Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's fall economic statement supporting Canadians and fighting COVID-19.
COVID-19 is surging across Canada right now. We know the winter ahead will be hard. For far too many families, it will be a winter of loneliness and grief, but we also know that spring will follow winter.
The message I would like to share with Canadians today is that we will get through this. We are a resilient people; we are a resourceful people; and we have a plan.
We know what we must do to get through the dark months ahead, and we know what we must do to bring our economy roaring back, once this pandemic is beaten.
Every life lost to COVID-19 is one life too many, so we need to redouble our public health efforts until the virus is crushed. We do not have the luxury of fatigue. We have arrows in our quiver.
We are better prepared today than we were last spring. Canadians and Canadian businesses now have access to a comprehensive package of federal support measures to help them weather shutdowns ordered by public health authorities.
We know how to keep most of our economy, from manufacturing to mining to jobs that can be done remotely, operating safely, even while the virus is still circulating in our communities. We have learned how to keep many of our children in school.
Our ability to treat the disease has evolved. As of late November, more than 5.5 million Canadians had downloaded the COVID Alert app. We have the PPE and ventilators we need. We have learned to wear masks, keep two metres apart and wash our hands.
Most importantly, safe, effective and plentiful vaccines are on the way. We do not know precisely when this pandemic will end, but we do know that it will end.
This fall economic statement outlines the measures taken by the Government of Canada to fight and defeat COVID-19, to support Canadians through this crisis and to rebuild Canada's economy once the virus is beaten. We will do whatever it takes to help Canadians stay healthy, safe and solvent. We will invest in every necessary public health measure, and support Canadian families and businesses in a deliberate, prudent and effective way.
We understand the sacrifices that have been made and are being made by Canadians, right now.
Many small business owners have shut their doors. Workers are still without jobs. Parents have put careers on hold to keep their families healthy and safe. Young children diligently wear masks for hours every day in school, knowing they are helping to protect their grandparents. I thank them for that.
Canadians are doing their part. It is only right that we in this House do ours by ensuring the economy that comes after this pandemic is more innovative, inclusive and resilient than the one that preceded it. From the onset of COVID-19, our government has done everything in our power to combat the virus and mitigate its harm, using every tool available.
Eight out of every 10 dollars spent in Canada to fight the virus and support Canadians has been spent by the federal government. To date, the government has procured more than two billion pieces of PPE and we have assembled a comprehensive, world-leading portfolio of vaccines.
The government has invested more than $1 billion in vaccine agreements, securing a domestic supply of up to 429 million doses of seven promising vaccines, which is more than 10 doses for every Canadian. In fact, Canada has secured the most diverse and extensive vaccine portfolio of any country in the world. Every Canadian can rest assured that a safe and effective vaccine will be available to them free of charge.
The battle against COVID-19 has proceeded on many fronts. We have invested in health care, increased testing and tracing, and directly supported provinces and territories as they fight the virus. This has been a team Canada effort.
Total support so far includes $322 billion in direct measures to fight the virus and help people; and $85 billion in tax and duty deferrals. This is the largest economic relief package for our country since the Second World War.
Last spring, the Canadian Armed Forces did heroic work in our long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec, saving Canadian seniors' lives.
In the summer, we announced more than $4 billion so provinces and territories could build up their testing and contact tracing capacity, part of our $19.9-billion safe restart package.
To help stop the spread of the virus in vulnerable communities, we worked with cities and communities to ensure that voluntary self-isolation sites would be available as an alternative to crowded housing. Alongside these essential health measures, we have introduced robust economic programs to help people, businesses and organizations of all sizes survive this pandemic. Together, these supports form a comprehensive safety net, which will be in place until the summer of 2021.
The Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency business account were quickly developed and rolled out so that people could pay their rent and mortgages and feed their families while doing their part to defeat the virus by staying home.
From March through October, the CERB alone supported 8.9 million Canadians. Seniors received a special old age security top-up of $300. Qualifying Canadians with disabilities have received additional support, worth up to $600. In August, the government announced the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery caregiving benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and enhanced employment insurance. Each will be in place through the fall of 2021. This safety net is providing essential security to millions of Canadians.
This month, the government launched new measures for businesses with a new commercial rent subsidy, paid directly to businesses that, this week, will begin receiving support for up to 65% of their rent or mortgage interest, retroactive to September 27. Businesses will also begin receiving new lockdown support of an additional 25% of rent or mortgage interest where a shutdown is required by public health order. This means qualifying businesses in lockdown can have up to 90% of their rent covered.
We are extending the Canada emergency wage subsidy through to June 2021. More than 3.9 million Canadian jobs have been protected by this program alone. In December, Canadian businesses will be able to apply for a top-up to the Canada emergency business account loan and grant program. Already, more than 780,000 small businesses across the country have taken advantage of the $40,000 CEBA loan, of which $10,000 is forgivable. The top-up is an additional $20,000 loan, of which half will be forgivable.
We know that small businesses are the heart of our communities and the engine of our economy. Small businesses are the foundation of Canada's middle class. We know this crisis is hitting family businesses particularly hard, imperilling in a few months the work of a lifetime, and often of generations. That is why it is so important to support our small businesses and the middle class families who have built them.
These measures provide economic certainty to Canadians in a turbulent and uncertain time. They will help get us through the winter. These measures are targeted and flexible. They are most generous to those in greatest need. They are an essential complement to our health care response. They allow people and businesses to do the right thing, knowing they do not have to choose between public health and putting food on the table.
Our commitment to employee sick leave and to supporting businesses where local shutdowns are ordered are examples of this approach. With the second wave upon us with full virulence, we are taking additional steps to help Canadians and Canadian businesses get through to the other side, solvent and intact. We are providing $1 billion for a safe long-term care fund for the provinces and territories, making fresh investments in PPE and preparing for the largest vaccination mobilization in Canada's history.
We are providing new resources to help improve ventilation in our public buildings to make them safer. To help workers and businesses, we are raising the wage subsidy back to a maximum of 75%, recognizing the early months of the year are the toughest for many businesses, now more than ever.
We know that businesses in tourism, hospitality, travel, arts and culture have been particularly hard-hit. So we are creating a new stream of support for those businesses that need it most, a credit availability program with 100% government-backed loan support and favourable terms for businesses that have lost revenue as people stay home to fight the spread of the virus.
This is the most severe challenge our country has faced since the Second World War. It is our most severe economic shock since the Great Depression and our most severe public health crisis since the Spanish flu a century ago. Canadians should know that their federal government will be there to help them get through it, come what may.
