The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise on behalf of the fiscally sane constituents of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.
This is supposed to be a debate about a budget. Sadly, the document the Liberals tabled is an insult to the word “budget”. They claim it is fiscally responsible as they cast away the last fiscal anchor. They claim it is about productivity while they strangle innovation with red tape. They claim their GST rebate is a grocery rebate, when there is no GST on groceries.
Spending is clearly out of control. Each budget and fiscal update revises future spending upward. Whether it is a household budget or a business budget, the goal is to make a plan in the face of an uncertain future. If a person is responsible in their financial planning, some years they will be a little over in their estimates, and other years a little under. For a business, that might mean that an estimated profit of 5% at the end of the year might come in at 4.9% or 5.1%. It is like target shooting. If a person is generally around the target, they can be satisfied they are doing it accurately, but if their shots are way off to the extreme left, it means they are doing it wrong. As this gang shoots Canada farther and farther to the extreme left, they are no longer shooting at the target. Instead, they have decided that the best thing for Canada is to shoot ourselves in the foot. That is the best way to describe this glut of corporate subsidies for green energy.
The Liberals claim that they have to spend like crazy because the Americans and Europeans are spending like crazy. No one told the Liberals that, just because all of their friends are throwing money off the bridge, it does not mean that they should too. The Liberals claim they believe in free trade, but they do not really get it. If our competitors are lighting money on fire, we do not join the bonfire; we sell them matches. Canada had an opportunity to sell natural gas to Europe, but the , the Mr. Dressup drama teacher, claimed there was no business case. The claims they are not picking winners and losers, then proceeds to pick which Liberal-friendly companies will get subsides and picks out all the small businesses and expects them to pay for those subsides.
The government is picking electricity-hogging electric vehicles over more emissions-efficient hybrid vehicles. The government is effectively prohibiting carbon-neutral fuel development in Canada by banning internal combustion engines. All this extravagant spending is supposed to lead us to a promised land of green jobs. This was the same pipe dream we heard from Dalton McGuinty in Ontario. The result was higher electricity prices, tens of billions of tax dollars wasted, and, according to the Auditor General, over 60,000 net jobs lost. After laying waste to Ontario’s economy, the Liberals packed up their taxpayer-funded moving trucks and came to Ottawa to repeat their failed experiment. This seems to be the socialist mindset. Every time socialism is implemented, it leads to misery, suffering and death. Yet they continue to try again, thinking that, somehow, it will be different. Einstein called this insanity.
What is worse is that failure only seems to make the Liberals more ambitious. In their first budget, they said they would conserve an additional 7% of Canada’s natural habitat by 2020. After eight years, they managed to reach only half of their goal. A normal person who missed the mark by half would lower their future estimates. Instead, this announced that he would conserve 30% by 2030. That would require him to conserve four times as much land in the next seven years as he has in the last eight years.
The truth is that the Liberals know they will not be held accountable for empty promises, so they just use the simplest slogans. That is why they announced a target of 30% reduction in fertilizer emissions by 2030. They announced a Soviet-style sales quota mandating that 30% of cars must be EV by 2030, and then there is their Paris pledge of a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide by 2030. This policy-making is based on slogan. It is tweet-sized thinking. It is TikTok-style government: short, snappy, attention-deprived and a little too close to the Communists in Beijing.
If we need any more evidence that this government is abandoning liberal democracy for a progressive socialist technocracy, we need look no further than the Public Health Agency report on public health and climate change.
For the Public Health Agency report, they hired a radical academic to act as an outside consultant. They used taxpayer money to conduct focus groups with other far-left extremists working in public health. What was the conclusion of the government-published report? According to the so-called experts, climate change is not caused by carbon but by capitalism, individual liberty and democracy. In socialist mindset, capitalism is always the villain. In reality, socialist and authoritarian countries are the worst environmental offenders. Unfortunately for Canadians, the Liberals have abandoned reality-based policy, making for visions of a socialist utopia. The radical socialist public health manifesto said that non-western science fiction “offers a way of imagining the future without colonization and asking ourselves how we can get there.”
While it is true that Star Trek was inspiring to many who worked at NASA, it should not form the basis of our climate policy. If these radical socialists were just sitting around in a big self-congratulatory circle while fantasizing about a climate apocalypse, they could be dismissed. However, they have laid out their plan for all to see. The report calls for a complete reordering of Canadian values led by these radical public health socialists. The authors of the report wrote, “Many experts we heard from highlighted the importance of shifting dominant societal values and transitioning to health and well-being economies if meaningful action is to be taken on climate change adaptation and mitigation.” What are those societal values that they need to shift? Here is what one expert had to say:
Ultimately, there are 3 core values in western society, and for that matter, in global society, that have to change. One core value is about growth and materialism. The second core value is liberty and individualism, which has to be rethought because the kind of individualism that is preached by neoliberals is part of the problem.
