The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is a true honour for me to stand in the House on behalf of the residents of my riding of Davenport to speak to Bill , an act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update, which was tabled in the House by our on December 14, 2021.
This is an important piece of legislation. It is a bill that includes a wide number of critical supports that workers and businesses need to help them continue to tackle COVID-19, such as support for provincial and territorial health care systems with vaccines, more ventilation in schools and rapid tests. It also includes several tax measures, such as tax credits for businesses that are purchasing ventilation supplies and teachers who purchase school supplies to assist with virtual learning.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, keeping Canadians safe and healthy has been our federal government's top priority. Canadians have sacrificed so much over the past 23 months to protect themselves and their communities. When this pandemic is finally over, our national government will ensure that the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic underpin Canada's pandemic preparedness to make sure that Canada is always ready, moving forward. In the meantime, there are things we need to do now to continue to keep Canadians safe and to support our recovery.
I will focus my remarks on four key areas of the proposed bill: improving ventilation in schools and community buildings, rapid antigen tests, the small businesses air quality improvement tax credit, and the COVID-19 resilience stream.
Regarding improving ventilation in schools and community buildings, as members know, the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for families and educators, with school closures followed by varying degrees of reopening. With students across the country now back at school, and the continuing impact of the omicron variant, we need to make sure our children and teachers are in a safe environment. Improvements to school ventilation are an important component of that. That is why today's legislation proposes up to an additional $100 million to provinces and territories through the existing safe return to class fund, as well as $10 million to first nations for on-reserve schools.
We are also giving the provinces and territories the flexibility they need to spend the funds on the ventilation-related improvements they deem most important. This includes repair or replacement of heating, ventilation and air conditioning units; increasing maintenance of existing systems, to ensure optimized operation; and other interventions that bring in more outdoor air or result in cleaner air, such as the installation of operable windows or portable air filtration units.
As members may recall, the safe return to class fund, which was originally announced in August, 2020, provided $2 billion to provinces and territories for their efforts to ensure a safe return to school and to protect the health of students and staff. The fund is helping provinces and territories by supporting, for example, adaptive learning spaces, improved air ventilation, increased hand sanitation and hygiene, and purchases of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. In my riding of Davenport, 18 schools have benefited from this fund, which is amazing.
Additional funding that we are proposing in the bill we are discussing now, Bill , would if approved provide the complementary funding provinces and territories continue to need as they work alongside local school boards to ensure the safety of students and staff members throughout the school year.
As our economy continues to recover and grow, parents should be able to fully return to work and trust that their children are learning in a healthy and safe environment. School is critical for children's development, their mental health and their future success.
I will move on to rapid antigen tests and ensuring they continue to be available to Canadians and to businesses. They will play a key role in helping to keep Canadians safe as we continue to find our way out of this pandemic and move into a post-COVID economy.
Throughout the pandemic, our federal government has continued to ensure that provinces and territories can make decisions based on public health advice and not budget limitations, as we work together to keep students, teachers, staff and families healthy and safe during this unprecedented school year. For example, we have provided over $3 billion in direct transfer payments to the provinces and territories for testing and contact tracing through the safe restart agreement.
In addition, the federal government has made significant investments in building testing capacity within the provincial and territorial health care systems, having purchased and shipped over 80 million rapid tests to them at a cost of over $900 million. With the continuing demand for rapid tests, Bill would allocate an additional $1.72 billion to the for the procurement and distribution of rapid antigen tests to provinces and territories, as well as directly to Canadians. With this initiative, and funding through the safe return to class fund, the federal government is helping to keep students and their teachers safer.
Moving on to the small businesses air quality improvement tax credit, we know that federal government support is not restricted to the classroom. We remain committed to also helping businesses and organizations improve their ventilation and air quality in order to keep Canadians safe. Proper ventilation makes indoor air healthier and safer, and helps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Many small businesses are on the front lines of the pandemic. They are enforcing vaccine mandates, installing protective barriers and making sure workers and visitors are safe. Many want to make further improvements to their indoor air quality, but investing in equipment to improve ventilation can be very costly.
With Bill , the federal government is proposing a refundable small business air quality improvement tax credit of 25% on eligible air quality improvement expenses incurred by small businesses. This will make it more affordable for them to invest in safer and healthier ventilation and air filtration. Businesses would receive the credit on eligible expenses incurred between September 1, 2021, and December 31, 2022, related to the purchase or upgrade of mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and the purchase of stand-alone devices designed to filter air using high efficiency particulate air filters. The credit is up to a maximum of $10,000 per location, and $50,000 in total.
Eligible businesses would include Canadian-controlled private corporations and unincorporated sole proprietors. The credit would also be available to eligible corporations and individuals carrying on business through partnerships. By helping businesses invest in better ventilation today, the government is helping to keep Canadians safe now and in the future.
Finally, regarding the COVID-19 resilience stream, we know that Canadians of all ages, children, seniors, young parents, amateur athletes and more, are gradually returning to community spaces such as arenas, swimming pools, libraries and community centres, but these buildings also require ventilation improvements. Building on the $150 million to improve ventilation in public and community buildings announced in 2020, the 2021 economic and fiscal update announced an additional $70 million over three years for Infrastructure Canada to support ventilation projects in public and community buildings such as hospitals, libraries and community centres. Funding will be delivered through the COVID-19 resilience stream of the investing in Canada infrastructure program.
