The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, we only have to listen to the constant sound of horns outside of Parliament to hear the siren of Canadian voices discontent with the state of our country. Meeting to have an open conversation with truckers and now farmers is not a sign of defeat or concession, as the government tries to make it appear. It may be the only way to end this protest and send our truckers home. It is a sign of leadership. It is the job we all signed up to as parliamentarians. We are the representatives of everyone in our riding, not just those who voted for us, not just those we agree with, but everyone.
Canadians need hope. They want to know that the sacrifices they have made for their businesses, their families, their friends and their fellow Canadians by stepping up to get vaccines and boosters mean that they will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Canadians see where other nations are, and they see the hope that is coming from within them. The U.K. has lifted all restrictions from COVID-19. The Americans had full stadiums as they watched some exciting football for the AFC and the NFC championships last weekend. Go, Rams.
Canadians heard the muse about seeing it coming with regard to a mandatory vaccine mandate on January 7, and when Quebec announced an anti-vax tax, the said that it could work. Vaccines are the best tool for fighting COVID-19, but we must use hope, not fear. The over 85% of Canadians who have made the choice on their own accord to get vaccinated want to know that there is hope and not fear as we end a pandemic and enter an endemic.
Part of that is Canada's ability to develop vaccines to contribute to COVAX and provide alternatives for the vaccine-hesitant. Quebec has two vaccine facilities that could provide these options. Both Medicago and Novavax, a plant-based vaccine and a protein-based vaccine, could provide Canadian jobs and help us meet promised COVAX goals, as we have only met a quarter of those, and help vaccinate the vaccine-hesitant here at home and the vaccine-starved across the globe. However, the government has not yet been able to see approval of these vaccines, both of which submitted applications for approval in early 2021, and Canada has yet to produce a vaccine through this pandemic.
Instead of acquiring vaccines and rapid testing in a timely manner, or approving vaccines that would help get the world vaccinated to help quell COVID-19, the government response has been consistently to dither and spend money it does not have. As our debt is now reaching a jaw-dropping $1.2 trillion, the desire to spend our way out of the pandemic has led to some far-reaching results for our country: a housing crisis that is the worst in the world; an inflation level that is the highest it has been in 30 years; and the largest increase in poverty and inequality in this country in 20 years. The government's continued fantasy of spending to end the pandemic has not worked yet, and it will not work now.
We need real solutions to solve our crises. Government needs to work on listening to Canadians, reducing red tape and allowing the Canadian economy and Canadian innovators to be unleashed as this pandemic becomes an endemic, instead of its failed spend-to-oblivion policies.
Housing is a crisis, an existential crisis that requires massive ambition and innovation to solve, working with all levels of government. Working with the housing industry, we can help lead and find solutions now. We have over 200,000 skilled workers who are in limbo with Canadian immigration, which includes skilled trades that could start building homes today.
The acknowledged this week that the shortage of skilled workers is in flux and that he does not know when it will be open again, maybe at the end of 2022. However, we need $85 million, again more money, to fix it. Meanwhile, Canadian trades are screaming for more people to build homes and are not building them because of the lack of labour. This is an issue that could have been fixed years ago. Now with the housing crisis, it is only adding more fuel to the house fire that is our housing market.
The Conservative plan to use 15% of existing vacant government buildings for housing would have meant that trades could build units of housing today, not in the 10 years that it takes Toronto to build a high-rise now. Working with provinces in declaring a crisis on housing, we could start to massively contribute to an economic boom that would create jobs and create homes.
More important, we in the Conservative Party believe that if we are going to add more debt to the Canadian public, it should be on investments that better this country, including our health care.
For Bill , our opposition is that, if we are going to spend $70 billion, then why not spend it on health care to increase health care capacity in our ICUs and our hospitals? Some of our provinces were locked down and businesses were closed completely because of the lack of staffed health care capacity in this country.
Looking at hospital beds per capita in the most developed nations in the world, Canada was behind 37, including being dead last in the G7. As a matter of fact, Japan, Korea and Germany have four to six times the number of staffed beds per capita than Canada does. In the Conservative platform, we had dedicated $60 billion, if we are talking about money, to new health care transfer spending to increase health care capacity.
If we are going to spend money, whether that be for Bill or Bill , would it not be better for all Canadians if, instead of money being provide to businesses that are shut down, that money were to be used to prevent the economy from being shut down?
This bill is no different. This $70 billion needs to be spent now in health care transfers to increase both health care and ICU capacity, and to increase the number of health care professionals that we are desperately missing in our regions. We need health care professionals, nurse practitioners and nurses, and we need doctors. In Bay of Quinte, we are short over 30 doctors. That means that residents who need primary health care are going to the ER. Canada is short over 70,000 nurses.
Spending $70 billion more of taxpayer dollars without that money being invested into health care first and foremost is a travesty because it will add to the growing inflation that is plaguing this country. It would also not take care of the problems causing more lockdowns in the country and more angry Canadians desperately looking for the government to listen to them.
If we are going to fix inflation and the housing crisis, if we are going to listen to angry Canadians, we must fix those issues that are plaguing them, and we need to fix them now. Spending more money we do not have would fuel our already mammoth inflation, our housing crisis and the growing inequality in Canada without fixing the problems that would help Canadians get through the dark tunnel of this pandemic into the light that would be living with an endemic and getting lives back to normal.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today to Bill , an act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update tabled in Parliament on December 14, 2021 and other measures.