In response to this extremist claim that individual liberty and ending poverty are the root of all evil, the report's authors wrote:
The above-noted core values, which are undermining public health and well-being, are well known, but public health systems have been successful in reorienting society values. For example, public health research and communications have changed our societal relationship with tobacco products.
That is shocking to read. Radical public health experts want to socially stigmatize liberty. They want to socially stigmatize economic growth. Stigmatizing people has become the current government's calling card. That is what the was doing when he accused opponents of forced vaccinations of being misogynists and racists who hold unacceptable views. If someone does not agree with their plan to use climate change as an excuse to advance socialism, they accuse them of being a climate denier.
The goal is to rhetorically link critics of bad climate policy to racist anti-Semites who deny the Nazi Holocaust. All societies stigmatize gluttony and over-consumption, but these socialists want to stigmatize all consumption. Then he tried to stigmatize words like “freedom” by labelling them as dog whistles. They are even trying to stigmatize the Canadian flag. None of this comes as a surprise. The said that Canada is a “postnational state”, and he is committed to seeing this fantasy become reality.
The budget bill would further entrench the government in the market. It would keep expanding the state and driving out free enterprise until there is nothing left but the party and the state. Ever since the positioned the Liberals to the left of the NDP and broke the Canadian consensus that balancing the budget was the responsible thing to do, we have been sent down a dangerous path. We have become governed by slogans. The Liberals have forgotten Canada's multicultural heritage in favour of a single narrative of oppression. They love to claim they have Canadians' backs; the truth is that they just find it easier to pick people's wallets when they are hiding behind them.
After eight years, the Liberals are tired, desperate and dangerous. Reduced to spewing slogans like “30 by 30”, they now project their policy on poverty onto us. We have a plan to put more money into people's wallets. They have a tax plan; we have an environmental plan. They have slogans; we have solutions. If they had any real confidence in their radical socialist agenda, they would put it to Canadians to decide. While the Liberals are busy dividing and stigmatizing Canadians, Conservatives offer unity and hope.
Madam Speaker, I just had the opportunity to visit Kapuskasing, and many people said wonderful things about you.
I want to start with a positive view of the budget, and then go toward where there is some improvement required. Unfortunately there is a missing element that I think ought to be emphasized as well, but let us start where there are clear and incredibly important priorities. The federal budget rightly prioritizes better health care, affordability measures and clean economic growth.
On the health care front, we see major new funding to modernize health systems, including significant funding through bilateral agreements with provinces. We see measures to address urgent pressures in emergency rooms, to support hourly wage increases for PSWs, to expand access to family health services, to increase mental health and substance use support, and more.
We see a major commitment to a dental care plan, and this is really one of the signature pieces of this budget, done in co-operation with our partners across the aisle in the NDP. We have made a $13-billion commitment over five years to expand dental care to families earning less than $90,000 a year.
We also see important new measures to combat the opioid crisis. While it does not quite get to the $500-million commitment in our platform, we are getting there. There is $360 million committed over five years for a renewed Canadian drugs and substances strategy, including community-based mental health, harm reduction services and more.
We see the Canadian Cancer Society saying, “#Budget2023 is a sign that there is political will to fund our healthcare system so people can get timely, affordable access to cancer care.” The Canadian Medical Association says, “We’re pleased to see the federal government confirm significant health funding commitments as part of budget 2023-24.”
On the affordability side, we see targeted inflation relief. There is a new rebate increasing the GST tax credit delivered to 11 million low and modest-income people. We see affordable higher education prioritized with increases to student grants and the raising of the interest-free loan limit. We see action for consumers and small businesses to reduce junk fees, crack down on predatory lenders and lower credit card transaction fees. We see measures to protect air passengers, enshrine the right to repair and more.
We also see a code of conduct to protect Canadians with existing mortgages and automatic tax filings. It is not a perfectly automatic tax filing, so there is more work required, but the CRA will be piloting a new filing service to help vulnerable Canadians receive benefits to which they are entitled. Everyone should receive the benefits they deserve.
Third, we see a major emphasis on clean economic growth. We see $21 billion over five years to really build on past measures. We have come a long way since 2015, and we need to keep moving forward.