In conclusion, I can assure the House that the government will continue to work with provincial and territorial partners to provide a healthy school environment for students, teachers and staff members in this challenging time. We will continue to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to beat COVID-19 and protect Canadians and Canadian businesses through this crisis. That is why support of Bill is so important, and I urge all members of the House to swiftly pass the bill so we can ensure that all these measures are implemented as quickly as possible.
Mr. Speaker, everyone has a story, and I have been hearing a lot of sad stories lately. The story I hear most often from Canadians is that people think they are losing control of their lives.
It is not just the pandemic. This story is also about 30-year-olds living in their parents' basement because they cannot afford the $800,000 price tag on a typical house in Canada today. They have done the math, and they know they may never be able to buy a house.
Their story is even sadder when they see big investment firms and the very wealthy raking in money the government printed and buying houses and real estate in their communities, then renting those houses to renters who may never be able to own their own home.
I talked to a young woman. She started a business in the winter of 2020. Again and again, governments shut her business down. Her entrepreneurial dream was killed by government policies.
I have talked to immigrants who come here with degrees in medicine or engineering but cannot work in their profession because of bureaucracy at the local level.
I have talked to indigenous people who want to use their natural resources to create jobs and lift their young people out of poverty, but who have been prevented from doing so by governments.
I have also talked to indigenous people who want to be able to own their own home, but who cannot because of rules imposed by Ottawa, by a system that prevents this from happening.
Finally, I have heard stories from Canadians who were targeted for their personal choice. I myself am vaccinated, and I encourage others to do the same, but I understand that other Canadians have made a different choice.
Before we insult them, maybe we should listen to their side of the story. Maybe they had a bad experience with medication, or a doctor gave them the wrong medication. Maybe they have an unrecognized medical condition. Maybe they had experiences in other countries where governments lied to the public for nefarious reasons, and now they are suspicious every time a government tells them to do something for their own good.
The thing to do would have been to listen to the stories of Canadians who have hesitations, to have the humility to say that we understand that they are scared and we are here to answer their questions, and to try to change their mind because they are still part of our Canadian family. Instead, our government took the insulting position of attacking those very people.
Despite his own record of racism, the wanted to insult others, people he does not even know. He tried to get truckers fired, people who work in a truck all alone for 22 hours a day. These people are being targeted by a vaccine mandate even though they might be the least likely to come into contact with others. That is why the protests happened here on Parliament Hill.
However, there is something positive. Freedom is on the march. We see it across the country. In Alberta, at midnight, the vaccine passport was lifted. We saw—
Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the Bloc Québécois is afraid and is trying to silence me. That is a good sign.
We are going to give Canadians their freedom back and make them the authors of their own stories. That is the approach we will take as Conservatives.
Everybody has their story, and the story that I am hearing right now is that people feel like they are losing control of their lives. There is the young couple living in their parents' basement, even though they are 30 years old, because they cannot afford an $800,000 house. They are calculating that they may never be able to own a home.
There is the immigrant who has come here as a doctor, but is blocked by bureaucracy from ever doing that job or getting a licence to practise. There is the first nations community that wants to harvest its resources to lift itself out of poverty, but is being blocked by government gatekeepers.
More recently, there are the countless small businesses that have been flattened by endless lockdowns and rules that often seem to have no link to science, and there is the trucker, who has been dutifully putting the goods and services in our communities, on our shelves and on our kitchen tables and is now called names and prevented from doing his or her job by a who is not interested in listening.
I am vaccinated and I encourage others to do so, but every person has their story. People have their reasons. They might be medical reasons or cultural reasons. They might even have had an unfortunate medical experience with prior prescriptions that has prevented them from making that decision, but that decision must be theirs. Their bodies belong to them. They are masters of their own decisions.
Instead of listening to these people, the has insulted them, called them names and left them with no choice but to engage in legitimate and peaceful protest. If he wants to put an end to those protests, if he wants to actually reunite the country, then he should do what others have begun doing, because freedom is on the march in this country.
Saskatchewan, Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Quebec are beginning to lift these restrictions. At midnight in Alberta, the vaccine passport came to an end, and people across the country are showing their support for restarting freedom in this country, including two of the 's own members of Parliament.
Let us get these restrictions out of the way. Let us open up our economy. Let us bring back freedom. Let us make Canadians the authors of their own stories again.
Mr. Speaker, I feel like a baseball player who steps up to the plate after somebody has hit a home run, but I will do my best to follow the hon. member for .
It is my honour to rise today and speak to Bill , which is the economic and fiscal update implementation act of 2021. The bill touches on several different topics, but I would like to focus on a few critical elements related to farmers, housing and what this bill represents overall.
