Thank you, Mr. Chair, and to members of the committee.
I think a little bit of process needs to be understood here. As the normal operation of the way that Parliament works, first of all, bills are debated in the House of Commons. We don't even know exactly what the bill will be before us or the form it will take. It can be amended in the House of Commons. Presupposing a prestudy beforehand I think is premature at best, and reckless is perhaps is a better word for that. I think it's very much the position of our party that we want to have a full understanding of the legislation before we consider studying it.
As I said, the form of it could dramatically change. We're in a minority Parliament. Certainly, large amendments could be made. Studying it now just doesn't make any sense. I also think it's important that we look at the context this bill is being dropped into. We're at a seven-year record of disappointing economic results after disappointing economic results. In fact, I would dare say that the fiscal update could really be called the failure update.
Considering this is a document created by a Liberal government, in that document it says that we are going to have high interest rates, we're going to have continued high inflation, and it even projects potentially a recession coming forward. In the downside analysis it has two negative quarters, which is the technical definition of a recession. When we look at that and we look at the track record, quite frankly, of this government of not being transparent and not being open with Canada, I don't think it necessitates a filibuster but rather a discussion of the issues given the lack of transparency.
If we go through the failures of this government to be transparent, whether we start with the Aga Khan, when the Prime MInister took an illegal vacation.... He was actually found guilty by the Ethics Commissioner of illegally accepting a vacation. Then we continue on to this story of lack of transparency in a government that was supposed to be open to a fault. We go on and we look at the SNC-Lavalin affair, where we saw an Attorney General, a Minister of Justice, who by her own words felt pressure to interfere in an investigation. These are sacrosanct principles that this government is continuing to just wave over and push over.
You'll have to forgive me, members, Mr. Chair, if I'm going to insist on transparency and accountability. We are His Majesty's loyal opposition. Our job is not to be an audience, not to simply clap and applaud failure after failure after failure, but it is to be in opposition and we're going to insist on the principles of democracy being upheld. There's no doubt that some members on the other side, some of the Liberal members, will object to the fact that they are being held to account. It doesn't feel good, especially when you look at their tremendous record of failure.
Then we move from the SNC-Lavalin to the WE Charity scandal. This was incredible. During a time when our country was facing a crisis the government was looking to give nearly a billion dollars to an organization that had given members of the Prime Minister's family hundreds of thousands of dollars. Once again, I'm sure that this government would have loved to have just passed that legislation through and for the opposition just to be an audience and we would have just all looked the other way on this organization with its troubled history and its funding of the Trudeau family. They would have loved for us just to not do what we're supposed to do and not do our proper due diligence as members of Parliament, which of course, includes doing the appropriate studies at the appropriate times.
A prestudy is by no means the regular way this House operates. I, myself, have a private member's bill that just completed the second voting. We'll have our second hour of debate. We'll have our vote on Wednesday. But I don't get to have that debated at the foreign affairs committee until it's been dutifully passed, which is the way this is meant to operate.
As I said, there can be amendments in the House, and that debate can also inform the committee as it goes forward, so simply looking the other way is not how Conservatives want to operate. We want to properly investigate and have a proper debate. Let's look at the track record. Quite frankly, this Liberal government has not earned our trust. They continue to let Canadians down, whether we look at SNC-Lavalin, the WE scandal or the Aga Khan, and now we understand that the had a $6,000 hotel room—a $6,000 hotel room—at a time when Canadians are struggling just to get by.
Quite frankly, when we look at what's in a lot of this fall economic update, this isn't what the folks in my riding are asking for: the single moms who are having struggles just to get by, or the farmers who perhaps are facing restrictions on key ingredients of what they need to make their farms work, whether it be fertilizer.... On what they are looking for when they come to me, they don't talk to me about a 2% tax on share buybacks. That's not what they come to me to talk about.
Even students, who I'm sure would.... Interest on student loans is an issue, but that's not what they're coming to talk to me about. What they're coming to talk to me about is that unlike every other generation that preceded them, they can't afford a house. There are so many folks living in their basements, there are students going to food banks and there are larger economic issues. The reality is that unless we get the inflation beast under control, whatever good this government may attempt to do will simply be eroded or eliminated by inflation.
Let's look at the impact inflation is having on Canadians, on middle-income Canadians. This government came to office pledging to do everything they could do for the middle class and those attempting to join the middle class, and all that the middle class has seen over these past seven years is their economic ability, their economic strength, eroded, corroded, reduced and even eliminated. For the average Canadian, when we look at an inflation rate, whether it be 6%, 7% or 8%, that's eroding their purchasing power. If you're earning $60,000 a year, you are losing thousands of dollars at 8%, thousands of dollars for buying what you need. That's on top of the fact that taxes already take more from a Canadian than food, shelter and transportation combined.
The NDP love to talk about greed, but they fail to mention government greed, and the government actually has seen higher revenues during this inflation period. They've seen bigger increases in revenue than Loblaws or any oil company. It is government greed, but we don't hear about that. Even with these massive amounts of inflation taxes that are coming in to fill the coffers, this government wants more. They need more. Government greed is insatiable.
In this fall economic statement, they're actually going to increase spending by $6 billion—$6 billion in just this year—and on top of that, depending on how you calculate it, over the next five years there may be an addition $23 billion to $53 billion. The formula that's brought us high inflation, high interest rates and low economic growth is tax-and-spend government. What does this fall economic statement propose? It's more tax-and-spend government. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, yet that is a path that this government has chosen to continue on.
Given the fact that we are now in the seventh year of economic failure, on the litany-of-failure statement that came out this fall, yes, perhaps we do want to pause and actually study it, do our jobs and go by the appropriate process, which is to have it debated in the House. Hopefully, we also want to have a debate that is both engaging while civil, that calls out different provisions that perhaps can improve this document.
I myself was in the House on the initial introduction and heard many interesting comments. Even though the NDP have sworn their allegiance, of course, if you listen to their speeches, you would never know that. There were some quite brutal critiques of the fall economic statement by the NDP, despite the fact that they are going to vote for it.
I think they know, as we certainly recognize, that people are suffering. It's a real affordability crisis. When I go to my local grocery store or I stop at a local cattle auction or I go down the street to the local Tim Hortons, or even just listening to the radio as I drive in to Ottawa, I do not hear people clamouring for the capitalization of our corporations that will come from a 2% tax on share buybacks.
I do hear people struggling to pay for their Disney+ subscriptions. However, the deputy leader says they should simply cancel that. The deputy leader must not have been around children and seen the benefit of a Disney+ video and the challenges of parents going through COVID-19 and beyond.
When we look at the fall economic statement, we have that.... We just don't have many measures that will impact Canadians going forward in addressing the affordability crisis.
A couple of things that would be extremely helpful would be a reduction, a pause, or even elimination of the carbon tax. The carbon tax, of course, raises the cost of everything. This is by design. This is why the Liberals can't back off from this ledge that they're on. It's their sort of principle policy, what they have accomplished in seven years. It's that, and maybe the legalization of pot. Those are the two things that they can point to.
The fact is, the carbon tax is having a dramatic point.
We all agree, and I'm on the record many, many times—despite people spreading misinformation about us otherwise—that I believe that climate change is real and it is a real threat. What I don't believe, and what the commissioner of the environment said at public accounts when I was there, is that it has had an impact on achieving our emission targets. In fact, we have not hit one target amendment, right? We can't simply tax our way to economic growth, and we can't simply tax our way out of climate change. It just doesn't work that way.
The carbon tax is designed to incent people to have behaviours that reduce their carbon input, but the reality is that some of these behaviours can't be changed. The government likes to demonize polluters. The way this carbon tax works is that they don't attack the big corporations, they attack the little guys. They attack the single moms trying to get their kids to school. They attack the farmers trying to grow their fields. They attack all of the hard-working Canadians who are just trying to do their jobs.
Quite frankly, for someone earning $30,000 a year, buying a $100,000 Tesla, like some of the members of Parliament I've seen do drive around, is not an option for them. Today's equivalent of “Let them eat cake” is “Let them buy an electric car.” It is simply not affordable for many Canadians.
Even if you were a diehard believer in the carbon tax and that the carbon tax will get us to where we want, a little bit of acknowledgement, a little less of being tone deaf to where we are in the economy, a little bit of pragmatism, a little step away from ideology would say, “Okay, gas prices are already going through the roof, so the idea behind the carbon tax is to send a price signal to buy other things.”
Well, you know what? The market has already done that. This government's failure to make use of our national oil and gas resources has already done that. We don't need to add insult to injury. The price signal is high enough. Ask any of my constituents. At $2 a litre, that point signal has gotten across....
Maybe we moderate it a bit and say, okay, let's give a pause—just a pause—and once prices go down, we need to keep that price signal up. We need to make sure that gas, groceries and home heating continue to stay high, because that is evidently the objective of the Liberal government, but right now, it's already high enough. Let's give Canadians a break on that price signal that is driving Canadians to literally not be able to eat this winter and not be able to heat their homes.
Many Canadians heat with oil. I'm sure many Canadians would love to install a geothermal heat pump, but that costs tens of thousands of dollars. Someone earning $60,000 or $70,000 a year knows that half of that is going to the government, and then they're paying their mortgage and the interest rates have just gone up. They don't have money to get to the end of the month, much less embark on investing in a home renovation that can cost, I believe, $40,000 or $50,000 to get geothermal or to invest in solar panels on their house to help them to heat their homes that way. They simply do not have the money.
Canadians can only give so much money to these Liberals. They keep asking for more and more and more. They are absolutely relentless in their insatiable demand and need for money. The greed is palpable.
Another way they could have given Canadians a break in the fall economic statement would have been to reduce the payroll tax. One of the bits of misinformation that unfortunately floats around out there is that, somehow, by reducing the payroll taxes, EI benefits or the CPP will be reduced. That's not true. The reality is that they're overfunded, and a portion of them is already going to general coffers, which is going to feed Liberal greed.
On the Liberal greed and the fever for more and more money, what we've seen is payroll taxes increase year after year. In fact, over the seven years, someone earning the massive amount of $65,000 a year has seen a payroll increase of $750.
Overall, I'm troubled by this government's belief that the money should go to Ottawa and then come back to Canadians. Whether it is through their planned carbon tax rebate for farmers or their various other rebate programs, step one is always having that money come to Ottawa. What we saw back in the Martin days was that they honestly believed that if Canadians were given control of their own money, they'd spend it on beer and popcorn, and we've seen it again with the . This is the latest incarnation of it with Disney+.
The reality is I would trust any one of my constituents over anyone in Ottawa to spend their money. People in my riding and Canadians across this land are more than capable of handling and spending their own money. They don't need it to go to Ottawa.
Do you know what happens sometimes, Mr. Chair? You wouldn't believe this. Money comes to Ottawa and it stays here. It doesn't go back out to the people.