We have seen a rising price on pollution to help shift demand and spur innovation, with the revenue rebated directly to ensure low- and middle income Canadians are not worse off. There is now a clean fuel standard, rules to phase out coal-fired electricity and increasingly stringent measures to slash methane emissions. Work is also well under way to establish a clean electricity regulation and cap emissions from the oil and gas sector, and we have put a climate accountability law in place that sets strong targets, requires the government to table a comprehensive climate plan and ensures regular progress reports to keep all future governments honest.
In past budgets, we have invested billions in retrofits, zero-emission vehicles, public transit, nature protection, clean technologies, critical minerals and more. We have also encouraged recent and multi-billion-dollar private sector investments in the clean economy, and the 2023 federal budget would build on this work with new initiatives to protect our fresh water and deliver clean electricity, clean tech manufacturing and clean hydrogen.
The Canadian Climate Institute called the budget measures “decisive steps to ensure Canada won’t fall behind in the global race to net zero.” The Pembina Institute said the budget “sends a clear message that Canada is committed to building a cleaner future.” The International Institute for Sustainable Development called the funding for clean electricity and fresh water “unprecedented,” and the David Suzuki Foundation called it “historic” and “an important turning point”.
Challenges remain, of course. I do not want to get into the $30 billion on TMX, which I wish we were spending elsewhere, but we do need stronger climate conditions to ensure money is well spent and there are safeguards against inefficient fossil fuel support.
Some programs need to be strengthened, especially for home and business retrofits. We need to increase international climate financing, and we need all provinces to step up to do their part. We lack a serious and credible climate plan here in Ontario, for example, and that undercuts our overall ability to meet and exceed existing national targets. Despite the significant federal action to date, we are not yet where we need to be, but we are on track, in a serious way, to get there.
The IPCC, or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, lead scientist Dr. Otto said that its recent report highlights “the urgency of the problem and the gravity of it”. However, Dr. Otto also acknowledged that there are “lots of reasons for hope – because we still have the time to act and we have everything we need”. We certainly see significant action here in Canada.
The fourth item I want to note that is going in an incredibly positive direction is this. We see significant new spending, $4 billion over seven years, to implement a co-developed urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy. I think some of these ideas should be pulled apart. An urban strategy ought to be different from one for the realities of northern and rural Ontario.
I just mentioned travelling in Kapuskasing, and I was in Timmins as well. I certainly heard concerns. When programs are being designed, whether at Queen's Park or Ottawa, they need to be designed with northern realities in mind. It really would make a lot more sense to pull the strategy apart and deal with urban, northern and rural realities separately.
On the fiscal sustainability front, before I get to where work is required, I will quote Kevin Page, the former PBO, who wrote, “On balance, the 2023 budget has a credible fiscal strategy.” He continued, “Net new spending in 2023 largely goes to people struggling with high inflation...and our health care system. This is not spending that will impede efforts to lower inflation.” He then concluded, “Fiscally credibility has to be earned budget by budget. The 2023 budget gets a thumbs-up.” Those are not my words but the words of Kevin Page.
It is important to not only look at Canada's situation in isolation but also to compare Canada's fiscal situation to our partners around the world. Budget 2023 notes, “Including new measures...Canada’s net debt as a share of the economy is still lower today than in any other G7 country prior to the pandemic—an advantage that Canada is forecasted to maintain”.
With the time I have left, I will look at where work is required. On mental health, we have made progress. I highlighted new spending on mental health and addictions. However, it is not enough to meet our platform promise of $500 million. The CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association has said, “We are deeply concerned that this budget does not include critically needed investments in services delivered by community providers”. Our platform promised federal funding for mental health transfers, a significant commitment, and we are not yet where we need to be on that front.
To give a very specific, concrete example here, we are launching 988, the new national mental health crisis number. It is incredibly important as a matter of delivery on mental health, but callers need to be referred to services in their own communities for it to be the most effective. Therefore, we need to fund services in our respective communities.
I also want to emphasize the need to address the disability benefit. Many in the disability community were expecting a clear signal about what is to come. It is important that we see additional spending on consultation. We are going to do an expansive consultation to get it right, but to really make a meaningful difference, to deliver a transformative benefit, it is going to take billions in new spending every year to lift people with disabilities out of poverty in a way that they deserve. Much more work is required on this front.
So too with housing. I mentioned the importance of the new billions in spending for an urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy, but we need to do much more on housing. It is a matter of generational fairness. It is a matter of productivity. People are leaving our cities. People are leaving our provinces. We are not going to be as competitive as we need to be if we do not fix the affordable housing crisis. That means governments have to get out of the way and help build housing. Governments have to get back in the game on building social housing, and we really have to treat housing as a home first and an investment second.
