appears just 13 times.
What do we get for $700 billion of added debt over the next five years? The government predicts in its own budget that the growth rate will slow every single year starting in 2022, all the way down to 1.7% growth in 2025. Let us think about that. There is $700 billion in added debt and all we get is a mediocre 1.7% growth.
Robert Asselin, the former policy and budget director to Bill Morneau and a policy adviser to the , stated about this budget, “it is hard to find a coherent growth plan...spending close to $1 trillion, [and] not moving the needle on...growth would be the worst possible legacy of this budget.”
Dave Dodge, former Bank of Canada governor, stated that it does not focus on growth and that it is not a reasonably prudent plan.
The budget's title, though, states it is a recovery plan for growth, but we know what is growing. It is not the economy. Taxes are growing. In this budget, taxes received by the current government are projected to grow 28% from 2019-2020 to the end of 2025.
Also scheduled for growth is the interest that we are paying to Bay Street and Wall Street bankers for this debt the Liberals are piling up. Forty billion dollars of interest is what we are going to be paying per year in five years. Let us think of what we could do with that $40 billion. We could buy off, 40 times, the amount for the WE scandal and keep the 's friends in business for a while. More important, think of the health care that we could invest in with that $40 billion. Every single premier asked for an increase in the health care transfers. They got nothing, but we have $40 billion for wealthy bankers.
We could be investing in the aging population and in the military. There is $51 million in this budget for NATO participation. There is the rise of China with its aggression and there is Russia, and we put in $51 million, which is barely double what we are putting into a recognition program for atomic workers from 70 years ago.
It is clear that this budget is not meant for growth of the economy. It is not meant for the people of Edmonton West, and it is certainly not meant for Albertans. It is not meant for our future generations. This budget is a failure, and it is a disgrace. That is why I will not be supporting it.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to budget 2021, the first budget from the government in two years.
Canadians have been patient. While they were asked for two weeks to flatten the curve, they have given 14 months. What they have been waiting for is a plan, a plan to safely reopen our economy and get Canadians back to work, a plan to provide future generations with the hope and confidence they so desperately need right now that they do, indeed have a future. However, this budget is a massive letdown.
Unemployed Canadians hoping to see a plan to create new jobs and economic opportunities for their families are going to feel let down. Workers who have had their wages cut and hours slashed hoping to see a plan to reopen the economy are going to feel let down. Families that cannot afford more taxes and are struggling to save money for their children's education or to buy a home are going to feel let down. Saskatchewanians looking for a plan to support important sectors in our province are going to feel let down.
A government focused on economic recovery would support all sectors of the economy, especially sectors that have been reliable sources of economic stability for Canadians in the past. In this budget, the Liberals have decided to throw caution to the wind and ignore these sectors. For instance, the oil and gas industry in Canada has long been a sector that has fostered economic growth and prosperity for thousands of hard-working Canadians, with revenues supporting social programs and infrastructure like schools and hospitals. Yet as we look to return to normalcy, this important sector has been left behind once again. Workers in this sector have been hit hard during this pandemic through lost wages and jobs, yet there are no supports for them.
Another sector left behind is the agricultural sector, specifically farmers, ranchers and producers. They have worked continuously to support Canada throughout this pandemic, yet these two immensely important sectors, which have consistently offered economic growth and stability, have been shunned in this budget, with workers who are so crucial to getting Canada through the pandemic being ignored by the government, all in favour of partisan spending. This is unacceptable.
What is included in this budget is an expensive Ottawa-knows-best proposal for a national child care system. This Ottawa-centric approach should come as no surprise to Canadians familiar with the Liberals' disregard for provincial jurisdiction. In a Liberal politician's mind, a one-size-fits-all policy makes sense, but this does not work in the real world. For example, the circumstances and needs of parents in urban versus rural Canadians are very different. While parents do need support, they should ultimately be the ones to make the decision on how to care for their children, not bureaucrats in Ottawa. While Conservatives supported and put forward changes to the wage subsidy and the rent relief programs, extensions to these programs would more than likely not be necessary if the federal government had done a better job in managing the pandemic and procuring vaccines for Canadians.
As it is now, we are in the middle of a third wave sweeping across our country, causing provincial governments to impose more restrictions and lockdowns of their respective economies. Conservatives have been supportive of measures that support Canadians and Canadian businesses. We are supportive of spending that will make real change for struggling Canadians who have been heavily affected by the pandemic, but what we are seeing in this budget is an avalanche of spending that increases the size and role of government in the Canadian economy. We are emerging from a pandemic. Small and medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurs and individuals need financial support to recover from the devastation this pandemic has wrought.
When so many are in dire need of assistance, it is unacceptable that the Liberals would set aside $100 billion for what amounts to electioneering expenditures. Unfortunately, unbridled spending on pet projects is par for the course with the government. It has always run deficits, not once trying to control the national debt or rein in spending. Prudent financial planning would have had the federal government running surpluses prior to the pandemic, saving in the good years so that there is a buffer against the bad.
Instead, the failures of the government before the pandemic, and now during it, have caused Canada's debt to shoot to over $1 trillion for the first time in our history. This debt will be paid back by future generations.
