The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, to begin, I will conclude the letter from my childhood friend. I grew up with him in Calgary Midnapore, and he is now in the aviation sector.
“Does the Liberal Party really want to have the legacy of leading Canada to the demise of our aviation industry with proud, innovative roots in history? For the sake of half a million aviation employees right now out of work and the future of our industry, the time to act decisively and collaboratively is now.
“I would like to thank the right hon. member [for Calgary Midnapore] for reading my concerns. As the shadow transportation minister for the Conservative Party and an old school colleague, she has well represented Canada's aviation industry in the past since the start of the pandemic.
“Sincerely, Grant Caswell.”
I would like to say hello to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Caswell, who live on the same street I grew up on, Lake Bonavista Drive, in the riding.
For months I have been advocating, in the House, for support for the airline sector, which was announced yet again in the fall economic statement. I will add that it was also in the supplemental mandate letter to the . It is long past due that this sector receives some type of support. Unfortunately, as I have indicated in recent days, the inaction and incompetence of the government is going far beyond the airline sector and is now reaching out to touch all Canadians.
I am sure members are very well aware that on our side of the House we pushed extensively for rapid testing in the fall in all facets of life, which would have facilitated many things within our communities and our society. However, as the shadow minister for transport, I pushed for it specifically in regard to air travel.
I am very proud of YYC, Calgary's airport authority, which took the initiative to have an on-arrival pilot project. We could have duplicated this across the nation initially, instead of giving the sledgehammer response that we have seen. It could have been avoided if the government had listened to our calls for rapid testing and then rolled out testing on arrival. We spoke of this again and again to the deaf ears of the government.
Now, very frankly, we are seeing this with vaccines. There was an inability to recognize the necessity to be at the head of the procurement line. This is not an excuse, nor is it acceptable. The government should have foreseen this and should have had a plan B as well, which it did not. It is not only the airline sector that has suffered terribly, as I have mentioned over and over again, but now all Canadians.
I even question the pharmaceutical approval process. I am very glad that my good colleague, the member for , brought this up last week specifically in regard to Solstar Pharma, which has an incredible antiviral project. In fact, my own leader mentioned this in the leaders' round of question period last week.
I have sheepishly led many individuals who have contacted me about the approval process. I have given them the website and perhaps written a letter of support, and left them in the queue with the wish and hope that there will be some good outcome for Canadians, because we need it so desperately. I am happy to see that we have the advancement with Novavax today.
I also want to talk to Canadians today about why they should care about the loss of the airline sector, because that is the direction we are going: the complete demolition of it. It will not be there, and why should Canadians care? It is because we will come out of this one way or another, through the stumbling and falling of the government in its attempt to manage this.
However, what will be there? Canadians gave up their summer vacation, gave up their winter vacation and are giving up their spring break. It looks like they will be giving up their summer vacation once again, according to the government. However, when the time comes for them to travel again with their families, will there be an airline sector to take them places? I am not sure today.
For Canadians who want to visit their families in remote parts of the country or in any part of the country, places where we have seen loss of service include St. John's, Gander, Goose Bay, Fredericton, Quebec City, Prince Rupert, Kamloops and Yellowknife. This is a result of the government's inaction. These routes are not there now and they will not be available when Canadians want to travel. When my friends in the 905, in Vancouver and all across Canada want to go to see their extended family in India or in Hong Kong, those flights will not be there, given the way we are going right now. All Canadians have an interest in the survival of this airline sector.
Canadians should be asking if their sector is next. I will tell the House as a member of Parliament from Alberta that I have seen the current government single-handedly destroy the energy sector here. That is one sector. I have seen them single-handedly destroy the entire airline sector. That is two airlines. Every Canadian, the ones on CERB, the ones who have jobs and the ones who are Uber drivers, should ask themselves if their industry is next. The government will come for their industry as well. It came for mine, it came for the airline workers and it will come for theirs.
Finally, as many of my colleagues have asked, I ask when this will end. When does this end? It is a year later, and I thought my life would be a lot bigger and a lot more open, as well as my family's, and it is not; it is smaller. It is the result of the incompetence and the inaction of the government on so many things I have mentioned here today.
For me, it started with the airline sector, and it is far beyond that. It reaches all Canadians now.
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois has been focusing on the importance of the economic recovery for quite some time. We must look to the future. We must think beyond the next election.