Last, where there is a missing piece, we committed to increase foreign aid every year. We simply did not do that in this budget. Results Canada has rightly criticized the budget on those grounds. As wealthy a country as we are, we need to look after those in need in our country. We also have to look after and do our part for those in need all around the world.
With that, overwhelmingly, despite areas of improvement and despite some areas of criticism, there are many reasons to be positive and optimistic about what we see in budget 2023, and there are certainly many reasons to support the budget in the coming weeks.
Madam Speaker, today we are examining Bill , an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 28, 2023. I wanted to read the full title because I am going to use it to back up what I am saying.
This is a huge bill, a mammoth bill. It is 430 pages long and seeks to amend 59 statutes and the Income Tax Regulations. However, since we have people who can read quickly, we noticed that King Charles III was hiding in this mammoth bill.
The government is trying to sneakily introduce a measure in this budget implementation bill that will force us to be loyal to His Majesty and will enshrine in law the fact that Charles III is indeed Canada's sovereign. That is quite appalling.
It is more than just appalling. I am convinced that, while there are those who are just a bit complacent about this matter, there are others who find this extremely offensive because of their roots. I am sure that those who have indigenous or Acadian roots may find it offensive to have to recognize this archaic institution. Clearly, the government put this in a mammoth bill because mammoths are another archaic part of history. In fact, they have disappeared, just as the monarchy should.
For someone with Acadian roots, swearing an oath and recognizing this monarch in 2023 hurts deeply. We know the harm that was caused to the Acadian people and to indigenous peoples.
I do not get it. How is there not a majority of members here who agree with what I just said? They could make sure we have an honest bill and submit the issue in all honesty to the House in a separate bill. No, this is hidden in a mammoth bill that amends 59 statutes. I get the impression that the government is a bit ashamed of its monarch.
I am not the first member to speak to this bill, but the Bloc Québécois is voting against Bill C‑47. First of all, there is nothing in there for seniors. For years we have been asking the government why there is a two-tiered system for seniors, but it stubbornly refuses to change this. It is as though people between 65 and 74 do not have needs and were not affected by inflation. It is as though every senior between 65 and 74 had enough income to live it up every day, when the opposite is true.
According to epidemiological studies, many illnesses emerge at this age. If we add to that financial insecurity, instead of a life without too many worries about living comfortably and deciding to buy this or that product or this or that medication, we would see that it is far more costly, in many ways, not to make the program fair.
The bill should have included tax measures to allow seniors who want to work to do so without being penalized. Something should be done about that. I cannot understand this stubbornness. Obviously, this is the budget implementation bill. These measures were not in the budget, which is not surprising, but it will come as no surprise that I am criticizing it.
The bill contains no long-term solutions for funding health care. My colleague spoke before about Bill and Bill . Bill C‑46 included a $2-billion transfer, without conditions, to Quebec and the provinces. Suddenly, Bill C‑47 decides that would be redundant. We thought it was a generous gesture, given the government's previous power grab.
Now the government is preparing an amendment to walk it back. We are going to work hard to ensure it remains in Bill C‑47. I am appealing to the social conscience of all so-called Liberal members. A Liberal is supposed to be a progressive who is in touch with what is happening. At present, I would truly like to see one Liberal rise and show me that, in the medium and long term, the health transfers being provided are enough to meet the needs that the provinces and Quebec will have over the next ten years. That is an impossible task.
This does not mean that we do not appreciate the one-time investments made as a result of the pandemic. However, the structural problems of the health care system will not be fixed with one-time investments. The government made non-recurring investments when medium- and long-term structural investments were needed to rebuild the health care systems and to ensure that a pandemic will never again undermine and weaken these systems to the point that we have to lock down for a year, for example.
It is appalling, what is happening here. Taking away this $2 billion is shameful. That they would even consider taking it away is shameful, indecent even. They are offering crumbs. As I said before, the provinces were asking for $28 billion a year, from coast to coast to coast. The government offered them $4.6 billion with a gun to their heads. Take it or leave it; the budget was already written. The government thinks that that will be enough for the provinces to be able to take care of their aging population and cover all other needs, which ballooned and became more acute during the pandemic because of the delays and the waiting lists.
The Standing Committee on Health has done a study on the collateral effects of the pandemic. In the midst of the third wave, the experts came to us and said that even if we injected that $28 billion during that wave, it would still take 10 years for us to claw our way out of the pandemic. Imagine that. The government did not inject the money until after the eighth wave, and offered only $4.6 billion in new money, thinking that it would be enough for the provinces to take care of their people.