This budget does not set up Canadians for future prosperity; instead, it has set up Canada for long-term post-pandemic failure.
The Liberals have made numerous missteps in their spending during the pandemic, like the spectacular over-expenditure on ventilators. Even more egregious was the secretive awarding of billions of dollars of contracts to Chinese firms for PPE supplies without much, if any, regard for our domestic ability to ramp up production here in Canada.
Finally, I want to talk about the infrastructure file, on which the government has completely fallen far short.
The 's Canada Infrastructure Bank has woefully underperformed. In the past four years it has spent billions of dollars and completed zero projects. A new report from the PBO revealed that it is losing money and will miss the government's set targets by over 50%. Instead of stimulating the economy, it has been a complete waste of taxpayer money.
The spring 2021 edition of We Build, Saskatchewan's construction magazine, notes:
Almost $900 million in federal spending has been earmarked to be spent in Saskatchewan, and yet 64 per cent of this amount...remains unallocated. Of the 36 per cent that has been “allocated”, more than half of this is still “under review” — meaning that of the $887.26 million in federal money targeted for Saskatchewan, only $152.01 million has actually been invested. This is a travesty, and it is almost entirely because of federal bureaucratic inefficiencies.
Further, the infrastructure gap between indigenous communities and the rest of Canada will not be addressed by the money pledged in this budget. Many first nations communities have already stated that they need more assistance in closing the infrastructure gap, yet the current government continues to fail them both in this budget and through the Canada Infrastructure Bank. There are still many communities without clean water. Now it is even clearer how badly the government has failed them. The Canada Infrastructure Bank, which had a specific mandate that included improving infrastructure for indigenous communities, has fallen far short of the mark, just as the government has continuously fallen far short of the mark.
Canadians need thoughtful, focused and effective spending by the government, even more so in times of a crisis. The spending in this budget should have focused on recovering and creating jobs for Canadians, not partisan priorities.
In conclusion, this budget has been a massive letdown. It is a budget that has truly missed the mark. It is a budget that is adding nearly half a trillion dollars in new debt that will only be paid back by raising taxes on hard-working Canadian families, all while placing a massive burden of debt on future generations.
In this budget we find a complete lack of thought regarding the priorities of Canadians, a failure to address their needs and an ignoring of vital sectors in need of stimulus. The government needs to rethink its priorities as we move toward reopening the economy. Canadians need a real plan for the future. They need a budget that puts Canadians first.
Madam Speaker, after waiting two long years for the Liberals to table a budget, they have instead presented a massive new debt burden for Canadians rather than a hopeful plan for a path forward post-pandemic—in a word, failure.
Unemployed Canadians wanted to see a plan to create new jobs. Workers who had their wages cut and their hours slashed had hoped to see a plan to reopen the economy. Families that simply cannot afford more taxes were looking for relief. Instead, this costly plan will add over $100 billion in new spending and will increase Canada's debt to a whopping $1.2 trillion. Yes, that is trillion with a “t", for the very first time in Canadian history.
It is a staggering amount that most Canadians cannot even begin to comprehend: $1.2 trillion. It is equivalent to every single Canadian being responsible for $33,000 of federal debt. Canadians and their children, their children's children and their children's children's children and on and on will be forced to pay off this massive debt of the government.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently released a report saying that this budget even underestimates the size of the federal deficits by about $5.6 billion per year. To quote the PBO, it “puts Ottawa on a long-term path of higher debt”.
What about fiscal anchors? No, there are none of those in there. There is only a vague mention on page 53, which says, “The government is committed to unwinding COVID-related deficits and reducing the federal debt as a share of the economy over the medium-term.” That sure sounds reassuring, does it not?
Canadians are right to be concerned about this Liberal spending. They will be footing the bill of $40 billion in taxes every year to pay the interest expenses on that debt alone. This is all predicated on a very risky assumption that interest rates and inflation will continue to remain low.
With all this spending and fiscal risk, one would expect some actual substance, but many Canadians are being simply left behind or ignored in this budget. How about a plan to unleash the prosperity-producing, economy-boosting Alberta energy? No, that one is definitely not in the budget. The government has been abundantly clear on its plan to landlock Canadian oil with Bill and Bill in the previous Parliament and the 's comment that the oil sands need to be phased out.
The Liberal government already stood by idly while the U.S. administration cancelled Keystone XL, and of course it itself caused the cancellation of things like northern gateway and energy east. With Enbridge's Line 5, of course we know about the jeopardy it is in, and it is responsible for supplying half of the oil needs of Ontario and Quebec. The closure of that pipeline would literally create an energy crisis here in Canada, and then of course we would see more of Alberta's oil stranded, when Alberta's economy is already suffering. Instead, that biases it toward oil from places with far less environmentally friendly records elsewhere in the world.
All of that is due to the Liberals strangling Alberta oil in favour of that less environmentally friendly oil from other countries, which certainly do not share our commitment to environmental protection or to human rights. Again, the budget is completely silent on Alberta energy.
