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 guess the one disappointing thing about the previous member is that he did not tell us where he gets his shirts, and that is something this House needs to know. I hope, some day, he will tell us.
I rise today on the budget, and I would like start by talking about some important news that happened last week. I represent the community of St. Catharines, which has been an automotive community for the better part of a century. There is a General Motors factory in our community. It has been a long-time employer in the community, and this week's announcement about the new gigafactory in St. Thomas is exciting for southern Ontario for many reasons.
An hon. member: Thirteen billion.
Mr. Chris Bittle: Mr. Speaker, when we got elected in 2015, there was a dark cloud over the auto industry. The previous government really did not pay enough attention. We saw factory closings in St. Thomas, with thousands of workers laid off. We saw closings throughout the manufacturing sector. We saw a lot of factories close in Niagara, automotive or otherwise.
I had GM pensioners come to me in the early part of our first mandate worried whether the St. Catharines plant would stay open, after serving the community and being an employer of members of our community for a century. It is a shocking thing for a community, to be worried about something that has been at the heart of it for so long. I tip my hat, not only to this government, but also to the provincial government, for focusing on the auto industry and understanding it is a priority for the province and a priority for southern Ontario.
The Volkswagen announcement would mean 3,000 direct jobs and 30,000 indirect jobs. Those would be jobs throughout southern Ontario, the rest of Ontario and even into the neighbouring provinces as well. There was a heckle that it is going to cost billions of dollars in federal and provincial investments, but it is an investment. That investment will be paid off in less than six years, and it is for a plant that will be there for decades, a plant that will produce 400 billion to 500 billion dollars' worth of economic economic activity. I am going to say that again. This will be $400 billion to $500 billion, not million, in economic activity for a region that has seen so many factories move away and so many factories close.
Conservatives will say that they stand up for workers, but I ask where the action is on that. It has become awfully quiet. The heckling has stopped, but at the end of the day—
Mr. Frank Caputo: Where were you for Alberta workers?
Mr. Chris Bittle: Mr. Speaker, the heckling has started again, and it is for Alberta workers. They ask about Alberta workers. Unemployment is high. I know the hon. member is excited about automotive workers. What is good for Ontario is good for Alberta. What is good for Alberta is good for the rest of the country as well.
The hon. member knows that oil is a commodity, and the price of oil will dictate the economy, so it is a global thing. I know he pretends the is in charge of that, which is an incredible thing to suggest to his constituents. It is kind of silly, and it really shows he really does not comprehend how the global economy works, which is truly disappointing for a member in a party that claims it speaks for business.
To hear these heckles, it is clear he does not know how business works and does not know how the economy works. That being said—
Mr. Speaker, I did not specifically point anyone out until the hon. member stood up to accept that he did not understand what he was talking about. As the old saying goes, it would be best to remain silent and be thought of as a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt, so I am happy to have him stand up.
It is truly disappointing that the hon. member would try to heckle me over 33,000 jobs. The Conservative member for the region was there. I am sure she is excited about the prospect of tens of thousands of jobs in southern Ontario. I know the premier of Ontario, who is a Conservative, gave her a shout-out for her work in her constituency, but it is disappointing to see the leader of the opposition stand against auto workers, the automotive industry and southern Ontario.
We have seen investments, and not just in Volkswagen in St. Thomas. We have seen them at automotive plants such as Honda, Toyota, General Motors and Ford. We have seen new announcements in places such as Windsor, London, Niagara and Oshawa, which some had feared would close. These are places that we thought were on the way out, which are now excited about the future, and are there for the future.
To cash in on the green economy and green jobs, we need to have an environmental plan. That is what the hon. members on the other side do not understand. They do not understand that we need a climate plan. The last election they ran on a carbon tax. At the end of the day, they have now changed their minds, going back to saying it should be free to pollute whenever and however one wants. That is how they go about things. They have tried it three elections in a row and can carry on to continue in the same way in a fourth election.
A company such as Volkswagen, after looking at Canada, realized that this is a country that is serious about climate and a province that is serious about climate. That is how we attract these jobs. Our workers, whether they are in Ontario or Alberta, are serious about doing better for their environment. We can see with our own eyes that the climate is changing.
We can bury our heads in the sand, or we can do better. We can get good-paying jobs. We can advance the middle class in our country, or we can say, “Oh, don't worry about it. We'll just stick with the old ways and see those factories close.” That is what they did in the previous 10 years they were in office. They threw up their hands and said they do not care.
An hon. member: Oh, oh!
Mr. Chris Bittle: Mr. Speaker, I heard another heckle. We reduced emissions. I always love that we reduced emissions, but they take credit for the Kathleen Wynne closure of coal plants in Ontario. One thing they do is quietly celebrate Kathleen Wynne about that. I appreciate the heckle on that point.
Again, this is optimistic for St. Catharines, and it is optimistic for southern Ontario. It is going to see workers continue and generations, moving forward, who will have great-paying jobs in this sector. That is how we build the middle class.
I would also like to speak about dental. This is something else the Conservatives are opposed to, providing free dental care to kids and seniors, even though they themselves get a government-funded dental plan, as we do on this side of this House. They would deny that to Canadians.
There was a weird comment by a previous member who suggested some seniors are having difficulty buying groceries, so a dental plan would be a waste, which is a shocking thing to say. I guess the Conservative viewpoint on this would be, if someone is having trouble eating, they do not need teeth, which is wild.
Before I was elected to office, my favourite job, which was also one I did not get paid for, was the chair of Quest Community Health Centre in St. Catharines. We had a volunteer dental clinic where a volunteer dentist would come and do work on vulnerable members of our community. It was incredible to see the results. People who had been in pain for years, for decades, would use the emergency room to take care of their dental pain. We all know that there are ER crises across the country with long wait times, but people were smiling for the first time.
The Conservatives see it as a waste, which is disappointing. How does one get a job if one cannot smile? It is the right thing to do, but let us look at it as an economic plan. They can be opposed to alleviating suffering. They can be opposed to making people feel great being able to smile, but it will help them get jobs. It will help them get back into society.
This is something worthwhile. It is something this budget and this government stand up for, but we do not see it on the other side.
The Conservatives say that they stand up for the vulnerable, that they stand up for workers, that they stand up for their constituents, but time after time, when the rubber meets the road on these points that actually help Canadians, they are nowhere to be seen. Though they have been heckling me on issues that matter to Canadians, they are nowhere to be seen when the votes happen and it is time to help Canadians. The Conservatives have nothing except bumper sticker slogans, and that will never help Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the federal government's budget and to report on behalf of working families, seniors and small businesses that I represent in New Brunswick Southwest.
I will join other Conservative MPs in voting against the budget implement act. We do so because the Liberal budget will make life more difficult and more expensive for Canadians.
Liberal MPs measure success by how many tax dollars are being spent. They say that the number of programs in this budget is what matters, yet Canadians know and understand why more federal assistance is needed. It is because the government's overall management of the economy is failing. Under the Liberals, Canadians are becoming poorer.
The Liberal government is raising taxes every year on households and businesses. It is a government that spent so much so quickly that inflation roared back, raising consumer prices throughout the economy on households and businesses, making it harder to get by and harder to compete.
As a result, Canadians are experiencing a cost-of-living crisis. It is especially painful on families, pensioners on a fixed income as well as modest and low-income workers. Canadians do not approve of massive inflationary spending. The Conservatives understand this. We recognize that out-of-control debt financing and taxes only hurts the country and it hurts Canadians. However, this is the Liberal plan.
As well, I should note that Conservatives do not approve of the Liberal-NDP coalition that barters tax dollars for confidence votes so the can govern as if he won a majority, when he did no such thing.
We know the has no willingness to be fiscally responsible. Nor is he even skilled at overseeing the government. The Liberals have increased spending on the public service, the running of the government, by 50%, yet today, federal workers are out on strike in the largest job action in at least 40 years. I have to say that it takes a special sort of incompetence to accomplish both these things, to both ramp up spending, spending more than $22 billion on the operation of government, and yet be in a position where taxpayers are receiving less but paying more.
Even while the drops the ball on big items and the cabinet passes these, the Liberal backbench cheers them on. Worse, taxpayers see a leader of a government who does not even care about ethics.
My constituents are certainly aware of the Prime Minister's extravagant spending habits and posh vacations. As struggling Canadians forgo basics and seniors make a choice between groceries and rent, the Prime Minister is choosing between visiting Jamaica and New York. Given his access to the pocketbook of Canadians, he chooses both. What is a $6,000-a-night hotel room in London when taxpayers cover it, or taking a Caribbean vacation when the $80,000-price is covered by a Trudeau Foundation donor? Canadians work hard and many cannot get ahead, yet the Prime Minister has never had it so good.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister was in my home province to tell New Brunswick families that they should also spend without worrying about the consequences of more debt. At a town hall in Moncton, the Prime Minister explained how borrowing money, as his Liberal government is doing, was just like using a credit card. He actually encouraged New Brunswick families and all Canadians to use their credit cards to pay for things like tuition and home renovations. He said, “If you’re using your credit card to go back to school, or if you go into debt to build an expansion on your house, then you’re going to be able to sell your house for more.”