We have heard Liberal after Liberal saying to Canadians that the carbon tax is revenue-neutral. That is simply not true. Ten per cent of it stays with government. Even the 90% is very unbalanced in where it goes out, so in my riding of Northumberland—Peterborough South, the people in Cobourg and Port Hope, and even more so the people in Cramahe, Campbellford and Brighton don't have access to the public transport that many individuals in many other ridings would have.
Quite frankly, they have no other option, so that price signal that's meant to drive them to find a less carbon-intensive alternative has the opposite impact on them, because they are already struggling to get by. While an electric vehicle might have been possible for them if they had saved all their pennies, continued to work hard and made great decisions, the government is taking an extra $750 in payroll on someone making just $65,000 a year. The government is taking the carbon tax and tripling it. The tax rates are unbelievable.
We're also facing a labour shortage. What's this government's response? “Well, we're going to disincentivize work.”
If we have senior who is receiving GIS, they're going to face a dollar-for-dollar clawback on their GIS on top of that. Once they earn the huge amount of $14,000, they are going to start paying income tax. In addition to that, they're paying GST. Granted, they'll get some of that back in the rebate. They'll pay property tax, provincial sales tax and provincial income tax. You'll say, “Well, that's not federal.” That's not the way most Canadians see it. They see the government as one entity, and the government continues to take more and more. I'll say this part: At least in my province, Ontario, the Ford government has been willing to reduce or pause the gas tax. If you won't reduce or even pause the carbon tax....
How about we do this? Why don't we do what the two largest opposition parties—the NDP and Conservative Party—have been calling for, and eliminate the GST? Let's eliminate the GST on gasoline and home heating oil. The GST is driving up the cost of home heating and fuel. Unlike the carbon tax—as my NDP colleagues will point out—it affects people from coast to coast to coast. Remove the HST, at least on a temporary basis. You could reduce that.
Do you know there's no other country in the G7 that hasn't reduced fuel taxes in some way? We are the only outlier out there. Like I said, government revenues overfloweth, because of inflation. They are literally taking money. Do you know where that money comes from? The wealthy in our society have seen their million-dollar houses go up in worth to $2 million. In some cases, they've seen their stocks appreciate in value. Now, even that's coming down.
Who's really hurting are the people who are the most vulnerable in our community: seniors on fixed incomes and those at the lower end of the economic spectrum. If, in fact, you're earning $200,000 a year and see your costs go up by 10%, it's not a good thing, but you still get to eat. If you're earning $30,000 a year and see your costs of living go up by 10%, that very well means you're watering down your children's milk and going to the food bank. In one month alone, in Canada, we saw 1.5 million Canadians go to the food bank. That's a staggering number. A third of those were children. That's 500,000 children. In one month, 500,000 children went to food banks.
It's the inflation. That's the elephant in the room the fall economic statement fails to address. In fact, their projection has it magically decreasing to 3.5%. There's no rhyme, reason or explanation for why it reduces, other than it makes their numbers look better. What if inflation continues to increase? That, combined with two-quarters of economic decline—which it actually calls for, on the downside—is something called “stagflation”.
Do you know when we last had stagflation? It was when Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the prime minister. He brought this up. He and Jimmy Carter created this term. They created these left-leaning policies. They lead to the same thing, over and over again. You cannot tax and spend yourself to prosperity. It just doesn't work that way. In fact, the great Winston Churchill referred to taxing yourself into prosperity like stepping in a bucket, grabbing the handle, and trying to pull yourself up by the bucket. It just doesn't work that way.
What else would we like to have seen in the fall economic statement? They're projecting—like I said—a potential recession. You would expect something in there to encourage economic growth. I continue not to see anything that inspires economic growth. Economic growth is the magic elixir that will heal many economic problems. When we have strong economic growth, we are able to cover many of our other economic issues and challenges.
You would expect, if the government is saying, “Caution, guys—red and yellow lights ahead; we have a potential recession coming,” which, in their downside projection, they predict....
Interestingly, on their normal projection or the projection of what they would have expected, they have one quarter in negative and one quarter at 0.0. It's almost as if they were hedging their homework a little bit, Mr. Chair. In their main projection they didn't call for a recession. It's funny. It wasn't 0.1. It wasn't minus 0.1. It wasn't minus 0.2. It was zero. It's the lowest you could possibly get on a projection without projecting a recession, which is a little bit interesting.
Getting back to my point with respect to economic growth, if in fact the statement and the projections are correct—and many private-sector economists have said much the same, which is that we can expect an economic slowdown, if not a full-on recession—you would expect to see economic growth.
From our side of the table, what you might expect would be some targeted tax cuts—some targeted tax relief—to inspire business owners to take risks and to invest in the economy to buffer this result. It's the Keynesian philosophy. If you know you're coming into a recession, you reduce taxes.
My friends to the left of me would no doubt call for greater spending to buffer against this future economic slowdown. We didn't really see any of this. It was such a strange contradiction to hear the NDP speeches on this. They were condemning it and saying that it's terrible and then came out immediately saying they're going to vote for it. It just was such an odd contradiction. I'm sure their caucus meetings are pretty interesting, given the fact that there's such a dissonance between their voting and their comments, both public and otherwise.
Maybe one thing we could work on in this committee, if the NDP is serious about it, would be pausing the GST on fuel and home heating. Perhaps if they were serious about helping Canadians, they would join us in doing that.
As I've said—and I'll continue to talk about it for as long as I have to—the reality is that Conservatives will stand up for the principles of democracy, accountability and transparency. We simply won't rubber-stamp legislation because of this government.
We would do this regardless because my obligation is not to any member of this committee, not to the Liberal government and not even to my party. It's to Canadians. Canadians—the people of Northumberland—Peterborough South—sent me here not just to rubber-stamp legislation, but to do my job, follow the parliamentary procedure and make sure we have a hearing and a discussion.
These are billions of dollars. To come out and say that on November 30 we're going forward no matter what is not how democracy works. Maybe in some governments in this world that would pass muster, but not here in Canada and not with the Conservatives as the official opposition. We'll continue to hold this Liberal government to account.
With that, I'll take a brief respite from my remarks here.
When I first saw that this motion had come up for consideration, it was quite confusing. I'm part of the class of 2019, so I've spent half that time, or close to it, Zooming in, but in my understanding, from the time I have been here, legislation has a process that it follows. It gets introduced, it gets debated in the House and then it gets voted on to go to committee.
Now, I guess the trouble I'm having with this motion is the fact that we have not, in the House, voted to send this Bill to committee, so I'm not quite sure why we're having this motion. In fact, it is somewhat offensive in this sense. Canadians have voted in two elections, one in 2019 and the unnecessary election in 2021, which both brought forward minority Parliaments. They voted—both those elections cost hundreds of millions of dollars—and they sent us here to consider legislation.
I think they would have a lot of trouble understanding why this committee would presuppose that Bill would actually pass in the House. I think that's the underlying message of this motion. You're asking the committee to study something which is not been sent to committee by the House.
I find it quite unusual. It's not following proper process to try to bring this motion to committee before a vote has been taken place.
I want to give a real-life example of this. Many of you are familiar with my private member's bill, Bill . Many of the Liberals are. I spoke to many of them about Bill C‑256. Some of them are here today in this committee meeting.
Bill was what was called the “supporting Canadian charities act” and was designed to build on existing law that would give a waiver of the capital gains tax to private shares and real estate similar to what currently goes on with publicly traded securities. Now, for example, if you want to make a contribution of your publicly traded stock to, in the Winnipeg context, say, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, you can do that, and you'll get a tax receipt for the full amount of the contribution and you'll get a waiver of our capital gains tax. That's been the law of the land for over 20 years. My bill wanted to expand that to the sale proceeds of private shares and real estate.
Now, the reason I'm bringing it up is that I went through all the proper processes. I had the bill drafted, I introduced it into the House, we had our first hour of debate and we had our second hour of debate. I spent months talking to colleagues and all parties of this House, from the Green Party to the NDP to the Bloc, to the Liberals, in trying to gather support for this bill.
I did all the things that we are supposed to do as legislators to bring my legislation forward. Then, after the second hour of debate, it was brought up for a vote. This is not sour grapes, this is fair enough, and I accept the will of Parliament, but Parliament did not vote to send Bill to committee. In fact, it would have come to this committee had it passed.
Looking back on it now, if this is the way things are to be, the next time I bring up a private member's bill, I'm going to bring a motion to the finance committee every time, and I would encourage every member to do that. Just bring a motion and have it considered by committee before the House even votes on it. Why bother with inconveniences like a vote in the House of Commons? Let's just skip that step altogether, bring it to committee and consider it here.
What would have happened, I wonder, if I had done that and this committee had agreed to hear Bill before the vote in the House? What if we had agreed to have a study about it and we had spent weeks doing clause-by-clause, hearing from witnesses from the various charities across the country, hearing from tax accountants who could give us advice on the bill and hearing from the public service, who could give us advice on the bill? What if we had done that in advance of the vote in the House?
You know what would have happened, Mr. Chair. We would have wasted a pile of time.
I don't think the underlying flaw with this motion, Mr. Beech's motion, is that it presupposes the will of Parliament. It's asking to study a piece of legislation that we have not voted on to send to committee, and that is a fundamental flaw.
Now, I do want to talk a little bit about some of my experience on this committee. Some of you may remember that I was on this committee in my first year here, and then I went over to the foreign affairs committee. The year I was there, we were able to talk to the governors of the bank. The outgoing governor, Mr. Poloz, was here, and the incoming governor, Mr. Macklem, was here. This was in May and June of 2020. I had rounds with both of them. The funny thing is that I look back on those rounds quite often now because they are very interesting.
The round with Governor Poloz went something like this. Don't you think that this program of quantitative easing that you're engaged in of increasing the money supply might trigger inflation, and that inflation might trigger an increase in interest rates? I gave him historical examples, for example, what happened in the Weimar Republic after World War I, when the Government of Germany started printing money in order to fund war reparations and hyperinflation took hold, in fact, and people were literally going to the markets with wheelbarrows full of cash, not knowing how much things were going cost.
Do you know what Mr. Poloz's response was to whether it would cause inflation or interest rate hikes? He said no, that we were in such a deep hole that parliamentarians should be concerned about deflation, that it would be the worst thing that could happen. He said that we were not going to have inflation and that interest rates, if they went up one day, would be a nice problem to have.
You guys go back and listen to that tape. That's exactly what he said. It's a very interesting conversation.
Do you know what? A month later, Governor Macklem came, and I asked him the same thing. I asked if this program of quantitative easing that he was embarking on was going to have some effect, that increasing the money supply from $1.8 trillion to $2.3 trillion, almost 25%, might have an effect on the cost of goods in our economy. Well, do you know what he said? He said no and that we were in such a deep hole that they were not worried about inflation, that it wasn't going to happen and that they were not worried about interest rates going up. He said that, if interest rates went up, and maybe they would, that would be a good problem to have.
These guys both said that.
Fast-forward to today, when interest rates have gone up from the basis point of a 0.25% overnight rate to 3.75% in about six months. People's mortgage payments have quadrupled on top of the tripling of the carbon tax. People's mortgage payments are literally quadrupling almost overnight.