There is nothing in the bill for EI. Worse still, the government is about to pilfer $17 billion from the EI fund, because the only budget item it has decided not to absorb is EI. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have ever put back into the EI fund the $57 billion the federal government stole from it.
My father worked and paid into EI all his life. He was proud to pay into it for his colleagues who might need it and for workers who would probably need it. It made him proud to pay into it out of solidarity, but to never have personal need of it. He took pride in that.
What has this government done? It has pilfered $57 billion from the fund and has never returned it. Today, when it should be able to pay back $17 billion of that amount, it has decided to pay it by increasing workers' premiums. It is shameful, and it is why I will be voting against the bill.
Madam Speaker, the defining issue of our time is how to keep the promise of a better future alive for everyone. We have a choice. We can settle for a country where a few people do very well and everyone else struggles to get by, or we can work toward a promise of a country where everyone gets a fair shot, where we all play by the same rules and where the strong do not get to pick on the weak and the rich do not get rich by exploiting the poor. That is what our government is about. That is what this budget is about. From Whitehorse and Vancouver to Toronto and Halifax, that is the Canada we believe in.
Middle-class Canadians need a sense of security. We cannot let that slip away. We should not forget that we are still recovering from an unprecedented time and still have a ways to go before the international economic order finds a steady state. However, every month, we are adding tens of thousands of new jobs to the economy. Canadian manufacturers are creating jobs here. Our government's investments in clean tech are creating high-paying, high-skilled jobs here in Canada.
As we move forward, far too many Canadians are being left behind. There are some gaps in policy, and folks have been falling through the holes. That is why it brings me great pride to speak to budget 2023. This budget is a budget of small victories with big impact, immediate focus and long-term vision.
Looking at budget 2023, I can point to so many measures meant to help those who are just starting out or those who are in vulnerable positions. For example, for too long, predatory loaners have preyed on vulnerable Canadians in our communities experiencing financial crises, such as seniors, newcomers and low-income Canadians, by extending them high-interest loans, loans that lock Canadians in dangerous cycles of debt that they cannot afford and cannot escape. Victims are far too often Canadians with poor credit who cannot receive a loan from a traditional bank.
Consider someone who takes out a single, small payday loan to deal with an emergency expense and finds themselves unable to pay back that expense within the usual two-week period. This can trigger significant penalties and can lead to extending the loan or securing an additional loan from another payday loan company.
Budget 2023 introduces changes so that payday lenders cannot charge any more than $14 for every $100 borrowed. That would be the fee over a two-week period. Additionally, we are also proposing to change the criminal rate of interest to 35% from the current 47% APR. These measures are crucial for stopping exploitation.
The Toronto Star has estimated that our changes to the system around payday loans would help Canadians save hundreds if not thousands of dollars that would otherwise be lost to predatory lending. This is a critical first step to ensure a more equal society, a society that does not leave people behind and a society where we can all grow.
This is a budget of small victories with big impact, immediate focus and long-term vision. We can look at automatic tax filing. Up to 12% of Canadians do not file their taxes. The majority of these folks are low-income and would not pay much in tax anyway. In a lot of cases, they would not pay any taxes at all. However, by not filing their taxes, they miss out on the valuable credits and benefits they are entitled to even if they do not pay taxes. Examples include the Canada child benefit, the guaranteed income supplement and the climate action incentive.
A report by Carleton estimated that up to $1.7 billion went unclaimed by working-age, non-filing Canadians in 2021. The primary reason is that vulnerable Canadians find dealing with taxes daunting, as something that is difficult to navigate and just too complicated.
Budget 2023 outlines a pilot for automatic tax filing next year. Through this program, many vulnerable Canadians would have access to benefits and credits they have never had before. This is targeted relief for those who are feeling the worst of worldwide inflation. This is a small program that has the potential to be transformative in supporting low-income Canadians for years to come.
Last, to help us realize our highest potential, we need to ensure that our young people are supported. I want to work so that every student in this country receives at least the opportunities that were presented to me, because the young people of today will be the foundation for this country tomorrow. Students are looking for greater security and we cannot ignore that.
That is why it gives me great pleasure and great relief that budget 2023 includes measures for students. Thanks to changes we are introducing, students will be able to rely on their RESPs more going forward. While the cost of attending a post-secondary school has risen in recent years, the withdrawal limit for RESPs has not been increased in 25 years.
Every year, nearly half a million students rely on their RESP to fund their education. Students rely on the RESP to cover everything from course enrolment to buying textbooks to living expenses. Budget 2023 plans to increase the withdrawal limit for full-time students from $5,000 to $8,000 and for part-time students from $2,500 to $4,000. These changes would help ensure that the next generation's access to education is not compromised amid the rising cost of living.