Our is so out of touch, he is urging Canadians to borrow at interest rates as high as 28%, without any consequences, he says.
It is the same thing he told Canadians about inflation. Inflation will stay low. Homeowners took him at his word and took out variable mortgages with rates that have now gone through the roof. It is really making life difficult for millions of Canadians.
This is exactly how the Government of Canada is governing our nation's finances. Borrowing at 28% does not build wealth. It is a recipe for economic hardship. If someone borrows at 28%, their debt will double in three short years. That is what the is urging Canadians to do.
The projected interest on Canada's debt is going to hit $44 billion this year. That is money we just pay to bondholders. It does not fund a single social program. It does not help hire another RCMP officer. It does not help equip our military. It is money that is going up and is being paid off overseas.
It is $10 billion more than the estimates the government provided in the last fiscal economic update, and it will hit $50 billion in four short years. That is the spiral the government has us in. We have rising interest rates because of its debt-fuelled spending, twinned with inflation that is making a bad foundation wholly unstable.
Nowhere in this budget is there a viable strategy to control spending, or offer a plan or an outline to balance the budget. Instead, the total debt will top $1.2 trillion this year. Speaking of doubling debt, that is precisely what the Liberal government has done in eight short years. It has run up more debt than all governments in Canadian history combined. That has us on the road to fiscal ruin.
It gets worse. It does not just end with spending. The Liberal carbon tax increased to $65 per tonne of emissions this year, resulting in higher prices for gasoline, home heating, food and almost everything in the Canadian economy.
Liberals like to point to higher gas prices as something that is caused by the war against Russia, and there is no doubt that war has caused hardship, pressure on supply chains and rising energy prices.
I point to my riding, which neighbours the state of Maine. If someone crosses into Maine and fills up their tank, after the exchange rate, gas is 50% more expensive per litre in New Brunswick than it is in Maine. That is 100% due to energy taxes on gasoline. It has nothing to do with Russia. It has everything to do with how the government is taxing energy to make life more expensive and make life more painful for Canadian families.
The Liberals are going to triple the carbon tax, raising it from $65 to $175 per tonne by 2030. This will be a body blow to the middle class and working families. It will make our manufacturing sector uncompetitive with the United States.
I can already hear the Liberals' reply that the carbon tax is for a clean environment, but the carbon tax is not an environment plan. It is the largest tax plan in Canadian history.
Conservatives do not believe in punishing families for buying groceries or punishing workers for driving to work. I have a few stats that are worth mentioning. If the government likes to talk about its big numbers, let us talk about some items that Canadians are facing every day.
Canada's Food Price Report this year predicts that a family of four will spend up to $1,065 more on food, which is $598 more than the $467 rebate they will receive from Ottawa.
I was happy to vote for that motion to return dollars to Canadians. The difference is I believe taxes should come down as a principle. Liberals only cut taxes when they are in trouble politically. They have driven up the cost of living in this country and, as a result, they are looking for rescue plans everywhere they can find them.
However, their fundamentals are such that this problem is not going to change. We will continue to see Canada go down a dark economic road until we turn things around. We need to limit the taxes on families and businesses, get our spending in order, and begin to make and build things here in Canada that do not require gobs of subsidies and government regulations.
This is why we are voting against the budget and this is why the Liberal government must be replaced as quickly as possible.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss Bill , an act to implement certain provisions of the budget.
I represent a riding with one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have consistently left parts of the country like mine, northern Manitoba, behind, preferring to stand with their billionaire friends than communities like the one I come from, and communities in our region. I think in many ways this budget reflects that.
We have seen the slow pace at which the Liberals move when it comes to helping people verus the zeal that comes with standing with the billionaire class. Liberals have been in power for eight years, and it took New Democrats to force them to expand health care services and finally move to provide dental care services for millions of Canadians. New Democrats have made this call for years and now many seniors and young people will finally get access to the dental care they need.
We also know Canadians are struggling to put food on the table for their families in a way we have not seen in a generation. The reality is the current government is not doing enough. We know the GST rebate that will be sent to families will provide immediate relief for Canadians, and that is also something that is there because of the work of New Democrats. Let us be clear. If Liberals had it their way, none of these supports would have been included. While there is still more work to be done to deliver for the working class, if it were not for elected New Democrats in Parliament this budget would have been much worse.
Let us talk about what is not in the budget. New Democrats forced the government to help people, but we know there is so much more that must be done. Without this pressure by New Democrats, this budget would not have provided Canadians any sort of help, and they should know that New Democrats will always fight to get results for them.
One area that is very concerning is the lack of urgent significant investment in indigenous housing. The $4 billion over seven years for a co-developed urban, rural and northern indigenous strategy, starting in 2024-25, is not enough. We know that Liberals did not even want to put this much money in the budget, and it is outrageous that the money will only start flowing in the next fiscal year. Indigenous communities, first nations and Métis communities, like the ones I represent, need action now. The infrastructure gap facing first nations is at least $30 billion, and we suspect that number is much higher. The $4 billion over seven years is barely a drop in the bucket and will not do enough to end the inhumane conditions the current government, and governments before it, have forced indigenous peoples to live in.
When we talk about the housing crisis facing indigenous communities, let us be clear as to what we are talking about. In places like Shamattawa, Cross Lake and Tataskweyak, we are talking about dilapidated, overcrowded homes, with 12 people or even more to a house, with holes in the walls, mould in the corners and heating that does not work in some of the harshest climates in the country. If members of the House think that the amount of money in this budget for indigenous housing is sufficient, it is because they have never set foot on a first nation.
It is shameful that the government had to be pulled kicking and screaming to make even these small investments, and I challenge any sitting member who defends the indefensible to come to northern Manitoba, to visit Nunavut, to visit first nations in northern Ontario. The money is barely a drop in the bucket. It is no surprise coming from the Liberal government. It could not even budget for indigenous housing in its platform. It literally had no money for indigenous housing, the most extreme housing crisis in our country, in its platform. When people show us who they are, we should believe them.
The current government will continue to pay lip service to these commitments and do less than the bare minimum. Yes, it might say all the right things, throw in the word “reconciliation” a few times, but I have suspected for a long time that when it comes to indigenous peoples the government is satisfied making Canadians in cities feel comfortable, rather than making the real systemic change that would allow indigenous peoples and indigenous communities to actually have the right to secure and safe housing. We need real systemic change.
A great example of how the government is satisfied to tinker around the edges without materially improving the lives of people is how they are dealing with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a Crown corporation.
To rewind a bit, over a year ago, I proposed legislation that would help communities like the ones I represent, first nations, Métis and northern communities, to access over $35 billion to take on the devastating impacts of the climate crisis in their communities. The Canada Infrastructure Bank, since its inception, has been an abysmal failure for Canadians but a success for the billionaire class. In our bill, we worked to fix that, and a lot of our solutions actually made it into this budget.
We called for the Canada Infrastructure Bank to prioritize the needs of northern and indigenous communities. At the time, the Liberals voted against that, but it is now in the budget. We called for the Canada Infrastructure Bank to prioritize funding projects that help us deal with the climate crisis. At the time, the Liberals voted against it, but it is now in the budget. We also called to end the corporate giveaway led by the Canada Infrastructure Bank by removing its privatization capacity. The Liberals voted against it. Curiously, this did not make it into the budget.
We see this repeatedly throughout the budget any time we deal with corporate profits. In 2021, as the richest companies in the country had record profits, they managed to push their tax rate lower, avoiding $30 billion in taxes.
The government knows about these loopholes. We have called on it numerous times to close them, because the reality is that the problem is getting worse. As Dr. DT Cochrane from Canadians for Tax Fairness pointed out, in the decade before the pandemic, “Canadian corporations claimed about eight cents of every dollar as pre-tax profit.” In 2021, that number was 12¢, which is unsurprising. Every time a for-profit corporation gets a hold of a dollar, it is compelled to siphon as much profit as possible.
What is equally unsurprising is that the Liberals refuse to do anything about it. If New Democrats were in power, we would bring in an excess profit tax to make sure that billionaires pay their fair share. It really highlights the issue with the Liberal Party and its repeated, utter refusal to do anything that upsets the status quo or upsets the capital class and the Liberals' rich and powerful friends.
This is why we are unsurprised that the budget is woefully inadequate when it comes to combatting the climate crisis. For the 2023-24 period, only $14 billion is allocated to climate-related spending efforts. This is insultingly low when compared with the 2% of the GDP we need to address the scale and magnitude of the climate emergency. Most of the spending in the Liberal budget is in the form of tax breaks and subsidies to corporations rather than direct investments in proven emissions reduction projects.
If we could solve the climate crisis through tax breaks to wealthy corporations, it would have already been done. Members can believe me on this: That is literally Liberals' only solution, which they try again and again.
We need to be real. The climate crisis is nothing to take lightly. Canadians need a plan that will funnel funds into publicly owned sustainable energy projects to reduce our carbon emissions in the long term. Such investments could be made in public transit, renewable energy projects and infrastructure that makes sense and protects our communities. What we have instead is the continued billion-dollar giveaway to big oil.