The economic and fiscal update is a transparent report of our nation's finances, but it is about making sure that we have the tools we need to protect Canadians and keep our economy growing. It is about prudence, not austerity, and intelligent investment, not a blank cheque. It would set the stage for us to build on the supports and investments that are bolstering our economy and ensuring its growth for the long term. This means making generational investments in our recovery, such as early learning and child care, so kids in Vancouver Granville and across Canada can get the best start in life. It also means making sure parents, most often women, do not have to make the difficult decision between taking care of their kids or returning to work, adding their immense talent and skill to contribute to Canada's economy.
According to RBC, closing the women's participation rate gap would add another 1.2 million people to the labour force at a time we desperately need workers to fill the almost one million jobs across Canada. It means investing in affordable housing and in a green transition. We all know full well that a green transition of our global economy is well under way. It represents a great economic opportunity to create good, sustainable jobs across Canada for generations to come. It means supporting the technology sector, the world from which I came, so that we can be a global leader in innovation and in building the economy of the future today.
This is not just about spending, but about creating conditions for future growth, fighting climate change by building a greener economy and ensuring that indigenous communities are included in every conversation about the innovation economy. Fostering diversity and inclusion are not just the right things to do for the fabric of the country, they are also the right thing to do to build a more prosperous future. By ensuring an economy that includes all of us, we access a wider range of experiences, perspectives and skills that would increase global competitiveness, support the long-term success of Canadian communities, rural and urban, and allow us to leverage best in class Canadian expertise on the world stage.
As we emerge from these moments of uncertainty, our priority must be on economic stability and long-term growth. The choices we make now will lay the foundation for the future that we will be leaving to our kids. I am proud of the work this government has done to keep us moving forward since 2015, no matter what challenges we have faced as a country.
We have also heard a lot about the pandemic's impact on our supply chains. That is why our government announced a call for proposals under the national trade corridors fund, which has allocated up to $50 million to support projects designed to eliminate supply chain congestion.
We know good transportation infrastructure and efficient trade corridors are crucial to Canadian businesses' success in the global market.
Many predicted it would take years to rebuild our economy from the wounds of the pandemic, but look at us now. We are poised for robust growth in the months to come, growth that will help us pay down the debt and reduce the deficit. We can already see the results of the work that has been done. The December labour force survey from Statistics Canada showed that our labour market gained 55,000 jobs and our unemployment rate dropped to 5.9%, its lowest since the start of the pandemic. Thanks to the resilience of Canadians, we have well surpassed our target of recovering one million jobs.
Our plan is working. As we continue to meet the challenges of COVID-19, we are staying the course, focused on climate change, advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples and building an economy that is stronger, fairer, more prosperous and sustainable for the long term.
Let me talk about specifics. I spent a large part of my life in the tech sector building small companies into larger ones and taking intelligent managed risks knowing that I have accountability to my employees and investors. Like many business owners and entrepreneurs, I had to think about long-term growth and building resilience for rainy days, and often we have to borrow to invest in growth. That is what this government has done for Canadians during the pandemic. Now it is time to build on the remarkable return on that investment.
This pandemic, as we all know, has not been just a rainy day. This is a once-in-a-generation black swan event, a global crisis. That is why in Bill the Canada emergency business account is such an integral and important measure. The CEBA is one of the key government supports that local businesses have relied on to weather the darkest days of this pandemic. As we all know, the CEBA provides interest-free, partially forgivable loans of up to $60,000 to small businesses to help cover their operating costs during difficult times.
Let me put that into perspective. We all know that small businesses in each of our ridings are the backbone of our economy. My constituency office is in the neighbourhood of South Granville, a vibrant neighbourhood where the streets are lined with small businesses, mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, bookstores and gift shops, all of which build and contribute to thriving communities. They employ our neighbours. They help families pay their rent and mortgages. Without government support, many of these pillars of our community would be out of business today.
Because of the Canada emergency business account, nearly 900,000 small businesses have been able to keep their doors open. Eligible businesses have accessed nearly $49 billion in federal support, and because many small businesses continue to face pandemic-related challenges, in January of this year our government extended the repayment deadline for loans, to qualify for partial loan forgiveness, to the end of 2023. This extension will support short-term economic recovery and offer greater repayment flexibility. Bill would give folks six years to pay off their CEBA loan, ensuring that loan-holders are provided consistent and fair treatment no matter where they live.
Bill would also deliver financial support to our Canadian farmers, who never stopped working to keep food on our tables, through the challenges posed by COVID-19 and beyond. Canadian farmers, like Mickey and her family, with whom I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday, have demonstrated great resilience, stepping up to deliver despite their own challenges. They have done their part in shoring up our food supply by investing in greener, more sustainable farms. With Bill C-8, we would be giving them a well-deserved hand while continuing to help meet our national climate change objectives.