Today, I have spoken about the nature of the threat we face and the remedies we have provided. The fight against COVID-19 continues, but there is now light at the end of the tunnel. After winter comes spring. The seeds we have sown and will continue to plant in the weeks and months ahead to protect Canadians' health and save our jobs and businesses will help us come roaring back from the coronavirus recession. This careful husbandry will prevent the long-term economic scarring that would otherwise delay and weaken our post-pandemic recovery.
I am the daughter of an Alberta farmer. Canada's farmers spend the winter fixing their tractors, combines and seed drills, and stocking up on supplies. While the ground is frozen, they get ready for seeding when the earth thaws.
Like all those great Canadian farmers, the work we do today will stand us in good stead in the spring. When the virus is under control and our economy is ready for new growth, we will deploy an ambitious stimulus package to jumpstart our recovery. Spending roughly 3% to 4% of GDP over three years, our government will make carefully judged, targeted and meaningful investments to create jobs and boost growth.
Our stimulus will be designed, first and foremost, to provide the fiscal support the Canadian economy needs to operate at its full capacity and to stop COVID-19 from doing long-term damage to our economic potential.
Key to this plan will be smart, time-limited investments that can act fast while also making a long-run contribution to our future shared prosperity, quality of life, competitiveness and our green transformation.
The government's growth plan will include investments that deliver on our commitment to create a million jobs and restore employment to pre-pandemic levels as well as to unleash some of the Canadian economy's preloaded stimulus, the additional savings that have accumulated in the bank accounts of some Canadians and on the balance sheets of some businesses.
Our growth plan will foster economic rebirth in the short term and strengthen this country's competitiveness in the long run. Today, we are presenting a down payment on this plan. These are measures we can begin safely taking now. They include investments in the green economy and job training, particularly for youth and care providers, rural broadband, airport infrastructure, rapid housing, economic empowerment for vulnerable communities and measures to immediately build up our health and social infrastructure.
We know that Canada’s future competitiveness depends on our ability to take advantage of the net zero green economy.
Our growth plan must continue to advance our progress on climate action and promote a clean economy. We will plant two billion trees over the next 10 years, provide 700,000 grants to help homeowners make energy efficient retrofits, and build zero-emission vehicle charging stations across the country.
These measures will encourage consumer spending and investment while greening our economy and creating well-paying jobs.
This is a recession like no other we have faced. Women, young people, new Canadians, Black and racialized Canadians have been disproportionately hurt by the COVID-19 recession. They are, after all, the Canadians who are most likely to work in some of our hardest-hit industries, including care, hospitality and retail. We know that first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples are also disproportionately affected by this pandemic. Our growth plan will be designed with this particular damage in mind and will seek to heal it. This unique recession demands a unique response.
COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the systematic barriers faced by Black entrepreneurs and owners of small and medium-sized businesses in Canada. Therefore, the government, in partnership with Canadian financial institutions, has announced an investment of up to $221 million, including up to $93 million from the Government of Canada over the next four years, to launch the country's first Black entrepreneurship program.
There is an unacceptable gap in infrastructure in indigenous communities, so our government proposes to invest $1.5 billion, beginning in 2020-21, to speed up the lifting of all long-term drinking water advisories in first nation communities.
COVID-19 has been especially hard for young children and their families. We know that many middle-class families are really struggling. Therefore, to provide immediate relief for families with young children, our government proposes to introduce temporary additional support, totalling up to $1,200 in 2020-21, for each child under the age of six for low and middle-income families entitled to the Canada child benefit.
We know that COVID-19 is rolling back many of the gains Canadian women have fought for and won in my lifetime. That is why today, as part of our commitment to an action plan for women in the economy, we are laying the foundation for a Canada-wide early learning and child care system. Just as Saskatchewan once showed Canada the way on health care and British Columbia showed Canada the way on pollution pricing, Quebec can show us all the way on child care.
I say this both as a working mother and as a finance minister. Canada will not be truly competitive until all Canadian women have access to the affordable child care we need to support our participation in our country's workforce.
This is a feminist agenda and I say that proudly. It is also an agenda that makes sound business sense and is supported by many of Canada’s corporate leaders, people who have witnessed first-hand the toll this crisis has taken on women, their families and our children. We can only all do better when every one of us is contributing to our full potential.
As we build back, we have it within our reach to build back better, tackling challenges that hold us all back: homelessness, systemic racism, the unfinished and essential work of reconciliation.
Economic downturns are always especially hard on young people. The COVID-19 recession is particularly damaging in this regard because of its impact on the service sector in which many students work. Among other steps, the government proposes to reduce student debt by eliminating interest on the federal portion of the Canada student loan and Canada apprentice loan for 2021-22.
I remember vividly struggling with my own student loans and I am glad to help relieve our young people, who are swimming so hard against the COVID-19 current, of this additional burden.
In the coming months, we will work with Canadians and consult broadly to design the growth plan that will guide our recovery and set our course for the years to come.
Our country entered this crisis in a strong fiscal position, allowing our government to take decisive action to help people and businesses weather the storm. That action has helped so much. To date, Canada has recovered almost 80% of the more than three million jobs lost at the outset of the pandemic. Compare that to the United States which has recovered just over half, but there is still a lot of hard slogging ahead.
First, we must defeat the virus. Only then, when the threat of lockdowns and resurgence is passed, will our economy be ready for a return to full, stable, long-term growth. Canadians understand that this crisis demands targeted, time limited support to keep people and businesses afloat and to build our way out of the COVID-19 recession. The support and investments outlined in this plan, including our stimulus, will foster a resilient and inclusive recovery.
Fiscal guardrails will help us establish when the stimulus will be wound down. The government will track progress against several related indicators, recognizing that no one data point is a perfect representation of the health of the economy. These indicators include the employment rate, total hours worked and the level of unemployment in the economy.
The data driven figures will tell us when the job of building back from the COVID-19 recession is accomplished and we can bring this one-off stimulus spending to an end. When the economy has recovered, the time limited stimulus will be withdrawn and Canada will resume its long-standing, prudent and responsible fiscal path based on a long-term fiscal anchor, which we will outline when the economy is more stable.
Make no mistake. As we have learned from previous recessions, the risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much. We will not repeat the mistakes of the years following the great recession of 2008.
In this fall economic statement, we are being transparent about the continuing uncertainty. We are planning and preparing for all eventualities. The rate of infection, the severity of shutdowns, the deployment of a safe and effective vaccine, all of these are variables in our economic outlook and our path to recovery.
But as our fiscal plan shows, brighter days are ahead. We can afford the investment we must make to reach them. Canada entered this pandemic with the strongest fiscal position of any G7 country. We retain that position today.
Federal debt-servicing costs, relative to the size of our economy, remain at a 100-year low. We are locking in those low costs by issuing more debt into longer-term instruments at these historically low rates.
Canadians want a tax system that is fair, where everyone pays their fair share, so the government has the resources it needs to invest in people and keep our economy strong.