Why are the Liberals more concerned with preserving subsidies for big oil, which made record profits this year, than investing in a sustainable, green economy that will save lives? The government has always said the right things when it comes to the environment. It is an expert at greenwashing. Unfortunately, the government has always done the complete opposite. Continued support for the oil and gas sector hinders our progress towards a sustainable, low-carbon future.
I want to be clear on this: A New Democrat climate policy would involve investing public money in public carbon emissions reduction plans, such as public transit, decarbonized energy grids and renewable energy alternatives. This would be done at a much higher rate than is done in this budget, which carries with it an incalculable loss for future generations. The truth is that the current Liberal government lacks the imagination and, most importantly, the political will to seriously tackle the climate crisis head-on.
In closing, New Democrats are proud that we forced the Liberals to make some investments that would make a real difference to the people across the country. However, there is so much more that needs to be done, particularly when it comes to the most marginalized communities—
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the commonalities between northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba. I think we have to be very real about what is in front of us, and as I said, while there is good in the budget, there is also much more work that needs to be done.
However, I certainly want to speak to the issue of cost of living. We absolutely need government to be part of the solution. What is also clear to me in terms of regions like ours, and certainly communities across the country, is that we are not taking on the companies that are making profits on the backs of some of the poorest communities in the country.
For example, we have the nutrition north subsidy, which has not been reformed in ages, since the Harper government totally reshaped it for the benefit of the Northern Store. The reality is that a lot of communities cannot afford, even with the subsidy, to buy the kinds of healthy foods they need for their families. We need the federal government to be taking a hard look at the nutrition north subsidy and working with northern communities, indigenous communities, harvesters, trappers and organizations that want to make a difference in terms of food security. That is clearly not being done right now.
I would say more broadly that, when we are talking about the cost of living crisis, we also need good jobs in our communities. I come from a mining town where the Harper government signed a deal with Vale, a Brazilian multinational. This deal led to the loss of every single refining job in my community. We lost almost all the value-added jobs, with some of the best salaries, in my hometown. Families left and have never come back.
As such, if we are going to be real about what the government needs to do, I would take a hard look at the history of the way in which the Conservative government made life more difficult for northerners in my part of the country and do very differently. This is something we are not seeing much of from the Liberals. I can safely say that if we were in government, it would be a whole different story.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise on Bill .
First, I want to thank members here in the chamber and those who are not for supporting Bill , my private member's bill on the Ojibway national urban park, which passed almost unanimously. I thank members for that.
It is good to talk about how this place can work. I have worked, at the industry committee, on a couple of Conservative bills, one from the member of , and I am glad that this Parliament is continuing, because that work will continue. However, if we do not support the budget bill, it is very clear what happens. As I hear from many members from all political sides, what they say in the chamber and sometimes in public is not the same thing as we hear in private. They are glad we are not going to an election for a lot of reasons, and they will talk about that quite openly because the consequence would be losing all private members' legislation.
I have worked with a couple of Conservative members, in particular, on their private member's bill, which are quite good. They are excellent, and a good step forward in making a difference for Canadians. One is on affordability and one is on interoperability with regard to sharing information on farming and other things. Lastly, there is one related to tax incentives, which is important for a number of reasons.
I think it is important to note, as I start to think about why I am supporting this bill, that there are some things I do not like in a bill and there are things I do like in a bill. That has been the same for me in this place for over 20 years for any government that has come forward. It does not matter which one it has been, whether it was Jean Chrétien's when I first got here or, most recently, that of the member for Papineau, the current . There are certain things I do like and certain things I do not like in a bill. However, overall, I am pretty proud of the NDP being able to use this opportunity to get things passed that were defeated in the previous Parliament, whether it is dental care or more housing initiatives.
They are not all of the things we wanted and asked for, and we wanted other things to go with them, but we are 25 members moving this country forward. Also, imagine going through another election during a pandemic with no results and it costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The Speaker would have to go through another election for the Speaker position, and we would have all the rigamarole to get the House back in operating form, for probably a regular scenario like we have here.
I have seen in this chamber other political parties get a lot less or not do anything. I remember that during the Harper minority years, the Liberals supported Harper over 100 times without an amendment. Over 100 times they supported the government de facto, letting it operate as a majority government without any challenges. During that time, Harper brought in the HST, a new tax on consumers, and even taxed hospital parking lots, which are no longer taxed. I could go on with a bunch of things that happened with no resistance whatsoever from the Liberals at that time. We sat next to each other in the old chamber, and I remember asking why they were not doing anything about it. They said they did not want to be bothered right now. We bother because we have to fight for things.
When I got here, there were only 14 New Democrats, and we played our role, as anybody in opposition, in trying to hold the government to account for a lot of reasons, such as making change and so forth. Then, when Jack Layton joined us, there was a real change in where we were. With where we stand today, we want to make propositions as well as be in opposition. That is what Jack instilled in many of the members here today.
With the culture we now work in on a regular basis, we look at this as an opportunity to get what Tommy Douglas wanted. Tommy Douglas wanted eye care, dental care and pharmacare as part of the full package, and that is part of what drove us as New Democrats. It was the understanding that our freedom, our sense of well-being and our health are so critically important, not only to us and our families but also to the economy and society, that they should be the number one things protected. That is one of the reasons Tommy Douglas was voted the number one Canadian, with the population supporting him as Canada's favourite Canadian.
We are now realizing a part of that dream that never came to fruition. It is important to recognize that each province does have some elements of dental care and some elements that are stronger than others. However, this is not across the whole country from coast to coast to coast.
In the area I represent, I have a lot of child poverty and a lot of single mothers. A lot of people, including my own hygienist, do not have dental coverage. These things are wrong because they affect human health, everything from one's heart to wellness to how one feels as a person. This is all preventable.
This is money that goes back in the economy. Yes, it does cost the government money and there is a cost and expenditure there, but it is not a tax cut, which is something the Conservatives and the Liberals have done in the past. In fact, Stéphane Dion was arguing with I think Michael Ignatieff at the time about tax cuts not going deep enough and fast enough.
When there are a lot of U.S. corporations and taxes on worldwide profits, some of our industries send money back to Washington. Instead of doing that, I would rather invest in dental care, as an example, because it saves jobs and lowers the cost of jobs in Canada for foreign investment and other investment.
Earlier in the debate today, we talked about the Volkswagen plant that is coming in. I have been after a national auto policy and I do not want to see one-offs. I would rather see a strategic investment, especially when it comes to batteries and the platinum age of auto, which we are in right now. In the calculations to do the deal here is the cost of labour. When we look at the productivity of Unifor and other labour organizations in the auto sector, yes, their wages and benefits are a little higher, but they also produce significantly more and better than their counterparts.
On top of that, when there are programs with subsidies going to the worker instead of the corporation, we control those subsidies and those subsidies are not going off to other countries. They are staying here and are investing in people. Those people with those subsidies are better off regarding production and making sure we can be economically viable.
There is also the social justice argument, which should be a no-brainer. How anybody in this chamber can accept dental benefits for their own children but deny others the same thing is beyond me. I do not understand how they can come to this place and check that at door every single time. We know we get a privilege benefit from the taxpayers, but we tell them they cannot have that. By the way, we still have not fixed eye care. We do not have that either. That is wrong. We should lead by example, and leading by example means providing things that would be fair and balanced.
Coming from the border town of Windsor, Ontario, in Essex County, where we have to compete against American jobs every single day, I know from talking to executives that they want health care in this country because they know it means a lower production cost for their workers in the United States, Mexico and other places. It means less turnover and less loss of skills and abilities. Especially with an unemployment rate now of 4% to 5% and having a problem attracting workers, this is key. That is what dental care adds to the equation. It will also bring better stability at the bargaining table.
The government needs to get on this and help negotiate a settlement agreement for its workers, because we are not going to see any value in keeping the public service out right now. It is not going to pay off whatsoever, and the government needs to change that.
The point is that, yes, there is a surface cost to paying for Canadians to get dental care for themselves and their families, but it is an investment back in them, our communities and our economy versus a net loss. That is one of the reasons I will support this budget. It is going to complete at least one chapter of Tommy Douglas's dream.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in this House and speak to budget 2023 and, more important, Bill .
The budget this year comes at a time when Canada had the fastest-growing economy in the G7 last year and is projected to be the second-fastest-growing this year and when we have near record-low unemployment rate, having created an additional 865,000 jobs compared to what it was before the pandemic. However, we know those lofty numbers do not mean much for a lot of Canadians who are struggling right now. We have had high inflation since last year, peaking in September at 8.1%. It is now down to about 4.3%, but that has come as a result of the work of the Governor of the Bank of Canada in raising interest rates. We know that many Canadians right now are struggling with the high cost of living.
That is why the budget would make some important investments to help many folks with affordability measures. Key to this is a new grocery rebate, which would help 11 million low-to-modest-income Canadians with up to $467 per couple to help with the rising cost of food. For students right now, as of April 1 of this year, we have eliminated all interest on student loans and we have increased the Canada student grants by 40%. We are also creating a new project and expanding a project to create automatic tax filing for Canadians, because we know it is really important for Canadians to file their taxes so they can get some of the benefits that I was just speaking about.