For farmers, this bill quite simply is an acknowledgement that the government's approach has been wrong. It recognizes the harm of its carbon tax on farmers, but there is just one problem. The remedy does not go nearly far enough. Instead of discounting the carbon tax at the point of sale, the government is attempting to introduce a complicated rebate method. It puts an additional burden on farmers to collect their receipts, and at the end of the year they will get a fraction of what they paid in carbon tax back. A tax credit is not good enough. Farmers deserve much more than that. What is the science-based justification for treating diesel and gas differently from natural gas and propane?
I hope that all members in the House understand exactly how important farmers are to this country. When we live in cities and do the majority of our travelling by plane, if we take a look down what we see are beautiful farms covering the countryside. For many rural communities across this country, farming was the reason they sprang up, and it is the reason they continue to exist today.
Farming is one of the things Canada is known for internationally. Let me quote the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, which states, “Canada is the fifth largest exporter of agricultural and agri-food products in the world after the EU, U.S., Brazil, and China”, and “over 90% of Canada’s farmers are dependent on exports”.
Our farmers are competing with farmers from around the globe. It is a global industry, and farmers across the country, including in my riding, check the prices of global commodities, which help them determine and decide what to plant. They then follow international news to inform them of the best times to sell their products. A drought in Germany means farmers know their canola is likely to rise due to supply and demand factors.
When the carbon tax was initially announced, farmers were concerned. They knew they could not raise prices like other industries can. There was no way they could reduce the amount of fuel they were using, and increased costs come directly from their bottom line. That means they reduce the amount of money farmers can take home to their families at the end of the year, and the amount of money farmers have available to pay workers.
If it was not clear, farmers use a lot of fuel. A large tractor can hold 400 gallons of it. Thankfully, the understood that taxing diesel and gasoline was a non-starter, but that is not the only fuel that farmers use. Propane and natural gas are critical to farming. Natural gas and propane are cheap and efficient ways to heat and cool large buildings for many farmers, whether these are the shops they do repair work in or the places where livestock live in the cold winter months. These fuels are vital to selling most crops because of how farmers dry their products. Before something like corn can be shipped to market, it must be within a specific moisture range. It costs thousands of dollars to dry every month.
Last night, I spoke with a few farmers in my riding. They think this bill is quite clearly not doing enough. They sent me a copy of a few bills. I have a copy of a bill with me here. Just for the month of October to November, a natural gas bill for the farmer was almost $58,000. The carbon tax on that bill was $13,000. That is an unbelievable additional cost added to the monthly cost of operating that farmer's enterprise. Another farmer, Will, in my riding spends $40,000 to $50,000 some months on fuel.
This huge expense to farmers is why the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has been calling on the government to rethink the carbon tax application to farms. In March, the federal government needs to understand this, and to work to lessen the negative impacts of the carbon tax on the ability of farmers in Ontario to compete in both domestic and international markets. They may have asked for our understanding because it appears the government does not understand how much damage this is doing. That is perhaps why the felt it was appropriate to say that the carbon tax was not significant for farmers after it was introduced.
I would like to point out that, like the carbon tax, it is a common theme with the government to not listen to Canadians when developing policy choices.
This is where I would like to thank my hon. colleague, the member for , for all of his work on the farm carbon tax file. He said the tax was crippling agriculture. Without his work, the may have continued to believe the carbon tax was insignificant. The member for called for an exemption to the carbon tax and put forward a bill to do just that for natural gas and propane, but with an unnecessary election called, that bill died with the last Parliament.
The tax credit proposed is complicated, it is onerous and it does not make it equitable with other fuels. There is an excellent solution here to help the farmers. It is quite simple and it is not in this bill. The solution is to provide a full exemption at the point of sale.
A similar criticism can be directed at the government on the proposed tax on vacant properties with a national annual 1% tax on the value of non-resident, non-Canadian-owned residential real estate that is considered to be vacant or underused. That is very complicated.
In the last election, housing was a major theme. Our party, the Conservatives, put forward a plan to limit and ban foreign investors not living in or moving into Canada from purchasing homes for a two-year period. This plan was well received. Really what we are asking for is a two-year pause to let everyone take a break so we can curb some of the off-the-record demand we see for homes that are driving the prices up for everyone else.
When we talk about housing, the government likes to point to a commitment to bring in a beneficial ownership registry, but like many Canadians, I am skeptical that the government will deliver on this commitment. It is absent from this bill and the government has a long history of promising something and failing to deliver.
The bill represents a disconnect that seems to have taken hold of the government. It is a disconnect between government spending and the consequences of that spending. The only policy solution the government has is to spend more money. That is the only solution that it has proposed over these last two years. In fact, it is the only policy solution it has proposed since 2015, since coming into government.
When COVID first arrived, it was unprecedented. Although I was not in this chamber at the time, I was pleased to see all parties working together for the benefit of Canadians to make sure businesses, families and all of us had the support we needed to get through the pandemic.
However, that time has passed and experts are warning the government to stop the rampant spending and pointing to the effects that spending has on inflation. We need a credible, fiscal plan with a focus on growth, not on redistribution, that acknowledges the risk that additional spending represents to Canadians.