There are many federal mechanisms to get Canada back on its feet. In Quebec, the recovery will centre on local initiatives, the regional economy and the development of our nation, its towns and its villages.
Green, responsible innovation must be at the heart of our efforts. To be effective, these innovations must flow from current and future programs that are flexible and tailored to the situation of the regions and municipalities. The Bloc Québécois believes that each nation must take responsibility for itself and use appropriate mechanisms that fit its situation to meet the challenges to come. For our economies to recover, we need more than low-interest loans. We need more vision. Here is a wish list of what the government must do to restart our economies.
First of all, the government needs to look after Quebec's interests. Infrastructure offers a way to stimulate the economy and jump-start development projects in our towns and villages. Quebec has more than 1,800 towns and villages spread out over the 18th largest territory in the world. Nearly 80% of Quebec's towns and villages have fewer than 3,000 inhabitants. Infrastructure can connect our territories, be it on the ground, in the sky or in the digital realm. This will take long-term investments from the government.
Towns and villages know their own needs the best. That is why federal infrastructure funding, to the tune of $100 billion over 10 years, must be transferred to Quebec and to municipalities, which are in the best position to manage that money.
In the same vein, the government needs to pick up the pace on getting the regions connected to the Internet. This is a huge need in Quebec. It is hard to imagine these days that there are still people who are isolated and living without Internet access. I am thinking of business owners, farmers who have limited access to technology and innovation, and the many other sectors that will lead the recovery, such as the tourism, culture, social development and knowledge-based sectors.
Quebec is ready to get all Quebeckers connected in the short term. I want to remind members that Internet access is an essential need that gives access to technology so that entrepreneurs can innovate, as they do so well when given the means. One way of accomplishing that is to force telecommunications companies to provide service to all of Quebec.
Even more surprising is that in addition to not being connected to the Internet, many first nations communities still do not have clean drinking water or even running water in their homes. Can the first nations get the infrastructure they need for their development? They need clean drinking water and housing. The situation is heartbreaking.
Many villages have been built all over Quebec. Quebec's tourist destinations are known for their hospitality, their food scene, their local products and their cultural vitality, as demonstrated by the emergence of many festivals. These are places that have a wonderful quality of life. They are known for the quality of their festivals, their sports and adventure infrastructure, or simply for their scenic beauty.
We want to preserve and enhance these economies for our future common good. We need to foster our spirit of pride and acknowledge our heritage. We need to protect our lakes and forests.
Individual and collective entrepreneurship drives development in our regions. To prevent the decline of the regions, we must maximize secondary and tertiary processing initiatives because they create wealth and value added.
Let us invest in Quebec's innovative spirit and the next generation. Let us get young people involved so they can put their creativity to good use. For the development of our regions in eastern Quebec and for our marine economy, all the way to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we must repair the ports and other infrastructure. They provide income for many middle-class families. The Davie shipyard, which is recognized for its expertise in America, is a fine example.
We must implement national aerospace strategies for the development of greater Montreal, one of the most important innovation hubs in North America. This development also requires that we support innovation at the Port of Montreal, one of the largest in the world. We must invest in shipping infrastructure and supply chains to have the most effective, sustainable and greenest flow of goods possible.
We must also fund research on how to make heavy-duty vehicles more environmentally friendly and even run on electric power. We must also modernize digital data sharing platforms.
Generally speaking, it is important to support those of our industries and businesses that embrace the circular economy and to evaluate a product's environmental impact throughout its life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials through manufacturing, distribution, use, repair and maintenance. We need to make our industries greener and more efficient. To achieve that, we need to fund low-carbon energy systems.
Quebec has 760,000 square kilometres of forest. That is almost half its territory. We have no shortage of forest resources. Quebec needs to leverage its forestry innovations to develop the regions. Forestry companies are among the most innovative companies in the world. Quebec's forestry industry is reinventing itself, and it is doing so with very little investment from Canada.
We have to produce innovative, high-quality forestry products. Forest fibre, such as low-carbon forest residue, can be used to make thousands of different, innovative products. We have to develop markets for these innovative forestry products, and that means enhancing the forest innovation program to adequately fund things like forest biomass supply chains and bioenergy research and development.
There is also aluminum. Quebec is the largest and most environmentally friendly producer of aluminum in the world. The transformation of aluminum into carbon neutral aluminum needs to be financed.