This budget would also make historic investments in health care: almost $200 billion over 10 years, which would be key for areas like mine, where access to a family health practitioner is a very big challenge. We are also expanding Canada's dental care program for families earning under $90,000. Last year, we started it with children 12 and under. This year, it would be for Canadians who are 18 and under and those over the age of 65. There are also some very important investments that would be made to tackle the opioid epidemic, which has struck B.C. very hard.
There are also some major investments in this budget in creating the good jobs of today and the good jobs of tomorrow. We know the world is rapidly transitioning to a cleaner economy, and that is why this budget would make significant investments in supporting renewable electricity projects right across the country, not just for the private sector, but also working with Crown corporations and provinces to do that.
There are new tax credits for clean hydrogen. I know this is going to be very important for companies in my riding like Quantum Technology, which is involved in projects for the purification and liquefaction of hydrogen. There are also some major investments being made in zero-emissions manufacturing. With the creation of new funds like the Canada growth fund, we would be able to crowd in private capital for projects just like the one that was announced last week with Volkswagen, to create a massive new battery-manufacturing plant in Canada.
Because it is National Tourism Week this week, I would be remiss if I did not mention that this budget would make some significant down payments on the launch of Canada's new tourism growth strategy. There is over $100 million that would go toward the regional development agencies to support local projects. There would be about $50 million going to Destination Canada to attract international events to Canada, and there would be investments made to speed up the operations at airports, including investments in improving the protection of passenger rights.
With that, I will turn to the budget implementation act, which is where the rubber hits the road on a lot of these measures.
I mentioned passenger rights. Right now, we have a backlog of about 30,000 people who are waiting for their cases of delayed flights or cancelled flights to be adjudicated. We would change the process that we utilize for this by switching the onus so that it is not on the travellers to prove that they should be refunded, but on the airline itself to prove that they should not. This would greatly speed up the process and get passengers the refunds they deserve.
As I am a British Columbia MP, there are a couple of areas of this implementation act that are very important to me. The issue of money laundering in B.C. has really been put in the spotlight with the Cullen commission, which the Province of British Columbia commissioned and which delivered its report relatively recently. This report highlights many of the vulnerabilities that we have in Canada in tackling money laundering.
Canada has the dubious distinction of being a haven for this, a process called snow-washing. It is because we have a system without the necessary checks in it and a very well-respected financial system. This budget implementation act would make some very important changes to help us better control this challenge. In particular, it would criminalize the operation of unregistered money services businesses; it would create an ability to freeze and seize virtual assets with suspected links to crime; it would improve the financial intelligence, information sharing and strategic analysis of FINTRAC; and it would create a new offence for structuring financial transactions to avoid FINTRAC reporting. Importantly, a commitment has been made to implement all of the recommendations that are listed by the Cullen commission.
These measures also dovetail to other measures that we are currently debating in this House. We introduced Bill to create a national beneficial ownership registry so we will know who are the people behind a lot of the numbered companies, which are sometimes using this to evade paying taxes, evade sanctions or do money laundering. Importantly, this system would work very closely with beneficial ownership registries that the provinces are implementing, where the vast majority of companies are incorporated. There is also a commitment made in this budget to work with provinces and territories to look at things like unexplained wealth orders, which would greatly enhance the tools that law enforcement has to be able to locate and seize assets that could be from proceeds of crime.
As I am a coastal MP, there are a number of measures in this budget that I was very happy to see, particularly the new vessel remediation fund and changes to the abandoned boats program. This measure was introduced in 2017 by my former colleague Bernadette Jordan, and it created a fund to clean up boats that had sunk to the bottom of the ocean and were polluting the ocean. This was incredibly important and actually removed a lot of boats from waters around my riding. However, we need to go a step further, because it is much more effective to take those boats out of the water before they sink rather than having to clean them up once they have already sunk.
In the budget implementation act, we are establishing a new vessel remediation fund, which would be boat owner-financed, to provide the resources so we can do some of this very important work. There would be the creation of an allowance for financing of preventative measures, such as voluntary vessel disposal activities, so that vessels at risk of becoming dilapidated, wrecked or abandoned can access funding to repair, secure, move or dismantle and sell them. This is very important because it would save a lot money, reduce the amount of pollution we are seeing in the bottom of our oceans and help a lot of folks I know in my riding, like Don MacKenzie, who, out of the goodness of his own heart, has taken it upon himself to clean these boats up.
I want to talk about something that I think we can all agree on in this House, and that is changes to the alcohol excise tax. As of April 1 this year, the alcohol escalator tax was supposed to increase by over 6%. Through measures that have been introduced in the budget implementation act, we have capped this at 2%. I know this will be a hugely important measure for the breweries in my riding, over a dozen, to be able to provide their products at a cost that is much lower than it would have been. It is really important that we do things like this and support small businesses, which, like all Canadians, are facing rising costs.
The last thing I will mention is that there is a commitment in the budget this year to lower the credit card swipe fees. There is an agreement with Visa and Mastercard to lower credit swipe fees by 27%. This would save businesses thousands of dollars. It is a really important measure to support small businesses in Canada, so they, in turn, do not have to pass on some of the additional costs they would face as a result of those credit card swipe fees.
With that, I would encourage all members of this House to vote in favour of this important piece of legislation so we can make some of these great changes and put them into effect.
Madam Speaker, I would like to talk about “a line we shall not cross.” Only one short year ago, the said, “let me be very clear: We are absolutely determined that our debt-to-GDP ratio must continue to decline.” It did not. In fact, it went up. She also said, “Our deficits must continue to be reduced”, which they were not. She said, “The pandemic debt we incurred to keep Canadians safe and solvent must—and will—be paid down.” It was not. “This is our fiscal anchor. This is a line we shall not cross”, she said. Just last November, the Liberals predicted that the budget will have a $4.5-billion surplus in 2027. Now, they say there is going to be a $14-billion deficit in 2027.
I am stuck on the words “a line we shall not cross”. High-sounding words of integrity they are indeed, but so many lines have been crossed. In 2015, the promised that the budget would be balanced by 2019. It did not happen. This year alone, the government will go another $43 billion into debt. In 2019, the Prime Minister said that the debt-to-GDP ratio would go down. It did not happen. Do members remember his abandoned promise from 2019? He promised to cut mobile phone rates by 25%. It never happened.
The Liberals then said, in 2021, that they would create a $5-billion mental health transfer, which was a major promise of transfer to the provinces. It did not happen. It is not mentioned in the budget at all. Do members remember 2015? The said that the election would be the last first-past-the-post one. It did not happen. In 2019, he said, “we will plant two billion trees”. It never happened. How about the carbon tax and the claim that “Canadians get back more than they pay”? This is not true, says the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer. Let us not forget the perennial pharmacare promise in almost every Liberal platform over the last 30 years. In this budget, the word “pharmacare” does not even appear. There is not one mention.
How about the claim that interest rates will remain low, or that we need to be worried about deflation, not inflation? How about the promise of affordable housing or rent? The Liberals have spent $89 billion on a national housing strategy that hardly creates more housing. Since 2015, mortgage payments, down payments and rents have doubled. They promised to help students, but instead cut the Canada student grant from $6,000 to $4,200 a year.
The promised to keep our streets safer, yet violent crime is way up. Another promise, “We will make information more accessible by requiring transparency to be a fundamental principle across the federal government”, did not happen. He also promised to stop money laundering. Canada is now such a haven for money launderers that it has its own name: snow-washing. This is not a badge of honour.
Let us talk about crossing a line. The just appointed, and I cannot believe I am even saying this, as it sounds so ridiculous, the sister-of-law of the as the Ethics Commissioner. The minister himself has been charged by the last ethics commissioner.
It is time for Conservatives to cross a line, the line between this side of the aisle and the government side of the aisle. We will cross that line after the next election, members can be sure, when the member for is the next prime minister of Canada.
Conservatives were looking for just three reasonable things in this budget: lower taxes for Canadian workers, an end to inflationary deficit spending, and meaningful measures to make housing more affordable. None of the three Conservative demands has been met, and there is not a chance that Conservatives will support this anti-worker, tax-hiking, inflationary budget.
Let us talk taxes. Nearly all economists agree that raising taxes during or just before an economic slowdown is absolutely terrible economic policy, yet this government continues raising taxes for ordinary Canadians. The Parliamentary Budget Officer shows that the carbon tax will cost average families way more than the rebate they receive. There is a war on work in this country. Higher taxes mean less take-home pay. Do we know what happens when we punish work? We get less work. Just this year, the raised payroll taxes on workers and small businesses. A worker making about $66,600 will be forced to pay an extra $305.
By increasing the excise tax on alcohol by 2%, Liberals are still raising taxes on the restaurants and breweries that are struggling to survive. Just when service industry workers are trying to get back on their feet from the pandemic, the current government's brilliant plan is to make it more expensive for Canadians to dine out.