I believe the buck has to stop somewhere. The House cannot keep signing off on billion-dollar pieces of legislation without a plan to find some savings or a plan for how to pay for it. There needs to be a debate where we can find savings to offset some of these new expenditures, which might be worthwhile. That is the very least the government could do. In fact, I would propose that the government, for every new spending measure it brings forward, finds an offset savings somewhere else.
This mountain of debt is not the legacy of COVID that we wish to leave for our children. They deserve better than this.
Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to respond to the government's economic update, formally called Bill . I have had the opportunity over the last few weeks, since the House came back, to address a few of the important economic situations that I feel is putting our country under enormous strain right now.
I will use my time to talk about two key themes that I am hearing about repeatedly, over and over, and it is not just among constituents in my riding. It is a loud and clear message coming from every part of this country.
I will start with housing. When the Liberal government came to power in 2015, the average cost to purchase a home in Canada was $435,000. If we fast forward to today, we are getting to the point of nearly $800,000 on average. That is an 85% increase in housing prices over six years, 25% in many areas in the last year alone. Many people say, or the government will argue, that this is an international phenomenon. That is absolutely not true when we look at the degree and the severity of the housing crunch our country faces. Bloomberg has reported that Canada has the second-worst housing bubble in the entire world.
We localize that. Part of our job is to bring the stories and examples from our communities here to the floor of the House of Commons. In question period, I highlighted the situation we are facing in Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, the area in eastern Ontario I am proud to represent. I am grateful to the Cornwall and District Real Estate Board for keeping statistics. They show we have basically doubled the housing crisis in the Cornwall area over the course of the last five years. We saw one month's average price was Over $400,000.
One real estate agent told me that this is not uncommon. Supply continues to be a major challenge. Who wants to sell their home? Yes, money can be made, but where else will people go? Supply is a challenge and pricing on that everywhere is a challenge. The number of bids on one house was 13 bids in four days. Talk to any real estate agent, and they expect that problem to continue into this year and beyond, unfortunately.
One thing I want to do is to put on the record some of the feedback I have heard in my riding. We talk about housing prices, which impacts people getting into home ownership. I have heard a number of examples of 30- to 35-year-olds living in their parents' basement with a full-time job trying to save up to buy a house. If they can afford the mortgage, they cannot afford the risk of the mortgage rates going up in the coming years.
One of the other things we need to make sure of when we are talking about housing, a key aspect of our quality of life, is the rental market as well. Rental prices are rising across the country, including in my community of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, be it in Winchester, Cornwall, Lancaster, Morrisburg or any point in between. Supply is very low and prices are going up astronomically. A property manager told me this week that there was a three bedroom rental for $1,400 a month plus utilities. I do not know if it was a house or an apartment, but they had 127 applications in one week. This is not sustainable.
People will ask us what we can do at the federal level. At the federal level we have been advocates of finally tackling money laundering in this country. Canada has a reputation, which is growing and not diminishing, of being an opportunity for money laundering in our real estate market. We need to ban foreign investment very clearly in this heated market.
Another constructive idea is this. As opposed to banning investment in the real estate market completely, foreign investment should be directed to building apartment rentals and units to help that market as well.
The government's economic approach to this is wrong. It says what it is going to do is spend billions and billions more dollars to give people more money to have equity to buy a house. The economics show this is the wrong way. All it is going to do is further inflate the housing market. When we have 17 people bidding on a house and they know they can maybe get more assistance, it is going to take that $400,000 average in the Cornwall area and make it over half a million, I am sure.
The optimism in our housing market in this country has never been lower. It has started, it is here now and it will be continuing because of the bad pieces of legislation and fiscal policy the government is proposing. The government put $400 billion of new debt, cheap money, into the market. We see a direct correlation with the time frame of that and the negative effect it has had on our housing markets.
I also want to talk today, as we talk about economics and fiscal updates, about how this should be a happy time, an optimistic time, in our country right now. We are seeing countries around the world present plans and updates to get past this pandemic, open up, get rid of mandates, provide a plan and give people optimism, from an economic and fiscal perspective and from a mental health perspective.
Look at where we are in this country today. In every single phone call I take, the tone and temperament in this country is getting worse. The 's language and rhetoric is unacceptable. People are more divided, more angry, more bitter and are getting increasingly pessimistic about the tone and dialogue in this country at a time when it could be the opposite.
I am proud to say I am vaccinated. People have heard me in the House and on social media encourage people to get vaccinated. It is a positive that we are one of the most vaccinated countries in the entire world. Millions of people have gotten booster shots and in February 2022 cases are going down. We are going in the right direction. People should be hearing from the a plan to lift mandates. When it comes to travel, we are the only G7 country that has the outdated testing practices in place. People are getting more frustrated and more pessimistic.
We should be presenting a plan and a timeline and giving hope, like numerous other allied and similar countries around the world are doing. We can look to the south and see Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as governors, giving hope and optimism, showing a light at the end of the tunnel, telling people it is getting better, giving them some relief with regard to their mental health and getting people back to work.
We have a paralyzed political environment in the country because the decides, if people want to open up, if they want to get back to normal, if they want to live their lives and get their freedom back, to tarnish everybody and say they are racist or they are misogynist or some other disrespectful comment.