Budget 2023 would also expand loans and grants for the 2023-24 school year, increasing the maximum grants available to $4,200, up from the $3,000 it was before, for low-income students. This represents a 40% increase to student grants for students who qualify in normal years. This is on top of our previously announced policy to erase interest on federal student and apprentice loans as part of our fiscal update last year. That move helped budget-strapped young Canadians who have borrowed to finance their education. It was a monumental investment for students across this country.
I truly believe that if we can outbuild, out-innovate and out-hustle, the jobs and industries of our time will take root here in Canada, people will prosper and the country will succeed. The only way we can make this happen is if we invest in our economy to give it a boost and spur industry and innovation so we can see around the corner to the industries of tomorrow and lay the bedrock of industry today.
However, we also need to make sure that as we move forward, we take everyone with us. Canadians should not be left behind, and that is exactly what this budget would do. Even as we cut out things we can do without, we have a responsibility to invest in things that will have the biggest impact on our future. That is especially true when it comes to measures that help vulnerable Canadians.
Here in Canada, the story has never been about what we can do by ourselves; it is about what we can do together. It is about believing in our future and the future of our country. That is why Canadians are working hard, with some balancing jobs and school and others learning our languages while they learn their jobs. It is about working hard. It is about pulling together and pulling each other up, and it is on government to enable our population to achieve their maximum. If we work together in common purpose, we can shape an economy that will cement Canada's place on the world stage, an economy that does not leave Canadians behind. That is something we can be proud of.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak this afternoon to the budget implementation act. At the outset, let me acknowledge that we are gathered here on the traditional, unceded lands of the Algonquin people.
While talking about the budget, I want to preface it by outlining the current economic state of our country. After coming through the pandemic, Canada, while facing a number of headwinds, is in a very strong position. First and foremost, we continue to have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. We continue to have one of the lowest levels of unemployment in the G7, but also in Canadian history. We continue to lead in building a green economy that responds to the needs of the day, including addressing the existential threat of climate change.
In many ways, the pandemic taught us that the government can be there to support Canadians of all stripes, whether it be through supporting organizations that work on the front lines or supporting businesses through wage subsidies or emergency loans, which, in many ways, were lifelines for our businesses. On an individual level, the Canada emergency response benefit, or CERB, supported so many Canadians in getting to the other side of the pandemic.
As we look forward, we realize that the issues around inflation and increasing interest rates are a threat to our economy and, as a government, we have been addressing these issues head-on. We have one of the lowest rates of inflation among developed countries. Also, our rate of inflation has gone down to new lows, and we are confident that we will reach the 3% mark by the summer and be well into the 2% mark by next year. That should give us some confidence.
As a steward of this economy, we have looked at our economy in a very different way than it has traditionally been viewed. We have made sure that our economy is very much linked to our environment. We do not decouple the issue. We believe that they are fundamentally related and we cannot, under any circumstances, decouple it. If we look at modern accounting practices, we will note that many companies are now reporting their environmental liability. As we go forward and as we see the impacts of climate change, whether it is floods or wildfires, we know that the environment plays a critical role in our long-term sustainability, directly linked to our economy.
In this budget, the and her team worked very hard to put together some measures that will give individuals real support during the pandemic. As we know, in the fall economic statement we had very important measures that supported Canadians on affordability. First and foremost was the GST credit, and the second one was the $500 housing rebate for those in the lowest income brackets. Those were crucial in ensuring that affordability was maintained for the most vulnerable Canadians.
As we look forward, we are looking at a number of targeted initiatives, the critical one being the one-time grocery rebate, which will support 11 million Canadians in making ends meet. While we know that it is not a permanent fix, we do realize that in these most difficult times, we need to get Canadians to the other side of these economic threats. I believe this is a very smart way of addressing this issue.
With respect to predatory lending, when I was in my first year of law school, a professor by the name of Iain Ramsay was my contracts prof, and he was a highly respected professor at Osgoode. During our contracts class, his singular focus was on predatory lending. He did an enormous amount of research on the impacts of predatory lending on low-income Canadians, the cycle of debt that it brings individuals and, subsequently, young families into, and the systemic challenges of getting out of this debt. As a result, I learned a great deal about those who are dependent on payday loans, which can only be described as predatory.
I realize that this was over 20 years ago, so I am actually quite heartened and also somewhat disappointed that it took Canada this many years to get to the point where we are actually addressing this issue head-on, redefining the notion of criminal interest rates and ensuring that those who are dependent on payday loans, our most vulnerable, are supported. It is something that I believe is fundamentally important to the economy but also to those who may be struggling right now. In addition, we are cracking down on junk fees to ensure that businesses are transparent with the prices they are set to pay.