To revitalize our villages, we have to revive agriculture by promoting organic farming and greenhouse cultivation and using green energy. Local products need to be promoted and showcased through tasting events. This will encourage people to buy local, quality, fresh and organic products.
Seafood products also have to be supported by modernizing processing plants and subsidizing research into innovative secondary and tertiary processing products. Quebec's extensive expertise in innovation must be preserved and continually developed.
That is why investments are needed in R and D and in Quebec's research centres, particularly in the regions, in colleges and in universities so as to foster the acquisition and adaptation of green technologies for the benefit of Quebec's SMEs.
To kick-start the economy, Canada is proposing a plan worth between $70 billion and $100 billion over three years. It is not yet clear where the government is headed; it all seems uncertain. I have proposed several possible solutions, and I have an excellent idea for the government.
That would take regional funds administered by and for the regions of Quebec, as well as regional councils, in collaboration with Quebec, citizens, researchers, entrepreneurs from the private sector and the social economy, agencies and institutions. For example, the CFDCs would be able to act through a regional council of businesses and agencies to contribute to setting up new innovative projects.
We need an actual local innovation support program with local people who could put their talents to use to come up with solutions to revitalize our economies and our ecosystems. Through their creative strength and innovation, the communities themselves are in the best position to target the appropriate innovation zones for their area and the new potential markets. We will rely on their talents and strengths.
Also, it is important that the innovation respond effectively not only to market challenges, but also to the challenges faced by the locals, their community and their region. People in the regions are losing out in this pandemic. They need a win in the recovery.
With regional funds, the regions will become more dynamic. The participation of civil society will increase the sense of belonging and pride and stimulate creativity and collaboration. Regional funds will increase the innovation capacity and appeal of our towns, villages and regions. With regional funds, the innovations created in the regions will have an impact on the major issues of this century.
Madam Speaker, I apologize.
The Liberals spent so freely before the pandemic that instead of being prepared for the possibility of an economic downturn, and economies are always cyclical, the cupboards were bare long before the first case of COVID–19 was known.
The pandemic has demanded more spending, but it should also demand transparency and explanations as spending priorities are rolled out. Workable solutions that benefit the most needy and support the survival of Canadian small businesses, new and established, should be at the top of the list.
The Liberal government racked up a $381-billion deficit in 2020. This deficit equalled 17% of our GDP, which made for a higher debt-to-GDP ratio than we realized in World War I, the Great Depression or the great recession.
With the addition of this $381-billion deficit to our balance sheet, our national debt recently surpassed a tragic milestone, a debt of $1 trillion, which is a first for Canada. That is $1,000 billion for those counting. This all from the party whose leader famously stated, “The budget will balance itself”.
While these numbers may seem too big to comprehend, let me speak plainly. This is money that we, the taxpayers of Canada, collectively owe. It is debt that accrues interest each and every day. It is money that we have an obligation to repay, that our children will be on the hook for, and in all likelihood, that our children’s children, such as one-year-old Avery, will be paying off decades from now. Is this to be our legacy? We can and must do better.
What does all this debt really mean for Canadians? It is not just a number on a balance sheet somewhere. It means that Canadians could face higher taxes to pay down the debt and its interest, taxes that could further stifle the economy. It means the social supports and programs that many Canadians rely on could falter. It means that we could face another economic crisis with decreases in the value of homes, a declining stock market, loss of people’s savings, reduced pension values and the rise in unemployment lasting far longer than was necessary.
I hope members on both sides of the aisle recognize the human toll that another financial crisis would have on mental health, substance abuse, depression, domestic violence and homelessness. These are tragedies that are unfolding around us, which have already increased at alarming rates this past year. They are issues that my constituents and I feel deeply about, and that we are already studying at the justice committee, of which I am a member.
That takes me to where we are. Finally, at the end of 2020, after months of calls from our side of the House for a comprehensive budget to show Canadians where their tax dollars, and all this debt-financed spending, is being spent, the Liberals gave Canadians a “budget lite” and a “budget really lite”, which they called their fiscal update. That fiscal update included a proposed $25 billion in new spending measures and a $100-billion stimulus plan, but again, few details about how the money would be spent, or how and when it would be paid for.