Let us talk about inflationary spending. In 2015, the total federal debt was about $600 billion. Today, it has doubled, to $1.2 trillion, which is $600 billion from Confederation to 2015 and $600 billion from 2015 to 2023. That is nearly $81,000 per household in Canada. To make matters worse, this year alone, interest on this massive debt will cost Canadians $43 billion. To put that into perspective, it is almost as much as what the federal health care transfer will be, at $49.4 billion. That is interest, going to pay wealthy bondholders and bankers, that is more than enough to fund the health care transfer. Even with revenues way up, the government is going to borrow another $175 billion between now and 2028, bringing the debt to over $1.3 trillion. The spending in this year's budget is $63 billion higher than it was a year ago. That is $4,200 for each and every Canadian, which is almost enough to house the in the hotel room for one whole night.
The massive federal bureaucracy is costing Canadians in a major way. Here is a troubling statistic: Personnel spending over the past two years increased by 30.9% to $60.7 billion. In spite of that, we now have the biggest strike in Canadian history. That takes a very special kind of incompetence.
It gets even worse. At the same time, expenditures for external contracting have more than doubled since 2015, to over $20 billion, with billions going to wealthy companies like McKinsey and other consulting firms that are totally unaccountable to taxpayers. Never before has a government spent so much to achieve so little. As Canadians are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet, the current government is raking in record revenues. It will receive $413 billion this year, which is up $151 billion from 2015. In fact, Canada's per capita economic growth has been the weakest among the OECD countries, despite all of this spending.
The dream of home ownership has died for young and new Canadians under the current . Nine in 10 people who do not own a home believe they never will. We have the most expensive housing on the planet, higher in some of our cities than in New York, Los Angeles and other major cities. That makes no sense, with only 38 million people living on the second-largest land mass in the world. Young people who have done everything we have asked them to do, such as go to school and work hard, are living in their parents' basements.
Conservatives will make sure that the municipal gatekeepers get out of the way so we can get some homes built. We will sell off 15% of federal buildings for affordable housing and will bring back the dream of home ownership.
Grocery price inflation is in the double digits for the seventh month in a row. Record numbers of people are using food banks. One in five Canadians is skipping meals. The now stands up in the House and brags about all the cheques he is sending for this or that, but the government has no money. It first has to take it from Canadians before it gives it back. Why not leave it where it belongs in the first place? The so-called grocery rebate will not come close to covering the rising cost of food that the inflationary Liberal deficits and tax hikes have caused. The “Canada Food Price Report 2023” predicts that a family of four will spend up to $1,065 more on food this year.
We must bring home a country where people bring home powerful paycheques. Canada must work for the people who have done the work. Conservatives will bring home powerful paycheques, with lower taxes. We will scrap the carbon tax so hard work pays off again. We will bring home lower prices by ending the inflationary debts and deficits that drive inflation. We will make sure that homes are affordable for young Canadians again. That is what Conservatives will do.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by sharing, as I usually do, what I like about the bill we are debating this afternoon, in this case, Bill , which would implement some measures that were in the budget, many that would benefit people in my community.
I would like to share two examples.
The first is dental care, which is part 4, division 29. Bill takes meaningful steps to advance the new Canada dental care plan specifically by introducing the dental care measures act. The measures in Bill C-47 move toward dental coverage, starting for those who need it most, including uninsured Canadians under 18, people with disabilities and seniors who have a family income of less than $90,000. Those with average annual family incomes under $70,000 would have their dental visit covered by the federal government without any out-of-pocket costs.
Second, there is a provision to lower the criminal rate of interest, which is in part 4, division 34. Bill would amend the Criminal Code to cut the maximum allowable rate of interest to 35% from 47%, at least for alternative lenders, like EasyFinancial, for example. It is a positive step forward that I support, but, sadly, it does not include all companies like this, specifically, predatory payday lenders. Money Mart, for example, would still be exempt from this new rate cap. However, it is a step in the right direction.
In light of constructive measures like these, I intend on supporting Bill .
I recognize this is in contrast to how I voted on the budget as a whole, which was against. Therefore, I would like share more, with the rest of my time, on why this was the case. In brief, it is because the budget does not meet the moment we are in.
I will start with housing, and the words of the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate, an advocate whose role was created by the federal government. It said, “The newly unveiled Federal Budget is a sorry disappointment. It completely misses the mark on addressing the most pressing housing crisis this country has ever seen.”
Tim Richter from the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness said, “It’s clear that the federal government does not see the scale and urgency of these crises, and have offered no solutions.”
When I look at my community, the housing crisis has and will continue to define us. The number of people living unsheltered has at least tripled since 2018, as encampments continue to grow across our community. When we look at the cost of rent and homes, in 2022 compared to 2005, house prices had gone up 275%, while wages had only gone up by 42%. However, in this budget, there is almost no new investments in housing, and the one investment that was made, an important one in indigenous housing, is back-loaded, meaning the funding will not begin until future years.
There is also nothing to address the commodification of the housing market to move us back toward homes being places for people to live and not commodities for investors to trade. There is so much the federal government can and should be doing on this front.
One example of a sensible, simple measure I proposed is to end the tax exemptions for large, corporate investors, real estate investment trusts and direct the minimum of $285 million of revenue that this would generate to build the affordable housing that we need.
Next is on mental health. I will read the words of Margaret Eaton, National CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association. She says, “The budget is out of touch with the reality of Canadians’ well-being and their ability to afford mental health services. I believe that the government has missed the mark, and that there will be deep human and economic costs to pay.” I feel the same way, and that is reflected in the stories I hear from people and organizations in my community.
Very specifically, the governing party ran on a campaign that included dedicated mental health funds. In fact, there were $4.5 billion, to be called the Canada mental health transfer, yet there has been some kind of a magic trick, because that has just disappeared in the time since, including again in this budget. At a time when people in my community need that support now more than ever we cannot separate the housing crisis from the reality of the mental health services that people need.
Third, when it comes to reducing poverty, one of the most effective ways to do that is to ensure we lift people with disabilities out of poverty. In fact, we could cut poverty by 40% if we followed through on promises for which the disability community have advocated, and that is to introduce the Canada disability benefit. Again, in this year's budget, the federal government chose not to do it.
We know that when the federal government is serious about moving ahead with a policy, it does not start with legislation in the way it did with the disability benefit; it starts with funding. It is what it did with child care, and it is what it is not doing here. It is unfortunate that we will continue to see people with disabilities living in legislated poverty because of this budget. The governing party chose to not move ahead with that as quickly as it should. Neither did the Liberals introduce an emergency response benefit for people living with disabilities.
When it comes to the arts community, I would like to share another quote with the members:
[Budget 2023] does not offer a vision for how Canada’s arts, culture, and heritage sector can contribute to the fight against existential challenges of our time....We are...disappointed there is no new funding announced...for critical areas like [modernization initiatives]...supporting repatriation...or helping create new Indigenous museums or cultural centres.
This is from the BC Museums Association. It reflects concerns in my community also, including organizations like the KW Symphony and Centre in the Square, which need all levels of government to step up. When demand has not returned to prepandemic levels, we need to be continuing to support arts and culture organizations across the country. Instead, in this budget, if it is not a festival or a federally owned national museum, there is nothing here.
Last, is with respect to climate. I will quote the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, who said, “the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”
Even so, in this budget, at a time when the governing party says time and again it is committing to phasing out so-called unabated fossil fuel subsidies, it has introduced four new ones, including funding for drilling in the Arctic for more oil. At a time when we know we need to move with urgency to address the climate crisis we are facing, does it not make sense that we start by not subsidizing the very sector most responsible for the crisis at a time when its profits are over $38 billion among the five largest oil and gas companies across the country?
Julia Levin, the associate director of national climate at Environmental Defence, said:
Rather than finally delivering on the government’s promise to end fossil fuel subsidies, this budget throws more fuel on the fire by funneling even more public dollars into false solutions that serve to prop up the fossil fuel industry. Carbon capture and hydrogen are great for greenwashing oil and gas, but they won’t deliver meaningful emissions reductions.
She knows as well as I do that this is exactly what we need at this point in this critical decade when we have a chance to keep global average temperatures below 1.5°C.
I want to encourage all my colleagues here to push for measures that would address these significant gaps that I know are priorities, not only for people in Kitchener and in Waterloo Region but right across the country, when it comes to addressing the housing crisis, mental health, lifting up people with disabilities, investing in the arts and addressing the climate crisis that we are in, while also being mindful that there are important measures in Bill that we all should be supporting.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to join the debate on Bill and highlight our government's efforts to support the middle class, build a strong and prosperous economy, and help Canadians cope with the rising cost of living.
The 2023 budget tabled last month by the proposes, for one, targeted inflation relief for 11 million Canadians and families. That is what I would like to talk about today.
This targeted relief is both necessary and appropriate. Since 2015, the government has been committed to helping those who need it most, and that has not changed. On the one hand, Canada's recovery from the recession caused by COVID‑19 has been remarkable. There are 865,000 more Canadians in the workforce now than there were before the pandemic, and the unemployment rate is near its record low. Inflation also continues to drop.
On the other hand, there are challenges that remain. For example, inflation is still too high. Canadian families are feeling the effects every time they go grocery shopping. Rising prices for basic necessities are a concern for many Canadians.