We are also looking to implement automatic tax filing for low-income Canadians. Every year, and I know my colleagues here will probably relate to this as well, we have a volunteer who, since I was elected in 2015, comes every February and offers up her time to do tax returns. In fact, even if we do not call her, she calls us. Every year, that service is full. She really does it as a service to her community, to those who are struggling and to those for whom the tax return is so critical to their income, whether it be the Canada child benefit, old age security, the guaranteed income supplement or other government entitlements. She is very diligent in getting this done, and there are literally thousands of tax preparers who do this out of the kindness of their hearts, to make sure they support other Canadians.
Automatic tax filing, in many ways, will ensure that those who are left outside of the ability to prepare their taxes or get the type of help that is provided by my office, and I am sure many of my colleagues' offices, are supported. I am very glad to confirm that automatic tax filing will be coming and is included in the budget implementation act.
We know that students have had a particularly difficult time. I interviewed for the summer leadership program that we have, and I am pleased to say that we have two students who are starting next week. As a government, we have over 150 students, with over 4,000 applications from students who have applied to our program. This is, I believe, our seventh year running this program. It is so good to see the quality of candidates who are coming forward, but when I speak to students, I know they are struggling. Whether it is through the youth constituency advisory council that I have or through the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus, which is located in my riding, or Centennial College, I hear from students about the issue of affordability. Oftentimes, it is the ability to pay the tuition or to make ends meet.
I believe there are many measures in here, including increased grants, that will enable students to ensure that their education is affordable. I often say that in our society education is our ultimate equalizer and the measures that we have in place will support students in attaining an education.
Madam Speaker, today we are talking about budget 2023, and there are many serious issues facing Canada. Unfortunately, I do believe that many of them are not addressed in the federal 2023 Liberal budget.
I am the shadow minister for public safety and the vice-chair of the public safety and national security committee for Canada, and so when I was looking at the budget, I was looking at it through a public safety lens: How is this budget going to improve public safety in Canada? Again, there are very serious issues in public safety that need dire and immediate attention from the Liberal government, and I do not feel that they were given that attention in budget 2023.
We are facing a 32% rise in violent crime since 2015, which is the 2015-21 statistic. I am confident that, unfortunately, the 2022 statistic is going to be even worse, given the headlines that we have seen over the past year and a half. Also, 32% is not just a number. In fact, it represents 124,000 more very serious violent crime incidents that have impacted innocent Canadians across the country. That is how many more violent crime incidents per year we experienced in 2021 versus 2015, when the Liberal first came to power. So, there are very serious issues not being addressed, from my perspective, in the budget.
Many of us read the news and watch the headlines, and we have seen a lot of very concerning stabbings, shootings, murders, assaults on innocent Canadians and stranger attacks on public safety, and a lot of it has to do with repeat violent offenders in our community who continue to get bail and wreak havoc on innocent Canadians. For example, there was a violent knife attack on a Surrey SkyTrain, which is its public transit, that left a young man in hospital. The attempted murderer was released on bail less than two weeks later. A man was almost stabbed to death, and the culprit was back on the streets. This follows the death of a 17 year old who was murdered, stabbed to death, in B.C. on a bus. This follows a 16-year-old boy who was stabbed to death in a Toronto public transit station. There are countless other examples of these horrific attacks in Canada. It seems that there are more and more every day.
It is not just civilians; it is also police. In fact, 10 police officers have died in the past year, eight of them on the job, and notably repeat violent offenders is a theme in many of the murders. Of course, everyone has heard of OPP Officer Greg Pierzchala, a young OPP officer who was murdered just after Christmas this past year. He walked up to a vehicle in a ditch and the driver shot and murdered him. That driver, that murderer, was out on bail and had a lifetime prohibition from ever owning a gun. Yet, he got out on bail, got a gun and shot and murdered that young police officer. We mourn the loss of Greg Pierzchala with his family.
Notably, his death sparked a necessary national conversation about bail reform, which is not mentioned once in the federal budget, despite every premier in the country joining in on one letter, which is very rare, and sending it to the demanding bail reform. Despite big-city mayors and municipal police forces across the country demanding bail reform, we see no action, no results on bail reform from this government. It is not mentioned in the budget at all. I find it very concerning, and it is very serious. Last year, in Toronto, of the 44 murders when someone used a gun to murder someone, 24 of the murderers were out on bail at the time, and so 24 of 44 could have been prevented if our bail system was a bit tougher. It is quite serious.
