(i) Canadians are facing severe hardship due to the dramatic escalation in gas prices,
(ii) the 5% collected under the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), and the Quebec Sales Tax (QST) creates increased revenue for the federal government as fuel prices rise which compounds the pain on Canadian consumers and the economy,
the House call on the government to immediately provide relief at the pumps to all Canadians by introducing a temporary 5% reduction on gasoline and diesel whether collected under the GST, HST, or QST which would reduce the average price by approximately eight cents per litre.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to something that concerns virtually every single Canadian: the skyrocketing cost of living in our country. Fifty-three per cent of Canadians today say that they cannot keep up with rising prices, and I suspect that percentage is going to keep going up. Things are going to get worse before they get better.
Yesterday, at the finance committee, we had a number of Canadian economists speak to us, and they very clearly said that the cause of the inflationary spiral we are in today, which is leaving so many Canadians behind, is our federal government. Our federal government has claimed that this is a global phenomenon and there is nothing to see here, and it has washed its hands of that problem. However, these economists noted that there are two types of inflation. One is CPI, consumer price index inflation, or the cost of everyday goods and services. The second is asset price inflation, which is for some of the big assets we purchase, like housing, that are not subject to the whims of the world markets.
What is the reason this is happening in Canada? We have this inflationary spiral, where millions of families no longer have the dream of owning their own home, and the cause is profligate borrowing and spending on the part of the Liberal government, facilitated of course by the Bank of Canada through its quantitative easing, asset purchases and government bond purchases. At the end of the day, the problem is this: We have an inflationary crisis in Canada because the government has pumped excessive stimulus into our economy, effectively pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into our economy beyond what it can manage. What has happened is that we have more dollars chasing the same number of goods and services, and that drives inflation.
I know that my Liberal friends are laughing at me, saying that is not true. However, we had some of the highest ranking economists in the country at our committee, including an economist from the C.D. Howe Institute, who confirmed that the liquidity in our economy now is driving inflationary pressures. Even the Governor of the Bank of Canada admitted that things will get worse before they get better.
I will let members know that I will be splitting my time with the member for , who is also ready to speak to this very important issue.
Today, we are calling on the government to pause the GST on fuel. We are talking about gas and diesel at the pumps. We are asking the government to at least temporarily lift the GST.
Members may be asking why we are using the GST to perhaps diminish the impact of inflation on Canadians. Well, the reason is that GST is a tax on a tax. When Canadians go to the pumps and pay for their gas, there is already a fuel excise tax built into the cost. There is a carbon tax built into it too. On top of that is layered the GST. Of course, the problem with that, and the pernicious part of it, is that as the price of gas goes up and up, GST revenues go up. The government has actually reaped windfall revenues from the oil and gas sector in Canada and has this windfall because the GST is generating more and more revenue due to the escalating price of gas at the pumps, so we are suggesting that it would only be fair for the government to at least temporarily lift that GST and provide Canadians with a break.
We are calling for the government to finally, after months and months of calling for a plan, fight inflation. We as Conservatives are coming forward now to say that we have a plan. This is part of the plan. It is not the whole plan, but part of the plan is to lift the GST. There are millions of Canadians across Canada who would appreciate the 8 to 10 cents per litre at the pump they would pay less if the government heeded our call for this GST relief.
Giving Canadians a GST break is actually a simple, common-sense solution to help Canadians who are suffering because of inflation. I used the term “ common sense”. That is a rare thing in the House under this Liberal government, but we are asking colleagues to listen. We are coming forward not only with complaints, but also with solutions for the government. I am asking the government not to pour cold water on our motion. We are asking for the government to support our motion and to provide relief for Canadians, because we need real action to help Canadians make ends meet.
Colleagues know that we, as Conservatives, are always the defenders of the taxpayer. This, of course, would help taxpayers who go to the pumps to pay less GST. I would also note that this is all driven by the fact that we have an inflationary crisis in Canada. It is a significant cost-of-living crisis. Today, millions of Canadians have been priced out of the housing market. Why? The economists yesterday told us that it is because the government has pumped so much stimulus into the economy, with so much cash sloshing around, that it is driving the spiking prices for houses across Canada.