In the 2023 budget, we propose new, targeted inflation relief for the Canadians hardest hit by rising food prices. Thanks to this grocery rebate, 11 million low- and modest-income Canadians and families will receive financial assistance. These 11 million Canadians include people in my riding of London West.
In concrete terms, this represents up to $467 for couples with children and up to $234 for single people without children. It represents an extra $225 on average for seniors. This assistance will be provided through goods and services tax credits. The reimbursement will be paid by the Canada Revenue Agency as a one-time payment shortly after Bill C‑47 passes.
I am therefore happy to see that our grocery rebate is advancing well at the legislative level, Bill now being before the Senate after having been adopted by the House on April 19.
That represents a $2.5-billion investment for the treasury. It is indeed an investment that will strengthen Canada's social safety net and improve the quality of life of millions of Canadians, without boosting inflation. It would be unreasonable to send a cheque to every Canadian, since that would only make things more difficult for the Bank of Canada, and things would remain more expensive longer for all Canadians.
We need to understand that the worst appears to be behind us in terms of inflation, which has declined every month in the past nine months and is now holding stable at 4.3%. That being said, we know that some families are having a harder time than others, and they are the ones that need help.
Budget implementation Bill C‑47 also includes a series of measures to help Canadians face the rise in the cost of living. They include legislative amendments to crack down on predatory lending. The bill also includes several provisions to implement the new Canadian dental care plan. This will help up to nine million Canadians, and ensure that no one in Canada has to choose between dental care and paying their monthly bills.
This is in addition to other measures included in budget 2023. I am thinking in particular of collaboration with regulatory agencies, provinces and territories to reduce junk fees such as high roaming and telecommunications charges, excessive baggage fees and unfair shipping fees. I am also thinking of the implementation of a right to repair to make it easier and less costly to repair appliances and electronics than to replace them. The possibility of implementing a common charging port for telephones, tablets, cameras and laptops will also be explored.
There is also a reduction in credit card transaction fees for small businesses.
This is also in addition to measures already in place, such as the reduction of day care fees at regulated services across Canada. Six provinces and territories already provide regulated child care services at $10 per day or less, on average. The other provinces and territories are on track to do so by 2026. We have also strengthened the day care system in Quebec. In that province, we are providing more day care spaces.
These are responsible measures. All Canadians want right now is for inflation to keep declining. Canada is proud of its tradition of fiscal responsibility. It is a tradition that the government is determined to maintain. That is why budget 2023 will allow Canada to keep the lowest deficit and net debt-to-GDP ratio among the G7. Budget 2023 will slow the growth of public spending and bring it back to prepandemic levels.
In exercising fiscal restraint, we ensure that we will continue to make investments for Canadians. With targeted investments, we will help those who truly need it. There are investments in housing, because our economy is built by people and people need a roof. There are investments in labour so workers have the skills needed to find and keep good jobs. There are also investments to strengthen the immigration system so that we can welcome a record number of qualified workers and help growing businesses.
In conclusion, Bill will help the most vulnerable Canadians cope with price increases. It will ensure that no one is left behind. This bill will make it possible to consider everyone and manage the public finances effectively.
I encourage hon. members to support this bill and help create a stronger and more prosperous future for Canada.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to talk about the budget implementation act, just one of a string of many betrayals of Albertans and future generations. I will offer a spoiler alert right now, in case anyone is waiting until the end of my speech to see whether I will be supporting this bill. The answer is no.
There are far too many reasons why I oppose this bill to explain in just 10 minutes. There are lots of bad parts in this bill. If I do not discuss them or mention them, it is just due to a lack of time. It is not intentional.
The Liberal Party continues to treat our children, our grandchildren and future generations as an ATM with this bill. The debt has soared to an eyewatering $1.2 trillion. Just as a ballpark, there are about 28 million taxpayers in Canada. That is about $42,000 for every taxpayer. People in their twenties or thirties right now have mostly given up any chance of owning a home. As an added bonus of being able to spend all this time in their parents' basements, they are going to be saddled and crushed with future debt from the government.
The Liberal government is going to claim that a lot of this spending is Harper's fault, which is a default for them. Their members will get up to say that it is due to the pandemic; they had to because of the pandemic.
We need to look at the taxes collected, not just the gross amount of spending going out. In 2019-20, what I call “1 BC”, before COVID, the government collected $334 billion in taxes for the year, including personal taxes, excise, GST and corporate taxes. In 2021-22, during the COVID period, the amount of taxes increased to $413 billion. This year's budget expects $457 billion to be collected in taxes, rising to $543 billion collected in 2028.
The last year before COVID was a very good year for the world, with strong economies around strong employment. There was low growth, but it was still relatively strong. From then to now, there has been an $8,200-per-family increase in the amount of taxes collected by the government. I have to ask if families feel they are getting an extra $8,200 extra in services this year. What did $8,200 per family for just one year get us? We have had to wait six months for passports and have missed weddings, funerals and other occasions. We have had a record delay in immigration backlogs, five-hour waits at Pearson Airport and missed flights because of the incompetence of the .
The government claimed to be taken by surprise about the increase in travel. Who could have possibly foreseen an increase in demand for travel as COVID ended? Do we know who did? The transportation safety authority, CATSA, actually had in its corporation plan that exponential growth was expected in travel, yet somehow the missed it and did not get our airports ready for that.
We have ended up with 1.5 million Canadians visiting food banks. We have had a record increase in violent crime, and we are seeing the largest strike in the history of the public service in Canada right now. That is what we are getting for $8,200 more per family in taxes collected.
The government's own record from the shows that the government actually missed 51% of all its targeted goals for service to Canadians. They still managed to pay out well over $100 million in bonuses to bureaucrats for that failure, so we have $8,200 a year for extra taxes collected and nothing back. I guess I should be thankful that the government has not collected $10,000 more per family. Imagine the level of incompetence delivered for that.
Let us look at the debt side. Last year, despite $103 billion more in taxes taken from Canadians than in the pre-COVID era, we have $43 billion added to the debt. This year, there is going to be a gobsmacking $123 billion more in taxes collected from Canadians than in the pre-COVID era, and yet we are still going to have a $43-billion deficit. In 2028, at the end of the five-year budget forecast cycle, it is predicted that $200 billion more in taxes will be collected from Canadians compared with the last year before COVID. It is still forecasting a deficit. How is it that taxes can be increased almost 60% to 70% and we still end up with a deficit? Actually, it is 62% more revenue, yet still a deficit.
The minister famously stated about a year ago that Canada could not afford not to go deeper into debt. Of course, she also said that deflation, not inflation, was the issue to worry about and that growth would stay higher than interest rates. Considering her track record, I hope everyone will excuse me if I do not go to her for a forecast for the Lotto 6/49 numbers.
I want to look at the interest costs. This is money coming out of taxpayers' pockets and the government's pocket that goes right to bondholders and Bay Street bankers and provides nothing to Canadians. We are going to be paying $235 billion in interest costs alone over the next five years. Almost a quarter of a trillion dollars will be gone, just for interest payments. That is $13,000 per family in Canada, just for non-productive interest. It is not going to help health care or anything.
In five years' time, in 2028, interest alone is forecasted to be $50 billion. To put this into perspective, $50 billion in one year is 31% more than Alberta is paying for health care. Alberta pays more per capita than any other province in Canada, and we are going to be spending 31% more just on interest than we are paying for health care.
It is far more than we pay for defence. We have heard the horrible stories of Canadian soldiers serving in Poland and not being reimbursed for their meals. However, the government is going to spend far more on interest than we pay for all our defence.
I want to put this into perspective for government members, so they can understand better what that $50 billion is. It is eight million nights in a luxury hotel suite in London. It is half a million individual suspect donations to the Trudeau Foundation from Beijing Communists or about two and a half years of the government shovelling money into Liberal-connected consulting firms. That $50 billion would be going to Bay Street bankers and the wealthy and not to our armed forces, our seniors, our health care system or anything Canadians value.
Would a budget be a Liberal budget without being stacked full of various things hidden in an omnibus way? In the BIA, the Liberals plan to extend the unfair equalization program for another five years. This is what I mean by calling it another betrayal for Albertans. There were no consultations with the Province of Alberta. The government is just sliding it in for another five years. Albertans were very clear when we did a referendum last year. We want a place at the table, and we want to discuss equalization. The government is just ramming it through without anything.
I want Albertans to think about that. There is an election coming up in May, and there will be a federal election coming up as well. I want them to look at their provincial candidates. Which party is supporting an extension of equalization without any say from Alberta? It is the NDP. Federally, which parties are backing an extension of the unfair equalization? They are the NDP and the Liberal Party. I want Albertans to remember that, come election time in May and in the next federal election. They need to understand who is going to stand up for Albertans. It is not the Liberals, and it is certainly not the NDP.
The bill before us would do nothing to address the productivity crisis. We are going on a downward slope with our standard of living. The bill would do nothing for that. It would do nothing to address inflation. In fact, the Bank of Canada, in its monetary update that just came out, stated that the Liberals' budget and their spending are adding to inflation. Moreover, there is nothing for Alberta, except a continual betrayal in the form of an extension of the equalization plan.