The new measures in Bill would build on the significant support for businesses that became law with the passage of Bill in December. With Bill C-2, our government made sure that the economic supports needed for businesses would still be available, if and when needed. With the reality that provincial health restrictions remain in effect in certain regions across this country, we know that businesses continue to suffer and face challenges. Applications are now open for the local lockdown program, which provides wage and rent subsidy support of up to 75% for employers who have had to reduce the capacity of their main business by at least 50%. To expand access to the program, we have temporarily lowered the revenue decline threshold for eligibility from 40% to 25% through to mid-February. For businesses facing other pandemic-related losses, support is also now available through the tourism and hospitality program and the hardest-hit business recovery program.
By supporting businesses through these challenges, these programs are protecting people's jobs and allowing people to stay connected to their employers. As the has said, this keeps people strong, it keeps families strong and it keeps businesses strong. That is what we need to keep our economy strong.
As we emerge from the pandemic, our national focus must be jobs and growth. This means attracting top international talent and more immigrants and temporary foreign workers to help Canada meet long- and short-term labour market needs.
We have heard a lot about labour shortages recently, but our Canadian economy continues to grow. We have now surpassed our target of creating one million jobs. In fact, in December, as I said, we recovered 108% of the jobs lost at the peak of the pandemic. Immigration is a big part of the engine of our economy. It helps address labour shortages and strengthens our communities. Not only are immigrants essential to Canada's economy, but they also bring fresh perspectives and connect Canada to the world. In short, immigration bolsters our economic future and connects us to the world.
The good news is that the fall economic statement allocated $85 million to help unlock access to Canada. This targeted investment will reduce processing times in key areas affected by pandemic-related delays. Ensuring Canada's immigration system is well positioned to meet Canada's economic and labour force goals is essential to our future success.
As I said earlier, our long-term strategy of prudence, not austerity, and intelligent investment, not a blank cheque, is the best path forward for success. To bring this to life, we must lean into our clear vision and use public policy levers to make Canada a global leader in technology and innovation. For Canada to lead on the global stage, we must ensure that we create the conditions necessary for that to happen. That is exactly what we are doing. When we implement new approaches, Canadian innovators, businesses and non-profits respond. Building an innovation economy means thinking about where we want to go, not where we are today. It is clear that Bill is the next essential step in keeping Canadians and our economy strong, while setting the stage for long-term economic prosperity.
The record is clear. Our government delivered unprecedented support in order to keep Canadian families and businesses solvent throughout the pandemic, and investment in our economy has continued and will continue to pay off. The plan is working. Our GDP has returned to prepandemic levels, and both Moody's and S&P have reaffirmed Canada's AAA credit rating. We came into this crisis with the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, and we have increased our relative advantage throughout the pandemic.
The measures contained in Bill are fundamental to supporting Canadians and Canadian businesses, and the provinces and territories, as they continue to battle COVID-19. They need the support to get through the fight and come out stronger, and they are counting on it. They are counting on us. I encourage my hon. colleagues to bear this in mind in their consideration of this essential bill, and join me in supporting its expeditious passage through the House so that Canadians can get the help they need at the time they need it.
I am thankful for this opportunity to make this case.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to engage in this debate, but let me first address another issue.
I am so very disgusted by the images and displays of Nazi symbols and the use of the Confederate flag and other such hate symbols by those participating in the convoy. This is absolutely despicable, especially in light of the fact that racial and systemic inequity has been exacerbated with the impacts of COVID on the Black community, the indigenous community and racialized and marginalized people. The problems of racism and structural inequity existed even before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has exposed for many the serious inequities in our country.
I do not think it has escaped many, especially those in indigenous communities, Black communities and racialized communities, that the police's treatment of the convoy is starkly different from the treatment of indigenous protesters who are fighting for their land rights and protecting mother earth. My colleague, the member for , has put forward in this Parliament legislative solutions to amend the Criminal Code to broaden the provisions relating to hate propaganda to make it an offence to publicly display visual representations that promote or incite hatred or violence against an identifiable group. He is asking the government to take specific steps to immediately counteract all forms of hate and discrimination, hate crimes and incidents of hate. I hope the government will adopt this private member's bill as a government bill.
On the issue of inequities, we are now deeply in the fifth wave of the pandemic. The wealthiest continue to make record profits, and the government still refuses to bring in a pandemic profiteering tax. Canada's banks earned a combined profit of almost $58 billion in 2021. Meanwhile, the lowest-income seniors are getting their guaranteed income supplement cut. The New Democrats flagged concerns even before the election last summer and the government did nothing.
In Vancouver East, seniors are getting evicted and are being rendered homeless right now. The government says it cares deeply about seniors, but it thinks that doing nothing until at least May of this year is somehow good enough. It is as if the government, the Liberals, is blind to the fact that seniors are getting kicked out of their homes this moment, not in May. This is happening in the middle of the fifth wave of the pandemic during the winter months. Action needs to be taken now. Seniors cannot wait until May to get the support they need.
The government brought in the Canada worker lockdown benefit, but let me tell members about the nightmare that my constituents are having in trying to access that support. Wait times over the phone are at least two to four hours, from what my constituents report. A lot of people cannot get through and they have tried multiple times a day. There is no information on navigating the phone menu—
Mr. Speaker, I hope the member is able to get her technical problems resolved. I was looking forward to enjoying her speech. I know how challenging it can be with technical things.
I want to start with the substance of my speech. Like everyone else today, I am addressing Bill , which is a financial update to the fiscal update.
