The House resumed consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, my regards to you and to all our valiant colleagues who are here with us.
This is a debate at report stage on the budget, specifically Bill . It is the month of June. The Stanley Cup finals are going on. It is hot out, we still do not have a budget and we have a minority government. As we have seen all this week and today, there is a blockage in Parliament. Everything is delayed, everything is moving slowly. These blockages clearly have an impact on government policies, Quebeckers and Canadians.
In a minority government, we would expect the government to use methods that foster a consensus and the advancement of the work of Parliament. We would expect the government to propose a budget that we could agree on, one that could achieve a consensus, especially since there is great potential for blockage here on the part of the official opposition.
The Conservatives have many faults, including being against women's right to control their own bodies, being against environmental policies and being pro-oil, but they do have one good quality, and that is that they are predictable. We know that they will block everything.
We expected the government to have the foresight to propose a budget that we could work on. Instead, the government did exactly what it had promised it would never do. It is something the Harper government did time after time, namely present an omnibus bill, a colossal bill that is basically impossible to rework and that is almost designed to be delayed.
It almost seems like the government has no respect for the House and is looking for trouble. This bill amends 59 acts, in addition to the Income Tax Regulations. Anything and everything is in there. There is even a royal provision in the budget to recognize Charles III as sovereign. After all that, the government members are surprised that it is being blocked. They are surprised to see the Conservatives propose 900 amendments. They will say that everyone else is being unreasonable, when they are the ones who tabled an omnibus bill. They will ultimately invoke closure. The NDP will get into bed with the Liberals and support closure as usual. After that, they will accuse the other parties of picking fights.
As a responsible opposition party, all we ask is to debate and be able to do our work on each element of the budget bill.
For example, we wanted to be responsible and work intelligently on the royal provision. There is an appointment in the bill. Charles III is to be appointed head of state in a sovereign country. We thought we would do what we do for all appointments of all commissioners and officers of Parliament. We thought we would call His Majesty and have him come to committee. We wanted to give him a chance and see if he is competent to be head of state. There is no one more sporting than us. We are square dealers.
We therefore asked the clerk of the Standing Committee on Finance to contact Rideau Hall and ask them invite His Majesty. This is, after all, part of his kingdom. We were told that they do not have his phone number. We were surprised to see that the Governor General did not serve much purpose. Honestly, I was surprised. I did not expect that. Then we went back to the clerk to see if he could contact Buckingham Palace and ask them to have His Majesty come testify. An email was sent to Buckingham Palace. The response we received from Buckingham Palace was that His Majesty is a bit old-fashioned and only opens snail mail, so the invitation would have to be mailed to him. I do not know if mail addressed to His Majesty can be sent postage free. That should be checked. Nevertheless, he was supposed to be invited by mail.
How should we interpret that? First, we have a head of state who cannot open emails. Do we really need to invite him to committee to know that he cannot deliver results? Would we hire an ethics commissioner or a privacy commissioner who could not open emails? Maybe we should have sent him a homing pigeon. Government do not work that way.
We have to wonder. Does a refusal to come pay a short visit to parliamentarians not show contempt for Canada, its institutions and its Parliament? I see that as contempt.
I cannot believe that, in order to send an invitation to His Majesty, we have to send him a letter on papyrus and wait for the letter and his response to travel across the Atlantic Ocean. I thought it seemed obvious. Even His Majesty is embarrassed about the budget and ashamed to be associated with it. I think members can understand why. The reason is that the things that are most important to Quebeckers and Canadians have been left out of the budget. Even the King is embarrassed.
Take, for example, employment insurance. The government was supposed to have learned from the crisis. During the COVID-19 crisis, the government went from one temporary measure to another. That is because we have an EI system where 60% of people who lose their jobs are not eligible. It is not right that six out of 10 people are not eligible. What is more, women and young people are particularly affected because many of them hold non-standard jobs. They have a hard time qualifying. It also has more of an impact on those who are vulnerable because of the new realities of work, or what is referred to as the sharing economy, which is a way of artificially turning a salaried employee into a non-salaried employee so that they do not have access to all the benefits that a social safety net could provide.