The day after it was presented in the House of Commons, the deputy minister of finance, the highest-ranking bureaucrat in the government’s finance ministry, abruptly announced his resignation. We can add this to the growing list of high-profile resignations under the government, which now includes the following: Julie Payette, the former governor general; Bill Morneau, the former minister of finance; Jane Philpott, the former president of the Treasury Board; the member for , who served as the minister of justice and attorney general; Michael Wernick, the former clerk of the Privy Council; Gerald Butts, the former principal secretary to the ; and the member for , who served as the minister of innovation, science and industry.
To replace the deputy minister of finance, the Liberals appointed Michael Sabia, an architect behind the GST, which was introduced in the 1990s. That tax was later lowered by the Harper-led government, thanks to sound financial management. Does Mr. Sabia's appointment signal to Canadians that the Liberals plan to raise taxes? Will the government really start taxing the equity in Canadian home ownership, as is being widely reported? Only time will tell.
One thing I know for certain, as an MP and as the former minister of national revenue, is that the lack of a federal budget is simply unacceptable. The budget is not just a planning tool for the government. It is the means by which the government announces in detail to Canadians from coast to coast to coast what it plans to do with billions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
According to the government's own website:
The Budget is a blueprint for how the Government wants to set the annual economic agenda for Canada. And it's the job of the Department of Finance to prepare it.
The last federal budget was presented on March 19, 2019. That was 686 days ago. So much for an annual budget. So much for promised transparency.
As for some of the specifics Canadians were given, the most troubling part of the bill before us is the amendment it proposes to the Borrowing Authority Act. This amendment seeks to increase the government's maximum borrowing authority from $1.1 trillion to $1.8 trillion, a new maximum limit on the nation's credit card. This sets another record, as it is the biggest increase in borrowing authority ever sought in our nation's history. I ask members to let that sink in for a moment. It is more than in World War II or past global recessions.
At this point, why should Canadians trust the government? We have all seen the headlines, which include: “CRA admits ‘unclear’ CERB communications led to mistaken applications”; “CERB repayment frustration continues”; “More than $636M in CERB benefits paid to 300,000 teens aged 15 to 17, documents show”; “Troubled pandemic rent subsidy program expires today – and there’s no replacement ready”; “Exclusive golf course books $1 million surplus, aided by federal COVID-19 relief”; and “$150 million more to SNC-Lavalin.” Really? The SNC-Lavalin that is mired in scandal and ethical challenges?
Conservatives want to help Canadians make ends meet. They recognize that the virus has affected millions of Canadians in a variety of ways, my family included. I know far too many constituents who have been laid off in the hospitality sector, tourism industry and retail businesses. I have heard from countless South Surrey—White Rock business owners who are struggling to keep their doors open. Throughout the riding, our once bustling restaurant and shopping scene, including many shops along our picturesque White Rock Pier, are enduring catastrophic drops in patronage and revenue, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Our airline industry, which employs many in my riding, is hemorrhaging. Of course I am in favour of the emergency response benefit, the wage subsidy, and the emergency business account, but we need to ensure these programs are rolled out correctly, and that funds are timely, spent effectively, and spent in Canada to help Canadians.
We need to ensure that through these billions of dollars in spending, no Canadian is left behind. So far, that is not what we have seen. There are many new businesses in my community whose investments were all made before the pandemic hit that are not eligible for current subsidy programs because they opened their doors after March 2020. Who is looking out for them?
Given the astronomical size of our country’s debt, we really cannot afford to get this recovery wrong. We need to spend, but to spend responsibly. We need transparency and we need a true, comprehensive budget. More than anything, we need to get Canadians back to work and a clear roadmap to recovery.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill on the economic statement, which is extremely important during COVID-19. The bill seeks to implement certain provisions of the November 30, 2020, economic statement and other measures.
I basically want to talk about three things. First, I will share our party's position on the measures for seniors. Second, I will speak about certain measures that are still letting some businesses fall through the cracks, and third, I will say a few words about the problems that this pandemic has created for women and about my desire to support a more feminist economy.
For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, the law already allows for the funding of the various health initiatives set out in the bill. That totals approximately $900 million, including an investment of over $500 million in long-term care. The safe restart agreement between Canada, Quebec and the provinces should absolutely be amended to include long-term care. In the economic statement, the government provided for an investment of up to $1 billion to create an infection prevention and control fund to help Quebec and the provinces protect people living in long-term care facilities.
What exactly is being done about long-term care?