I am hearing over and over again back home that this needs to end. We are a wonderful country. Everybody I speak to is proud to be Canadian, but they are extremely frustrated by the lack of leadership and the tone that is coming from the . As a matter of fact, as opposed to what everybody else is doing in terms of opening up and giving that optimism, still on this table is a who, through the words of his caucus members, two of whom have rightfully and thankfully stepped forward, is doubling down on division and spreading, I believe, further disunity in the country.
They are actually talking about an interprovincial mandate for truck drivers. What does that mean? It means putting it in place at every single border, in every single province of this country.
Read the room. The science is not there and Canadians are not there. I oppose this legislation. I oppose the direction the government is taking. I will stand up to make sure we get back our freedoms, get opened up and finally get back to normal once again. It has been long enough.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill , an act to implement certain measures included in the fall economic and fiscal update.
This debate comes amid a real crisis of leadership in Canada. We know the called a summer election that Canadians did not want, and by cleverly sowing enough division and fear in just the right places, he managed to squeak out another minority government with the same willing partners in the Bloc and the NDP. He claimed that the 2021 election was necessary because we were at the most transformational moment since 1945, and that he would need a new mandate to implement a bold new agenda befitting a grand historical moment. Once elected, with the same partners who were already giving his government a free hand to do anything he wanted, what did the do that was so transformational that it required an election and a fresh mandate? He did absolutely nothing. He waited weeks before making a few tweaks to his cabinet. Then he waited a few more weeks before finally reconvening Parliament, delivered a bland, recycled Speech from the Throne, and eventually, the week before Christmas, tabled what he was still referring to as the fall economic statement.
What was in this much-delayed update? What worthy, once-in-a-lifetime transformational programs required a new mandate from an election to implement? We saw absolutely nothing. The statement was a continuation of the same trajectory the government has been on both since and before the COVID crisis began. The fall economic statement shows that the government is continuing down the path that it has long walked of out-of-control spending, higher taxes and continuing inflation that threatens to trigger a spiral of higher prices for consumers, higher interest rates, higher mortgage payments for consumers and higher debt service costs for governments, which will eventually mean higher taxes and service program cuts. This is the trajectory we are now on and it began long before COVID.
Canadians are facing an affordability crisis. Inflation is now the highest it has been in decades. Families can expect their grocery costs to increase by $1,000 this year. For millions of Canadians, this means hard choices about what they will do without. The vast majority of Canadians do not have an extra $1,000 a year to spend on groceries. Before the pandemic, nearly half of Canadians were virtually broke after paying all of their monthly obligations, and they simply cannot absorb higher food costs.
There is the cost home heating. This is an absolute life necessity in Canada. Nobody in Canada, not even on the west coast, can simply tough it out in the winter and just put on a sweater when it gets cold. When it does get cold, and it gets bitterly cold in every part of Canada, Canadians need reliable and affordable energy to heat their homes, and the government slapped an ever-increasing carbon tax on home heating costs for millions of Canadians.
Transportation is also more expensive; gasoline is more expensive. This is also due in part to the carbon tax. This cost affects everyone, whether they own a car or not, whether they drive or take the bus. It makes driving to work more expensive, it makes bus passes more expensive and it puts pressure on municipalities, which have increasing costs to operate police, fire, ambulance, waste collection and transit vehicles. These higher costs have resulted in higher property taxes or cuts in services, and this will continue.
Nowhere is the increased cost of living and inflation crisis more obvious than in Canada's housing market. A true crisis in affordable rent and home ownership has deeply taken root in Canada under the current government. It became much worse during the COVID crisis, and this bill does not give hope to would-be homebuyers or renters. In fact, it is a continuation of the very policies that have pushed home ownership out of reach for young families.
COVID has had a devastating effect on the Canadian economy, resulting in a significant drop in GDP and massive job losses, yet the price of residential real estate has gone up, and not just by a little. The Canadian real estate market saw the most spectacular run-up in home prices ever seen. The average price of a Canadian home went up 30% in the middle of an economic contraction with massive job losses. How could that possibly happen? Was there a massive collapse in other asset classes to offset a rush of money into residential real estate? No. Stock markets also enjoyed a spectacular run during COVID, so where did the money come from?
Can there now be no doubt that massive deficits, facilitated and enabled by central banks that massively expand the money supply by buying the government's debt with newly created money, inflate the value of assets without actually creating any real wealth? It is Justinflation.
This bill, with its deficits and the absence of credible fiscal anchors or an acknowledgement of the inflation crisis, is a doubling down on the previous fall economic statement and last year's budget. There is nothing to give Canadians hope for a future where there will be affordable homes, manageable costs for basic necessities, relief from taxes or the better public services they want and need.
There is nothing in this statement to give Canadians confidence that their leaders are prudent managers of the nation's finances. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has pointed out that the government's own stated rationale for the billions in additional spending contained in the update no longer exist. The PBO has also pointed out that since the pandemic began, billions of dollars have gone into non-COVID new spending programs.
