The House resumed consideration of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, it is always great to rise to address the House on a very important topic, which is the opposition motion today.
Since being elected in 2015, the government that I am part of has put middle-class Canadians first and has been there to assist Canadians working very hard to join the middle class.
Our government is well aware that many Canadian families are struggling to make ends meet. Families across the country are facing a rising cost of living and high inflation.
We know Canadian families have endured a lot these last couple of years, including COVID and the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which has caused economic consequences such as inflation. Our government has been there to assist Canadians as we go through these events. We have also been there to put down a long-term plan for economic growth and for job creation. That is what we are seeing. We see Canada at a level of 126% with regard to job numbers. That means our economy is growing and Canadians are working and finding employment, but we do face some challenges.
Canadians are feeling the pinch when they buy groceries, fill up with gas, and pay their rent or mortgage.
However, I would like to remind my hon. colleagues that inflation is high around the world and that no one is being spared, sadly. Canada has never been immune to it.
As we know, we have been through a once-in-a-generation pandemic, and we are still suffering the consequences.
China's zero-COVID policy resulted in plant closures and supply chain disruptions, and the impact is still being felt around the world. We are still grappling with the economic impact of Vladimir Putin's illegal and brutal invasion of Ukraine.
These factors continue to hinder the flow of goods, creating shortages and exacerbating price increases.
Prices have gone up in Canada, and inflation has taken hold. Thankfully, we have seen some strong indicators that inflation is slowing down and it is coming under control.
We put in place a number of policies in the last year to help Canadians. We doubled the GST tax credit, which helped over 11 million Canadians in this beautiful country. We implemented a $500 supplement for Canadian renters, which over 500,000 Canadians have utilized. We instituted a dental care plan, and in the initial step, over 200,000 children went to see the dentist in 2022, and this year they have received benefits from that. Those are real, tangible measures where we help on affordability.
At the same time, we laid the foundation through the fall economic statement, through our budget 2022 and the forthcoming budget 2023, where we continue to grow the economy. We demonstrate the values of why Canadians have sent us here to the House to build an economy based on inclusive economic growth, where every Canadian succeeds. It allows them to fulfill their potentials and their passions in life. Those fundamental policies that we put in place reflect our values of building a strong and inclusive economy and an economy that works for all Canadians.
Our national day care and early childhood learning plan that we put in place has reduced fees in the province of Ontario by over 50%. For example, at the day care that my beautiful daughter, whom I love so much, attends, the fees have gone from $1,500 a month to $700 a month. That is a savings of almost $800 for families. We are very blessed. This is for families not only in that day care but also day cares across Canada. It is very important to identify for Canadians how we are helping.
We put policies in the fall economic statement. We are reacting, much like the Europeans are reacting, to the IRA and the CHIPS Act from the United States. We will ensure that we entice investment to this country.
Last night, I was joined by the in a meeting with representatives from Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. They talked about the opportunities that Canada has for job creation, for growth, and to continue generating economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians. It is not just for the top 5% or 10%, but it is for all Canadians. That is what is important. That is what is driving us.
On affordability, we put in place two massive cuts to reduce taxes and put more money in the pockets of Canadians through our tenure. We cut taxes for the middle class. We raised the basic personal expenditure amount to $15,000. Just that one measure means $350 to $400 a year extra in the pockets of seniors, students and individual working-class Canadians, those who go to work, save every day, work hard, do the right thing and who want to create a better future for their families. We have their backs.
During COVID, we put in place measures that would prevent the scarring of our economy, which is something I do not believe the official opposition understands, so our economy could bounce back very quickly from the pandemic when the economy opened up, and it did, faster than almost every other developed economy. We were there. We supported our businesses and workers, which was so important.
On trade, the opposition motion talks about items that are very important to Canadian citizens, but it ignores the circumstances that we have come through, such as COVID, the war in Ukraine and supply-chain issues, which are being ironed out. We need to put in place that long-term economic plan, which we are continuing to do. It is so great to be part of a government that understands that not only is it important to take care of the affordability factor, which we are doing with these measures, but it is also very important to continue putting in place measures that will support economic growth.
We just had the in northern Ontario to announce with the provincial government a very large energy storage project, $200 million or $300 million. We are partnering with other levels of government. We know that the transition is taking place within the energy sector. We know the transition is taking place to cleaner, lower GHG energy sources. We are there, again, dealing with the long-term issues that face us, but also assisting Canadians with a number of measures that we have implemented.
On jobs, which is very important to note, we are now at a point where our employment participation rate in Canada is at its highest on record for women. Why? We put in place a Canada child benefit. We no longer send cheques to millionaires and people who make a lot of money and really do not need it. God bless them. They work hard, they pay their taxes and they create jobs but they do not need that monthly cheque of a hundred bucks. We sent it to families who needed it the most. Those are based on the values of this government to ensure that middle-class Canadians and those working hard to join the middle class have that opportunity.