I will quote the November 30 economic statement again:
...the Government of Canada is committing up to $1 billion for [an infection control fund] to help provinces and territories protect people in long-term care and support infection prevention and control. Funding will be contingent on a detailed spending plan, allocated on an equal per capita basis and conditional on provinces and territories demonstrating that investments have been made according to those spending plans.
Need I once again remind the House that Quebec and the provinces have extensive authority over health care pursuant to a number of provisions in the Constitution Act, 1867, including section 92.7, which gives Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction over the establishment, maintenance and management of hospitals.
Moreover, all provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over the direct delivery of most medical services. Clearly, therefore, Quebec and the provinces, not the federal government, have the experience and expertise to handle long-term care homes. Quebec and the provinces also pay for the vast majority of these services.
In 2014, the Canadian Institute for Health Information estimated that 73% of the costs related to long-term care facilities in Canada were funded by provincial, territorial and municipal systems and organizations in Quebec and the provinces, while 23% of the costs were borne by residents or through their private insurance.
Any funding from the federal government with conditions of any kind is unacceptable to the Bloc Québécois. The federal government has only one role to play in health care, and that is funding. It does have the means to do more.
Ottawa's revenues, at 4.1%, are increasing faster than those of the provinces, at 3.5%, while health care spending in Quebec and the provinces is increasing at an annual rate of 5%. Remember, the federal government's share of health care is shrinking significantly every year.
In 2019 Quebec, the provinces and territories funded 40% of health care spending, while the Canadian government absorbed only 22%, according to Conference Board of Canada data. At the current growth rate, the federal share of health care funding will drop below 20% by 2026. That is unacceptable.
If the federal government is truly concerned about seniors then it needs to accede to the reasonable request made by the united front formed by Quebec and the other provinces and backed by the National Assembly of Quebec. Starting this year, not after the crisis, the government needs to bring its annual contribution to health care funding in Quebec and the provinces to 35% on an ongoing basis. In fact, and this is significant, the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec, or the FMSQ, also supports this request by Mr. Legault.
As for the possibility of bringing in national standards in long-term care facilities, let us not forget that the Canadian Armed Forces' report following their time in Quebec's long-term care facilities was very clear: Despite there being many standards and rules on contamination prevention and control, or on wearing protective equipment, they were not enough to stop the virus.
The big question has more to do with the capacity to adhere to the existing standards and rules and enforcing them. The primary reason these rules were more difficult to follow is just as clear: the labour shortage. Let us properly fund our health care system. It is not just the Bloc Québécois and I calling for that, but major seniors' organizations such as the FADOQ.
The army's report says, and I quote, “According to our observations, the critical need for CHSLDs is an improved level of staff with medical training.” The provinces and Quebec do not need federal standards for long-term care homes. They already have standards.
Quebec and the provinces need the means to properly care for seniors. The successive Liberal and Conservative federal governments need to stop withholding spending.
In addition, the federal government can and must ensure that we have an adequate supply of vaccines. Once seniors in long-term care homes and seniors residences are taken care of, seniors living alone need to get out of isolation. Even though part of the bill amends the Food and Drugs Act, the delays we have seen are increasing stress and frustration levels.
I remind members that since the beginning of the pandemic, seniors have been saying that the $300 cheque that seniors receiving old age security got in July and the $200 cheque sent to seniors receiving the guaranteed income supplement have been woefully inadequate. The government needs to permanently increase old age security benefits by $110 a month, but this is not included in the economic measures.
Second, many people in the riding of Shefford work in the sectors most affected by the pandemic, those associated with tourism in general, such as hotels, restaurants and major cultural events. All these sectors are essential for the economic vitality of the riding. I am thinking of such well-known cultural institutions as the Granby international song festival, the Palace de Granby, the Maison de la culture de Waterloo, the Yvonne L. Bombardier Cultural Centre and the Maison de la culture de Racine, to name but a few.
We have a lot of questions about the terms of the highly affected sectors credit availability program, HASCAP. Why is it that almost two months after announcing this program, the Trudeau government is still unable to provide details on its terms?
Let us remember that, from the beginning of this pandemic, the Bloc Québécois has demonstrated how important it is to develop assistance programs tailored to each industry, since one-size-fits-all programs really do not work. On May 13, 2020, the Bloc Québécois was already unequivocally calling for targeted assistance for seasonal industries, particularly the tourism industry. Some of the programs that had already been rolled out, such as the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program, were poorly designed for these sectors and turned out to be a real disaster.