In B.C., the NDP provincial government has written urgently to the just in the last few weeks outlining what they are facing in terms of bail and violent crime. Only about 16% to 17% of those who are going through a trial for a violent crime actually get detained. I was shocked at these statistics, and I had to read them a number of times. Fewer than 20% of violent criminals are being denied bail in B.C. Something is seriously wrong, and the B.C. NDP government is demanding bail reform as a solution from the Liberal government, and yet it is not mentioned as a priority in the Liberal budget. I found that very disappointing, given the national conversation and the deaths that we have seen. We could say that maybe bail will be mentioned somewhere else, but violent crime was not mentioned as a priority. Members can google it themselves; it was not in the budget.
Again, folks at home need to understand that a government's budget is telling Canadians what its values are and what it is prioritizing for the year ahead with the billions of taxpayer dollars it accumulates over the year. If violent crime is not mentioned, then clearly it is not a priority for the Liberals to fight violent crime or to deal with bail and repeat violent offenders. There are issues in our parole system as well.
What is in the budget? It is not something that is answering the calls of police. Before I move on, I want to say I found something quite shocking this week. The Victoria Police Department, just to drive this point home, recently released a news release about a vile rapist who was charged with 10 counts of sexual assault with a weapon. It says, “Why was this person released? Bill C-75....”
Bill was a Liberal bill from a couple years ago. Where is the mention of fixing this problem in the budget? Where are the resources to fix this problem in the budget? Why was it not prioritized by the ? I have not received any answers for these questions yet.
There are a few things in the budget that I did find notable in the public safety realm. There is $29 million over five years for an IT computer program for the government's so-called buyback program of long guns. I know this is very contentious. I have talked about this extensively elsewhere.
There is no evidence to suggest that long gun confiscation is going to do anything for all the issues I have outlined. In fact, of the multitude of violent crimes in this country, fewer than 0.5% are committed with long guns. We know the majority of crime committed with firearms is committed by people who are not legally allowed to own them.
Spending millions of dollars on an IT program, millions of dollars buying inventory from small gun shops and then billions of dollars buying property from law-abiding citizens who have been trained, tested and vetted by police to own firearms, is not going to make any difference to everything that I have been talking about.
However, it is a top priority for Canadians that it get solved. I put this to the . He said there are a lot of ways to fight gun violence. I said sure there are, but I asked what they were in his opinion. He said he is investing money in the border. Is he doing that?
I took a closer look at the budget since the Liberals formed government. In 2015, there were 8,400 frontline officers and investigators working for CBSA, our border agency. We know, as Toronto Police have told us, about nine out of 10 guns that are used in crime in Toronto are smuggled in from the U.S. We hear this quite universally from police departments across the country. It is a gun-smuggling problem from the U.S.
In 2015, we had 8,400 frontline workers who were tasked with stopping things like this from happening and stopping the gun smugglers. The has said to Canadians multiple times, every time he gets a microphone, that he is spending all this money on the border to stop gun smuggling.
However, eight years later, there are only 25 more frontline officers, yet a lot of money has been spent. There are only 25 more frontline officers to fight gun smuggling, which is the source of violent crime in this country. Every chance he gets, he boasts about how much money he has invested.
Where is that money going? A closer look at the employees at CBSA shows that middle management has gone from approximately 2,000 people in 2015 to 4,000 people in 2023. It has doubled middle management, not the frontline workers who are working hard and putting their lives at risk to apprehend gun smugglers at the border, but the middle managers.
I greatly respect all of our middle managers in public safety, but the point is that it has doubled, while there has been almost no movement of the frontline officer numbers. How serious is he about cracking down on gun smuggling? The numbers are not telling me that the results are going to be there.
We know the RCMP is facing significant issues as well. Recruitment is way down, as is morale, across the country. Police say this is an issue, yet there is not any new money in the budget to encourage recruitment or for new recruits. We are seeing serious declines in recruitment in our police forces. Why is that not being addressed? We need more frontline police officers to fight violent crime.
We also know there has been a 12% funding cut to the Parole Board and a 36% decrease in staff at the Parole Board. Perhaps that is why we have major mass casualties like the murderer in Saskatchewan who murdered, with a knife, 11 people and sent 17 more people to hospital. He was out on parole with 59 prior convictions.
After all that, we see cuts to parole and no increase in this budget, yet increases everywhere else. Public safety is not a priority for the government from what I have seen in the budget.
I do feel very strongly about this, as does the Conservative Party. We know Canadians care about public safety. I call on the and the Liberal government to bring forward real measures to address public safety because so far, they are getting a failing grade from me.