That is why we are moving ahead with implementing GST/HST on multinational digital giants, and limiting stock option deductions in the largest companies.
Canada will act unilaterally, if necessary, to apply a tax on large multinational digital corporations, so they pay their fair share just like any other company operating in Canada.
Our growth plan is far-reaching and transformative, but does this mean that the worst of the COVID-19 crisis has passed? Sadly, it does not. Indeed, our country's most difficult days may come in the weeks and months immediately ahead.
Hospitalizations are on the rise, and the virus continues to take a terrible toll, particularly on our elders. That is why we must redouble our public health efforts, obey public health instructions, physically distance, wear masks when in public, avoid social gatherings and wash our hands. We must all do this. We can save lives.
Canadians can and should avail themselves of the federal programs now available. This safety net is there now so that people can make the right decisions to protect our health. If we do the right things, if we hunker down and heed public health advice for these last remaining months, we will also be doing the right thing for our economy. We will bring closer the day when every Canadian can get back to a normal life. Most importantly, we will greatly lessen the mortal toll of this disease.
After nearly 10 months of the pandemic, we are all tired, but we also know that vaccines and a better day are coming. To get to that day, we must first help each other get through the winter. Our grandparents and great-grandparents lived through hard winters too, in times of war and depression, on frozen prairie homesteads and in windswept fishing villages in Atlantic Canada, all across our vast country. The living survivors of those days, now our most vulnerable elders, are counting on us to buckle down for another few months.
We can do this, we must do this and we will do this. Canadians have faced tough winters before, and we have always emerged stronger. We will this time too.
Mr. Speaker, the has proven her government has no plan. Without a plan for vaccines, there can be no long-term plan for our economy. Without rapid testing in wide distribution, we have missed out on a critical medium-term tool.
The , in her speech, seems to realize she is putting the economy on hold. She will say that the economy will be rebuilt once COVID is beaten. Rapid tests could help preserve the economy and the vaccine will help us beat it. The government is late and has no plan for both. Canadians should see that off the start.
This year has been a very difficult year for Canadians. We all know that. The year 2020 will be remembered as the year a global pandemic came to our shores and took the government completely by surprise despite many departments warning of it for months. It will be remembered as a year of foreclosures, rising unemployment and uncertainty. Worse, for 12,000 Canadian families, it will be remembered as a year of grief and tragedy.
This year has been hard for everyone, for people of all ages. It will be remembered as the year of the pandemic that took this government by surprise. It has been a year of shutdowns and unemployment, but, even worse, a time of sadness for nearly 2,000 Canadian families who have lost a loved one.
However, Canadians have shown courage. They have been following the guidelines and helping small businesses. They have been there for friends and family.
Through it all, Canadians have shown courage and fortitude. They have respected directives from our health authorities. However, Canadians are hurting. Canadians want their lives back. This fall economic statement shows that they cannot rely on the Liberal government to get their lives back.
Canadians are not difficult people. They have complied, followed rules and tightened their belts. They are reassuring their worried children and taking care of aged parents. To this effect, I am really glad the Liberal government and the minister took my proposal from this spring on support for parents by boosting the Canada child benefit. There it was, on page 10 of my leadership platform. I am so glad the Liberal cabinet was reading it, just as hundreds of thousands of Conservative members were. I am glad because this was a concrete proposal to help families, especially working moms juggling it all, helping families through the toughest time in our modern history.
However, we know that Canadians need more. As I said, Canadians want their lives back. They have only asked one thing from the government, one simple thing, “What is the plan?”
What is the plan for widespread use of rapid tests? What is the plan for rolling out the vaccine? When does it arrive? Who gets it first? Do we have the freezers for the -70°C vaccine? A robust portfolio in 2023 does not help us as we enter 2021.
This fall economic statement answers the question on whether there is plan, and it answers that no, there is not a plan. As the red ink on our balance sheet turns a dark crimson, we are facing a $399 billion deficit, not $400 billion. It is a bit like spending $19.99, not $20. It is only $399 billion. Canadians know that not even half of that went to the emergency programs.
The government is not providing a plan and it is not providing clarity. It is clear, having been late on rapid tests and on the border, that there is no clarity or competence.
What is their plan?
The Liberals have turned their backs on millions of Canadians, and all this government can think to say is that there will be more debt, more unemployment, no vaccines and no transparency.
Why has it taken months to deliver rapid tests? Why does the entire population not have access to them? When will we get the vaccines? Who will be vaccinated first?
Today's announcement just proves that the government is improvising. Canadians are fed up with the government's incompetence and chronically delayed responses.
This economic statement is another disappointment. Is that all the Liberals have to say to the thousands of unemployed workers left behind by the mismanagement of the government? Is that all they have to offer to Chris Rigas, owner of the Old Firehall restaurant in Niagara, who is struggling to get by because of restrictions? How does this statement help Rodney and Tina Grace, who have been working seven days a week to keep their Best Western open in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia? Of the businesses in Surrey, British Columbia, 30% still do not qualify for the wage subsidy because of red tape and rules from the government, but most of their staff qualify for the CERB benefit. Guess which decision businesses are faced with.
If the government spent half as much time meeting with real Canadians and small business owners than it spends on photo ops, it would know that workers and small business owners are asking for clarity. Canadians in a pandemic are not asking it to ban single-use plastics. They are asking for details on when the vaccine will get here, how it will be distributed, how it will preserved at -70° Celsius, how they can save their aging parents from a seniors home or hospital bed. The needs to get his priorities straight.
It is hard to take the government seriously when we know how this all started. We should think about how much better off Canada would have been if the Liberals had not shut down the pandemic early warning system. They did that in 2019, without any consultation with scientists or opposition parties in Parliament.
For 20 years, Canada had the world's leading pandemic early warning detection unit. It helped stem the advance of H1N1 and Ebola. In other parts of the world, Canadians were helping to protect others. However, the government's incompetence led to that department not helping Canadians. The government preferred to shut that down and rely on open-source data from China rather than intelligence work gathered by Canadian experts. As a result, we had zero warning of the incoming pandemic. In many ways, the Liberal government took the batteries out of our smoke detector.
The Liberal government closed the borders two months too late. It flip-flopped on the risk of transmission between individuals and mask wearing measures.
The Conservatives were good sports. We tried to work with the government as much as possible. We tried to improve its erratic response. Above all, we were there to help workers who really needed it. We voted in favour of emergency measures and programs to help them.
The 's idea of leadership was to tell people to apply for the CERB instead of helping workers keep their jobs. He really must live in an ivory tower if he thinks that Canadians like that solution. People want to work, not wait around for government cheques.