God bless the entrepreneurs. I have so many of them in the city of Vaughan, and it makes my heart warm because I know they are working hard and they are creating tens of thousands of jobs. God bless them. We will always be there to support them. Whether it is through putting in place policies like the strategic innovation fund, the Canada growth fund and the Canada Infrastructure Bank and ensuring taxes are competitive versus our peers, we will always be there for the entrepreneurs. Our values guide us to ensure that those hard-working Canadians, those middle-class Canadians working hard and those working hard to join the middle class have that opportunity.
For students, we eliminated the interest on student debt and apprenticeship loans. It is very appreciated by all the private sector unions. It is very appreciated by the Carpenters Union and its trade headquarters in my riding. It is very appreciated by LiUNA Locals 183 and 506. Local 183's training centre and its headquarters are in my riding. It is very appreciated by the hard-working electricians, millwrights and tinsmiths. It is not like the Conservatives who put in place anti-union legislation that we had to repeal. That is their record, so they can stand and take responsibility for it.
With respect to the Canada workers benefit, we put in place measures to help a lot of individuals, which was good to see.
We have much more work to do. We have a budget coming out. Competitiveness and productivity is something I am very proud of as well as economic growth. That is what our government is delivering upon day in and day out.
Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House are romantics, so I too wish everyone a happy Valentine's Day.
I am pleased to share my time with my colleague from .
I am very happy to speak today about this important motion introduced by my colleague from . I congratulate him on it. I think he has done an outstanding job.
Unfortunately, the Bloc member for is criticizing us for speaking often and extensively about the cost of living. In my opinion, it is our duty as members of Parliament to discuss these things. These concerns and issues worry and trouble the lives of our constituents, Canadians and especially Quebeckers.
I will read part of the motion, because it contains extremely important elements that can never be repeated too often to get the government to see reason. It reads as follows:
(i) after eight years of this Liberal Prime Minister, inflation is at a 40-year high, (ii) after eight years of this Liberal Prime Minister, the cost of groceries is up 11%, (iii) after eight years of this Liberal Prime Minister, half of Canadians are cutting back on groceries, (iv) after eight years of this Liberal Prime Minister, 20% of Canadians are skipping meals, (v) after eight years of this Liberal Prime Minister, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment across Canada’s 10 biggest cities is $2,213 per month, compared to $1,171 per month in 2015...
I would like to remind the House that 2015 is the year the Liberals came to power with the current Prime Minister.
...(vi) after eight years of this Liberal Prime Minister, 45% of variable rate mortgage holders say they will have to sell or vacate their homes in less than nine months due to current interest rate levels, (vii) after eight years of this Liberal Prime Minister, average monthly mortgage costs have more than doubled and now cost Canadians over $3,000 per month...
I will keep it short because there may be more information to be shared from our colleague's very important motion. What we are ultimately asking the government to do is stop spending recklessly so that our economy can get back on track.
I am going to address some very specific elements of the cost of living, ones that affect different sectors, whether it is housing, groceries, or other aspects of people's daily lives.
On the overall economic front, I would like to remind the House that the Prime Minister of this Liberal government is the one who has single-handedly run up more deficits than all previous prime ministers of Canada. That is a lot of money. Somebody, somewhere, has to pay for that. We must also remember that the federal debt has doubled since the Liberal government took office.
I would also like to remind the House that this Liberal government has never managed to table a balanced budget. It repeatedly told us that there would be just small deficits for a time, not for all time. In the end, that has not been the case.
Experts have issued a warning to the government. It will have to rein in its spending if it wants to avoid adding further inflationary pressures. I am not the one saying this, but rather the experts. Still, we know that this Prime Minister almost never listens to anyone. In a report published in January, the Business Council of Canada and the firm Bennett Jones said that the forecasts in the last budget were overly optimistic. Not only do the Liberals not know how to count, but they are throwing money around like it grows on trees.
Let us talk about the state of mind of Quebeckers. I am a Quebecker, so I would like to talk about what is going on in Quebec. I should mention that their state of mind is at its worst. According to a Leger survey, Quebeckers are going into 2023 with a high level of stress, and their number one concern is the impact of rising consumer prices.
The Bloc Québécois has the nerve to stand up in the House and tell us that we are repeating ourselves and that we need to stop talking about this, when this is the number one concern of Quebeckers right now.
Furthermore, over 20% of respondents are worried about not having enough money and said that increased interest rates are problematic.
I want to quote a worker at the Association coopérative d'économie familiale de la Rive-Sud de Québec, a well-known organization in Quebec that helps Quebeckers ensure that they have a budget that they can stick to. The worker said this, and I quote: “People are very stressed about this. Before, they used to ask us how they would get by. Now they are telling us that they are not getting by anymore”.