Now fast-forward to today. What are these same folks saying? We have Mark Carney saying that he thinks that Bank of Canada went too far and that they should have curtailed its quantitative easing program sooner. We have Deputy Governor Beaudry, who is at the bank as we speak, saying similar things. Even Governor Macklem is saying these things now. It is quite concerning that this has all gone on.
I'll just add one other thing. I want to talk about Prime Minister Paul Martin for a second. Before Paul Martin was prime minister, when he was finance minister in 1995, he brought down what was the most draconian budget in the history of this country. If you aren't familiar with it, I would urge you to go back and read about it. What he did was he cut transfer payments. He cut transfers to provinces for health and education. Can you imagine a government today trying to do that? He did it. Why did he do it? That's a rhetorical question, because I have the floor, so please don't answer it.
Why did he do it? Why did he cut transfers to the provinces? Did he just wake up one morning and think that this would be a good idea, that maybe we would balance the budget a little more quickly? Did he do it because he wanted to? Well, no. We know he didn't do it because he wanted to; he did it because he was forced to.
Why was he forced to? It's because big government spending had forced up interest rates in the 1990s to 6% or 7%, debt service had become a massive proportion—does any of this sound familiar?
Don't answer that. It's a rhetorical question, as well.
Government deficits, debts, had grown, interest rates had gone up and debt servicing was a massive part of the government's financial obligations, just like it's becoming now. The conservative estimate, which I think comes out of the fall economic update, is that next year the debt service will be $40 billion, up from $23 billion, almost doubled and almost as much as the health transfer.
But that's not exactly why he did it. Do you know why he did it? He was forced to. He was forced to because the bond rating agencies downgraded Canada. The Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post—one of those papers—called Canada an economic basket case on the verge of being third world status, which was the terminology they used back in that day.
Paul Martin didn't do it because he wanted to, because it made him happy to do it, he did it because he was forced to. I worry a lot—and I've talked about this before in my speeches in the House—that we are heading down a similar path. I cautioned about it in the past because I lived through the years of high interest rates.
Mr. Chair, I'm going to go off topic just for a second if you'll bear with me. When I bought my first place back in 1989 in Winnipeg—it was a condo in Osborne Village—it cost $86,000. I had a $75,000 mortgage with TD Bank. Do you know what my interest rate was? It was 12.75%. It was a first mortgage. That was a good rate. That was a very good rate to get. I was lucky to get it.
We are heading down a very dangerous path and this statement does the two things that are going to make it even worse. It's just bad medicine. It's bad medicine for the economy. What are those two things? They're increasing spending by at least $20 billion over the next five years, and they're increasing taxes. They're increasing taxes on Canadians through the paycheck taxes.
My pet peeve is the excise tax. They actually want to charge more—6% or 7% more—for a beer. That's sacrilege in Canada. Leave the beer alone. Let people have their beer. That's what they want to do. They think that's the solution.
Now they want to tax share buybacks. What I find interesting about that is that when they brought in the TOSI rules one of the things they changed was they said, if you're going to keep income in your company that you're not using for business purposes—what they called passive income—we're going to increase the tax rate to your nominal tax rate, and essentially what you would pay if it was considered to be personal income. The interest that you earned, or the dividends you earned, on the passive income inside a company, that was going to be taxed at a higher rate.
Why did they do that? It's because they wanted that money out of the company and in the economy doing something. That was the tax policy reason for it and so business people all over the country started to shed their passive investments and remove them from their company so that they could reduce the tax burden that the government had suddenly imposed on them. I say suddenly because that's exactly what happened. There was no consultation around that at all.
Now, fast forward to three years later and they bring in a policy, ironically, that's designed to do the exact opposite when it comes to publicly traded companies. The purpose of a 2% tax on the share buybacks is to force companies to keep their passive income inside their companies. Companies, whether they're privately held or publicly held, are not being treated the same.
You're saying to privately held Canadian corporations, no, you can't have passive income in your company. You're going to pay a penalty for that. They say to publicly traded companies, no, you've got to keep that money in your company because you might need it to expand your operations.
Government shouldn't be telling publicly traded companies what they need to spend their money on. That is an intrusion of the state that should never, ever happen. These companies should be able to decide on their own whether they need that capital in their company or not, but that's a whole other story.
So I am disappointed. That would be a kind word to express my feelings about this fall economic update, but, more than that, about the underlying procedural unfairness of this motion to presuppose the will of the House, to assume that the NDP is actually going to vote with the government when it comes up for a vote at second reading.
They haven't stood up and done that yet. They might not. Maybe some of them will finally see the light and realize the error of their ways, see how they've gone down the wrong path with this government. The fact of the matter is that we don't know. This motion assumes that this is in fact the case, and that's just wrong. It's wrong, but if this motion actually passes, I'm going to be doing this all the time. I'm going to bring motions on my private member's bill. I think we should all consider bringing motions on bills we're interested in to have pre-studies on them before they pass the House. Why not?
We're doing it here. I guess things have changed around here.
So with that, I am very, very concerned about this change in process, which I think can have only a deleterious effect on how we consider...by the way it also presupposes that when we're debating a bill in the House, it doesn't matter. I hear that all too often about time allocation. Time after time after time, the government cuts off debate in the House. “Those MPs—they couldn't possibly have anything useful to say. Let's get it to committee where there can be a real discussion about it.” It doesn't matter. Why are we spending billions and billions and billions of dollars on this place? Why are we spending billions of dollars renovating the Centre Block when time after time after time the Liberal government basically says it doesn't matter? It doesn't matter. MPs don't need to speak in the House on this. Let's send it to committee before it even passes, before you even know what the will of elected officials is. Let's send it to committee before the votes even happen. That's just not right.
So with that, I think I have made my point. I'm going to cede my time and the floor at this point, Mr. Chair, but I would ask to be put back on the speaking list just because I may have other important revelations that will be of the utmost importance for consideration here at this committee today.
Thank you very much for that, Mr. Chair.
I want to come back to the issue at hand, which is how the committee is going to conduct its business over the next several weeks.
However, I thought I might start just by sharing some observations about things that have been said around the table today. I note that one member in particular expressed concern about wasting time, and I'm wondering if people who are watching at home or who will consult the record at some point in the future will feel that we've done a good job of taking to heart any meaningful concern about wasting time. It was my frustration at the end of the last meeting that we didn't come up with a plan for what to do at this meeting, and it's an ongoing frustration that we're sitting around the table blowing off steam, which is not an illegitimate thing to do around Parliament Hill, but it has its time and its place. I'd rather be blowing off steam in the context of a productive study of something and not on a kind of open-ended conversation about what we're going to put on the agenda for subsequent meetings. It seems to me that that's not the level at which we should have intractable disputes around this table.
I'll start by signalling that and saying that I'm anxious for us to come to some kind of conclusion on what the path forward is going to be for the committee because I think we'll be doing more productive work, which will include an exploration of many of the same questions that members have been exploring here today, if we're doing it in the context of a proper study. I note that some members said that the legislation isn't out of the House. That's certainly true. They say that they don't feel ready to undertake a study. I would say, given the number of comments made about the content of the fall economic statement and the legislation that's already been tabled in the House, it seems to me that members around this table are in a pretty good position to start talking about the content of the bill. In fact, they are talking about the content of the bill. My question is this: Why can't we just do that in the context of a study of the bill? Then it would actually count towards our formal study and the conclusions that we will ultimately draw, whatever they may be, about the legislation. We could be doing that, and not only could we be doing that in the context of a formal study, but we could do that with the benefit of having people at the table other than just ourselves, whether those are Department of Finance officials or whether they're stakeholders from Canadian society who have legitimate concerns about the content of the bill. I think we'd be having a better conversation if their input was part and parcel of what we are doing here today, and it could have been if we had come to some kind of agreement sooner about how we want to proceed with the study of the bill.
I accept the frustration that certain members have about the idea of a prestudy. I don't think it's a great habit, but I'll say that, in my experience around this table in this Parliament, we have often been short on time. It has often been a complaint later by the same folks who exhibit reticence to have prestudies that we don't have enough time for fulsome study.
Just so that there aren't any misconceptions, I'm talking specifically about the Conservatives here who don't let debate collapse on certain bills. Then when it comes to committee, we engage in these kinds of long, drawn-out conversations about what we're going to study or whether we're going to study it or whatever, and then there are usually certain deadlines. I would say, particularly when it comes to government legislation around a budget or a fall economic statement, there are market-moving things in those bills that are going to have real consequences. I would say in the case of this bill that we're talking about the pandemic dividend, an increase in the corporate tax rate for financial institutions and the elimination of interest on student loans. Those are things that ought to be in place for the next tax year, and there's a limited amount of time. We're beginning a five-week clock within which that legislation has to be passed or it won't be in place for the following year. Not only will it not be in place for January 1 of the following year, it also won't be in place until well into the next year because Parliament won't sit until the last Monday in January—that's when it will start up again.
So, there is a reasonable time frame there. I think that it behooves committee members to be concerned about it, and that means certain things for the passage of the bill through committee, so it make sense for us to start studying it now.
Here's a little procedural advice for members around the table: It's impossible to amend the content of a bill at second reading, so the concern that somehow the bill could change, not only radically but even just minutely, is unfounded. I hope members will receive that as information about the parliamentary process. There are three types of amendments that you can move at second reading. You can have a hoist amendment, you can have a reasoned amendment and you can have a motion of instruction at committee. Those are the three kinds. None of them change the content of the bill, which was previewed in the ways and means motion on the Friday following the economic statement.
Members who aren't sure where the NDP stands on that will know that we voted in favour of that ways and means motion, which contained an almost identical version of the bill. You have to get approval of the ways and means motion in order to be able to table the legislation. We voted for the ways and means motion. It contained substantially the content of the legislation. Members can expect that the legislation will find its way to this committee table, one way or the other, with the support of the NDP.
To certain members, that appears to be a contradiction. I don't think so at all. It is not a contradiction to support things that you don't think go far enough, or that don't contain things that if you had your own druthers would be in there, when you think there are other good reasons to support it. There are some things we're supporting in there. New Democrats support the share buyback. We support the pandemic dividend. In fact, that was one of the items that was in the supply and confidence agreement. We felt that it was very important that financial institutions that benefited substantially from public funds during the pandemic, something that the Conservative leader loves to talk about, should be made to pay some of that money back. That's what the pandemic dividend is about.
I have been shocked, frankly, at the silence of the Conservative leader on an initiative that is meant to take that very same public money he likes to complain about out of the pockets of financial institutions and deliver it back to Canadians. It's not so that it can go to government largesse—there are real concerns about largesse when it comes to this government—but so that it can go to fund things like the GST rebate. That had all-party support, I might add, and was something for which New Democrats were fighting for a long time. It wasn't clear when Bill was initially tabled that Conservatives would support it. They finally did, and I appreciate that. That was a good thing. But we also believe you need to have money to pay for it.