Despite this deafening silence by the Liberals, Conservatives will always continue to advocate for pipelines and projects that end our dependence on foreign oil and that will unleash our energy sector. Energy- and job-killing legislation from the Liberals has only decreased Canada's ability to produce and trade environmentally sustainable energy resources and to create more jobs.
Alberta's energy sector could be the key to economic growth and to success post-pandemic in Canada, but the Liberals have chosen instead to denigrate and ignore it. Its absence is glaringly obvious and Albertans will not forget it. Instead, this budget proposes a reimagined Canadian economy that dabbles in risky economic ideas that will leave the Canadian economy in a very precarious position.
However, so much more is also missed in the budget. For start-up businesses that are in desperate positions and do not meet the government's narrow rules of assistance programs, there is nothing either. For small businesses, there are major gaps and issues with federal programming that the Liberals continue to ignore. The CFIB said of the budget that “the government did not deliver on many of the major program gaps affecting thousands of small businesses facing restrictions, closures and huge amounts of COVID-related debt.”
Many of those small businesses are tourism businesses, and tourism businesses are desperate to have the government table a safe plan with metrics and targets to be able to open their businesses for the key summer season. I am sorry; there is nothing for them in the budget, either.
In my beautiful riding of Banff—Airdrie, tourism is a key economic driver that has been devastated by the pandemic. Lockdowns and border restrictions have stifled businesses. Many have been forced to lay off employees and in some cases, unfortunately, have closed down altogether.
This is happening everywhere, right across Canada. Tourism and travel-related businesses lost approximately $19.4 billion in revenue last year from the absence of international visitors. However, the government just extended, once again, the U.S.-Canada border closure well into the key summer tourist season without any kind of plan or any metrics on how or when it might be willing to safely reopen that border. Now, tourism businesses are looking at losing another key summer, and the budget is completely silent on a safe plan for reopening and for a safe way forward.
The government has unfortunately chosen winners and losers in this budget and unfortunately left many people out to dry. The Liberal government loves to tout the saying “We are all in this together,” but recently I heard another metaphor about the pandemic, which I thought was very apt to the chosen winners and losers in this debt-heavy Canadian Liberal budget. It is this: We are all in the same storm, but some are in yachts and others are in leaky rowboats. The Liberal government should not be waving to Canadians struggling in the pandemic storm in leaky rowboats while the Liberals are drinking champagne from the deck of their taxpayer debt-paid yacht. Spending without a proper plan is failure.
To the government, I say this: Fix this budget and give Canadians a hopeful path forward for economic recovery post-pandemic, not a lifetime of taxes and debt. That is what we see with this budget. We see a lot of money being spent, but a lot of people still being left behind, and what we then see is people being burdened. Canadians, their children, their grandchildren and their great-great-great-grandchildren will be seeing that burden of debt to pay for all of this spending.
That is the thing I think the and the Liberal government fail to understand. Money does not grow on trees. The government does not just manufacture the ability to spend money. That money comes from hard-working Canadian taxpayers who have earned that money, and it takes away from their ability to meet the needs of their families, to meet their own needs, to keep their businesses running and to keep their employees with jobs. That is not just now, but it is well into the future, to pay for the kind of debt burden that we have seen put on by the government.
It is just staggering to imagine the amount of money being spent and how there are still so many people being left behind. I talked about our oil and gas industry in Alberta. I talked about our important tourism industry across this country, about the small business owners, about the many people who have started new businesses and are left out of many of the government programs. The Liberals have been able to spend a lot of money, but they have not been able to help so many of the people who actually need it, and those are the same people who are going to have to pay for the burden being left by the government and all of its massive spending.
I say to the government that it has to try to do things to make sure it is not leaving people behind and that it is creating a hopeful and optimistic future, instead of burdening people with massive amounts of debt that will do the exact opposite.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to be back physically in the chamber. It is great to be back after participating virtually for quite some time. I think all my colleagues would agree that we hope this becomes to norm once again in the not too distant future.
With the limited time I have before question period, I would like to emphasize, as many of my colleagues have raised already today, that I cannot support the implementation of this budget for a number of reasons. Personally, the greatest reason is that there is no plan back to balance. There is simply a plan from the government to spend into oblivion. We know that will hurt future generations in a number of ways and have many negative fiscal and social consequences going into the future. I will touch on that in much more detail when I resume after the votes later today.
I wanted to make note of something interesting in the budget. It pertains to food security across the north. If I am not mistaken, the government has allocated $163 million over three years to expand the nutrition north Canada funding. In the face of this, there are no concerns with that. Having increased funding to support northerners who are struggling with food insecurity is a positive.
However, I will note that the Liberal government has raised funding for nutrition north Canada each year, however, the rates of food insecurity across the north have also increased year after year. The government is continuing to spend more money and is getting a worse result for northerners.
The government likes to pat itself on the back. It likes to talk about all the money it is spending and the great job it is doing. However, on this side of the House, we measure success not based on dollars spent, but on results for northerners. It is very clear that the government's approach to addressing food insecurity in the north is not getting the job done.
I look forward to resuming my speech after question period.