Furthermore, beyond the dollars and cents, the PBO has pointed out that the government is struggling with basic fiscal transparency. The PBO stated:
This year both the Annual Financial Report and Public Accounts were published on December 14, 2021, the latest publication since 1993-94. Comparatively, Canada was among the last of the G7 countries to publish their financial accounts for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The PBO goes on to point out that the federal public accounts are published later than most provincial and territorial public accounts and that “Canada falls short of the standard for advanced practice in the International Monetary Fund’s [fiscal] reporting guidelines”.
In some respects, these quotes from the PBO about basic competence and transparency might be the most disturbing part of all. For six years, the government has been increasingly paralyzing the country with incompetence.
We watched a government just shrug off payment systems that do not pay, procurement systems that do not procure and create regulatory systems designed to kill projects. It dithered for years with a non-decision on Huawei, jeopardizing national cybersecurity. It defied parliamentary orders. It has presided over the resignation of eight generals, one clerk of the privy council and a governor general.
Now we are adding the inability to file timely fiscal reports to the incredible litany of muddled and incompetent government. Today, as we debate the implementation legislation for the fall economic statement, Canada is as divided as it has ever been. The government has long pitted east versus west, urban versus rural, and now the vaccinated against the unvaccinated. The government operates under an “us versus them” mentality that has finally and courageously been called out by one of their own this week.
To conclude, I will not support this bill. It is a matter of confidence in the government, and I have none.
Mr. Speaker, there is a lot there, and I will do the best I can with the time I have.
To start with the last point, yes, indeed there is inflation in other parts of the world, but in no other advanced economy is it like it is in Canada. This is a Canadian phenomenon compared with our peer countries.
On housing, yes, indeed supply is an issue. We have seen nothing from this government to meaningfully address supply. It is quite the opposite. We have a continuation of regulation, and that goes to other levels of government as well, but certainly there are supply issues here. However, what the government has done is inflate the entire asset class with its deficits that were facilitated through the creation of new money, which I addressed.
With respect to programs, yes, indeed we supported all of the support measures that were necessary to combat COVID. However, as the member might have noted in my speech, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has pointed out that the criteria for the stimulus portions, and the government's own rationale for them, have disappeared, yet the expenditures remain.
Finally, I would like to thank the member for participating in the debate. It is nice to see somebody besides the member for and the member for actually doing their job and speaking in the House of Commons.
Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a bill related to the fall economic update. I think we have to realize that the situation we are in right now is the context in which we are debating this bill.
I have never seen our country more divided in my time in office, and I have never seen us in the kind of national crisis that we are in right now. We are now in year three of COVID. Every one of us in this House and every member listening has constituents who are tired, who are facing mental health crises, who want stability and certainty, who have lost jobs, who are trying to find labour. We have a big problem in this country right now. We are seeing civil unrest.
I just feel that the legislation that the government is putting forward right now and the tone that the government is taking with these problems are not treating these things seriously. It is really easy for us to just assume that Canada is always going to be this place of wonderful, vibrant, inclusive pluralism that sees constant economic growth, but we cannot make that assumption. It actually takes work and it takes effort, and that effort is not deep political polarization and it is not making political hay out of crisis situations; it is actually trying to work with each other to come up with solutions. This bill does not recognize that point right now.
My constituents are seeing out-of-control cost of living increases. I was just at the grocery store last night in my community, and I watched a woman pick up a container of chicken breasts and then put it back. She picked it up again and then she put it back. She picked it up again, and then she put it back and walked away. That is happening across demographics. People do not know if they can afford to pay for basic necessities, and this has changed in such a rapid period of time.
This bill does not address that, because we are not addressing the underlying causes of inflation. We are not addressing the continued deficit spending that we have seen over the last couple of years during the pandemic. I really think that now is the time for a new approach. I believe we should not be debating any new budgetary measures without having a plan to end pandemic restrictions.
I understand why we looked to restrictions at the very start of the pandemic. I think we did that for several reasons. The government needed time to figure out what COVID was, particularly as we were watching the body bags pile up in different parts of the country. There was a desire to try to contain COVID. We now know that is not possible. COVID zero is not possible. It is not a thing. We have to learn to live with it.
Restrictions were supposed to buy us time to get vaccines and therapeutics. We have both. Thank God we have both. Restrictions were supposed to incent people to get vaccinated, and very many Canadians have been vaccinated and have been boosted, and I want to thank them for that. However, I would argue that after six months under many of these restrictions, the people who have not been vaccinated to this date have probably made a choice, and frankly, the political rhetoric around vaccination that we saw during the federal election campaign did nothing to help raise vaccination levels. All it did was divide our country further.
My last point is that restrictions were ostensibly put in place to buy politicians at all levels of government time to build up capacity in our very broken health care system.
On the first four points, we do not need restrictions anymore to do those things. On the fifth point, to build up capacity and deal with Canada's broken health care system, restrictions are not going to do that; only political will gets that done.
This bill misses the mark, and I would like to see the federal government immediately put forward a plan to end pandemic restrictions. I think that would take the temperature down across the country, and it would also serve to give us a starting point to think about how we are recovering as a country from what has been collective trauma across our nation. That needs to be the starting point.