I am going to talk about some specific issues. Over the next few days, we will have a well-rounded discussion, but today I really wanted to talk about one area specifically, and that is part 1(d). It has to do with the introduction of a refundable tax credit to return fuel charge proceeds to farming businesses in backstop jurisdictions. Before we get into that, I want to talk a little about farmers and how important they are to our economy.
They provide the very sustenance we need every day, including throughout the pandemic. They actually account for nearly 7% of our GDP. In addition to feeding Canada and Canadians, people around the world are counting on our Canadian farmers. We are the fifth-largest agriculture exporter in the world and that provides nearly one in eight Canadians a job. We are one of the world's largest producers in flaxseed, canola, pulses, oats and durum.
Our farmers, despite providing an incredible bounty for us and around the world, have undergone some significant challenges throughout the pandemic. Like everyone else, they fought through the challenges of the pandemic. They also had challenges going into the pandemic, like the harvest from hell in 2019, which had the significant challenge of crops literally rotting in the field because it was so wet and farmers were unable to dry their fields. That harvest exacerbated the challenges our farmers were already facing, such as the self-inflicted wounds from the government in the form of the carbon tax.
The fact is that in some cases there is no doubt that the claims of revenue neutral do apply. If a person lives in a condo in downtown Toronto, there is a very good chance that their rebate is equal to the amount of the carbon tax they pay. However, if someone is a grain farmer in Saskatchewan, there is a very good chance and, in fact, a 100% chance, that they are paying thousands and thousands of dollars in carbon tax while receiving a mere pittance in return from the carbon tax rebate.
That is what led me, after discussions with some of the great advocacy groups for our farmers, to bring in a private member's bill, Bill . Bill C-206 was legislation that would have exempted propane and natural gas from the carbon tax for farmers. It was well received and it created some great discussion. Our stakeholders were very pleased with it.
Initially, if one can believe this, the said that the carbon tax was not significant. Despite me and others receiving carbon tax bills from farmers around this great country in the amount of tens of thousands of dollars, she said it was not that significant.
However, as the bill gained momentum, all of a sudden the tone changed, which was quite odd. She said that there now might very well be an issue. The went from “it is not significant” to “it might be an issue at some point”. Then, of course, as we know, later on in the fiscal update, she announced that there would be a rebate program. That rebate would be a $1.47 for every $1,000 of eligible farming expenses, or $1.73 in 2023. We will see the math, but we will see that is not nearly as much carbon tax as farmers are actually paying.
Before we get into that, let us talk about a rebate versus an exemption and why we still need an exemption. A rebate takes money from the farmer, puts it in Ottawa and then takes it back to the farmer. Why would we go through that machination of having it go to Ottawa and then come back to the farmer? Why would we not just leave it in the pockets of farmers?
I can only speculate but I have a couple of ideas. It might be that, in fact, the government wanted to take credit for an idea that came from farmers, and it wanted to have that credit. It just might be that the government wants control of that money. It is funny what happens sometimes when people's money goes to Ottawa. It tends to diminish. In talking to advocacy groups, whether in the agriculture committee or one-on-one conversations with farmers, we hear that they welcome the rebate but they would much prefer an exemption.
Let us move on from there to see how this is calculated.
It is calculated based on eligible farming expenses. For those of you who are not aware, who have never filled out a tax return for a farmer or done it for their own farm, a farmer has to state and list all of their expenses on their tax return. This bill says that, if they had $25,000 or more, based on the amount of those expenses, the more carbon tax rebate they will get. Therefore, they are using eligible expenses as a proxy for the amount. In other words, the more they burn the more they earn. Where have we heard that before? That is exactly how the system works. Only it does not work. In the proxy that they use, they are saying that with more eligible farming expenses there is more carbon tax rebate.
The challenge with that is that not all farmers are the same and not all areas of the country are the same. The temperature is very different in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia than it is in northern Alberta. Of course, the amount of fossil fuels, including natural gas and propane, is different. In addition to that, different industries have different routes to alternatives to fossil fuels. For certain industries, it may take years but it is relatively inexpensive to switch to alternative sources. In contrast, with other industries, it may take decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet we are blanketing it. We are using the same formula for different types of farms.
I am pleased, once again, that the government is starting to recognize that the agriculture industry, in addition to being great stewards of our land, already carbon neutral and ahead of many other industries, is what is called “an emissions-intensive trade exposed industry”. That means that there are certain industries, of which agriculture is certainly one, that do not have the ability to switch to alternatives, and there are certain emissions that may take years, if not decades, to get out of the system, despite the best efforts of our farmers.
The reason, as we heard over and over in the agriculture committee, is twofold. As I already said, there simply are not alternatives, so all this is an increased cost. There is no way to motivate farmers to do something that is impossible. The other part of it is that farmers are price-takers. The price that farmers get for their commodities off the gate is set by markets thousands of miles away from them. Therefore, they are unable to push that cost onto the consumer. That means many of our farmers are struggling to hang on and are struggling to get through Justinflation like everyone else, so it is a significant challenge.
I will just wrap up here by going through an example of how ineffective and insignificant this rebate is. For example, if a grain farm in Manitoba had a gross income of $2 million, which could very easily be a net income of zero, a farmer could expect a rebate of $3,446. That same farm would be paying a carbon tax of almost $10,000. It is woefully insufficient. Farmers need an exemption, not a rebate. They need more money in their pockets, not in Ottawa bureaucrats'.