The Liberals have been promising to reform EI since 2015. They promised not once, not twice, but three times. It was supposed to happen in August. Then we saw the actuarial forecasts in the budget. We realized that not only was a reform off the table, but they were going to pick $25 billion from the pockets of SMEs and workers through a payroll tax to pay off the EI fund deficit that built up during COVID‑19, even though all the other pandemic measures implemented were funded by the entire population.
That is why His Majesty is embarrassed to come. He no longer wants to have anything to do with the Liberals. It could be that His Majesty is embarrassed over the environmental policies. We are giving away $20 billion to $30 billion in dirty oil subsidies, allegedly for carbon capture, even though the problem is immediate.
The government tells us that the environment is important. On May 31, the boasted to the New Economy Canada conference that there was a plan for transitioning to the green economy.
That same day, the told an audience of business people, “Don't tell me a green energy future doesn't include oil and gas.”
What colour is oil? It is not the colour of the chairs here in the House of Commons. It is definitely not green. The environment is being completely neglected.
Here we have the government creating its much-touted green fund, the $16‑billion Canada growth fund. This fund will be managed by PSP Investments, a company that does not report to Parliament and will not be accountable. The only mandate it has ever had is financial performance. Through no fault of its own, this company has absolutely no expertise in this area. At the moment, it sees carbon capture as the green development model. That technology is not yet up and running, but we are being promised that it will exist in 30 years' time. However, the problem is here now. There is even talk of using small modular nuclear reactors to extract more oil by using less oil to export more. That is what PSP Investments is all about.
In the budget, there is nothing for seniors who dealt with the crisis and were hit hard by it. Even before the crisis, their purchasing power had declined.
There is nothing for our regions either, nor for discount regional flights. I am thinking about Abitibi, the Gaspé and the north shore. We know that for regional development, for economic development, we need regional flights. It is very important. There is absolutely nothing in the budget. It is always promises, promises.
The budget includes changes to the equalization system that deny Quebec of $400 million in short order. Let us talk about equalization. We are still in this mode where the Liberals are not meeting their commitments. That being said, they are doing some things. It is not all bad, but they are not getting results where it counts.
They will tell us that we should support this because the best is yet to come, but we know all about Liberal promises. We knew about them in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. We still know about those Liberal promises, but we no longer believe them. That is why we are going to do what King Charles III would do if we were in our shoes: We are going to vote against the budget.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to share my thoughts on budget 2023, which is at report stage.
This government, under this , who has turned out to be the biggest spender in history, has delivered a reckless, irresponsible and free-spending budget. It has upset the fiscal balance that Stephen Harper's Conservative government had managed to restore. Let us remember that in 2015, the Prime Minister, who was driving a backhoe, promised three small deficits before returning to a balanced budget in 2019. What happened? For eight years, this government has posted deficit after deficit, the biggest deficits ever seen in Canada.
In her fall economic statement in November, the gave us a glimmer of hope. She said a small budget surplus would be recorded in 2027-28. I remind members that it is 2023. Just a few months later, in the budget we are now discussing, where is the return to a balanced budget? Poof. It has evaporated, it has flown away. It has disappeared into thin air. It has gone up in smoke.
I will give my colleagues some staggering figures that illustrate just how irresponsible this budget is and how spendthrift this government is. Since 2015, the national debt has risen from $650 billion to $1.3 trillion. It boggles the mind. Sadly, the Liberals have managed to double the debt in just eight years. If this were to be awarded a prize, it would be for the prime minister who has increased the debt by more than all the other Canadian prime ministers combined in 155 years.
We know that the Liberals will point out that there was a pandemic. We know that. However, our expectation was that this government would return to more sensible spending after the pandemic. It is incapable of that. The minister told us that hers was a prudent budget. On the contrary, this budget is written in very dark red ink, and we see no end to the deficits.
In 2008-09, the Harper government was forced to invest $60 billion to kickstart the economy after the 2008 crisis. We then managed to recover very quickly. Canada was the first of the G20 countries to recover from the economic downturn, which some compared to the 1930 crisis.
The minister told us that her budget was prudent; however, it is anything but. I am certain the government members will say we are too partisan. That is what they always say. However, I have a few quotes here from independent economic experts and commentators that confirm the opposite.
Gérald Fillion, from Radio-Canada, said the following:
So, where is the prudence and discipline that the Minister of Finance was talking about before publishing her budget? Even back in November, we knew that economic growth was going to be weak in 2023 and that interest rates had risen rapidly. Why add so much to deficits, debt and, consequently, public debt charges?