The truth is that the economic response by the Liberals has been erratic and confused at every step. We wonder why the Liberal government underspent on its own estimates for the wage subsidy by tens of billions of dollars, while overspending on the CERB by tens of millions of dollars. It did not have a plan to preserve the economy amid the storm of the pandemic. Millions more Canadians were put on the CERB than necessary when their jobs could have been maintained easily through an effective and swift wage subsidy.
This approach perfectly illustrates the difference between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. The Liberals believe that Ottawa has all the answers and has to give orders. We believe that the best solutions come when Ottawa works with the people on the ground. We want to work with partners, not a paternalist like the .
If only the Liberals had a clear plan. What we are hearing today is a government in panic mode that wants money to hide its incompetence. That is unacceptable. Canadians deserve better.
From my experience in the military and in business, I know one has to learn from setbacks and failures. We must strive for excellence in what we do and promote an approach of continuous improvement. Teams do that, businesses do that and charities do that; why does the Liberal government not do that? It has not even learned from what it got wrong or slow in the first wave of the pandemic. We were last in line on rapid tests, and now we are virtually last in line for vaccines. Countries with populations of about 2.7 billion will be seeing the vaccine before Canadians, many this year, and we cannot even get answers from the government on whether we have the logistics to receive it.
The job of government in a crisis is to provide certainty and confidence in citizens who are worried. We must provide a plan, clarity, stability and competence for those who rely on us. The upheaval we are seeing in our country lately is in large part because of the misguided measures of the government. It was late on the border, late with programs, late with rapid tests and now late with vaccines. While the prefers to compare himself to the worst student in the class, when it comes to the spread of COVID-19, I want Canada to strive to be the best. That is what Canadians expect. Unfortunately, we are far from that right now, after the ongoing rapid test debacle, and this week Canadians are learning. Even today, the minister, in response to her speech, will not let us know which month next year vaccines will first start arriving. The government had the duty to learn from its errors in the first wave, but, instead of that, it has failed to provide vaccines for Canadians at the same time we will be seeing vaccines roll out with all our allies.
The has played the victim card; he has said his government was helpless and that Canada did not have the capability to manufacture vaccines. Not only is that complete rubbish, in the words of a leading scientist at the University of Ottawa, it is complete political spin, and it also does not explain why millions of people from Indonesia to Brazil will be receiving the vaccine before Canada will be. Again, the truth is that the Liberal government was slow to respond, and it made a critical, and sadly in some cases fatal, error to put all its eggs in a basket with China. Since the CanSino deal fell apart in August, the government has been scrambling to catch up, and it does not want anyone to know that it is months behind other countries. As I said earlier, countries with 2.7 billion people will be served before Canada. This means we are near the back of the line.
While Americans are talking about mass vaccination throughout all of January, our government is only speculating about getting part of our population vaccinated by September. That means 10 extra months of health risks for Canadians, business closures and economic uncertainty. Canadians want their lives back. The talks a great deal about the whole of government effort and the robust portfolio, but there is only one way to describe the performance of the government when it comes to vaccines: incompetent. Canadians, in the midst of the second wave, would rather have one dose of the vaccine in the next month than the largest portfolio 18 months from now.
This Liberal government does not inspire confidence, whether because it paid $370 million for medical gowns from a company with almost no experience or because it gave its friend Frank Baylis a $237-million contract for ventilators. The WE Charity scandal showed that friends of the Liberals were trying to profit off a pandemic. At a time when public confidence is so important, the Liberals are continuing to use their donor list to select future judges. It is one scandal after another.
“Uncertainty”, “lack of focus”, “massive spending”, “special treatment for friends” and “out of touch with the reality of Canadians” are the only ways to describe this government. The damage is real. Millions of people no longer trust the Liberals and know that they have been forgotten.
This should not come as a surprise. The Canadian economy was already showing serious signs of weakness before the pandemic hit. Ignoring the Conservative warnings, the Liberals took pride in running large structural deficits and raising taxes in good economic times, and in ideological policies opposed by the entire country, like Bill . Tanker bans, pipeline cancellations, bad trade deals and the inability to negotiate tariff avoidance have resulted in $160 billion leaving Canada before the pandemic.
Within two weeks of one another, a great Canadian company, Teck, cancelled a $60-billion project for our GDP out west and the world's most famous investor, Warren Buffet, pulled out billions from a project in the east. There were already signs being sent by the that Canada was not open to job creation or investment at a time we need it. It will take a change in government to change that sign for the world. British Columbia has seen half a dozen sawmills close and the aluminum smelter in Kitimat, one of the greenest operations of its kind in the world, were left out to dry in both NAFTA and aluminum tariffs.
Canada was already at a crossroads under the Liberals before the pandemic and they are setting this country up, for the first time in our history, to pass on to our children a country with less opportunity and more division. However, it does not have to be that way and I want to prove it.
The middle-class values that myself and many of my colleagues were raised with, mine in Bowmanville, Ontario, taught me to work hard, help my neighbours and strive to be the best I could be. I was taught to learn from setbacks, never to accept failure, to pick myself up, dust myself off and get better. This led me to serve 12 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, alongside some of the most exceptional Canadian citizens around. It also led me to respect the value of hard work and perseverance and the nobility in work itself.
My first job was as a dishwasher and a short-order cook in high school and my last job before the military was with TransCanada, inspecting pipelines back at a time before the current government when that company was still proud to have Canada in its name. I respect people, and my colleagues do, who work hard to provide for their families, whether they are uniformed and unionized plant workers or entrepreneurs, whether they work the night shift in Mississauga, Ontario, or get up at 5 a.m. to open their small businesses in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
There is a nobility in that act of discipline, perseverance and working hard for one's family. We cannot lose that in this country. Conservatives will fight hard to ensure that we never lose touch of that fundamental value upon which Canadian society has been built.
I believe it is my duty to be a partner to the provinces and the first nations. I will be a champion for small businesses and non-profit organizations. I believe in the tremendous potential of Canadian energy, softwood lumber and minerals. Canada produces the most ethical and environmentally friendly energy in the world, and we want to work more closely with the first nations to develop that energy.
Reconciliation needs to be about more than just fine words. We need to do more than just look at the mistakes of the past. We need a real plan for the future, a plan that instills pride in communities that are all too often forgotten and brings them sustainable wealth. The James Bay Cree and the Huron-Wendat in Quebec are an example to all of Canada.
We need to get this country working again. Hard work emboldens the soul and builds a nation. Hard work helps families. Those families build communities and make us proud to be Canadian.
Let us just think of Jacqueline and Barbara's 7Rooms Home Décor & Gifts in Ocean Park, British Columbia. They bought the store just before COVID. It has been extra tough for businesses like that, but Jacqueline and Barbara persevered, worked harder, rebranded and they recently reopened. Congratulations to Jacqueline and Barbara. That is the Canadian spirit. They do not want more debt saddling the next generation. They just want an opportunity. They could have packed it in, but they did not. They stayed open, they adapted, they persevered.