We then suggested that a real assistance program to cover fixed costs be implemented. In the spring, the Parliamentary Secretary to the even came to tell members of the Haute-Yamaska chamber of commerce that those sorts of measures were coming. Several months later, it is clear from talking to tourism operators that the measures announced so far are insufficient. Many concerns remain, particularly for Quebec's sugar shacks, a key symbol of our heritage. They are still wondering whether they will be able to benefit from the Canada emergency wage subsidy.
We must not forget that tourism is a vital industry for the regions of Quebec. More than 400,000 workers benefit from the tourism industry, which generates $15 billion for Quebec's economy. Two-thirds of those businesses are located outside the metropolitan regions of Quebec City and Montreal and employ fewer than 20 workers, making them crucial to keeping our communities alive. Tourism is one of the industries that was hit hardest by the pandemic, and stakeholders are still waiting for the federal government to show some more empathy.
In closing, I want to point out the importance of making an economic she-covery a priority because the pandemic has hit women harder than men. Some programs, like the Canada emergency business account, have been harder for women to access. Groups such as Femmessor told the Standing Committee on the Status of Women about the importance of developing programs that are a better fit for female entrepreneurs. I heard that again earlier this week from a Bank of Montreal representative who wants more programs to do a better job of taking female entrepreneurs' reality into account. Family tax credits are not going to help women. They need programs that will help them leverage their economic power and escape poverty. Helping mothers is good, but enabling them to achieve their goals is even better.
The women who own the store Orange coco la vie en vrac, for example, work incredibly hard but do not seem to qualify for any of the programs.
In conclusion, we are in dire need of measures for seniors, for the cultural tourism industry, for restaurants and for women, all of which have been hit harder than most by the pandemic, along with measures for a greener, fairer economic recovery. Let us make that happen.
Madam Speaker, $1.1 trillion is a lot of money. That is what the national debt will be at the end of this fiscal year in accordance with this fall economic statement that we are debating today. It becomes very intimidating when we measure that national debt against gross domestic product, the GDP, in analysis of how well the economy can manage the debt. Just a few years ago it stood at 30%, but by the end of this fiscal year, March 31, 2021, in accordance with this fall economic plan it will stand at 55%, uncomfortably close to its 67% level during Canada's debt crisis in the mid-1990s.
We have heard many times from the Liberal side of the House that we can afford it, we have the fiscal room and we have the muscle power to manage this debt. That is true because, when we managed to get that 1995 debt crisis under control, we had a series of good, fiscally responsible governments that managed the economy, including through the Harper years.
Today, the big debt, $1.1 trillion, is going to be affordable only because interest rates are as low as they are. The federal government can borrow money at less than 1%. Money is almost free. Why would the Liberals not borrow as much as they can? However, any economist will tell us that interest rates will not stay low forever. Central banks will respond to inflationary pressures. It has happened throughout human history and that is not going to change.
In a debate in the House a couple of months ago, the member for , who is the Conservative Party's shadow minister for finance, asked what a 1% hike in interest rates would cost the Canadian treasury. It was a rhetorical question because obviously the math is very simple. One trillion dollars is a one followed by 12 zeroes. If we multiple it by 1%, it is now a one with 10 zeroes, which is $10 billion. That is $10 billion every year if interest rates go up only 1%. That is $10 billion that is not available for the federal government to spend on other important programs, including health transfers and giving Canadians the help that they need. That money is now going to be taken away from Canadians who need help and who have come to rely on these programs. That money is now going to go to international bankers and pension funds and make them richer.
I know that the middle of a worldwide pandemic is not the time to talk about cutting costs. The Conservative Party recognizes that the federal government has a big role to play in a time of crisis: to keep liquidity in the marketplace and confidence in the minds of the public, and to keep the economy going so that people can keep on working, earning paycheques, taking care of their kids, paying for university, and paying the mortgage or rent. We recognize that this is important. The Conservative Party has stood right along with the Liberal government to support these programs that Canadians need so badly to get through this economic crisis.
Where do we go from here? We are happily seeing a light at the end of the COVID tunnel. We are not there yet, but we are optimistic that there is a post-COVID world that we need to plan for. Canadians want to get back to work and they want to see their government get its fiscal house back in order. We need to see a plan that will move us away from a credit-card economy to a paycheque economy. The problem with the current Liberal government is that it does not have a good record of managing the economy.