The thing this bill does not address, which it really should have, given the amount of spending in it, is that point number five I just mentioned: how we are addressing Canada's broken health care system. I know a lot of this fourth round of restrictions was to do with worry about whether a few hundred emergent patients suffering from COVID would overload our ICUs across this country. I know health care is provincial jurisdiction. The federal government also has a convening role in a national crisis to ask provincial governments how we can help, how we can fix this problem and how we can support the doctors and nurses, who are rightly asking for solutions from all of us.
We cannot point fingers at each other across levels of government and then expect Canadians to continue to sacrifice through restrictions and continued impingements on our freedom. We cannot keep expecting to divide Canadians, so I really hope the government will turn its attention to those types of forward-looking measures, when it comes to moving into a state of endemic management for COVID, figuring out how we can unite each other and figure out how we can have common ground and understand one another, rather than just using political rhetoric to try to drive wedges.
I hope the federal government somehow uses its convening role to see how we can support the provinces and fix our broken health care system so this does not happen again. I hope the federal government commits to ensuring these types of restrictions we have seen over the last couple of years are not normalized and that we put safeguards around when the federal government can actually use these, so that Canadians are not sort of sitting is a state of suspended terror or uncertainty on when they are forward again. I hope the federal government actually puts some resources into ramping up the pandemic warning system. We should not have to be relying on data from the WHO and other areas. We should be having our own data to be able to figure out how we can best manage our borders.
There are so many things we could be doing, but I feel this bill is a continuation of the status quo in the middle of a national crisis, rather than saying how we get out of that crisis and heal the rifts from the collective trauma our nation has gone through, and then focusing our efforts on rebuilding.
The last few days and weeks have been difficult on every Canadian. I have gotten so many emails and calls from people of all political stripes and proclivities panicked and worried about the future, and it is our job here to give that stability and that sense of hope moving forward. I watched question period today, and we all have to do a lot better.
The interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada asked the to meet and has proposed a meeting across party lines with all the party leaders to figure out not only how we can move forward and how we can ensure that critical infrastructure is not being blockaded, but also how we can ensure that pandemic restrictions are removed. These are both reasonable to move forward, and they are what we are here to do. That is our jobs. We cannot keep trying to take a side one way or the other and try to think something is going to happen. There has to be an acknowledgement of an issue on both, and I do not see that happening here.
This is less of an admonishment and more of an encouragement to all of my colleagues who are listening today, and to anyone who is listening at home. If we do not start taking these things seriously, we are going to keep seeing this spiral and disintegration. So many different generations have worked so hard to build our country up, not tear it down. It is our job here to make sure we do so.
With that, I encourage my colleagues to work together across party lines to come up with solutions, take the temperature down and invest in our future.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House once again.
How do we begin to go over the country’s finances under the Liberal government? There is always so much spending and it is impossible to keep track of it all. It can give someone a headache if they try to keep up with it. Many of my fellow Conservatives are doing a great job of going through these spending items, showing how a lot of them do not make any sense and helpfully explaining how to handle Canada’s finances more effectively to get a better deal for the taxpayer.
I think it needs to be said, as a general comment, that in difficult times it is actually more important, not less, to make sure that we are managing our finances carefully and with close attention. The government must not act like it received a blank cheque from Canadians. However, when we are dealing with unusually large amounts of money, and when our minds are easily distracted by the news and events surrounding us here in this country, the temptation is always there to fall into a spending spree and make impulsive decisions without clearly thinking about the future and the ramifications of the decisions we make.
Everybody knows by now that we have entered a time of soaring inflation and supply chain shortages. Maybe it took an extra while for the Liberals to acknowledge it, because the warnings were coming from the official opposition, but they got there eventually and recognized that it was more than “Justinflation”.
To a degree, some challenges were expected during all the uncertainty and real disruptions to do with COVID and two years of lockdowns. That is the sort of thing that has been affecting countries around the world, which has been the government’s favourite talking point for a little while. However, it is not the perfect excuse that the Liberals are trying to make it out to be. Their mandate for truckers crossing the border, for example, at a time when supply chains are fragile with moving goods, is only one of the latest examples of their wrong-headed and unbalanced policies. We are already behind 18,000 truckers, and the mandates are only further exacerbating that issue. The 's inflammatory and extreme rhetoric has also not been helping. However, I am not so much speaking on national unity today. It is the economic side of these problems that is the focus of debating the bill in front of us right now.
As far as handling COVID is concerned, the Liberals really have been normalizing lockdowns in practice. They have gone along as if it was a fallback or default position. Sometimes it seems as if they are stuck in the spring of 2020. The Liberals did not listen to feedback inside or outside of the House about supporting the provinces, strengthening their health care funding and providing all kinds of preventive measures as requested. The Conservatives demanded that they maximize all the incentives for businesses to hire and for more people to keep working, but now we find ourselves with ongoing labour shortages across different sectors. We are not out of the woods yet.