When I questioned the in the House on behalf of energy workers in Alberta, she boasted about how many people she had put on the CERB in that province. Albertans especially, but Canadians do not want the CERB. They want the ability to get their lives back and to get back to work. They want a government that helps them build their livelihood in their communities, rather than pushing them to close shop and move away. It comes down to a clash of vision between the somewhere and the anywhere: those who love their trade, their pursuit, and are loyal to local businesses versus those whom the government wants to flock to a trendy job that is no way connected to the community or the betterment of our country.
While this seems to think that every Canadian can simply work on their laptop from the local café, that is not reality nor is it what Canadians want. Conservatives are here to fight for those who build things in Canada, those who get their hands dirty and take pride in doing a job well before they come home for the night. Whether they are pulling resources out of the ground, in Canada, or pulling resources out of their brain, educated in Canada, we need to applaud and help them do that. That is why we were hoping for a plan for rapid tests and for a vaccine. Unlike the , I do not want the economy to crash and be rebuilt after the pandemic; I want to save it and make sure it is stronger after the pandemic.
We are here for the manufacturers, the aluminum and steel industry, the small business owners and the first-generation Canadian who started a business and now hires and employs seven other families. We are here for the farmers and the commercial fishermen. We are here for the indigenous entrepreneur and the working moms and dads juggling child care and the ability to get on the GO train to go into work in the city. We are here for those Canadians who want their lives back, who want the ability to work hard and want the ability to pass on to their children a Canada that is limitless in its potential. They deserve a government with a vision like that, not a government that is late at every step in the worst year in our modern history.
Canadian workers deserve a government that fights for them, a government that is not obsessed with the idea of pushing our industries to make a transition in the midst of a pandemic, a government that is patriotic and is not afraid to fight on the world stage for quick access to vaccines, a government that knows that Canada has an identity and a history we can be proud of.
This crisis and the rebuilding from it will take grit. It will take determination, perseverance and bold decisions, but, most important, it will take a plan to chart our course forward. That is why it is so disappointing. After a record period without a budget, there is a stealth budget introduced today with no plan.
COVID has set us back, but COVID will not stop us with the right ideas, with principled, ethical leaders who understand the value of a job, whether it someone's first job out of school or their last job before retirement, and with a government that will put the prosperity of all Canadians ahead of the special interests of a select few.
If we have a government like this, Canada will emerge from COVID-19 stronger, richer and more determined than ever before. That is my mission. That is the mission of my colleagues with me here today and that must be our country's mission. That is why I am so disappointed with the 's update today. There is no vision. There is no expression of values, including the value inherent in working Canadians.
The lack of a plan to address the most critical issues facing our country, in one of the most challenging years in our country's history, will only fuel the fears and uncertainties facing Canadian families across this great country.
Now is not the time for experiments. Now is the time for experience. Now is not the time for building back with slogans. Now is the time we show we have our citizens' backs. We need to have a plan for the challenges we face today so that our children will have the same opportunities we did, tomorrow.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It was starting to get a little difficult to speak in the House because the leader of the official opposition was having a loud conversation with one of his members.
That seems to happen a lot in the House, and here is why. When an MP speaks French, many unilingual anglophone MPs do not bother to listen to the interpretation. They do not understand what is being said, so they have their own conversations at the same time. As the said, that is clearly disrespectful. I thank him for his understanding.
I will pick up where I left off.
Our number one priority, based on what we hear from the people we go see, among other things, is health care funding. Just before the throne speech, all the provinces, especially Quebec, called for more health care funding. They need a funding boost. They get barely 20% of their money from the federal government, and they want a little over one-third, 35%. If I am not mistaken, that is an additional $28 billion.
The reason the pandemic hit our long-term care homes so hard was because the system was already fragile. I even asked the chief public health officer of Canada about this at the Standing Committee on Health, and she agreed.
Why was the system fragile? The system has been chronically underfunded for decades, and that is essentially because the federal government has been stepping back. When the program first started a few decades ago, Ottawa was funding half of health care spending. In the mid-1980s, its contribution dropped to 40% and continued to dwindle over the years. In the late 1990s, Ottawa fixed its deficit problem by slashing transfers, and health transfers were the first to go. Now, the federal government barely covers one-fifth of expenses, and the provinces have to cover the rest. About half of every dollar paid in taxes comes here, so it would make sense for half of health care funding to come from here.
There was a consensus among the provincial premiers, but there was nothing about health care in the throne speech, and there is nothing about it in this economic update either. What is worse, in the economic update, the Liberals are bragging that 80% of the money for the programs implemented during the pandemic came from the federal government. Well, whoop-de-do. The federal government only has that flexibility because 80% of health care expenses are paid for by Quebec and the provinces. Ottawa was supposed to do its part and cover half of that, but it stepped back.
The Premier of Quebec and the other premiers are not asking Ottawa to go back to paying an equal share. They are just asking Ottawa to pay 35%, which is one-third or just over one-third.
There is nothing about this in the economic update, but it gets worse. The government said that it was going to give $1 billion for Quebec's long-term care homes but that the funding would be contingent on Quebec submitting a plan. If the federal government deems the plan to be acceptable, then it will release the money. In spite of everything, Quebec will only be given the funding on condition that it spends it in accordance with the plan. Come on. Could the House please respect the provinces' jurisdiction? Whether the money comes from the Government of Quebec or Ottawa, it is taxpayers' money. Let us respect the areas of jurisdiction.
What does Ottawa know about health other than to fund it? That has been Ottawa's responsibility and it is failing. On the ground we have our nurses, doctors and the entire system. Where is the expertise? The federal government's only responsibility in health care, in my opinion, is the care provided to veterans. When we look at the cost of each service provided, it is two and a half times what the provinces are entitled to, which means that if Ottawa were responsible for health, we would not have the means to support a public health care system. That is the problem.
In this document, there is not one red cent for health, except for the$1 billion with strings attached, and on top of that they are taunting us with standards. The government is using a pandemic, a major crisis, to centralize powers. They are rubbing their hands with glee at the idea. They are going to take advantage of our moment of weakness, at a time when we are on our knees, to tip the scales in their favour and further centralize powers. That is unacceptable and appalling. It is disrespectful and it is just not done.
What about seniors, the most vulnerable segment of the population? In recent decades, there have been all kinds of programs for just about everyone. Those programs are great, sure, but they leave seniors out in the cold. The government said no to seniors. In the meantime, inflation is bumping up the cost of residence rooms, housing, and groceries.