Madam Speaker, I will pick up where I was before the technical issues. I was outlining the problems my constituents were having in their application for the benefits they need because of the pandemic. One constituent advised my office of their experience when they attempted to apply online. They were prompted to enter their postal code, which showed that they were from British Columbia. Even though the website stated that all regions in B.C. were eligible if employment had been impacted by COVID, they received a message saying that the region was not valid. These are the kinds of problems people are having. They cannot get through on the phone, or they wait for hours and get sent to different menu choices. They are trying online and are also getting these kinds of frustrating messages.
People are desperate. This is a time when their resources are running dry. Rents are due and they cannot put food on the table, so this is just not acceptable. I sure hope the government will fix these problems.
Then there are those who do not qualify for this program, such as artists, musicians, performers and cultural workers. They are among those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic. In Vancouver East, which is home to the most arts and cultural workers, on a per capita basis, of any riding in the country, the local arts and music scene is going through difficult times. I am very concerned that our community's cultural workers and venues alike face a longer road to recovery, which puts the live performance industry particularly at risk. Even before the pandemic, arts and performance venues were facing enormous pressures and challenges.
The calls of the #ForTheLoveOfLIVE campaign went unanswered by the government. The federal government needs to do more to protect these small and medium-sized enterprises and their employees and to preserve the cultural industry within our communities.
When we are talking about small businesses, I have to raise the issue of start-ups. They have been left out in the cold right from the start of the pandemic, and they continue to suffer. They continue to close down. The truth of the matter is that small businesses are the economic engine of our communities. If we do not support them to survive, our communities will not survive. That is our reality.
In Vancouver's Chinatown in my riding, we still cannot get support from the federal government or a special grant such as the one for Granville Island. Granville Island received a special grant from the federal government at the beginning of the pandemic, to the tune of $17 million. It later received subsequent grants, as well.
Vancouver's Chinatown could not get any support from the government. This is wrong. Chinatown is the jewel of our crown. It is recognized by the federal government as a national historic site, and we need to put the supports in place for small businesses and the community to survive.
I opened my comments today with the issue of racism and discrimination. Chinatown also continues to face ongoing attacks on this front. The Chinese Cultural Centre and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen gardens, among other iconic locations in our community, are being defaced with graffiti and racist comments. This also needs to be addressed, and we need the federal government to work with local communities, the provinces and the City to tackle this issue. We need to save Chinatown and preserve our history.
I want to take a moment and turn to the issue of housing. Today is actually the first 100 days of the Liberal government, and it declared that it would do many things in the first 100 days. The Liberal government still has not appointed anybody to the position of federal housing advocate.
The announcement of this new position was made in 2017. It has now been over a year since the government closed the job posting. In fact, it has been 13 months to be exact, yet there is still no progress. There is still no federal housing advocate. It should not take over 13 months for the government to hire someone after the job posting has closed. If the Liberals cannot even do that, how can they be expected to address the housing crisis that is precluding families and people from finding homes they can afford in the communities where they live and work?
Right now, we know that housing costs have increased exponentially—in fact, by some 38%. People who wish to own a home cannot get into the market. People who rent are losing their homes and are faced with renovictions. Those who are on the streets, who are homeless, continue to be unhoused.
The Liberals keep talking about their housing plan, but they continue to prevent scrutiny on it, which is not a surprise, I suppose, given how much the housing prices have gone up in the six years under this government. People cannot wait for the government keeps talking about it; we need action and we need it now. We need to address it.
I would be remiss if I did not touch upon indigenous housing. The government promised a “for indigenous, by indigenous” national housing strategy. Budget after budget, there is still no funding allocation to it. It was not in this economic update, and it is shameful.
The Aboriginal Housing Management Association in British Columbia just made an announcement and launched a plan to show how to do it and to showcase how this can be done. It needs to be done and it needs the federal government at the table to fund it so that we can ensure indigenous peoples have the proper housing that they deserve.
There has been enough talk. It is time for action. Let us get on with it.
Madam Speaker, it is an always an honour to stand in this place and speak on behalf of the people of Parry Sound—Muskoka from their seat here.
I am speaking on Bill today, and I am excited to do so, because it is an important issue. I think that the Liberals like their talking points, and when they are asked legitimate questions about the reasonableness of their spending plan, they just spout talking points. I thought I would try to simplify things and get right to the point and see if we can maybe get some good questions.
I would like to point out that of course this all started a couple of years ago at the beginning of the pandemic, and in many ways we in the House worked really well together. Pandemic supports were important, and all parties in the House worked well to improve many of the programs that the government offered and got them implemented as quickly as possible in the uncertain days at the beginning of the pandemic. I was really proud that we worked so well together.
Fast-forward a couple of years and here we are, hopefully seeing light at the end of the tunnel. However, over the course of these two years, we know that the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported that since the beginning of the pandemic, the government had spent or planned to spend almost $542 billion in new measures, but he also reported that clearly one-third of those new measures were not COVID-related at all. We are talking about almost $200 billion of new whims from this tax-and-spend Liberal government. In his report, the Parliamentary Budget Officer also pointed out that the remaining platform measures that the Liberals are now talking about would be another $48.5 billion in net new spending between fiscal years 2021-22 and 2025-26.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer, from a non-partisan office, pointed out the government's own fiscal guardrails. I am sure everyone recalls that when we were expressing concerns about the amount of deficit spending and borrowing that was being done, the told us not to worry because we had these fiscal guardrails that were going to make sure we were in good shape.