I hear Conservatives talk about government getting a lot of money and government largesse. Other times they talk about the fact that the government still has a large deficit and a huge debt. Well, where do you think paying down the deficit is going to come from if it ain't going to come from revenue?
When we're talking about things like the pandemic dividend that directly target the people who got away with more money than they should have in order to bring it back into government coffers that don't have a balanced budget, that's called tackling a problem. It's not called largesse. It's not called socialism. It's not called whatever other kinds of propagandist terms people would like to use. It's good policy. It's about actually figuring out a way to solve the problem instead of trying to complain your way into government without actually proposing any real solutions.
That's why we're willing to support this legislation. It's because we think there are things in there that will actually make a difference. We recognize that this support has to be timely in order for it to make a difference to Canadians, which is why I'm willing to put aside my normal reservations about prestudies and get on with it. I'd like to hear from other people across the country about what they think about that legislation and see if there are opportunities to make it better, with enough time to actually make it better, instead of just complaining more about how we didn't have time to make it better. That's a responsibility of members of this committee in order to be able to get on with it.
With all due respect, it's not the same as private members' bills, which are important. I support a lot of the private members' business coming to this table. But it's not as though, because we're going to engage in a prestudy for a major government bill that involves one of their two basic financial documents for the year, all of a sudden Pandora's box is going to get opened up and we should be prestudying every piece of legislation that comes through the House. It's a different kind of bill with a different kind of consequence and a different kind of timetable.
That's why I'm prepared to support a prestudy at the table. I'm also prepared to do it in a way that offers Conservatives some of what they said they want around this table, including a prompt return to the study of Bill after we have concluded this business. I do think it's important that this table takes private members' business seriously and does so in the right way. I'm happy to add that to the mix if it means we can get some agreement. I think that would be a very good thing.
I also note that the Conservatives have a motion—it may not yet be formally on notice, but it has been talked about at this table—with respect to inviting the finance minister again and the Governor of the Bank of Canada. I have expressed my willingness to support that. I think that's a good thing.
But this meeting is a meeting where we could have been doing some of that stuff, and I am frustrated that we're having another meeting and we're all chit-chatting about the many things we'd like to do around this table and not doing any of it.
Let's figure out how we move forward. If there's a way to include in the motion returning promptly to Bill , if there is a way to have an agreement that will deal promptly with the motion that the Conservative finance critic has put forward at some point and then scheduling a time to deal with that, that's great, but let's create a package that allows us to have a plan for the next nine meetings that we have between now and Christmas so that we're actually doing work and we're getting these things done.
There is enough time for people to get enough things done that matter to them that I think we can work this out, but we're going to have to do better than we've done today, or we're going to burn another meeting on Wednesday, and all the more the shame. It will be hard to take people seriously when they're complaining about how fast things are moving and how little time they've had when we've burned up two meetings talking about how to schedule meetings. It's ridiculous.
That's where I'm at. Those are standing offers. I hope that people around the table will take me up on them and that we'll find a resolution today so that we can do real work on Wednesday, because I tell you, if I show up on Wednesday and we're doing more of this, my mood is going to continue to degenerate, and it ain't going to be fun, not for me and not for anybody else.
Thank you so much, Chair.
It's an honour to be here having this discussion with you.
I have to say that I'm coming at this today from the perspective of the long view, of how we focused on our speeches in the House today around extending hours, and then also of the concerns around committee. In serving on the Veterans Affairs standing committee, I can tell you that I'm very concerned about the time we have available to us, knowing the very serious topics that we're discussing as well.
I would like to say that I have a concern around this because, again, it is a change in procedure at a time when there's apprehension about how much time many committees are going to have to study the issues before them before we break for Christmas and then, of course, in coming into the new year, as the member has said.
I want to approach this from two perspectives.
First, as a member of Parliament, I represent Saskatchewan, and I'm very proud of that fact. I have to say what I feel and hear from my constituents. Being from a province with a million plus one hundred thousand people, you get a really good sense of what the whole province is thinking, and there's a great deal of concern around this fall economic statement. They don't have confidence in this government because of the way that things tend to get done. There's apprehension, especially around the fact that things get introduced in the House in a non-timely way and quite often end up on the back burner until all of a sudden they become a crisis situation, which, to me, is poor management.
There isn't a business.... I hear this all the time from my small and medium-sized businesses, as well as the larger corporations that are the undergirding of so many communities in the west. They say, “We would not be able to function like that and we're not allowed to function that way.”
I have to say that what I hear is concern around the fact that, yes, this is a crisis situation, but why is it a crisis situation? Think outside that box of the desperation of the moment and think of why we are in the desperation of the moment. The concern is around the fact that you can spend only so much and you can borrow only so much and, at some point, you can print only so much money. That's where the apprehension is with this particular fall economic statement and with the concern that it have its due time in the House and the opportunity for Canadians to listen within the House and hear members speak to it and then move it to the committee level.
I know that while it's important to have research and to have people who are the experts, who are the professionals, there's a third pillar that should always be there, and that is the lived experience of Canadians. That lived experience seems to be ignored to a huge extent.
You may say, “Well, we're doing all of these things to help Canadians at this moment.” I think that's the part they struggle with. It's at this moment and it's a great deal of money, and yet, when you spread it out, and in light of the fact that the housing support.... It's not even enough to give them a couple of weeks' sleep. People are staying awake at night. It's causing all kinds of issues within my riding, I know, in terms of people not being able to afford the things they need to for the very basic needs to meet their family's concerns, even in feeding them.
I have elderly people who heat their home with oil and who have now been told not only that the price of that is going up, but that their container is a decade old and therefore they must replace it. They said that this has come about federally. I'm going to check into that, because it's $5,000, and they're not in a place to do that right now in light of everything. That's why we have tried so hard to convince this government that Canadians are saying, “Enough already.” We need a pause. We need a break.
I will speak here not so much as a member of Parliament, but as an individual Canadian, in that when I heard “the worst inflation in 40 years”, that sent a shudder through my being. I was there and experienced with my husband what it was like to suddenly go from a profitable business in its fifth year of existence to being decimated, basically decimated, by interest rates that reached 22%, with a house that we could not afford and could not sell and a family of three small children.
All of these dynamics are what people are beginning to experience again now, so I really feel it's important that we step back here and get the committee to do the proper study.
What I hear all the time from Canadians in my riding is, “These announcements are made, and even with the COVID program, it was out on the website, but then there was no meat to it yet.” Why are we bringing this forward if there are...?
I don't have confidence that the government has said they're going to do this and then looked at the dynamics of what that will mean beyond the moment and into the longer picture. Already before COVID hit, we were in a situation where investment in our country was leaking all over the place.
I come from a province that is incredibly capable, that has all kinds of wonderful industries that are environmentally aware and conscious and doing good things. There isn't a part of our province that isn't making a difference in this country.
Of course, it's crucial that we recognize the capabilities of our country to do what government can't do, and that is to build an economy the way it needs to be built. It's doing what we need to do to assist, especially, as one member said, in regard to providing social assistance and our national defence. These are all things that are federal, but to be interfering in the way that has been done with the economic strength of our country....
I was able to sit on the industry committee the other day as they discussed a private member's bill coming forward called greening the Prairies.
I would like to invite you all to come to my province and say those words in front of anyone who works in our industries and our agriculture, because there is not a place in this nation that is more conscientious and doing more all the time to green the Prairies. These are kinds of disconnections that I am experiencing and hearing.
I think it's important, as I said, that we do things in the proper way, and that is get the discussion in the House. I'd welcome you all to come to the Prairies and find out where the wealth of this nation is.
I jest in saying sometimes that yes, the weight of a riding should be based on population, and on what they contribute to the GDP. Of course, that's never going to happen. However, we all know that if this country doesn't have what it needs to create the budgets that this government truly needs rather than to be doing band-aid solutions, which are important....
I know of people in my riding. You could compare it to the difference between making a loaf of bread themselves or having a sandwich that they have and then someone saying, “Would you like a crust as well?” Of course, you're going to take it.
Those are the circumstances, with a lot of what is in this fall economic statement, that I feel are not going to help in the long term. I want to see what we're going to do to make a difference, and I think I know what that is. I've certainly heard a couple of great speeches from my side of the floor, from a certain leader who I think is really encouraging Canadians and giving them hope.
That's all I have to say at this time. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I do want to discuss further the challenges with this piece of legislation.
Before I do, I do just want to go over a bit of process. Yes, certainly a government can't amend it at second...but they can pull the legislation, which has happened numerous times since Confederation. A government pulls their legislation and reintroduces it prior to a vote. That's happened numerous times.
My apologies for any loose language there. I am fully aware of how Parliament works.
However, I would also point to the fact that it was because Parliament didn't review it as in depth as they should have that the deferred prosecution for SNC-Lavalin got through. That was a failure of Parliament.
While I certainly understand and believe that everyone has the best interests of Canadians at heart, I won't back down for one second, no matter who it irritates or angers, from doing what I believe is right for my people of Northumberland—Peterborough South. That is to review this legislation.
Talking is part of democracy. In fact, “parliament" is literally a translation of “talking house”. That's what it means. What differentiates us from many other countries in the world is that we have the ability at committee in Parliament to share that. In fact, numerous times when former prime minister Harper was in charge, the NDP railed against time allocation as the greatest offence to democracy that man had ever known.
Members of this very committee have done that. I'd love to grab their speeches and go over them. I could read them word for word because they apply exactly today.
On a day when Motion No. 22 was brought forward, which is no doubt, in a way, to circumvent democracy, I will proudly stand up here and talk for as long as I have to, to stop this government's reckless spending. It's been proven over and over again that when a government taxes itself, taxes Canadians and taxes people of the world, it eventually leads to an equality—an equality of poverty. Everyone is poorer. The workers and the people who go to work every day are the economic engine.
This is meant as no slight whatsoever to our bureaucracy. We have many great women and men working every day, but ultimately it is the farmers in Saskatchewan, the miners in northern Ontario and the fishers on the east coast and west coast of this country who are driving our economy.
When we take money from those people, we take it from the productive engine and bring it to Ottawa and undermine economic growth. Economic growth is that magic elixir that fixes nearly every economic problem. You have inflation—economic growth. You have debt or deficit—economic growth. You have unemployment—economic growth. It is the answer to nearly every economic problem.
Ms. Dzerowicz talked about productivity and innovation and I agree with her. We are terrible at that. I think that's the only word I can use. We are terrible. We are near the bottom of the OECD and near the bottom of the G7 when it comes to innovation. This fall economic statement, other than repackaging one program, doesn't have any really strong, powerful things that could move us forward.
If it did, that might be a different ballpark. We might be able to have a discussion if we were serious about productivity.
We looked at countries like Ireland and Switzerland that have been serious about it. They've had full economic plans that involve policies from the left and the right and targeted tax cuts to encourage economic growth in targeted areas. There are certain areas where we can pretty much say that it is going to be a big part of our economic growth going forward.
Why don't we provide a series of technical benefits for artificial intelligence? Our SR and ED system is terribly out of date. It doesn't work like it's supposed to.