Many people remember that leading up to the 2015 election the Liberal Party campaigned on a promise of a few small to medium-sized deficits, somewhere around $10 billion to $15 billion per year for three years, but that in the fourth year of the Liberals' mandate they were going to balance the budget. They did not even come close to that. The deficit was multiple times higher than what the Liberals had promised, and by the 2019 election campaign they had given up all pretense of ever wanting to manage to balance the budget. Therefore, Canadians are rightly concerned about the current government's record of poor fiscal management and its ability to manage a post-COVID relaunch of our economy.
There is another aspect of the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis I want to highlight that has frustrated many Canadians. Even though our COVID relief spending is the highest among all our trading partners on a per capita basis, we also have the highest unemployment rate. How could that be? We are spending almost $400 billion more this year than we are taking in, in government revenues, yet millions of Canadians are being left behind.
I have a couple of examples from my riding. I was talking to a husband and wife who are family business operators. They run a dance studio. Business was pretty good until the provincial public health officer shut them down. They were happy the federal government came out with an emergency rent subsidy program, and it looked like they would qualify. Certainly, if one looked at their bank account and balance sheet, they qualified. However, when they filled out the application, they realized because of their corporate structure, and because they could not answer that they were operating at arm's length, they were disqualified. Like tens of thousands of family-owned businesses across the country, they have a dual corporate model, where one company owns the land and the building and the other owns the company that operates within the building. It is required by many bankers to mitigate risk and manage commercial operations. I can hardly imagine the government had intended for that to happen.
The operators of a hotel chain here in British Columbia are another example. They qualified for the rent subsidy, but had to share the subsidy across a whole group of properties. They complained to me, saying that if each of them were an individually owned hotel property they each would have individually qualified. Because they had to share the rent subsidy across the whole family, the rent subsidy became almost meaningless. They said to me that it looked like the Liberal government was taking the “M” out of SME, small and medium-sized enterprises. Medium-sized enterprises like theirs do not qualify.
As my colleague from said, the government is a day late and a dollar short, and a lot of Canadians are suffering on account of that.
Bill has seven parts. My party is going to support most of it, but we have trouble with part 7, which is about future spending. We wonder why the federal government feels it needs to have a total debt ceiling of $1.8 trillion, when all it really needs is $1.1 trillion to get through this fiscal year. Does it not trust Parliament to do the right thing at the right time? The government should come back when it needs more money and we will respond, as we have in the past and throughout this crisis. We will look at the legislation and question it and the proposed programs, because we are the opposition and that is what we do.
I submit that the emergency programs Canadians are now relying on are very much better because of the work we and other opposition parties have done. Canadians want transparency. They want to know bills are being debated in Parliament and that the government does not have unfettered power to do as it wishes. When it needs more money, it should come back and ask for it, and prove to us that its spending plans will actually help the Canadians who need it most.
Mr. Speaker, it is great to have this opportunity to participate in the debate today. I have listened intently to previous speakers. It is very interesting to hear the Liberals' questions and the different types of points they are trying to make in the debate.
We heard the member for a little while ago talking about the Harper record going back to the economic meltdown in 2008 and criticizing the Harper government's spending, which was many times less than what we are talking about right now. I was elected in 2006. The hon. member was around during that time as well. He might recall that during that time we could not spend enough to make Liberal members of Parliament happy. Certainly, one of the absolutely critical things we did was to lay out a road map during a very difficult time to get back to balanced budgets. We had a surplus leading up to that point, very different circumstances from what we find ourselves in at this point, and we laid out a seven-year plan to get back to budget balance. I had the opportunity to serve on the cabinet subcommittee that evaluated plans from departments and ministers to get back to balance, and I am pleased to say that by 2015 we maintained that schedule and got back to balance. There is no conversations right now with the current government on the long-term impact of the spending we are now undertaking.
There is a lot of talk about deficits and previous governments' deficits. When we take a look at the deficit cycle of governments from 1968 until today, it is easy to trace back exactly why we wound up having the fiscal situation and debt we have right now. We can go back to 1968 when we had almost no debt in this country. We had the Pierre Trudeau government at that time, which made a very deliberate decision to run deficits in 14 out of 15 years.