Let us talk now about businesses. The results of a recent study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business were released this week. According to that study, 73% of Quebec's small businesses, about three-quarters, said that they will have to raise their prices to deal with inflation.
If businesses raise their prices, Canadian and Quebec consumers who need to purchase goods and services are the ones who will be affected in their everyday lives. Quebec businesses are now telling us that things are so bad that they will be forced to raise prices for consumers once again. Obviously, this will have a major impact on Quebeckers' wallets.
The study also found that just over half of companies, nearly 60%, plan to work longer hours to reduce labour costs. This really bothers many businesses.
There is a lot of information in this survey, and one statistic that was really troubling to me was this: 43% of SMEs plan to temporarily reduce their profit margins in order to remain competitive, and 32% of SMEs are going to reduce their investments and growth forecasts. What does this mean in concrete terms?
The vitality of a society is also measured by the vitality of its businesses. If businesses do not have confidence in the future, but rather fear it, they stop investing. It is not hard to see what this means. When a business stops investing, it is because it does not have confidence in the future. A lack of confidence disrupts society's economic balance.
Do I have to remind the House that Canada is in the middle of a major housing crisis? Young adults are sleeping in their parents' basement because they cannot afford a house. What are the consequences of that? It puts pressure on the rental market and drives rents up.
House prices have doubled in the past eight years. If I remember correctly, prices have gone up 21% in and around Quebec City. If we cannot house our people, we have a real problem. The cost of housing has gone up way too much, and now people, young families, cannot afford a house. Not only are they living in their parents' basement, but some students resort to shelters because they have nowhere else to go and not enough money for decent housing.
In closing, I want to touch on the environment. The government loves to crow about its environmental record. Not to rain on its parade, but I would like to see it set a more ambitious agenda in that department.
After eight years of Liberal rule, Canada is ranked 58th out of 63 countries in the fight against climate change, according to the UN. The government must carry out a full review of all the bad decisions it has made and its entire vision, because it is the wrong one and is getting us nowhere.
Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see you acknowledge the member for Prince Albert to get up to speak in front of members today about the state of the Canadian economy and just how broken things are here in Canada.
Before I get started, I have to do one special thing. It is my anniversary today. My wife and I have been married for 36 years. I would not be here without her. I would not be here fighting for the constituents of Prince Albert without her sacrifices. She is making a sacrifice today by letting me be here to talk about something that is very important to the constituents in my riding, and I thank her dearly for that, as I am sure the people of Canada do.
In 2015, the government inherited an amazing situation for Canada. If we think back to what it looked like in 2015, it was the good old days. People could buy a house and afford it. They could get a mortgage and actually pay it off. People could go to a restaurant and buy a meal. They could go to the grocery store and fill their shopping cart. They could do a variety of things with their family, because their family was a strong mechanism. People could go on holidays. Both parents had a job. Let us look at what we have today and what we had back then.
We had a balanced budget. We went through a global recession in 2008 to 2011. We spent money on infrastructure. We took on deficits, but we paid them back. We got to a balanced budget in 2015, so we have proven that we can go through all sorts of different crises, global crises, like the ones the Conservatives faced, and actually pay it back and progress.
We had a united country from coast to coast. East and west were celebrating each other's victories. I used to take pride, and I still take pride, in a vehicle that is made in Ontario being sold in Saskatchewan, or somebody in Newfoundland buying bread made from wheat out of Saskatchewan. We worked together as a country. We functioned together. We were not divided. There was no city-rural division like the one we see today. Canadians were united.
Back in 2015, Canadians did not look at the government and worry about how the coming budget was going to impact them, as they do with this budget that is coming forward, because they know that the Liberal budget is going to impact them one way or another. That means the government has become too involved in the day-to-day activities of the Canadian lifestyle.
We had infrastructure being built. The port of Vancouver was functioning. It was one of the higher-ranked ports in the world, which it is not today. We had a health care system that was being rebuilt from years of cutting by the federal Liberals previous to the Harper Conservative government. We had a prime minister who had global respect. When he went around the globe, people respected him. They respected the country of Canada. We punched above our weight. We were principled in how we conducted ourselves with the global countries, in the global environment and on the global stage.
What do we have today? We cannot help but say that it is broken.
In 2015, if people wanted to get a passport and needed it today, they could pay an extra fee and actually get their passport today. What do we have today? If people want a passport and they are not travelling within six weeks, they are not even going to get looked at. If they need a fast passport, they can forget about that. Getting a passport is broken. People cannot get a passport.