Why not take the opportunity and say, “Do you know what? We're going to have a slowdown.” We know that Canada's productivity, which is measured in GDP per hour, is worse than the United States' and Ireland's. Switzerland has nearly double ours, and it doesn't have the advantages we have, in terms of tremendous natural resources—just the sheer size of our country. Why would we not tackle that and go, “Okay...”?
By the way, there's all this talk about the subsidies that oil and gas get, which I'm not going to get into today. Do you know what? The average Canadian contributes $50 GDP per hour. Do you know what it is for oil and gas? It's $600. Their productivity.... It's the single thing the Canadian economy is struggling with most, and we are going to kneecap that industry.
Clean Canadian energy has to be part of the economic solution. It will drive our economy, going forward. As we transition to other fuels, we cannot simply disobey it and say, “We're going to completely eliminate an industry that is a productivity leader for our country.” We cannot abandon the workers across this country in clean, sustainable Canadian energy. When we look at this picture....
We need to enhance our innovation and productivity. I agree with Ms. Dzerowicz. There's nothing in the fall economic statement that will have a substantial impact. I've been saying this in the House since I was elected in 2019: We need to drive productivity, because, if we can make things and innovate more efficiently, effectively and quickly than the rest of the world, we win. We all win. You don't increase the wealth of a country by printing money. No country has ever taxed itself into prosperity. It's never happened—not once.
It's absolutely frustrating to me. We see socialist nightmare after socialist nightmare—Venezuela, Cuba and the Soviet Union. We know where socialism leads. It leads to poverty. We tax and tax and tax and tax. We say to those Canadians working the hardest out there.... It's unfathomable to me that a Canadian starting at $14,000.... This government believes they should start paying tax on that—$14,000. What's the poverty line? Is it three, four or five times that? A simple way to help people is taking less of their money. This fall economic statement has nothing to relieve that Canadian.
I also agree with my colleague Mr. Blaikie when he says some of this money—he can correct me, as I'm sure he will, if I'm incorrect—should go to deficit and debt reduction. If I can tell tales out of school, he's told me that before. Having a strong balance book is important to him. We agree on that point.
If the government said, “We are flush with revenue. Here's what we're going to do. We are going to take that money and dramatically reduce the deficit or debt”.... However, they are not. It looks decent—I'll give them that. The deficit is going down. I hear that. However, that's because of inflation. They're just taking more money from the most vulnerable, enriching themselves, then sending that money back out. That's the reality.
They are spending $6 billion more. If they had followed what the deputy leader of the Liberal Party said, and followed the pay-as-you-go system, where every new dollar of spending was to be met by a dollar of spending reduction.... That's in a different ballpark. That's not what they're doing. There's more and more spending.
Let's look at the track record of this government's balance sheet. It was given a balanced budget by the previous government. They were given that, even after going through the worst economic crisis of a generation. The Harper government still managed to balance the books—bring that balance sheet in line. Then what happened? A hundred billion dollars of pre-COVID deficit spending—$100 billion. You were given the keys to the balance sheet and you drove it right into the ditch—100 billion dollars' worth.
They said, you know, “We're fine. We have strong...”. What was Bill Morneau's comment? I think “fiscal firepower” was the comment of the day. Well, it turned out that he was about $400 billion short of what they needed, so they engaged and embarked in an aggressive quantitative easing program. We can go through the machinations of it back and forth, but it really equates to money printing—$400 billion.
Every time this has been tried—back to the Romans—every time a government thinks, “We have a great idea. This is fantastic. We control the printing presses. We'll never have any deficit or debt problems. We can just print more money”.... It happened in Yugoslavia. It happened in Argentina. It happened in the Weimar Republic. It happened in the 1970s right here in North America where they turned the printing presses on high and, once again, we were faced with inflation.
We had $100 billion of pre-COVID spending. Then, according to this government's Parliamentary Budget Officer, there was another $200 billion in non-COVID-related expenditures. That's $300 billion. That equates to about $20,000 for every Canadian family of four or actually a little bit more than that. That's $20,000 that Canadians received in non-COVID deficit spending.
I talk to my constituents. They're not telling me that they're $20,000 to the good after the last three years of spending. I would not hesitate to say that if that $200 billion plus $100 billion was, instead, were either put to the debt or deficit, as Mr. Blaikie insinuated—he'll correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure—that would have put us in a much better position.
Right now, going forward, according to the fiscal statement, we're looking at debt charges of about $40 billion. I think that's roughly equivalent to the health transfers this federal government pays out every year. We would not have to be paying that if the $300 billion—instead of being spent on things like “ArriveScam” and other reckless Liberal projects, and to Frank Baylis, amongst others, through a series of companies—was left in the pockets of government and we paid down debt or the deficit, where we wouldn't have to pay the $40 billion in interest charges, or even better yet, if it was left in the pockets of Canadians.
What will happen is that if, in fact, we leave more money in the hands of our workers, of our job creators, they will invest that money. Ms. Dzerowicz was absolutely correct; for every dollar that an American company invests in capital investment, Canadians invest 43 cents. That's the statistic. That's what's real.
I don't understand how you cannot then take that as.... One of the major expenses for any Canadian or any Canadian business is taxes. It's directly controllable by government. If we reduce our share, it only makes sense that companies, that individuals, will have more money to invest in the technology of the future.
If we don't get this right—and I say this in all seriousness—we're going to have serious challenges down the road. We are not investing in capital as much as the United States. We are not innovating. We're not investing in our innovation like many of our OECD partners. In fact, we were last at the OECD in terms of capital investment.
The solution to that is not more taxation. That's the part I don't understand with the 2% tax on share buyback. I don't even know whether that will be meaningful. I suppose economists will contemplate that and will comment on that, and I'm eager to hear their expert testimony. However, at 2%, I suspect it won't even meaningfully impact anyone's behaviour.
Why is it...? There are always two options. There are a carrot and a stick with all of these policies. Why does government always go to the stick? Why could it not give a break to those companies that are doing things right with respect to productivity and innovation? Why could they not, even if they wanted to take a more traditional, left-wing approach, invest in research and education?
I have been studying Ireland's economy. They're moving ahead of us when it comes to innovation and productivity. In fact, they are ahead of us. They've been very nimble on economic policy. They're a unitary state, so granted it's a little bit easier for them. It's both on the left and right-wing sides.
They are investing dramatically and quickly into their education system. They see an opportunity for artificial intelligence, genetics research for the economy of the future. They started paying for education in those fields. They're paying for research and development.
Of course, to fill one of the big gaps that our economy has always had and continues to have, we need some of the brightest minds in the entire world. We attract so many great newcomers to our country, and we need an immigration system that actually welcomes folks. I can't tell you how many individuals come to my constituency office so disappointed and despondent by the treatment they've received from this federal government. Let me be clear, on the record, that we need newcomers. We need the diversity in our country. We need the brainpower that they bring. We need their labour. But we have to make it less arduous for them.
I'll give you one example. We had in our riding a machine that cost tens of millions of dollars. They needed a team from India to help install it. This was not even a long-term immigration issue; they were just coming for a couple of months to help get this machine off to go. It drives jobs and productivity. They had to wait for months and months. Every day the machine sat idle cost thousands of dollars, and employees had to be laid off, because we couldn't get out of our own way.
There are things within the bureaucracy, very left-wing ideas that could help move the ball forward. This government won't even do that. They won't even stay true to their own ideology.
The other thing that Ireland does, very smartly—and many other countries, including the United States and Switzerland do—is targeted tax cuts, tax relief systems, and updated regulatory systems.
Our Income Tax Act is way out of date. We need to have substantive reform there. Like I said, the SR and ED system is broken. Ask any expert and anyone in the technology industry. It's not working. It's not helping to innovate.
Instead of targeting a 2% tax on share buybacks, why not help these companies and provide them with targeted relief that will encourage them? Not relief—as the NDP have rightly pointed out—that will lead to them racking up profits or paying huge dividends while at the same time collecting corporate welfare in the form of wage subsidies or otherwise. We need to have targeted, smart tax relief.
We would not be creating new ground, here. There are all sorts of countries and jurisdictions around the world...even some of our provinces are leading the way with respect to that. I know Ontario has done great things. Alberta has done great things. Why not look to some of the Ontario and Alberta processes to help attract some of these businesses and grow productivity that everyone—it appears, around this table—agrees on?
This fall economic statement just didn't have anything.
My concern—hopefully in the short term—is the affordability crisis. When I look at the affordability crisis, I don't see anything in the fall economic statement on that. As I said earlier, no one in my constituency was calling up and saying, “Philip, what we need is a 2% tax on shareholder buybacks so that public companies can have more capital”. I didn't hear that once. Maybe it's different in some of the other constituencies, but in Northumberland—Peterborough South that was not even brought up.
What I have heard over and over again, is that the cost of living is just getting too expensive. These Liberals are pricing people out of their homes. They're literally pricing people out of their grocery stores and into food banks.
In the long term, the productivity and innovation piece is something I'm very passionate about. I've spoken numerous times in the House about it, but there's nothing really substantive in there.
One of the pieces that's missing, which I think most experts will comment on and talk about, is the fact that we have a gap between the great researchers we have, the great post-secondary education and the final product. It's not the research product part that.... Obviously, we could always use more research, but it's the development piece.
As part of the pre-budget consultations, I get to hear from many different industries and many different institutions about this gap in the Canadian economy. In everything from auto manufacturing to artificial intelligence and cancer research, they all say the same thing. We're not investing in that development piece.
What that means is.... They do great work at the U of T, at MaRS and at the University of Waterloo, and they come up with amazing ideas. Unfortunately, many times, the people, the ideas or both work their way across the border or to the EU and we, as Canadians, don't necessarily get the benefit of these great ideas as we should.
This is something that we could certainly work on together on a non-partisan basis. I think all parties...I think most experts see this as an issue with respect to the Canadian economy and, quite frankly, I've seen it for decades. This is something that I was hoping to see in the fall economic statement. I was hoping to see a real commitment to increasing the productivity and innovation of our country for the long term of our country.
When we get back to the process of this legislation and why I feel it's important to talk, I don't believe that hearing Mr. Blaikie, Mr. Beech, Mr. Baker or Ms. Chatel talk is ever a waste of time. I believe my colleagues have valuable input. I believe that they were put here, and the taxpayers spend those billions of dollars, so that we can talk out those debates and talk out those discussions.
As in Good to Great, if anyone's read that book by Jim Collins.... It's a fabulous book. I highly recommend it. I see I got a smile. One of the things that he writes in there is that a lot of ideas are bad ideas. If you propose an idea, it's more likely to be bad. Think about it. It's more likely to hurt than help. That's why Parliament is meant to be like this. It's meant to be a vetting process, so that we have those hedgehog ideas that get through and empower Canada to own the next century.
However, part of that is it's important to say no. It can't just be “Yes, yes, yes”, because if you have a hundred priorities, you don't have a priority. When we are going through this, it's our job as His Majesty's loyal opposition to critique this and to be the ones who fearlessly say no, that is not a good idea and, in fact, that is incorrect.