During the election campaign, the government said it would enhance old age security, but only for people aged 75 and older. There is not one penny in this document. The government even backpedalled on its campaign promises. We felt that dividing seniors into two classes, those aged 65 to 75 and those aged 75 and older, was unacceptable, but there is absolutely nothing here, not a penny. This despite the fact that the pandemic hit seniors first and that they are isolated and vulnerable and their buying power has taken a hit. They have been completely forgotten in all this. We might have expected more and better. I am a little disappointed, but not just because of that.
There are some good things in this update. There are not a lot of things. The main message is that we will have to wait until spring to see the budget and what is in it, especially what is in the stimulus plan. Still, there are some little things worth noting, like the announcement that the government will be taxing tech giants. As of July 1, tech giants will have to collect the GST and the other taxes. Quebec does it, and it is worth it. It was high time because foreign multinationals had an unfair advantage over our own businesses.
Mr. Speaker, once again, this is due to the fact that most members in the House do not speak French.
Rather than listening to the interpretation through their earpieces, they are going about their business and doing their work, and they forget that someone is speaking. Unfortunately, that is the reality that many of us too often face when we speak French in the House.
We are disappointed with regard to health care and vulnerable people, starting with seniors. A budget is supposed to be presented in the spring with a focus on the recovery plan. I will come back to that.
The statement does contain some worthwhile measures, such as the proposal to tax the digital giants, which would finally start to level the playing field. The government is even talking about using levies, a sort of revenue tax, in conjunction with the OECD. If that takes too long, the government even suggests that it will move forward in a year or so regardless. This measure could bring in a few billion dollars, so I look forward to seeing it implemented.
This is in no way about taking down foreign multinationals. It is simply a matter of treating the Amazons of the world, which conduct business online, the same way we treat our local businesses, which have been struggling since the beginning of the pandemic as people turned to online shopping. This is a significant measure that we have been calling for for a long time. We are very happy to see it happen.
I will now address the issue of the environment. For eight months, we have been saying that this would be a good opportunity for a green recovery when the time comes. The economist Jeremy Rifkin is calling for a green new deal. That would be a good thing. We expected today's document to start talking about that a little. However, the government is telling us that it will hold consultations and present a stimulus package, but that will be later, and it may equate to 3% or 4% of GDP per year for three years.
We wonder if the government is positioning itself to say that several promises will be made eventually, but they will come during an election campaign. To get everything that was announced, people will have to vote for the Liberals again. If the Liberals want to trigger an election over this issue, we will be ready. We already are. Seriously, though, we expected more for the environment because it is certainly an emergency.
We applaud the home energy efficiency grant program, which will provide $5,000 per home to a maximum of 700,000 people. The budget for electric cars was almost empty, but it has been replenished. That is another measure that we applaud, along with the charging stations.
The government is pulling the same old rabbit out of its hat when it comes to its solution for the environment. It plans to plant two billion trees, a measure that will cost about $3 billion. Sooner or later, two billion trees will be planted and all of the promises will be kept. The Liberals talked about this during the election campaign a year ago. How many trees have been planted? That is a question that my colleagues and members of other parties have been asking me. How many of the two billion trees have been planted so far? The answer is zero.
Mr. Alain Therrien: One tree has been planted. I planted an apple tree.
Mr. Gabriel Ste-Marie: Mr. Speaker, the House leader of the Bloc Québécois just said that he planted an apple tree. He is already doing better than the government. According to my calculations, if it costs approximately $3 billion to plant two billion trees, then the government should pay the House leader of the Bloc Québécois $1.50 or so in compensation.
Once again, the government is going to have to do a lot more than that, and we hope that, in the next budget, the government will have a real plan for the environment. These are good measures and we recognize that, but they really are not enough.
Earlier this fall, the wage subsidy was extended and improved on. Most of the measures announced in today's document improve the wage subsidy, which we applaud because that is good. During a pandemic, implementing income support measures that help maintain employment relationships is the thing to do.
The same thing goes for the new Canada emergency rent subsidy. The first version of this commercial rent subsidy did not work. This second version was announced, we said it was good and we adopted it this fall. We applaud that.
However, we had asked the what we are now asking the government to do, and that is to present aid programs for industries that are struggling, sectors that are having a tough time. We need aid programs that target sectors that are in a particular situation. We expected to see that, since there had been rumours to that effect in the media.
Sadly, the rumours were not true. Instead, we are being told to wait for the next budget, that something is coming and that, until then, they are thinking about it. For instance, there is a section on assistance for the air sector. It sets out the measures that have been announced for airports, but the air sector and airports are not one and the same.
I met with some airport representatives last week, including one from the Montreal airports authority. Quite honestly, airports are struggling. They need programs. Airlines also need assistance, but nothing has been announced for them, despite the misleading title. We are being told to wait for the next budget and that something is coming. We have been waiting for quite a while already.
On top of that, the government managed to include the words “aerospace industry” once in its document, saying that it was connected to the air sector. However, since there is nothing for the air sector, that means there is even less for the aerospace industry.
This despite the fact that greater Montreal is the third-largest aerospace hub in the world, after Seattle and Toulouse. If we look at what is happening in the United States, France and Europe, it is clear that those countries are doing everything they can to support that industry. Of course, since planes are grounded and orders are being delayed, the industry is struggling. However, that sector of the economy has the highest value added. That means well-paying jobs and innovation.
There is the C Series in Mirabel, which was taken over by Airbus. It is the most fuel efficient aircraft in the world. We have a little gem on our hands and what does the government do? For eight months now, all of the industry representatives, major suppliers and SMEs have been saying that a special assistance program is needed. They had to bend over backwards just to get access to the wage subsidy because Quebec invested a little money in that industry to prevent all of the expertise from being lost, something that Ottawa did not do. Under the program rules, the companies could not get help if public funds had been invested.
We managed to change that, but now a targeted program is needed. We cannot lose this cluster. This value-added sector is very important to Quebec and Canada. We are building planes in Ontario, Manitoba and some other places too. It takes a vision of economic interest, which is not found in this document.
It is the same thing for the tourism industry. We were told that a bit of money was included for that industry and that something will be done one day, but nothing has happened, even though this is an extremely important industry. It is the same thing for the arts. The government is talking about online events, but think about all of the festivals and other events. A lot of sectors are affected. I am thinking about summer camps. People are contacting us to tell us that it was a disastrous season. Sugar bushes and reception halls are also having a hard time. Targeted measures are needed. The government is saying that these things are important but that it is going to wait for the next budget to do something. That is a problem.
As I said earlier, the same goes for the stimulus plan. The government says there will be vaccines. I believe Canada and Quebec will spend weeks or months watching the train go by because the government took too long and lacked vision. Word is that the vaccine will be coming soon, or at least our neighbours will be getting one, so now we can start thinking about economic recovery.