That is unfair to Albertans, and that is why I will not be supporting the bill.
Madam Speaker, New Democrats have always been on the side of everyday Canadians. I want to speak to that, and I want to ensure that we can have a healthy debate about this today. What I mean by a healthy debate is that, in this place, often times we speak at each other. We speak to each other without the decency and respect that Canadians across the country expect from us in this place.
I want to talk about one of my role models and one of the great stewards of our country, who has now passed on, Tommy Douglas. I want to speak about what an incredible man Tommy was. He was an incredible person who often spoke about the needs of regular, everyday Canadians. I know Canadians from coast to coast to coast respect him. Some may disagree with his ideology, and that is okay, but his ideas are still with us and are still present.
Whether we are talking about this budget, or the one in 2005, which witnessed our beloved Jack Layton force the government to make historic investments in social programs during a time of Liberal austerity, or talking about when Tommy Douglas pushed the Progressive Conservatives to come to a deal on publicly financing health care, they were both major achievements.
We have always used our time, our voice and our power in this place for good. I believe all members believe deep down in their hearts that they are doing the same. It is my hope that we can show all Canadians, particularly young Canadians, that there is a third way, through a little tale told and retold in my home of Alberta in the Prairies.
The story is a story that many members may know and sympathize with, but I want to retell it for the generations of prairie people and Canadians across the country who may not know about it.
It is a story about mice in a community called Mouseland. It was a place where all the little mice lived and played, where they were born and died. They lived much the same as us. They even had a Parliament. Every so often, they would be asked to go to an election. They would walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them would walk there and others would get a ride, and many of them would get a ride for the next four years as well.
Every election day, all the little mice would go to elect a government. On one election day, a government was formed and that government was made up of big, fat black cats. Some would think it was strange that a community of mice would elect cats. However, we do not have to look that far in our own Canadian history to see that perplexing reality for the past nearly 150 years, and they were not any wiser than we are today.
I am not saying anything against the cats. I am not, trust me. I believe that the cats were decent, hard-working and good. They believed that they were doing the best for those they represented. They passed good laws. That is, they passed good laws for cats. They passed laws that were really good for cats.
Some of those laws were laws that made the entryway holes to the homes of mice into circles, so the cats could grab the mice from their homes. They also brought in speed limits, so a mouse would be unable to run away from the cat. These were all good laws for cats, but they were dangerous and scary for the mice.
Life was getting harder and harder. When the mice could not put up with it anymore, they decided something had to be done about it. They went en masse to the polls and voted out the black cats, but they voted in the white cats.
The white cats had put on a terrific campaign. They had said that all Mouseland needed was more vision, and they had sometimes said, “triple, triple, triple”. They said that the trouble with Mouseland was all those round holes. All the round holes were a big problem, so they said that they would bring in square holes.
The policy of square holes did not make the lives of those mice any easier. The square mouse holes were twice as big as the round holes, and now the cats could get both paws in. It was a shame, and life was harder than ever.
The mice could not take it anymore. They voted the white cats out and the black cats back in. For 150 years it has been the black cats out, the white cats in, then the white cats out, and the black cats in.
Then one little mouse had an idea that some would say is ludicrous today. They might even say it is impossible to be done. There were attempts to create alternatives to the black and white cats, some with spots and some with stripes, but at the end of the day, they were still cats.
Can members see that the trouble with all of this is not that the cats were white or black? The trouble is that they were cats, and because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats. We spoke about that. I would tell my friends to watch out for the little mouse with an idea. When that one little mouse asked the other mice why they kept electing a government made up of cats, they called it a socialist that should be locked up, and they locked him up. I want to remind members that we can lock up a mouse or a man, but we cannot lock up an idea.
I share this story to not only pay tribute to our party's many great leaders and the decisions we have made, but also to ensure that the next generation of Canadians know that, throughout our country's tough moments, there have been mice fighting for them each and every day so that we can build a better future for everyday people, and they did it in a way that showed decency and respect for Canadians, and for each and every one of us in this place.
Canadians are experiencing one of the most devastating times in their lives. It is talked about by our Liberal and Conservative colleagues. We are now in a position where we understand the problem together, which is a good thing. It is good that we are speaking about those who are attending food banks at record levels, the lack of clean water in first nations and indigenous communities, and the need to ensure that children get the support they need, but we are divided on the solutions.
New Democrats have been consistent in our support for many of the solutions. That is why dental care is something we fought so hard to achieve for decades. Though we have never formed government in this country, it is my hope that one day New Democrats and our ideas can truly show Canadians that there is a third way.
I know that many, not just those here, will laugh at us, mock us and tell us it can never be done. I would tell those people to just watch us, because the mice know that, whether it is the black cats or the white cats, they will make laws, and those laws will be for cats. We are here to say that now is the time for the everyday people.
When we look around our communities and see hard-working Canadians show up every single day and do everything right but fall further behind, we know that the laws that are put against regular Canadians are unfair. They know this. They feel it. They see it every single day.
It has been the project of New Democrats to ensure that our colleagues in this place, and one day hopefully across this country, will see that mice can make laws too. We can make laws for the regular everyday people that do not take so much from them to reward the cats, because they will continue to do that if we do not break the mould in our country of electing cat after cat. We can bring this place to a new reality, where regular folks can have their issues heard, have the respect and decorum we would expect for all Canadians, and ensure that the programs are there so that mice can take care of mice.
Madam Speaker, it is a great opportunity to stand up and speak in the House today.
If members will indulge me for a moment, I want to briefly mention two people who are very important in my life, my mother and father, Alvin and Irene Redekopp. They have been there for my whole life, a great life growing up, and are probably the most ardent watchers of the House out of all of us. They watch question period, they watch, of course, when I speak, and they probably watch random debates just for fun. They have been married 63 years, and it is my privilege and honour to still have a great relationship with them even though they are a few years older than me. I thank my mom and dad for all they have done.
One month ago, we listened to the budget in this place, and here we are now a month later. I think I would summarize the budget with the word “underwhelming”. There was a Global News story the following day in which Pamela George, a financial literacy counsellor who works with women, said that the 2023 spending plan was subpar. She said:
It’s nothing to write home about. I’m not shouting and celebrating anything...When I hear things like, “we’re going to do this,” or “we’re looking into this,” I just feel it’s stalling....
I think that summarizes my thoughts on the budget; it really was quite underwhelming. So, of course, the questions from the residents of Saskatoon West are: How does this budget affect me? What is going to change because of this budget? How is it is going to impact my life?
Of course, they are struggling, like all Canadians are, with pressures on meeting their monthly costs, whether it is to put groceries on the table, fuelling their cars, heating their homes or even their cost to own a home. Saskatoon is one of the cheaper places in the country to own a home, yet it is still very difficult. Many people in my riding struggle with paying their rent and paying their mortgage payments, especially as mortgage payments increase. So, many of them were looking for solutions.
It is fair to say that there were no long-term solutions in this budget at all. There were some band-aids, yes, but there were really no long-term solutions. Getting a few hundred dollars extra on a GST rebate might help in the very short term, but it does not help in the long term. We have heard the proverb, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” I think that is what we are seeing here with a few hundred dollars to a family. Okay, fine, they can buy groceries for a week, maybe two, but then the problem is there again.
We need permanent, long-term solutions that actually solve the problems that are out there, and I acknowledge that this is a hard thing. A master's level skill is required to achieve this. Unfortunately, what we have seen in so many things, and this budget is a good example of it, is a master's level of incompetence. We just cannot get the competence that we require out of this government. Of course, right now, we are in the middle of this strike and, as has been mentioned many times, this government has managed to spend 50% more on its workforce and still have the workforce go on strike. That takes a master's level of incompetence.
Conservatives had some very positive suggestions for this budget, and I just want to review those very quickly.
The first one was that we had suggested the government pursue an area of lower taxes for workers. People need to keep more of their paycheques so that they can spend the money they need to survive. The second thing we suggested was that the government end inflationary deficits that are driving up the cost of goods. This is fairly straightforward and was a very good suggestion that should not have been very difficult for this government. The third was to remove gatekeepers to increase home building for Canadians. This is something we hear of constantly in our ridings and across the country on the availability of affordable housing.
Did the government take us up on our constructive advice? Well, let us talk about taxes.
Several days after the budget was released, what happened to taxes? They went up. Why is that? It is because of the carbon tax. This is part of the plan to increase the carbon tax over the next months to ultimately triple it to where it is going to cost 40¢ a litre for fuel, for gasoline, and, of course, it adds a cost to everything else, whether it is fuel for homes, which, by the way, there is GST on top of the carbon tax, or whether it is for groceries. Basically, anything that moves on a truck is impacted by this. Of course, food is greatly impacted by this, because farmers end up bearing a huge cost of GST on their farms. So, did taxes go down? No, they went up.
What about the inflationary deficits? Did they go down? No, actually.