Like I said, as Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great, the chances are that we're right more often than we're not when we say “no”, and sometimes the best thing a government can do is say, “No, let's not do that”.
As Edmund Burke said many years ago, why would we just on a whim throw out the tried and true for something new and unproven? The hours that we spend in Parliament, I think, are incredibly valuable.
I will continue to discuss it unapologetically. Quite frankly, like I said, I don't care who I irritate or who I annoy. I'm here for the people of Northumberland—Peterborough South and for Canadians, and if that means angering or annoying people, that's fine. I do it to my 7-year-old daughter all the time, and I'm happy to do it here in Parliament as well.
There's one element that I want to go back to, because I'm hoping it might actually be a fertile area for future discussion and amendments. I had a PMB with respect to propane and natural gas for farmers and giving them an exemption from the carbon tax. Actually, it's being carried forward by , the member for Huron—Bruce. The private member's bill is Bill . I think it will do some great things. I'm looking forward to it receiving royal assent, because some farmers are paying tens of thousands of dollars.
In the discussion on that legislation, the part that I actually found most shocking was the fact that we charge GST on the carbon tax. Like, how does that make sense? If a private corporation did that, the NDP would be absolutely losing their minds. The government is charging a tax on a tax. In what world does that make sense? The most bizarre part about that, though, is that as part of the PMB discussions, we had a member from the finance department come before us. I had some initial ground-setting questions. When I asked if we charged GST on the carbon tax, he said no.
This was the ministry of finance. They didn't know that they charged GST on the carbon tax. Of course, a couple of months later, without apology but just by a way of explanation and in as many words as possible, in as fulsome a word salad as you'd ever hear, he admitted that, yes, they do in fact charge GST on the carbon tax.
Later in my questioning about charging the GST on the carbon tax, as to why they did that...because I know that we have a number of individuals here who are experts on tax policy. They even worked for the federal government to great esteem and to high regard. They would be aware that nowhere in tax policy does it say that it's good policy to charge tax on a tax. There are different schools of thought that say where someone's wealth increases, they should pay their greater share. That makes sense. But your belief that you should be paying more GST because you pay more carbon tax doesn't hold water. It doesn't make sense.
So an easy fix, and I think one that would be relatively consistent with what the NDP are calling for, along with us, would be the removal of GST on home heating. Let's at least reduce the carbon tax by the GST we pay on the carbon tax.
By the by, it also blows up the Liberal narrative that the carbon tax is revenue-neutral, because that GST you don't get back. You don't get that as part of the carbon tax rebate. That GST is just money that goes, through government greed, into the coffers of the government. Through the ever-expanding and insatiable greed of the government, it's getting more and more and more Canadians....
Let's also put this into context here. The single mom starts paying tax at $14,000. That's the personal exemption. However, then there are the trillionaires and the billionaires. Do you know how many people from the Panama papers have paid taxes on those claims? Zero. Do you know how many dollars have been collected from the Panama papers?
Of course, the Panama papers listed a number of Canadians with respect to tax evasion. These are not small numbers. Maybe the CRA could back off the small business owners trying to make their way. Instead of, in the fall economic statement, asking for thousands more dollars so they can have thousands more auditors, maybe they could focus on the Panama papers. That's now many years back and they have not collected a single penny.
I understand that it might be easier to audit a small business owner who's trying his best to earn money, but what about the billionaires and the trillionaires who are named in the Panama papers and are still not out one dollar? Not one dollar has been collected. Not one individual has gone to jail—not one—and these are serious, serious dollars.
Let's focus our guns where they should be instead of cracking down...as the former finance minister called small business owners when he called them tax cheats. Yet his friends, the folks he vacations with in the millionaire islands, the billionaire islands—they're fine; they're fine.
Let's just let the Panama papers and all the people who are evading taxes to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.... Did we see any update in the fall economic statement about that? I didn't see any.
I know that I've certainly heard Peter from the NDP and many others—and our has always been clear—say that every Canadian should pay their fair share. I'm calling on this government again. Let's get an update. Before we shake down another innocent hard-working Canadian business owner with another needless audit, let's go after the trillionaires. Let's go after the folks who were named in the Panama papers for illegally avoiding Canadian taxation. It's those tax havens that this government should be going after if they're in need of that revenue.
When we have that revenue—right now, we have record revenue because of inflation and because we've taken so much more from hard-working Canadians as a percentage—let's apply that to debt reduction. Well, we have to start with deficit reduction, of course, and maybe one day, miracle of miracles, maybe we'll pull out Adam's sock there and we'll actually get a dollar of debt reduction, which will help all of us. It will help Canadians by reducing—hopefully—the tax burden going forward. It will also help social democrats, as they'd have more money to spend on the projects they would like, but a bigger deficit—a bigger debt—doesn't help anyone.
When we look at the future, we need to have a fall economic statement that I'm hoping.... In fact, I know that underneath a government, we won't have a fall economic statement that is just a litany of failure after failure. When the Liberals fail, the good news is that they get to reannounce the same program over and over again, and that's what we saw in there.
After seven years of these Liberals being in charge, we have high interest rates that are driving up the costs for everyone and making it nearly impossible for many Canadians to afford a house. In fact, some are giving up the ability to ever own a home, which is just so sad.
We have continued high inflation, which drives up the costs of everything. Like I said, if you're a millionaire, a billionaire or a trillionaire, you're watching some of your assets continue to increase in value, but if you're a hard-working person, if you're like family members of mine, who are on the line or are working at a steel plant or in a mine or in a field growing crops, that inflation hurts, and it hurts a lot. It's not just a number on a spreadsheet. It's their ability to feed their families. Quite frankly, we've seen the evidence of that. We've seen record food bank usage. Food bank usage has increased by over 20%. In one month, 1.5 million Canadians went to a food bank, 500,000 of whom were children.
We have high interest rates and high inflation and the government says, “Oh, by the way, in order to counteract the inflation we created, which both the current Governor of the Bank of Canada and the future Liberal leader, Mark Carney, said is a Canadian phenomenon”—so we have the self-inflicted wound of inflation—“in order to fix that ailment, we're also going to slow the economy.” Of course, slowing the economy isn't just numbers either. It's not just GDP going down. It's good hard-working Canadians, women and men across this land, who are going to lose their jobs.
This is their document. They produced this document. What they're telling Canadians is that they have high inflation to deal with and high interest rates. There's no doubt that some Canadians will lose their homes, because those who are having to re-up their fixed mortgage or who have a variable, depending on how it's structured, have probably seen an increase in their payments.
Before this, Canadians were within $200 of insolvency, so guess what happens if your interest rate goes up by $200? It continues to increase. On top of that, you now have slowing economic growth. We have economic growth that, according to this projection, is either just on the knife's edge of being a recession or, in their downward projection, is indeed a recession.
We have high interest rates, high inflation and low economic growth. This is a triple economic nightmare that seven years of Liberal government has led to. It's increasingly pricing Canadians out of their own country.
Mr. Chair, who is up next on the speaking order?
Thank you very much. I'll continue to do that.
With regard to the WE scandal, the challenge is that we saw a lack of transparency. Then we, of course, saw the numerous other scandals along the way that have really impeded the credibility and trust of the Liberals as we go forward.
I take your point, Mr. Chair and Mr. Baker, with respect to what we want, of course. However, I think the critical part of what I'm trying to say is that we're trying to put this all in context as to why we might want to have the deputy leader, the , and the Governor of the Bank of Canada in to talk about inflation.
Seven years ago, this government came in saying, “We're here. Canada is back. We're going to be fighting for the middle class.” Well, let's look at what has happened since then.
We had $100 billion of deficit spending before COVID ever hit our shores. That's $100 billion. At the time, the said that there would be a tiny, tiny, small deficit that you would barely even notice was there. I think the max was to be $10 billion. Of course, that blew up to over $100 billion in deficit spending.
Because of that, they had fiscal fireworks. Their then Minister of Finance, who was taken down over the WE scandal, which I talked about earlier, didn't have his much-proclaimed fiscal firepower.
As I said, the government really only has, then, three ways of raising money.
One way of raising money is with direct taxation. It goes out there, and it taxes people. Well, Canadians are already heavily taxed. Some of the highest taxes in the world are paid here in Canada. It was limited then, during the break of COVID, of course. Everyone was in a difficult time. The economy was in a slowdown. That wasn't really a realistic option for the government.
The other option it could go with is to borrow the money. I don't know if that was explored or not. I sort of assume it wasn't—or not to any great extent—because what it chose to do was the third path, which is quantitative easing. It is the sale and purchase of bonds by the government. It really equates to the printing of money. The more you print money.... The reality is that we get inflation.
We're going back now to the fall economic statement and to discussions about having the finance minister and the deputy leader, , be here. It's critical to understand where the inflation came from.
It's clear. Mark Carney and Tiff Macklem agree that the inflation came from these Liberals. It is a Canadian-made phenomenon.
We just had inflation, again, staying stubbornly high. That inflation hits the middle class and, even more than that, the people who are attempting to join the middle class. Those who are at the lower end of the economic spectrum are getting obliterated. They are getting absolutely hurt by inflation. We had a record high number of Canadians attend food banks in March 2022. It hit 1.5 million Canadians, a third of whom were children. That's 500,000 kids. That's the impact.
To this day, it boggles my mind. I don't believe the has ever apologized for these comments when he said, “I don't think about monetary policy.” He said that right before we came into one of the worst monetary crises of my lifetime. In at least 40 years, it hasn't been that high.
Here we have the leader of a G7 country, one who's trying to cast himself as the dean of the G7. In one of the most significant economic issues of our times, he says right before it happens that he doesn't think about monetary policy.
Well, as I said in the House, that is relatively obvious.
However, the monetary policy is having a real impact on Canadians. It's not just numbers, spreadsheets or things that are studied at the finance committee. It is children who go hungry at night. It is kids. It is parents who can't afford winter clothes for their kids. It has a huge, huge impact.
Quite frankly, it is so crocodile-tears and disingenuousness when the Liberals get up and say, well, the Conservatives didn't support this program; they don't have a heart. Do you know what doesn't have a heart? It's sitting there and watching inflation get higher and higher and higher. It's watching young adults be unable to afford a house. It's watching parents be unable to feed their children, and not doing anything.
When it comes to the fall economic statement, I've been in the discussions and have heard some of the debate, but I have not heard how it's going to combat inflation. What part of that combats inflation? What part of that is going to bring down inflation? The cause or the disease is inflation, but the symptoms are the affordability crisis. I don't see how this is possibly going to impact the affordability of this.
As I've said before with respect to the fall economic statement, not one of my constituents was saying, “You know what we really need, Phil? What we need, Mr. Lawrence, is a 2% tax on share buybacks.” The idea of that, of course, is that corporations won't release as much money, they'll invest more money in capital, and that will affect the affordability crisis sometime in maybe 2070. As I said before, I wait to hear from the economists on the actual impact. I have some skepticism as to whether a 2% tax will really make that dramatic an impact on the capital.