We ran those deficits in 14 out of 15 years, and then by 1984 the country was in crisis. Rates were through the roof. Interest rates were in the high teens and 20s. In the previous years the Liberals, like the current government, had run an absolutely disastrous energy plan, which was devastating to the people of my constituency in Alberta. Yes, in the Mulroney years the deficits were even higher, but if we look at those Mulroney years, those deficits were actually almost entirely made up of interest on Trudeau's debt. It is very important to understand that. Because interest rates were so high, the Mulroney deficits were almost entirely the interest on Trudeau's debt.
Then we fast-forward to the late nineties and another Liberal government, the Chrétien-Martin government. That generation of Canadians had to pay for the debt that was accumulated back in the seventies and early eighties under the Trudeau government. It was a generation later, and we can see there is a parallel here and a predictor of the future. The impact then was that the Trudeau-Martin Liberal government cut $35 billion from health care, social services and education transfers through the Canada health transfer and the Canada social transfer. There were devastating cuts down the road because of the spending that happened in the late sixties, the seventies and the eighties.
When we listened to question period today, it does not seem to matter what question is asked. All three main opposition parties can ask very legitimate questions about vaccines, testing or spending programs, and they are almost always answered with derision and condescension by the and other ministers, but particularly by the Prime Minister. Almost every question is met with an accusation of our playing political games, and again, it does not matter which party asks. Then we get this sort of throw-away line, without the ministers ever really answering the question about when vaccines might be coming, or answering the legitimate question today about how many Canadians would need to be vaccinated, and what the evidence shows, before we can start to come out of the lockdowns. These are things that my constituents desperately want to know.
We hear this throw-away line that the government has Canadians' backs. What does that actually mean? First of all, it is a line that gets used for almost every question without the person actually giving a response to the question. It is very calming. It is presented in a very calm fashion by someone who has clearly been trained in delivering lines, but it does not say anything.
If we look closely at that, when they say the government has Canadians' backs, it is not really the government that has Canadians' backs, it is not the who has Canadians' backs, but our kids and our grandkids who ultimately have Canadians' backs right now, because our kids and grandkids are going to be paying for the deficits we are running right now. It does not mean we should not be doing it. Absolutely, I think members from all sides, from all parties, believe that we should be spending and running a pretty significant deficit right now.
However, as we are putting forward these plans for spending, there needs to be some hope, some vision for the future, and a consideration, an acknowledgement at least, that the spending we are undertaking right now is a trade-off. There is going to be a trade-off from that spending down the road. In other words, future generations of Canadians are going to forgo a certain level of their quality of life because this money will have to be paid back, or money will have to be spent to pay for the interest charges on the debt we are incurring right now. That money will not be able to be spent on other things.
The previous speaker eloquently brought up the member for 's question about interest rates, which has been asked a lot. I remember the night we had a debate with the and the opportunity to ask him those questions. There was a complete refusal to acknowledge that interest rates can go up at some point in the future and that there might be a cost to that.
If we take a look at the interest rates in the situation we saw in the 1970s, there is a clear lesson in this. Back in August 1971, the interest rate in Canada, the overnight rate, was 5%. By August 1976, the interest rate was 9.25%. That was very high, obviously. However, it was nothing, because by August 1981 the interest rate had risen to an astonishing 20.78%.
The lesson for us here is that in August 1971 the Trudeau government would never have envisioned an interest rate of 20.78% as it was just starting on the road of ramping up its deficits. In 1976, things had started to get out of control; things had changed in the energy market and there were all sorts of factors that were leading to that interest rate going up, but the government had kind of lost control a little.
By 1981, we were in a spiral. At the same time, there was a national energy program that was devastating on the revenue side. I will not have enough time to get into that. Maybe someone could ask me a question about it and the parallel it has with our policy today. I would love to have that opportunity.
By 1981, we had a 20.78% interest rate, and ever since that time, governments have run deficits or we have had significant debt in this country, and we have been making interest payments on the debt that was run up during that time and forgone the opportunity to pay for things that we could have used those revenues for.
I have lots of other things I could say. I could talk about the government's absolute inability to generate innovation or take advantage of the substantial innovative capacity here in Canada around testing and the development of rapid testing, the development and procurement of vaccines, and the possibility that spending on those things early on might have resulted in a decreased need to spend the $30 billion a month we are spending on support programs right now.
I will wrap up here and look forward to taking questions from my colleagues.