However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has now told us, “The Government’s own fiscal guardrails would indicate that its latest round of stimulus spending should be wound down by the end of fiscal year 2021-22.” That is this March. “It appears to me, he said, “that the rationale for the additional spending initially set aside as 'stimulus' no longer exists.” That is the independent, non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Officer.
I do not know what is confusing about that to this government or to the or her officials, but clearly it is.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer was also asked in the finance committee if excessive deficits and borrowing can in fact lead to inflationary pressures. His answer was very simple. It was one word: “Yes.”
Now, I will acknowledge that speaking points across the aisle are all about how inflation is a global issue, that there are global pressures, and I do not doubt that for one minute, but the fact of the matter is that we have a government that refuses to take responsibility for its own contributions to these inflationary pressures. That is real as well; the Parliamentary Budget Officer has told us so, but the Liberals do not like to talk about that. However, the reason we need to talk about that is that when we stand here, we speak for Canadians struggling to make ends meet.
We know what we are talking about when it comes to making ends meet. Trying to put food on the table is becoming more and more expensive for Canadian families. We know that chicken is up 6.2%, as we heard today. We know that beef is up almost 12%, bacon is up almost 20% and bread is up 5%. It is tough to make a sandwich with those numbers. The cost to put fuel in our cars is up 33%, and natural gas is up 19%.
Now, that may not matter in some of the urban ridings that the Liberals hold, but in Parry Sound—Muskoka, where the median income is 20% below the provincial average, people are struggling to make ends meet, and they have to drive to get to their jobs because we do not have the option of the TTC or major transit. They have to drive. It is a rural community. What else do we have to do? In Parry Sound—Muskoka it is cold, and we have to heat our homes. There are an awful lot of people in Parry Sound—Muskoka who heat their homes, not with natural gas because they do not live in the smaller communities, but with propane and oil. On top of the inflationary pressures that we see on home heating fuels of all kinds, there is the carbon tax thrown on top of that as well.
I cannot count the number of phone calls, emails and discussions I have had on the street with working families and seniors on fixed incomes. Seniors on fixed incomes call in tears, not sure how they are going to choose between heating their home and putting food on the table. That is criminal in this country, yet all we hear is talking points and more stimulus borrowing that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said is not necessary.
Everyone would like to think that Conservatives want to slash spending, and that is not what we are calling for. We are just saying, “Stop borrowing. It is not necessary. Just stop borrowing.” We do not need to borrow any more money. Maybe then we could help bring some of these costs down so that working-class Canadians, everyday folks, could afford to heat their homes, could afford to get to their jobs and could afford to put food on the table.
We hear a lot about housing, and that is a significant issue in Parry Sound—Muskoka as well. I was pleased to hear the member for Vancouver East agreeing with a campaign pledge from the Conservative platform in the last election to actually ban foreign purchases of residential homes for up to two years. This tax is another example. The Liberals want to have a 1% tax on foreign purchases of homes, which would generate more money that they could spend on stimulus that is not necessary. However, it is a 1% tax that would actually have pretty much zero impact on people who are trying to buy and make investments in our real estate market from overseas. The Liberals would just collect more tax and not solve the problem, and that just makes it more difficult for Canadians to ever own a home.
If the Liberals really cared about this issue, they would work collaboratively with the Conservatives and apparently with the NDP to ban the foreign purchase of residential homes for up to two years, but encourage foreign investment in the development of multiresidential rental properties, many of which could be affordable rentals. There is a desperate need for that in Parry Sound—Muskoka and all across this country. I have said many times in this place that affordable housing and access to the housing market is not just an issue in the big cities. It is a major issue all across this country, in smaller communities and rural communities as well. The Liberal government has pretty much forgotten rural Canada when it comes to this issue.
It is a real struggle on this side of the House to take the Liberals seriously when they refuse to listen to even the Parliamentary Budget Officer. If we want to make life more affordable for Canadians, if we want to help Canadians get ahead, we need to help reduce the pressures on their family budgets. All I am asking is why the Liberals will not use their own fiscal guardrails and get the spending under control.
Madam Speaker, my youngest son was born in the riding of my colleague for many years ago, and I always have fond memories of living there.
I am very pleased to join the debate on Bill today. Technically, it is called “An Act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update”, but it is also known as, “What is another $7 billion between friends or between the government and taxpayers' wallets?”
I am opposed to this bill, not necessarily the item by item and bit by bit of the bill but the out-of-control spending of the Liberals. It is part of the fiscal update the government introduced in December, which adds $71 billion of new spending, $71 billion of new debt, and that is even before the Liberals' election promises are counted in.
As my colleague mentioned, the government has also put aside $100 billion in added stimulus. The PBO said that the government has reached its fiscal guardrails. It does not need to add that extra spending, yet here we have the government barrelling ahead. That $71 billion in new inflation spending is $71 billion that eventually will have to be paid back.