If they have a problem with the CRA and want to talk about an issue because they want to make sure they are doing things right, they call in and sit on hold for three hours. They take a number, relay their question and are told that someone will get back to them in three weeks. That is customer service brought to us by the current Liberal government.
When we look at the things the government used to provide on an ordinary basis, it is now extraordinary. It is so disgusting and sad to see, because we know that in 2015, when these civil servants were working under a Harper government, they did their job. They knew what they were doing. They were happy in their job and functioned very well. They were not covering up expenses on hotel bills or spending time trying to hide ministers' expenses.
We had a government of honour. We had a minister resign because of a $16 orange juice. We had another minister who resigned because of an ethics breach and who came back into cabinet. They knew what the right thing to do at the time was and they did the right thing. The biggest scandal we had in the Harper government was the chief of staff paying back taxpayers for another member's unwillingness to pay. That was the biggest scandal.
When we look at the government today, what do we see? Things are broken, broken, broken. I was sitting in a board meeting with my constituents about three months ago and that is how one person put it to me, that things are broken. It does not matter what department one deals with, it is broken.
If we talk to Health Canada, it is broken. If we talk to passports, it is broken. If we talk to CRA, it is broken. If we look at our military and defence, it is broken.
If we look at our transportation system and airports, they are broken. The Port of Vancouver is now ranked second-last in the world for ports. It is broken. This is eight years of the Liberals' accomplishments, and they are broken.
Can one afford a house now? One sure needs to have the income to do it. We heard our Bloc friends talk about the shortage of houses. Well, in eight years, why is there, all of a sudden, a shortage of houses? What has been in the Liberal policy book to encourage housing to be built or continue to be built? It, in fact, did the opposite. It encouraged people not to build houses.
We can look at our business sector and competitiveness. We hear Canadian manufacturers and exporters talk over and over again about how we are losing businesses to the States and other jurisdictions because we are not competitive.
What is the reason for that? It is bad Liberal policy.
When we look at the policies under the Liberal government, they just have been added on, and they are the thousand cuts that have impacted our economy and our businesses.
What does that mean? When we do not have a strong business sector, like we had in 2015, what happens? The Liberal solution is to spend more. The government will fill the void. Instead of an employer in the private sector, or a small and medium enterprise growing its enterprise, what happens? They get choked and smothered out by taxes, regulations and overburdening federal government policies. They go out of business. They cannot get employees.
What do the Liberals do? They shrug and say, “Well, we can just write another cheque. We will just borrow some more money.”
We have seen that. We have got $15 billion in extra payments that went out that CRA says is not worth collecting. It is not worth collecting $15 billion. How can that be? How can it be that broken that it does not know where that money went, who it belongs to, who should have had it and who should not have gotten it?
How can it not go back and say, sorry, someone did not deserve this payment, so they need to pay it back or we are going to claw it back? How can they say that it is not worth it? That is a political answer. That is not an answer that has the value of Canadian taxpayers in mind.
We look at this federal government and how it goes about conducting businesses and the military. For example, the F-35s should have been bought in 2015-16. They probably should have been bought before that. I will admit that. As a member of the Conservatives, I thought we should have bought them sooner.
What did the government do? It bought some used piece of junk out of Australia to fill the gap, a gap that is now a serious concern because of what is happening in the globe.
Has it prepared this country for the future? Let us think about that. Have we hit any of our environmental targets? No. Are we prepared to have an efficient, functioning manufacturing base? No. Have we encouraged our SMEs to take on the free trade agreements that Conservative governments, and some Liberal governments, put in place? No.
We are seeing no activity in this economy that will grow. All we see is increasing government spending, deficit after deficit and out-of-control inflation.
Let us go back to the grocery store. When we go to the grocery store and look at people's carts, are they full? No. They are half empty. Why is that? It is because of inflation, which was created by this government.
When we go to go buy a house or take out a mortgage, can we afford it? That is the question that my daughter is facing right now. Kids in their 30s are looking at this and asking if they will ever be able to afford a house now. Well, what has happened in this government?
Houses have gone out of control because of the inflation it created, and they cannot say that it is a global thing when houses go up in price. House are made in Canada and sold in Canada. It is not a global recession item. When people cannot afford a house in Canada, it is because it has spent too much money, or printed too much money, and created inflation.
Also, the interest rates have gone up and, all of a sudden, their take-home pay is less, as they are paying higher mortgages. I should not say take-home pay, but their mortgage is consuming more and more of their actual income.
What have we got? We have a government that is tired and broken. When we ask it about the future, it is a continuation of being tired and broken. There is no imagination.
There is a better way. There is a way, and we proved it in 2015, where we had a strong economy, a balanced budget, and we could deal with climate change. They can deal with it and do it all at once. If they cannot do it all at once, then I would encourage the Liberal government to get out of the way, and we will do it for them.