This gives us a great reason to hope we will come out the other end soon. This situation is tough, and we have endured it for months, but the possibility of a vaccine gives us hope that things will get back to normal and that new opportunities will arise. Unfortunately, there is no recovery plan.
Sometimes, people can make numbers say anything they want. That is not something I agree with, but one example from this document really made me laugh. In defence of its vaccine strategy, the government says on page 9 that Canada has the most agreements per capita. It lists fifteen or so countries and puts Switzerland at the bottom of the list. However, we all know that Switzerland has vaccine production capacity because plenty of headquarters, labs and pharmaceutical multinationals operate there. Once again, the government is trying to show that Canada did a good job, but in truth, we should be worried.
When we asked Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh if we could have manufactured our own vaccines in Quebec or Canada, she said that Canada's vaccine manufacturing capacity is non-existent. There is a little work in Toronto, at Sanofi Pasteur, where Connaught Laboratories used to be. There is a little work in Quebec City at GSK, but they mostly focus on manufacturing seasonal flu vaccines, and vaccines for children and travellers.
Quebec had a strong pharmaceutical industry and some large laboratories in the past 15 years that would have had the capacity to quickly manufacture vaccines. This was all dismantled as a result of the inaction and political choices of successive federal governments.
I would like to go back in time. In 1987, during the Meech Lake accord negotiations, Quebec had leverage and managed to work well with Ottawa to establish an ecosystem that would foster significant growth of the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec. The province attracted five multinationals, an expertise was developed and about 2,000 high-calibre jobs were created.
Following the 1995 referendum, Quebec lost its leverage and Ottawa withdrew its support. Quebec tried to redouble its efforts, but it was not enough. The multinationals moved, closed their doors or reduced their staff one after the other. The process accelerated in the 2000s. Ever since the referendum, political decisions destroyed the industry.
Then the pandemic arrived. Health specialists say that there have been many pandemics in the past, such as H1N1 and SARS. Some specialists even say that we are lucky because the current virus is not too deadly and that, despite the present crisis, it could have been worse.
We learned that the government had masks, gowns and equipment destroyed last year when it closed a centre. With respect to the protection and security of the economy, it was unacceptable to let go of such a leading-edge industry. Is it because it was located in Quebec?
Had the industry been sustained, we would have had the capacity to produce vaccines rapidly right here. Unfortunately, that interest was not protected. That is the tragedy of Quebec's pharmaceutical industry.
I would say that Ontario's pharmaceutical industry, though slightly older, is pretty much a joke, to paraphrase the other philosopher. I was talking about that earlier.
Established in 1913, Connaught Laboratories was a globally recognized leader, a massive success, the best in the world. The labs recovered their costs and succeeded at eradicating all kinds of problematic diseases affordably. They produced insulin for diabetes and even worked with Dr. Salk, an American, to produce the polio vaccine.
In the 1970s, under the elder Trudeau, Connaught was converted into a development corporation. It was gradually privatized over the years and then completely privatized under Mulroney in 1989. That was the end of Canada's vaccine production capacity and affordable expertise. Toronto Star columnist Linda McQuaig wrote an article about it in March based on a chapter in her book.
In order to develop the economy, a vision is needed. Some extremely important and highly developed sectors in Quebec could have brought us out of this slump very quickly. They were dropped, and now we are paying the price. When the time came to negotiate for vaccines, the government dragged its feet, and we are paying the price. The government is announcing funds to restart vaccine production, but that will not happen before 2023 at the earliest. That will not help us with this crisis.
Let's hope that we learn from past mistakes and complacency and that we do not repeat them. We have seen what happens when a neighbour decides for us and we are subjected to someone else's decisions. There were multinational drug companies and we had domestic expertise that meant we could produce vaccines for other parts of the world. Because our neighbour is the one who decided for us, we lost everything. Because our neighbour dragged its feet during the first few months of the pandemic, we will only receive the vaccine after others do.
No matter how many charts the Liberals put in this document to try to prove that Canada has more deals than anyone else, everyone knows that we are neither at the very back nor at the very front of the line when it comes to getting vaccines here in Canada. Quebec, then, is paying the price.
We were hoping this document would talk about health care funding, but there is nothing on that. We also hoped it would talk about funding for seniors, a commitment this government made, but, again, there is nothing there.
We expected there to be something for the recovery, but that is missing as well, just like the assistance programs for struggling sectors such as aerospace. The result is not very good, but the government is putting things off and telling us to wait for the budget.
This update did not have much to say about the environment and was well below our expectations. What is there is good, however, including the measures for electric cars and the energy efficient retrofit programs. However these measures do not go far enough.
As far as tax fairness is concerned, we applaud the announcements on web giants paying their taxes, potentially through the use of levies. We also applaud the measure to limit stock option deductions to $200,000. We applaud the gesture, even though the limit remains high. We also applaud the special family benefit that is not insignificant.
We applaud the deductions of up to $400 for the costs of working at home. It is a nice gesture for people who had to turn to telework and this facilitates the requests for that. The wage subsidy is increased to 75% of salaries paid to take into account the gravity of the second wave, which is good.
We will wait for the budget to be tabled. In any event, I am not sure if we will be voting on this document. At the end, two bills were introduced. We were expecting a ways and means motion at the end of the minister's speech. As I understand it, this motion is supposed to be moved before these bills can be voted on. At first glance, the bills seem worthwhile, but we will take some time to study them.
There was no budget last spring. The government has never spent this much money before, and we need a budget. We were expecting more from today's statement, and we are disappointed. The deficit is extremely worrisome, as it has reached an astronomical $381 billion. We have never seen this before, so accountability is important , because this is a lot of money. Fortunately, a substantial portion of this money went to income support measures for people who lost their jobs and for businesses, which is important.
The government needs to show some transparency. We learned our lesson with WE Charity, with the ventilators from the former Liberal member who did not manufacture ventilators and with the management of subsidies connected to their chief of staff's husband. That is a lot, and we need more transparency. Four committees have studied these issues, but the Liberal members on these committees filibustered. We are asking for a special committee to study all of this spending. It was announced when we returned after prorogation, but things are taking a long time.
Liberal members on the Standing Committee on Finance systematically filibustered proceedings for dozens of hours, preventing us from hearing people talk about their needs for the next budget. We need to be able to do our jobs. A special committee is needed to assess spending, because we are dealing with a significant deficit. If the money was well spent, then it was the lesser evil during this crisis, but a committee needs to look into it.
I think that about sums it up.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by saying that a big part of this economic update touched on things that have happened over the course of the last few months. As members are well aware, when we first hit the pandemic, the government was certainly willing to work with opposition parties, and the NDP stepped up.