Public debt charges have doubled. They went from $24 billion to $48 billion. Imagine what we could do with $24 billion. My colleague mentioned health transfers earlier. This is money that was requested by all the Canadian provinces, but they were given virtually nothing.
Derek Holt, an economist with the Bank of Nova Scotia, said this:
Big spending, big deficits, big debt, high taxes, high inflation and bond market challenges are not the path to prosperity. [The Minister is] wrong to describe the budget as prudent, with overall program spending set to balloon to 51% above pre-pandemic levels by 2028.
Michel Girard, a leading economist with the Journal de Montréal, wrote an article with the headline “Ottawa is taking $102 billion more out of your pocket”. I will quote from the article:
$46.1 billion more in personal income tax
$35.4 billion more in corporate income tax
$2.8 billion more in other excise taxes and duties
With such a deluge of money into the federal coffers, one might have expected the Trudeau government to finally announce a return to balanced budgets.
The fact is, Canadian families are currently being heavily taxed by the government. This is to say nothing of the carbon tax and the second carbon tax that is right around the corner.
Michel Girard continues with the following:
Well, no. According to finance minister Chrystia Freeland's latest budget, the federal government will remain in the hole for the next five fiscal years.
This completely contradicts what the had said a few months earlier. It is completely backwards.
Have the and his Minister of Finance read or heard these words? I do not believe they have. They continue to spend lavishly and to propose inflationary policies.
This is very unfortunate because the biggest losers in all this are Canadians who work hard and are seeing the fruits of their labour slip away more and more each day.
I have a company with 30 employees and we had to make a major salary adjustment in the past few months because of the rising inflation and interest rates. I have employees whose mortgage payments have gone up by $700 a month. Wages have not kept pace with inflation.
Inflation is at his highest level in 40 years, and the impact on food prices is dramatic. Here are a few examples: The price of butter is more than $8; a loaf of bread costs $5.50, compared to $1.50 four years ago; a pound of bacon costs $10.
A family of four, meaning two parents and two children, will spend $1,065 more on groceries this year alone. That is a lot. It is way too much. It also does not help when we add to that the price of gas, which is hovering around $1.80. Obviously, there is transportation. The Liberals are always telling us that the carbon tax does not affect Quebec, which is completely false. The food that is sent to us from across the country travels between the provinces. Obviously, there is trade happening. All of the items that need to be transported are subject to all of these taxes, which are inevitably inflationary.
Some parents have to skip meals so they can feed their children. The use of food banks has skyrocketed. In Canada, 1.5 million people are using food banks every month. That is a source of daily stress for families, and yet nothing stops this government's out-of-control spending, which is driving up the cost of everything.
That is not even to mention the cost of housing. Since this took office, the cost of housing has doubled. Just last year, the price of houses increased by 21% in the Quebec City area. That is unbelievable. Successive interest rate hikes have doubled the average mortgage payment, which is up to almost $3,000 a month. It is the same thing for rental units. It is not unusual to see ads for one-bedroom apartments that are renting for $2,000 a month.
As a result, young families are abandoning their dream of owning a home. I have been an MP for eight and a half years and, for the first time, young people are coming up to me and saying exactly what we have been saying for months. They are asking me how they can one day become homeowners. No one had ever talked to me about that before, but now that is their reality.
The list of negative effects and wrongs caused by this government's policies is too long to fit into a 10-minute speech. I am not even talking about the other problems caused by this government, such as violence, which is constantly on the rise, or the inadequate services to citizens.
Just think about last year's passport crisis. I have never seen anything like it in my life. The number of federal employees has increased by nearly 70,000 over the last eight years and we have never had such bad service. This is truly poor organization from this government.
I am not going to touch on the other problems. I am not going to talk about foreign interference, about everything that is going on at the moment or about our colleagues who have been spied on, and even threatened in some cases, by Beijing.
Canadians deserve a lot more and a lot better. They deserve a government that puts them first, that thinks about their paycheques, their homes, their families and, most importantly, their future. They deserve a government that recognizes the hard work they put in every day and that is not always trying to squeeze more out of their paycheques. They need a government that will bring back some common sense. They need a Conservative government.
I really look forward to the day when we are back in government. We will simply stop spending, and we will still have plenty of money to deliver all the programs people need.