I do have some ideas, while my colleagues are attentive and listening, about how we could do that. What could have been included in the fall economic statement is a responsible industrial strategy that would have promoted innovation and productivity. These Liberals have driven down productivity and innovation. They also came into office saying “we believe in science” and “we believe in innovation and productivity”. I remember that the early-edition Liberals, the Paul Martin Liberals, had some pretty aggressive policies on driving innovation and productivity. Unfortunately, these Liberals seem not to be interested in economic growth.
I actually asked the deputy finance minister whether he thought economic growth was important. He agreed with me 110% that it is important. But with these Liberals, you don't get the idea that.... Like, what's the big idea that came from this fall economic statement? What is this idea that's going to drive the Canadian economy into the next century? We have real problems, because these Liberals have hurt our productivity. We have the average Canadian earning per hour of GDP about $50. In the U.S. it's $65. In Ireland it's around $80. In Switzerland it's even higher than that. There's a direct correlation there with how people live, because wages are directly impacted. In fact, if you look at all those countries, they rank in the same place with respect to real wages.
This fall economic statement could have been a real opportunity to grow the economy, not just for the short term but for the long term. We have so many out-of-date income tax and regulatory provisions that this fall economic statement could have addressed. Just on this committee alone, we have some great minds and some folks who have incredible history with tax policies. Why were they not put to work during this fall economic statement? Why were some of their ideas not captured on that? We would take a big swing at taking Canada into owning the next century.
It used to be that we would have leaders who would really carry that torch forward. People like Wilfrid Laurier and others had brave and bold pronouncements on what the future of Canada would be, not just half measures or measures that don't affect the near term and that don't affect the long term. Instead, we just have more of the same.
Here are a couple of other things that we could have put in the fall economic statement that I think would have made life better for Canada.
We could have affected the cost of gas, home heating and groceries. How could we have done that? Well, we could have reduced the taxation of fuel, because whether it be fossil fuels or otherwise, they are driving the costs in all of our economy.
Even if you don't want to access the tax, even if you don't want to get rid of the carbon tax, for whatever ideological purpose.... Clearly, it hasn't accomplished its objective. We were number 58 out of 63 in the recent COP report. This tax policy is a failure as an environmental policy, I think, and clearly, if we've been driven down to 58 out of 63.... Candidly, the Harper government had a much better record on emissions than the Trudeau government. That's just the fact. Without the carbon tax, we did better fighting emissions than we have done with the carbon tax.
Even if you were a diehard believer in the carbon tax and your ideology trumped all common sense and pragmatism, we would have thought there maybe could have been an opportunity to pause the carbon tax just until inflation returned to within the 1% to 3% target range. We just give Canadians that little bit of break. It's going to cost Canadians who have oil heating, just in my riding, $5,000 to $10,000 to heat their homes—and I hear from my east coast fellows and women that it will be even more. This is a huge amount of money. If they have a mortgage, their interest rates have gone up. If they're renting, if they can even find a rental, because the occupancy rate is about 99.5% or so in my riding.... That basically means there are no rental properties available. If they were able to get a mortgage, that means they're now paying more if they had a variable rate, or they will at some point when they renew. Life is getting much tougher for Canadians because of this.
Then we see in this fall economic statement that they basically predict a recession. In talking to the officials, they gave us a quarterly breakdown. In that breakdown, there were not two negative quarters. That much is true. There was one negative quarter and one at 0.0%. That's cutting it pretty fine. It's almost like they engineered that, so there wasn't a forecasted recession.
We have this recession on the horizon. We have high interest rates. We have high inflation. I think a reasonable option would have been to at least pause the carbon tax, if they didn't want to eliminate the carbon tax altogether.
Let's see if we can take a further step back there and say that this carbon tax, this tax policy, is a signature piece; that, and legalizing marijuana of the last seven years; that, and high inflation and high deficits. They could have said, “We as Liberals don't want to give that piece up. We're going to be blinded by our ideology. Maybe we could just reduce the HST on home heating fuel”. Would that not be a reasonable solution to give Canadians a break?
They could have included that—a very small amount that wouldn't have cost the treasury a very large amount, but would have provided some really meaningful relief to Canadians. I can tell you why they didn't do it. They want power. They want the money to come to Ottawa so that they can control it, so they can give it out and take credit for it. Quite frankly, it's so sad watching the Liberals pat themselves on the back for taking Canadians' money and giving it to other Canadians. They didn't earn that money. They didn't make that money. That was earned in Orono. That was earned in Brighton. That was earned in Campbellford. When that money comes back, it's never the same amount that was given in. I'll give you an example of that.
There was over $200 billion in non-COVID-19-related deficit spending. That equates to about $5,000 for every woman, man and child in Canada—or $20,000 for a family. I defy any of these members of the committee to point to someone in their riding who had twenty thousand dollars' worth of non-COVID-19-related benefit from this federal government over the last couple of years. That don't exist. The government is inefficient at allocating those resources.
It makes more sense, instead of taking money, giving it to Ottawa bureaucrats and then having it redistributed in accordance with Liberal ideology, to just leave that money in the pockets of Canadians.
We said okay, we won't cut the carbon tax. We won't pause the carbon tax. We won't cut the GST. We won't pause the GST on home heating as we did in the winter. How about this, then? We would stretch that compromise even further. How about you just remove the GST on the carbon tax? Just the GST on the carbon tax. Why could we not have put that in the fall economic statement?
It was amazing to me. At the agriculture committee I was asking a Finance department official about the GST on the carbon tax. He said to me that no, the GST wasn't on the carbon tax. He didn't even know the fact that they charge a tax on a tax. Of course, some weeks or months later, we got a letter in a very wordy [Inaudible—Editor] type of style saying, absolutely, you were right—but never an apology. It's not for an apology to me—I've got broad shoulders—but how about to the Canadians who were watching or the Canadians they misled? They should give an apology that perhaps a Finance official should know whether tax is charged on tax or not—whether the GST is charged on carbon tax.
It can be small amounts. If you live in downtown Toronto, people like the finance minister and you all have access to a chauffeur and all of that good stuff, or public transit, it may be a small amount. Now, if you're a farmer living in Saskatchewan or in [Inaudible—Editor] Ontario, it actually can be quite a large amount.
When my PMB, which has now moved on to Ben Lobb's PMB, which I believe just got through committee.... I was getting receipts all the time for thousands of dollars, not just for the carbon tax but actually the GST on the carbon tax, a tax on a tax.
The wild part about that is when I asked the officials why they charge GST on the carbon tax, their only answer was that it's easier to do it that way. I don't think that's a good enough answer. In a digital era, where we can make huge and difficult calculations of millions of different transactions in splits of a second, I think the federal government should be more than capable of being able to not charge the GST on the carbon tax if they chose not to.
Now we've got the carbon tax, we've got inflation, we've got interest rates, all of these things are piling up on Canadians. I think one of the critical pieces that we're also facing right now is a labour shortage in our economy. It would make sense to me—and I'm just a simple guy from rural Ontario—that if you want more of something, you incentivize it. You encourage it. You don't disincentivize it.
We need more labour, so part of that is, of course, about having a fully functional and well-working, well-oiled immigration system so that we can bring newcomers over and get them into our economy and working at a high rate. We definitely need newcomers to add that extra labour to our economy. Anyone who has a constituency office—I'm sure all 338 of us—has struggled with the immigration office as people are desperately trying to be reunified with family members they haven't seen for years. I have gone through boxes of Kleenex hearing the horrible stories of families being disunited. Also, there's the economic impact of people who want nothing more, and they have tremendous skills.
I was talking to one individual and he's an IT gentleman from another country and he wants to come to our country. He's working on technology that could be worth millions and billions to the Canadian economy, that could be worth thousands of jobs, but do you think the immigration system can get him in to Canada? No.
I have another individual who is a great doctor in one of our communities. His only request, so he can continue to be a doctor, is his wife being allowed to come to his country. He's been waiting two years for his wife to be given permission to come to Canada. He's now threatening...saying, “I can't do this anymore. I can't live without my wife and children for this long”, all because the immigration system is breaking.
The other part of this is, we need to encourage folks who already live in our country to be as productive as they can and, quite frankly, reward them. I am particularly thinking about seniors. Many seniors, because of inflation and other reasons, are being forced back into the labour market, even if they don't want to be, because they can't afford it. If they are at the lower end of the economic spectrum, perhaps they aren't receiving a huge CPP cheque and only have OAS and GIS. They are facing a nearly dollar-for-dollar clawback on their return to work.
I don't think any Canadian should ever be in the position of being worse off for going to work. I believe that workers should be celebrated, venerated and rewarded, and that no Canadian should be disincentivized to go to work. I know Canadians. We're hard-working people. Even if we are disincentivized, we'll still go to work, because we know it's the right thing to do. The fact that the government would disincentivize that.... The once famously said something to the effect that people lower on the economic spectrum don't pay taxes, and that's just untrue.
Mr. Chair, I'll raise this rhetorically; you can't answer, because I have the floor. I suppose you could, but no one else could, I guess. The personal exemption is $14,000 in Canada. That means if you earn more than $14,000, you start paying federal income tax. When we talk about all these great benefits for Canadians.... Why don't we just stop taking as much money as we do from Canadians? Why do we start taxing people at $14,000? Does that not seem a bit low to people here? We then add the GIS clawback for seniors. Very modest-income Canadians can be facing tax rates of 40% or 50%.
I get it. If you were found guilty of tax evasion in the Panama papers, we should throw the book at you. There's no doubt that every Canadian should pay their fair share of taxes. I'm sure there's some reason why—it has to be going on close to a decade, now, since the Panama papers came out—we haven't charged one individual. We haven't collected one dollar from the folks who were called out in the Panama papers. I'm sure there's some reason why we're taxing the single mom starting at $14,000, but the billionaire or trillionaire who has offshore assets, and who was called out in the Panama papers, is still not facing any type of prosecution.
The CRA was, I remember, quite ably questioned by of the NDP. The CRA was asked numerous times how many dollars...how many people have been charged, and the answer was, over and over again, none. We would then hear some more word salad from the CRA, saying, “Well, it's complicated. It's difficult. There are different things we're looking at. You don't necessarily understand that.” Well, I do understand and, to me, it's incredibly inequitable.
Like I said, we start taxing hard-working Canadians at $14,000 for federal income tax. That's not even taking into account HST and other environmental fees and taxes. There's the carbon tax, as well, which Canadians are facing. It seems so hypocritical when I hear the Liberals get up in the House and other places and say, “We have Canadians' backs.” No, you have Canadians' wallets and you're giving a bit of that money back and expecting to be patted on the shoulder while you, all the while, take more power and get ready to sprinkle the money you collected from other Canadians right before an election.