I would like to read a quote, which says, “Our deficits must continue to be reduced. The pandemic debt we incurred to keep Canadians safe and solvent must...be paid down. This is our fiscal anchor. ...a line we shall not cross.” Who said that? Of course, it was the illustrious , and it was said less than a year ago. Here we are, just months after making that statement, and what do we see in this budget? We see deficits forever. The idea of deficits being reduced and eliminated is just not there. The crazy thing is that in 2026, it would just take a 3% reduction to achieve a balanced budget, yet that is not something that this master's level of incompetence government was able to achieve, which I think is quite simple.
What about the third thing: home building? What I see in the budget are some things that are going to increase the supply. Let me take a moment and talk about supply and demand, because that is the most basic principle of everything that affects money in our country. When there is a lot of supply, there are low prices; when there is a lot of demand, prices go up. What we see in this budget are measures that would increase demand. What is the effect of that? It means there are more people chasing fewer things, which means the prices will go up. The master's level of competence approach to this budget would be to increase the supply of houses, and that is not something I see in here. We need to incentivize companies and cities to build houses and require cities to build more houses. They are the gatekeepers that are holding back the supply of houses that could be built in this country.
Another way to look at this is what is missing in this budget. One thing that struck me quite obviously was foreign credential recognition. As I have spoken with newcomers to Canada all across the country, this comes up inevitably as one of the first or second things they mention. They will say things like they are doctors and not able to work in this country or they are lawyers, engineers or in a certain profession and they cannot work in this country because it is too difficult for them to be licensed to practise in this country.
Health care is a huge problem. Canadians will say that in surveys, but yet, after eight years of the Liberal government, only 41% of foreign-trained doctors are able to work as doctors in our country. Only 37% of nurses are able to work as nurses in our country, and there countless others. That leaves us with the typical doctor driving a taxi. I am sure many of us in this room have been driven in taxis by doctors, and the reason is because they are unable to be licensed and work as doctors. This is a huge issue for our country because we need doctors.
That is why I introduced my private member's bill, Bill , to help address this issue and allow foreign-trained professionals to have their credentials recognized more easily, and that is why the Conservative leader has introduced his system, which is the Blue Seal system. The Blue Seal is modelled after the Red Seal program. The Red Seal program is for professions like electricians and plumbers. It has been adopted for 50 years and is used in all of the provinces. The idea is that we would have a similar system where doctors or nurses could make sure they qualify by showing they have the knowledge through passing a national competence exam. They would then be given a Blue Seal and be able to work in the country, in provinces that choose to join the program. Why would they join the program? Because it would allow access to more staff, and that is what we need to do.
One other thing that surprised me that was not in this bill was the student direct stream. Bangladesh has been asking for the student direct stream for a long time. This allows students from other countries, which are part of the program, an easier and quicker way to come to Canada to get their post-secondary education in the country. It is good for our country because our post-secondary institutions benefit from having them. They are a great asset to our country in terms of their knowledge and skills. They create businesses and increase trade between the countries. Bangladesh has been trying to become part of the program. India and its neighbour Pakistan are part of this program. I have spoken about it many times with the . There are many things we can gain in our country by having this done. We do not have it yet. It is something I wish had been in the budget and I am sad to see it was not. On behalf of Bangladeshi students who are trying to get to Canada, I am sad we did not see that.
We are seeing a budget from a tired and worn out NDP-Liberal coalition, a government that is full of scandals and cover-ups. Conservatives will bring relief. We will lower taxes, we will end inflationary deficits and we will remove the gatekeepers so that we can build more houses in this country.
Madam Speaker, I fully understand, but sometimes when we get excited we forget the most basic parliamentary rules.
I am pleased to speak to Bill today. At first, I thought that, as natural resources critic, I would focus my comments on energy but, as luck would have it, I will be able to speak on another one of my favourite issues, health transfers. Members will understand why.
I have risen many times in the House to speak about an issue that is plaguing Canadian federalism, and that is the fiscal imbalance. The fiscal imbalance could probably have been resolved in Bill C‑47. I will explain why. In fact, I hope that it will be resolved in Bill C-47 by a stroke of luck.
Before rising, I spoke with my favourite colleagues, the members for and , to find out what they thought about health. The member for Lac-Saint-Jean, with his usual edgy wit, told us that, when it comes to health, the Leader of the Conservative Party makes Scrooge look like a spendthrift. Basically, we know that the Conservative Leader now wants to maintain health funding at $4.6 billion, as proposed by the Liberals, against the wishes of all the provinces, which want $28 million in funding. That is the silliness of the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, but I want to bring up something that happened on Wednesday, April 19.
At that time, the House had voted unanimously in favour of Bill . That bill included $2 billion in health transfers to the provinces. For us, it was not enough. However, we later found that the $2 billion was in Bill C-47. That was very interesting, because a total of $4 billion would be going to the provinces instead of the initial $2 billion. I think that is very good news. It should be very good news for all government ministers, including the Minister of Revenue, but unfortunately, the member for put a damper on the good news. He can always be counted on to put a damper on good news. On April 21, he told us in a statement that he would be removing the most interesting part of Bill C-47, the part saying that there would be an additional $2 billion.
The Bloc Québécois will clearly oppose that amendment. Indeed, in our opinion, the fiscal imbalance must be resolved. We will talk more about that. Our recent experience with the pandemic showed us that our health care system is struggling. That $2 billion would be very useful.
Now comes the million-dollar question, as the expression goes. Except it is even worse in this case, because it is the $2-billion question. What is the NDP leader going to do? Will he support the government in cutting $2 billion from health transfers? The government has a coalition with the NDP right now, so I think the NDP has the opportunity to make a difference by not supporting the government in its plans to cut those $2 billion.
As I said earlier, we know that the provinces were asking for $28 billion, and they got only $4.6 billion. We know that the government refuses to fund 35% of health care costs, but the NDP could make all the difference.
To put things into perspective, I will share what the leader of the NDP said very recently. On December 12, the leader of the NDP said that his party was prepared to withdraw from the supply and confidence agreement it had signed with the Liberals if there was no federal action to resolve the health care crisis affecting Canadian children. That is what the NDP leader said on December 12. He went on to say that this was a decision he was not taking lightly and that it was time to keep the pressure on, because the goal of the New Democrats was to save lives.
The NDP can always be counted on when it comes to saving lives.
Saving our health care system is about helping workers and helping children. I wonder if the NDP today still wants to save lives. Does it still want to save our health care system and children? It has the opportunity to do so. All it has to do is refuse to allow the removal of the much-touted $2 billion from Bill C-47.
In February of this year, the same situation arose when an NDP opposition day was specifically about health care. Its strategy was a bit questionable, in my view. They tried to put the onus on the provinces by saying that there could be funding for health care as long as the money was not used for private services, as long as the private sector was not involved. Health falls under provincial jurisdiction. I would describe myself as a progressive. I do not agree with allowing the private sector to play a bigger role in health care, but the crux of the problem remains the same. The crux of the problem is funding.
On February 7, 2023, the NDP leader said, “After spending the last two and a half years stalling any progress to improve health care, Justin Trudeau has come forward with the bare minimum”—
Madam Speaker, in a momentary fit of enthusiasm and sincere affection, I forgot myself.
As I was saying, the Prime Minister has come forward with the bare minimum. Let us go back to that bare minimum. According to the NDP, the minimum was $4.6 billion. The NDP therefore wants there to be more than $4.6 billion. In my opinion, the NDP surely wants the $2 billion dollars that was in Bill to also be included in Bill . That is my interpretation.
I will continue to read the quote: “The Prime Minister has come forward with the bare minimum—a deal that won't do nearly enough to recruit, retain and respect frontline workers, does not address the conditions in long-term care”.
I think it is clear that the leader of the NDP has the same objectives as us and that he wants the health care system to be better funded.
I will read a third statement by the leader of the NDP, who said, “Increasing the Canada Health Transfer is a start—but this is not enough to rebuild our public health care system.” Again, the leader of the NDP finds that the government is a bit stingy when it comes to funding health care.
In my opinion, $2 billion is not enough, but $4 billion might be enough. I have a feeling that my colleagues in the NDP are thinking the same thing. The $2-billion question, therefore, is this: Will the representatives from the NDP support us for better health care funding?
Based on everything the leader of the NDP has said, I get the feeling they will. Will they instead support the government and deny us a more robust health care system?
I would like to quickly address something else. It is the issue of energy and the environment. In Bill C‑47, $21 billion will be used for greenwashing oil companies and for funding madness, namely small modular nuclear reactors that will allow the oil and gas industry to use less gas in its processes. Essentially, nuclear energy, energy that is anything but clean, will be used to produce more gas.
That is a total aberration that everyone is against. It is all the more a total aberration because there is no country, to my knowledge, that considers nuclear energy to be clean energy, except Canada. It is well known that nuclear energy costs 10 times more than solar or wind energy. It is also well known that research has shown that every country that has wanted to go the route of nuclear energy in their fight against climate change in the past 25 years has clearly failed. It is known that the federal government's strategy is doomed to fail, and there are funds for that in Bill C‑47. That is another aberration.
I will conclude my comments by reaching out to my colleagues in the NDP, because I am a man of good faith, so we can demand that the government adequately fund the health care system.