Even though we do need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, it is still concerning to see the government announce a local lockdown program when it has consistently lacked a balanced approach. It would be one thing if the government was caught off guard by a crisis and had trouble finding its way, but with the Liberals and their economic update, it is about so much more than just COVID. Our finances were not in good shape before 2020 because of the same government’s mismanagement. We started off weaker than we needed to be, and it is obvious that the Liberals have not learned anything and are not willing to correct the course.
Over the last couple of years as a member of Parliament, I have had the chance to work on a few committees. In each of them, I have seen the same pattern up close. The government will make announcement after announcement for our future economy yet to come, while it does not hesitate to actively undermine our strongest sectors in the current economy. We cannot go on spending as much as we are if we do not have a strong economy to back it up.
When we ask them practical questions about the most basic details of their dream economy, there is not an answer, because questioning them on it just kills the mood. The Liberals are shooting our country in the foot and asking questions about it later, but it is okay, as there is a buyback program for the proverbial gun anyway. They will happily bring in new restrictions on people’s lives through taxes and new laws, but they do not seem to care as much about making sure that ordinary life can function in their new utopia.
First, they brought in their carbon tax, with no regard for the disproportionate impacts it has on rural areas, like the ones I serve, and the most vulnerable populations, even though their regulatory review admits it. It specifically singles out seniors living on a fixed income, but also single mothers, who are most at risk of experiencing energy poverty. As the carbon tax continues to escalate, The Liberals are looking to pile on the clean fuel standard, which has another carbon pricing mechanism attached to it. These people are only going to feel more and more crushed by the burden of the government's tax-heavy approach.
However, there is no need to worry because they say they are preparing our economy for the future. They promise a boom for industry with electric vehicles and biofuels in Canada. Again, without a plan, it sounds too good to be true.
A couple of days ago in committee, I followed up with the on a potential problem under CUSMA. Since coming into force in July of 2020, we have had a window of time to prepare for a requirement to regionally source 75% of lithium for EV batteries with minimal impacts on tariffs. If we are unable to do so there will be a massive increase in tariffs. With or without them, we could easily fall behind in this new industry, which appears to be crucial for the government's direction. What if it does not work out as well as expected?
I asked the minister about it a year ago. She did not seem to know what it was, and with no clear answer since then I decided to bring it up again this week, one year later. I am still not sure if the minister is actually aware of it and it is hard to get anything done if one does not know what one might have to deal with.
When it comes to new mines or resource projects in this area, industry has clearly said that the Liberal government's own impact assessment process is getting in the way and causing delays. The timelines for approval take way too long and it does not have to be this way. Our Canadian economy depends on resource development, the energy industry, specifically oil and gas, as a major contributor for work and wealth, but it is the same Liberal legislation, with an activist environment minister, that would aggressively shut it down while preventing the projects it will need to replace it.
If the Liberals want to keep spending away, where will the money come from? This is not the only way Liberal policies are working at cross-purposes either. Ever since the Liberals first floated their idea of reducing fertilizer emissions by 30%, producers and industry have been deeply concerned that this would follow the European Union's model of restricting the total amount of fertilizer used. It went with a 20% hard-cap reduction on fertilizer usage. This could cause huge losses for crop production.
Following its efforts, I raised this issue multiple times and the government has not ruled it out here in the House of Commons. Last fall, Meyers Norris Penny released a commissioned report on the estimated impact of such a policy in the coming years. By 2030, according to the report, losses of crop yields for corn, canola and spring wheat could total tens of millions of tonnes, costing up to nearly $48 billion to the Canadian economy. For Canadian agriculture, which is already a leading example of environmental efficiency and sustainability, this would be nothing short of devastating.
Considering the estimated number of losses to crops, this would also create new problems for trade exports and disruptions to domestic or global supply chains. Price pressures with reduced supply can easily combine with inflation to make it worse. What makes it even worse yet is this. Part of the Liberals' plan for their new economy for the new future is going to be biofuels. We all know that both corn and canola are the main crops we are going to be growing for biofuels going forward. According to this report, the number of bushels that are going to be produced is going to massively drop and we are not going to be able to meet this demand to fuel the future set out in the Liberals' plan.
Do members know what the government's response continues to be to all of this? It disagrees with the report, which is fair enough, except it has not even done its own impact studies or clearly laid out to farmers and producers what it is going to do. I was glad to hear it is looking at options besides heavily reducing fertilizer, but the main issue I am trying to raise today, and in the past, is that it continues to refuse to rule out the hard cap for the use of fertilizer. This whole time the government could have reassured us by saying it is not going to happen, but here we are again. It will not do it.
The Liberals need to think twice about ruining their own plan for biofuels where there is going to be even more demand for canola. How will it work for our producers who are having a harder time growing it underneath this new regime it is putting in place? The input costs are already through the roof, both for seed, fertilizer and spray. Machinery costs are also through the roof. Somehow I do not think they understand the practical realities and decisions that our farmers have to consider. The government already is not taking the concerns about land used for food versus fuel seriously, but now it wants to play with the idea of restricting fertilizer.
Despite all the uncertainties right now with inflation and supply chains in our economy, Canadians can be sure of at least one thing. The current Liberal government has been and will continue to be a disaster for our economy. It really could be so much better if it would only listen.