I think I might take a brief rest, but my colleagues can rest assured. I know they're eager to hear more. I have.... I could talk for days about this, I guess. I am more than willing to talk this out, but maybe, if they wanted to be in the room with us, perhaps we could have some productive negotiation, get on with this and move forward. It's clear that all the Conservatives are in the room, ready to negotiate, ready to talk, and all the Liberals aren't here. You can judge from that.
I'll just take a brief respite, and I look forward to hearing my colleagues talk.
The motion that we are debating in this meeting.... By the way, I have to say it is kind of surreal. I'm looking across the room—for all those who might be watching the live feed—and there are nine empty chairs where the Liberals normally sit. It is too bad that they're not here so that we could try to get on with the important study of the fall economic statement.
Having said that, the motion that's before us, I want to read it into the record again in case some people might have just tuned in since it was read in last time and did not have the opportunity to hear what it is that we're discussing. The motion says:
That the Chair schedule meetings to initiate a pre-study on the Act to implement certain provisions of the fall Economic Statement and that the first meeting takes place on Monday, November 14, 2022, should legislation be presented in the House by that time and, that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance be invited to appear with her officials on the bill; that all evidence gathered as part of the pre-study be considered as evidence in the committee's full study of the bill; and, should the bill be referred to the committee by Thursday, November 24, 2022:
a. Clause-by-clause study of the bill commence no later than Wednesday, November 30, 2022;
b. Amendments to the bill be submitted by 5:00 p.m. EST Thursday, November 24, 2022;
c. and that the committee immediately proceed to this study and hear from officials from the Department of Finance.
There are really two parts to this motion, from what I can see. The first part relates a prestudy. I think I'll talk about that part first.
The very first line says “That the Chair schedule meetings”. One of the pet peeves I have with the motion is how imprecise it is. This is a bill that, by all accounts from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, increases spending by at least $50 billion over the next five years, and yet it just says “meetings”. It's very open-ended. It doesn't say how many meetings. Is it one meeting? Is it five meetings? When are the meetings going to be? It just doesn't tell us. It's hard to vote for something when you don't know what you're voting for, Mr. Chair.
It goes on to say, “should the legislation be presented in the House by that time, and that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance”. Just so those who are watching understand, that is one person. It's Minister Freeland, and she holds both of those positions. She is both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. I'm just saying that, because I don't want anyone who happens to be watching to think that we're talking about two separate people. It's only one person we're inviting to come before the committee.
It goes on to say “with her officials”, but it does not say for how long the minister is invited to appear or even how many times, how many meetings she will attend. Will she be here for 15 minutes, 60 minutes, an hour or maybe a couple of different meetings for an hour or more? There's lack of clarity in the motion. It's just astounding.
It even goes further. It says she's invited to appear “with her officials”, but, again, it doesn't tell us which officials. We have no idea who is going to be appearing before the committee, because the motion just says “her officials”. We don't know who they're going to be or who she might bring. When I'm voting for something, I certainly would like to know what it is that I'm voting for, but I can't tell, because the motion doesn't give that information.
Just on the face of it, the first part of the motion around the prestudy is so vague and imprecise that it would be hard to support under any circumstances.
The second part deals with a situation where we're out of the prestudy. What's supposed to happen, just to clarify it for those people who are watching, the normal process, is that a bill is debated in the House of Commons and as many MPs as want to get up to speak to it. In fact, there are people speaking on the bill all this week.
I spoke on Monday night about Bill , but once that's done, there's a vote in the House. If it passes in the House, then it is referred to committee. The second part of the motion that we're talking about right now talks about that event: “should the bill be referred to the committee by Thursday, November 24”.
By the way, I just want to backtrack to the first part of the motion. I forgot to mention something.
I also find it interesting that we're not inviting other ministers. For example, given the increases in revenue that are set forth in the tables of the fall economic statement and the commensurate increases in spending and the increase in our debt, which is now $1.2 trillion, I thought it would have been a nice idea if the motion had actually included an invitation to the .
Certainly, the is an important piece to this study, I believe, but it would be easier to discuss this if our Liberal colleagues were actually in the room. They're on a TV monitor right now. They're not really available. In any event, hopefully, in the next meeting they will actually be here.
Why not the ? We could ask her all kinds of questions. How much additional personal income tax revenue is she anticipating on an annualized basis, year over year, between 2022-23 and 2027-28? We could ask her how much of an increase in corporate tax revenue the agency is considering over that period of time.
We could ask her how much additional revenue—this would be very interesting information to have—if she were invited to appear, as to, for example, how much additional revenue the tripling of the carbon tax is going to generate and whether or not, as the government says, Canadians will in fact be made whole. There's obviously a big question as to whether the amount of carbon tax Canadians are paying is actually commensurate with the rebates they're getting. We could ask her about the GST as well and what the forecasts are around GST revenues.
At the end of the day, whatever you want to call it, the fall economic statement or a mini-budget, it's a spending bill. It's a money bill. I think it's just insufficient to have just the . In fact, you could have other ministers appear. For example, the fall economic statement talks about the creation of a Canadian innovation and investment agency. I'm not sure which minister would be overseeing that particular agency, but it would be interesting to hear from those ministers.
Again, the motion itself is just so vague and ambiguous it's impossible to vote for, because we just don't know exactly what it is that we're voting for.
Going to the second part of the motion, again, this is the part that the House has now debated. Every member of Parliament has done their duty in the House. If they wanted to speak to the bill, they've done so, and the House actually voted. The House voted to refer it to committee. That's not a sure thing either. I realize the NDP is propping up the Liberals right now, but stranger things have happened. I remember very well—I was 17 years old—when Joe Clark's government fell on a budget bill, in I think November of 1979, and they didn't expect it.
I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that this fall economic statement would pass the House. I don't want to prejudge the will of Parliament, but that's what this motion does as well. It prejudges the will of Parliament by asking for a prestudy. In any event, as Conservatives, we're willing to consider a prestudy, but again, the motion is so ambiguous it's hard to know exactly what that prestudy would entail.
Again, this bill assumes a lot. It's assuming that the House has now passed it, but okay, so be it. The bill is now before the committee.
Then the motion goes on to say in point a. that “Clause-by-clause study of the bill commence no later than Wednesday, November 30”. Well, this is November 16, and this is a massive spending bill at a time.... The point has already been made. We asked the government not to increase spending and not to increase taxes, and they did both of those things.
Given the magnitude of spending, the increases in tax, the share buyback tax and all these things, I'm not sure that November 30 gives us enough time.
As I said, there are a number of ministers who really ought to come before the committee so that we can ask questions of them. There are other expert witnesses who can testify to the economic considerations around the passage of the fall economic statement by this committee and what amendments we might consider.
I am not really convinced that November 30 gives us enough time.
As I said, there is at least $50 billion in new spending. The fall economic statement bumps up the deficit to over $1.2 trillion, so this is not a matter to be taken lightly.
I don't know why this motion wants to.... I fear that in its haste, we might miss important information that would inform us on how we should vote on such an important matter.
We then have b., which says that “Amendments to the bill be submitted by 5:00 p.m....Thursday, November 24, 2022”. That's even sooner. Again, I'll say—and I want to make sure that I am speaking directly to the motion—this is the 16th. I don't know how we could possibly hear from all the different ministers and witnesses we would need to hear from before that time to have well-considered amendments proposed to the bill, which hasn't even passed the House yet.
It then says, “and that the committee immediately proceed to this study and hear from officials from the Department of Finance.” Again, I get back to the same point I made earlier on the first part of the motion, which is, which officials? Who are they sending? It would be helpful to know, so that we could prepare our questions in advance and we could potentially ask for other officials, for example, from the CRA.
Why is it just officials from the Department of Finance? Why wouldn't the come with her officials as well? Given the magnitude of the spending and taxation in the bill, I am dumbfounded, frankly, as to why the Minister of National Revenue is not being invited.
There are a number of problems with the bill.
The fall economic statement was just introduced by the on November 3. I think it's important, because a lot of times, people don't realize that there is correspondence that goes back and forth between the leader of our party and the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister.
Our leader sent a letter to the on October 30, which was four days before the introduction of the fall economic statement. In that letter, he set out some very important concepts.
I'm going to take just a minute. It's not very long. It's about a page and a half. I'm going to read it into the record, Mr. Chair, because I think it's going to be very important to have this information on the record, so that we can properly consider how we might move forward with this matter.
It's dated October 30 and it's addressed to the Honourable of the House of Commons.
Canadians are struggling. Many are barely hanging on. This week's fall economic statement comes at a critical moment. As leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition, I write to make clear our expectations from the statement.
But first, let's assess the situation we're in, and how we got here.
Inflation is at a 40-year high. Interest rates are increasing at the fastest rate in decades. The cost of government is driving up the cost of living. Justin Trudeau's inflationary deficits, to the tune of half a trillion dollars, have sent more dollars chasing fewer goods. This bids up the goods we buy and the interest we pay. Inflationary taxes increase the cost of making those goods. The more government spends the more things cost. Justin Trudeau has doubled Canada's debt and added more debt than all other Canadian Prime Ministers combined.
Paycheques don’t go as far as they used to. Canadians are cutting their diets. We recently learned that Canadians visited food banks 1.5 million times in a single month. That’s a 35% increase since 2019. Mothers are putting water in their children’s milk because they cannot afford 10% yearly food inflation. Seniors can’t afford to heat their homes, and winter is coming. Home prices have doubled, so 35-year-olds live in parents’ basements. According to Bloomberg, Canada has the second most inflated housing bubble in the world. Monthly payments on mortgages are rising even as house prices are dropping. Canadians are out of money. Consumer debt has skyrocketed. Rising interest rates caused by inflationary deficits means that this debt costs even more now.
The bubble is finally bursting and the bill is finally coming due. For years my warnings that out-of-control spending would balloon inflation, and then interest rates, were ignored. Now in a leaked letter the government seems to agree with me. Even the Prime Minister now talks of “fiscal responsibility.”
If the reversal is sincere, there is one way to prove it: stop.
...Stop the taxes: No new taxes. This includes canceling all planned tax hikes. Cancel the tripling of the carbon tax.
...Any new spending by ministers must be matched by an equivalent saving.
I look forward to reading the fall economic statement this week, Minister Freeland.
It's signed by .
What's interesting, now that I think about it, is that there was never a letter sent in reply from the to the , which would have been a nice courtesy.
Now, the reason I read the letter into the record is that what the is saying is that, basically, it was increasing the money supply and massive deficit spending that really caused inflation. Taxes just make things even more expensive. That was the medicine he prescribed to the . They're very reasonable suggestions. Most average Canadians, average middle-class Canadians and those working hard to join the middle class, I think would agree that those are very reasonable suggestions. Of course, it's the middle class and those who are working hard to join it who are the most disappointed people in this country right now because of how this government has managed their hard-earned tax dollars.
Mr. Chair, there is so much to say about this. I would like to say more, but I think I will cede the floor at this time. I'll ask to be put back on the speaking list so that I'll have the opportunity to revisit this issue and bring forward sofme other important revelations with respect to Bill that I really believe need to be put on the record at this very important time.
Thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Chair. I cede the floor.