I want to put into perspective how much $71 billion is. The government brings in about $32 billion to $35 billion a year in GST. Just to cover the new spending the government added from its fiscal update in December, which covers Bill , GST would have to go up to 16%. For Bill C-8 alone, all the GST in the country collected for three entire months would support just this small bit the government is adding, at 16%. Here in Ontario, HST would have to go to 24% just to cover this new Liberal spending, and in Saskatchewan it would go to 22%. In Alberta, we do not have the sales tax, thanks very much, but it still would be 16% GST just to cover this added spending.
My colleagues with the Conservative Party, the Bloc and the NDP actually agree on something, and that is that the government should be increasing health care transfers to the provinces. According to the public accounts, there were something like $42 billion in health care transfers last year. The government could increase health care transfers 58% just with this new spending. It could increase health care transfers to the provinces by 16% just with the money spent in Bill .
Regarding income taxes, we are already among the highest-taxed populations in the developed world. Income taxes would have to go up 41% just to cover the new Liberal spending from December. What could we do with that $71 billion instead? The government could actually fund 75 WE Charity scandals with that money.
We found that the government is great friends with SNC-Lavalin. The government gave the company $150 million for field hospitals. We asked the public works officials and the who had asked for these. They did not know.
Did the provinces ask for these hospitals? No. Did public health ask for these hospitals? No. Who asked? Public Works says that Public Works asked for them.
We asked, "Who in Public Works?" They answered that they just told us and that it was Public Works.
Apparently, if we look at GEDS, which is the government employees directory, we will see someone called “Mr. Public Works”, because that person apparently asked for this $150-million, sole-sourced, urgent contract for the Liberals' friends at SNC-Lavalin. It was so urgent that the government sole-sourced it without going out to bids from other companies.
By the way, guess how many of those hospitals have actually been delivered or used. It is zero. With this $71 billion, the government could buy 4,700 added hospitals from its friends at SNC-Lavalin.
According to the public accounts that just came out, which, by the way, are the latest public accounts to have been delivered in about four decades, the interest-bearing debt for Canadians has now reached an eye-watering $1.4 trillion. I am going to break that down a bit. That is $1,440,000 million in debt.
Now, to put it into numbers that perhaps the Liberals can understand, and for their billionaire friends, that is $1,440 billion in debt. I mentioned the Liberals' friends because in the public accounts, $91 million of taxpayers' money was spent last year to subsidize wealthy owners to buy Tesla vehicles. Taxpayers gave $91 million to Tesla so that wealthy Canadians could buy cars made outside of Canada. The wealthiest man in the world, Elon Musk, got $91 million in subsidies from the government. He owns about 17%, so maybe he gets about $16 million directly. He is a great entrepreneur. I love his tweets. He is hilarious, but he does not need subsidies from the government or from the taxpayers.
I want to put this in perspective so that people can understand the money. The City of Edmonton got $17 million from the government for the rapid housing initiative. In the paper today, there was talk about it. Of the $17 million from the federal government, $11 million will be for buying the old Forum Hotel by the Rexall Centre, where the Oilers used to play. It is $11 million from the government for housing for the homeless, and $91 million to Elon Musk so that wealthy people can afford a Tesla.
In Canada, if one tried to buy a Tesla on a five-year loan at maybe 4.9% or 5.9%, it would cost well over $1,000 a month. I am not sure how many Canadians trying valiantly to work into the middle class could afford $1,000 a month, or who deserves $5,000 from taxpayers so they can stuff Elon Musk's pockets.
Poverty in Edmonton under the Liberal government has gone up, according to the Library of Canada, by 58%, from the most recent StatsCan numbers. For those without housing, like the homeless in Edmonton, the numbers have gone up two-thirds. Nevertheless, former Liberal Amarjeet Sohi, who is the new mayor of Edmonton, a wonderful guy whom I quite enjoy, is cheering on the Liberals because he got $11 million for housing for the homeless. It was $91 million for Elon Musk and $11 million from the Liberal government for the City of Edmonton. It is a disgrace. The money should not be going to corporate welfare, but to people who need it.
Now, for the debt mentioned, the $1.4 trillion, the government says do not worry, as we have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. However, guess what? The government is using what is called net debt. There is about half a trillion dollars in the CPP and QPP set aside for future payouts. This is not the future 30 years down the road, but payouts tomorrow for anyone who is 65. The government is counting that money toward the federal debt when it is claiming that it has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. This is money for seniors, not money for the government to use, to cash in and to pay on the debt. If we take it away, we are fourth out of seven. Consider the top 29 developed countries in the OECD. If we take out the $500 billion that belongs to seniors, because it is not the government's money, nor the Liberals' money, and show the real debt, we are the 25th worst out of 29 countries in the developed world for debt-to-GDP ratio.
The government should stop misleading Canadians. The government should keep its hands off the money set aside for seniors and stop pretending that it will be able to access that money to pay for its out-of-control spending.
I want to wrap up by talking about the need for focused spending. We have the public accounts and we have been going through the money. There is a disgraceful amount of waste by the government. I mentioned the $91 million for Elon Musk. There is another $50 million to General Motors, Toyota and Nissan for electric vehicle rebates. There is also $50,000 that the government prioritized to give to a corporation to develop a new taste for an India pale ale.
The government asked where we would cut. I would cut corporate bailouts. I would also end the corporate welfare and focus money on Canadians where it is needed.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to be confused with the hon. member for , who is a great member from that part of the country. I am located a bit north of his riding. Nonetheless, I am happy to share the stage with him. He is a good friend of mine.