Members will also recall that the first action of the government during the pandemic was to offer supports to the banking sector with about $750 billion in liquidity supports from a number of different federal institutions. That was a bold move. It is not matched by any boldness to actually support regular Canadians at this stage in the pandemic.
We are well aware of what the member for did. The entire NDP caucus stepped up with a series of proposals that we knew would make a difference in the lives of Canadians. Canadians have really struggled through this pandemic. They are still struggling. We believed that there needed to be a series of measures that would make a difference in the lives of individuals as they struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head.
We needed measures to support small businesses. People often give their lives to their small businesses, and we want to keep them operating so we can avoid the tragedy of people turning the key in the lock for the final time as they leave that small business behind. That was the measure that was brought to this pandemic response. This is what we proposed and pushed the government to put into place.
We had the emergency response. When the government had a series of holes in the emergency response benefit, we pushed for the student CERB as well, and we pushed for a 75% wage subsidy. The member for was very eloquent in this regard. Other countries had already done that, and we believed firmly that Canada needed to put in place a 75% wage subsidy too to make sure that businesses could continue to operate and people could continue to work.
We then pushed support for seniors through this House. We pushed for a moratorium on student loans. We did not think that students should have to pay back their loans to the federal government during a pandemic. We pushed for supports for first nations communities. A number of members from our caucus were very strong in pushing the government to provide those supports.
We also pushed for supports for the people who were not receiving supports through other means. That is why we pushed for things such as the Canada recovery benefit. The member for , numerous times, pushed for a national sick leave, which is historic in nature. It means that people who are unfortunately not able to work because of their sickness, or are concerned about catching COVID-19, could actually, for the first time, take that paid sick leave and not have to chose between putting food on the table or doing the right thing. That paid sick leave is historic, and we believe it should be made permanent as well.
We provided and pushed for sectoral supports for a variety of industries. Members of this caucus, including the member for , who is our small business critic, pushed for an emergency rent subsidy. We pushed for very strongly for this and for our supports for people with disabilities. These are two areas in which the government basically only did a part of what was needed to be done to provide those supports and make sure that those Canadians had the wherewithal to get through the pandemic.
Originally the emergency rent subsidy the government rolled out was a program through a company that had ties to the chief of staff of the . The initial program that was rolled out was actually with a commercial mortgage company, and it was for landlords who held commercial mortgages. This is very clearly inadequate and a very strange approach.
We continued to push for the second emergency rent subsidy, which is a much better program. That program has not been retroactive for the course of the spring and summer. It should be because many of the businesses that went through all those difficult periods in the spring and summer are now living through these difficult periods in the fall. They need the wherewithal, and they need those supports.
We continue to press the government to make that rent subsidy retroactive to the spring for those business owners who were not able to benefit because the program is so complicated. It is actually a failed program in so many respects. With this new rent subsidy program, which the NDP applied pressure to bring to bear, those business owners would actually be able to benefit from it.
For people with disabilities, I have expressed on the floor of this House my deep disappointment. While the banking sector got three-quarters of a trillion dollars within the first days of the pandemic, the government had to be pushed and prodded repeatedly. The member for , the member for and other members of the NDP caucus pressed the government repeatedly, and finally, after an eight-month wait, the Liberals put in place partial supports. They are only for people with disabilities who are registered and exist in the federal database.
There is no doubt that there are many other people with disabilities who need support. The only way for them to receive support is with planning and forethought to make sure that those who are registered provincially for disability programs get supports. In short, what the NDP brought to bear was a series of measures that would make a difference for people, and we will continue to do this.
This is where my disappointment lies and our disappointment with the fall economic statement. We believe that those supports need to be continued. There needs to be a sense that all Canadians matter, that we can all come through this pandemic, and that, coming out of the pandemic, we can actually put in place a very solid foundation for Canadians in the future.
However, the government has refused to do this. With the fall economic statement, the Liberals have refused to take any of the revenue measures that have been suggested, not only by the NDP but by many forward-thinking people who are thinking ahead.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is an independent officer. All Canadians can rely on his advice. He said, very clearly, that with the fiscal situation of the country there are only two alternatives. One is to cut those services and supports to people, otherwise known as program cuts or austerity.
Liberals may laugh at that, but they also laughed at austerity when we suggested it back in Paul Martin's day, and we know the result. The cuts in programs have an impact even to the present day. Ending the national housing program for the justification of austerity meant that today there are people who remain homeless because the federal government stopped building affordable housing, which is so necessary for so many Canadians.
We look at the fine print. We in the NDP do not only look at what is said, the basic speech and the basic balance sheet of this economic statement, we also look at the details. The summary statement of transactions clearly indicates that the government is planning substantial cuts in program expenses next year. Many of those program expenses came through COVID-19. The intention of the government is not, on the revenue side, to put in place supports that make our rebuilding sustainable. Instead, it is making the choice of looking to wind down programs of support without looking to replace them with other programs that can make a difference in people's lives.
Members will recall that so far during this pandemic, Canada's billionaires have added to their wealth in the order of $53 billion. Canada's big banks, who received that massive dose of liquidity support within days of the pandemic hitting, are looking at substantially increased profits. In the next few days, when each of the big banks release their latest quarterly figures, there is no doubt that we will see an increase, just as we did in the spring and the fall. They have had $15 billion in profits so far during this pandemic.
The reason 90% of Canadians support a wealth tax is they see that discrepancy. They see that contradiction of billionaires having massive increases in wealth, some web giants having massive increases in profits and significant profits for the banking sector through the pandemic, while so many Canadians are struggling to put food on the table, making ends meet and keeping a roof over their heads. Many small business people are struggling to keep that small business operating. They see the contradiction between the banking profits and the addition to billionaires' wealth of over $53 billion. They are well aware of the massive amounts of money we lose every year to overseas tax havens.
As the House is aware, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, as an independent officer of Parliament, has advised all parliamentarians that we lose over $25 billion each and every year to overseas tax havens. That means that over the last five years under the Liberal government, over $125 billion have been lost to overseas tax havens. When we talk about the supports Canadians need now, those massive amounts of money have not been diverted to help Canadians, but rather have served to pad the bottom line of some of Canada's wealthiest people and some of Canada's most profitable corporations.
We also have the web giants. During this pandemic, we have seen substantial increases in profits by the web giants like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, yet they do not pay corporate taxes in Canada. The measures announced today, which only talk about implications around the GST-HST, are minor compared to the impacts of those web giants not paying that corporate taxation.
As well, we have seen significant subsidies going to oil and gas companies. The government wants to spend what could be up to $20 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline. The private sector walked away from this project, a project that has profound implications for the climate emergency. The government is intending to spend money on this project. The PBO will define that in the next week or two. It has as been asked to produce a study and the bottom line in the rapid rise in construction costs. However, we are looking probably in the order of $20 billion