Today I am speaking about the fiscal update, Bill . I think the title of this story is “inflation”. We have seen inflation run wild right across the country. I am an auto mechanic and come from the automotive world. I spent most of my life before this place working at a Chrysler dealership in northern Alberta and Abbotsford, B.C., so that is the world I know more significantly. I do not know about others, but I have been driving around Canada noticing that the parking lots of car dealerships are empty. Anyone who has a three-year-old vehicle can trade it in for the same amount of money it was bought for three years ago.
I talked to a fellow during the election campaign who had a 2019 Ford one-ton pickup. He uses it to pull his holiday trailer. The dealership called him to say that since he only uses his truck to pull his holiday trailer, would he consider trading in his 2019 truck in August for a 2022 pickup truck in April of 2022. The man was told the dealership would guarantee him a new truck in April of 2022 if it could have his truck that day with no increase in his payments or the money he owes. It would be a clean swap. He got a pickup that was three years newer. That is a picture inflation. That is a picture of supply chain shortages and life getting more expensive. The fact that pickup trucks are now more expensive today than they were three years ago shows that inflation is happening.
We see it all around us. Now we have major supply chain shortages that are causing some of this inflation, whether it is microchips not making it across the ocean from China to manufacturers or a problem with trucking, but it also has to do with the amount of cash that is being put into the economy in Canada. We are also noticing higher prices in grocery stores of things that we have always relied on. To some degree it is the success of capitalism; when people go to the store, the bread lines up for them. The things we have come to appreciate and take for granted in many cases are not necessarily there today. Because of shortages, we are seeing the prices go up.
Farmers are saying they are getting record prices for their products, but when they buy their inputs, their inputs have increased threefold. They are getting double for their products, but their inputs are threefold higher, so their margins are all in flux. They are not able to predict what they are going to be doing and, in many cases, it does not matter how much money they have, they just cannot get the product. It does not matter whether the product was priced at zero dollars or $100. If they cannot get it, they cannot get it. That is an increasing challenge in this new world.
The point of all of this is that we are driving inflation through flooding the country with cheap cash. Statistics Canada says inflation is currently running at nearly 5%. When people can get money at 2% or 3%, they are basically getting paid to take on debt and we are seeing massive amounts of household debt. People are using the equity in their homes to run their lives, and it is spurring on inflation across the country. All of these things contribute to inflation. Folks continually tell me their groceries have gone up twice the price from a year ago.
There are increased trucking costs associated with this. I spoke to a sawmill owner in Slave Lake, Alberta. Two years ago, it typically cost him $2,000 to get a B-train of lumber down to the coast; today it is costing him anywhere from $5,500 to $6,000. That is a threefold increase in the price of the trucking. The fuel cost is up 50%. A year ago it was hovering around a dollar; now it is running at about $1.50. All of these things are making our lives more expensive.
The other thing I heard from constituents around New Year's was that the December natural gas bill for most people in my riding was the highest bill they have ever had, and a big part of that is due to the carbon tax. Folks were complaining to me that the carbon tax portion of their bill was larger than the actual natural gas costs of the bill. There are the transmission fees and things like that on there, but the actual natural gas they pay for would have been about a third of the bill and then the carbon tax would be about a third of the bill.
That was extremely frustrating to many Canadians, given that they said they had already done everything to reduce their bill. They had upgraded their windows and they had put in more insulation into the ceiling and they had reduced the temperature in their house, all to try to reduce their bill, and yet they had the largest bill in their entire life in December 2021. Again, we are seeing inflation being driven by things like the carbon tax and government policy in this country. They were calling on me to alleviate the carbon tax on home heating or eliminate the carbon tax in its entirety.
The other thing I wanted to talk about is about what it is going to take to get the economy up and running again.
We are seeing the cost of labour going up significantly. There are plentiful jobs. During the election I stopped in at a restaurant, and it was not open. It was four o'clock in the afternoon, and they were not open, so a week later when I drove through, I stopped in again, earlier in the day. I had a chat with a waitress and I said I was there last week and they were not open. She said, “Oh, no; we close at four o'clock. We have not been able to get enough staff to stay open all day.” That is something I hear from people all across northern Alberta—that they cannot find enough people to fill the jobs.
Again, that is causing them to offer more pay to attract people to come, and that is also another thing that is driving inflation. Basically, if someone is getting paid more to do the same job but their life costs more on the other side, they have not gained anything. All that happens is that the dollar numbers are higher. That, essentially, is what inflation is. It is the devaluing of our money so that it takes more money to do the same thing, and that is happening in both directions. That is happening in the wages and also in the costs of everything.
We are not necessarily seeing massive increases in production. We are seeing bigger numbers all around, larger numbers, but we are not necessarily seeing the tonnes of coal go up significantly or the barrels of oil go up significantly. All we are seeing is the dollar numbers associated with that going up, and that is, in a nutshell, what inflation is. The government has the levers to make sure that our dollar is worth something in the world, that our lives are affordable and that when we work for our money, we are able to pay for the things we need in order to live our lives. This particular suite of policies the government is proposing would do nothing to alleviate inflation, and for that reason I will not be supporting this bill.