In my own community, since the was elected, housing prices have doubled. A house that used to sell for $500,000 in Abbotsford is a million plus today. In fact, recently some friends of ours sold their home and were expecting to get about a million dollars for it. Of course, there was a bidding war. They got $1.2 million for a house that, five or six years ago, was half a million dollars. I feel happy for this couple because this is a tax-free gain that they are experiencing, but what about all the millions of families that are lining up behind this couple and waiting to get into the housing market? Their dream of home ownership has been dashed. It has been shattered, probably forever.
Day after day in the House, we have been asking the Liberal government for a plan to fight inflation. I have been doing it and my colleagues have been doing it. Where is the plan to fight the cost-of-living affordability crisis that is facing most Canadians across the country? There has been no plan and no response from the government. In fact, theeffectively has washed her hands of the whole problem by saying it is a global phenomenon and there is nothing we can do about it. Yes, there is something the government can do about it. We have brought forward a motion that would be a start. It would be a head start to addressing the inflationary crisis we have in Canada.
It is time for the government to step up for Canadians and temporarily remove the GST on gas and diesel. The least we elected parliamentarians can do is to heed the voices of Canadians who are being left behind. Inflation is at 5.7%. Wages are only increasing by somewhere in the order of 2.5%, so Canadians are being left way behind as inflation roars ahead. We need to address this problem. We have come up with a solution, or at least a partial solution. I hope my Liberal friends are listening.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for for moving this opposition day motion to give some immediate relief to Canadians.
Life is getting expensive. Inflation is at the highest point in a generation. Every time people fill up at a local gas station or go through the checkout at the grocery store, they are constantly reminded that their paycheques and pensions do not go as far as they did once.
While we have been raising these issues for months, I cannot point to a single policy change the Liberal government has enacted to respond to this cost of living crisis. Instead, the NDP-Liberals made a backroom deal with the NDP to hold on to power until 2025. This is no benefit to Canadians struggling to feed their families and pay their bills.
I fear how bad it must get out there to finally shake the government out of its slumber. The bears are coming out of hibernation at this time of year, and I urge the Liberals to do the same. Time is of the essence and inaction is inexcusable. There are going to be a few more bumps, or perhaps potholes, along the way for Canadians, and I urge them to brace themselves and their wallets.
The federal carbon tax is about to go up on April 1. According to the Canada Revenue Agency, the price increase translates to 8.8 cents per litre of gasoline for the regular consumer. Supply chains are struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. As well, the war crimes committed by the Putin regime and the Russian military are not only killing thousands of innocent Ukrainians, but the impact of this illegal invasion is also being felt around the world. Its shock was immediately felt on global markets, such as in the price of energy and the price of commodities.
While I am fully aware there are external pressures driving up the price of energy, as my colleague for just said, and the price of food, there is no excuse for the government not to act now.
As we stand here in this chamber, I am thinking of the seniors who have reached out about how the prices of groceries, rent, utilities and putting gas in the car are getting out of reach. I am thinking of the parents in my riding who go into town to drop off their kids at school or to pick up their groceries. I am thinking of the students who must drive into the city to go to Brandon University or to Assiniboine Community College on a daily basis.
No one is immune to the rising price of gas. The only difference is that some people can afford to pay extra hundreds of bucks per month, while most others are getting crushed by it. Seniors on fixed incomes and working families are struggling, and the government is drowning in its own talking points rather than proposing solutions.
Just yesterday, when my to the north asked about removing the GST from gas and diesel, the Liberal responded by talking about GDP growth. Try telling that to a pensioner unable to fill her car and see what she has say to the government. His answer reflected the typical Liberal arrogance and the disconnect to everyday Canadians. Maybe the minister should lecture a single mother about GDP growth while she cannot afford to drive her kids to music lessons or to sports practice. What an incredibly tone-deaf thing to say. It is insulting, it is arrogant and it shows how out of touch the Liberal government is with reality.
With the price of gas skyrocketing in the past month, it has resulted in hardship and hard choices for families and seniors. Politicians must have their heads further in the sand than an ostrich to not recognize what is happening. The simplest and easiest way to provide some relief to my constituents and Canadians facing the rising cost of gas is to temporarily waive the GST from gas and diesel fuel. This policy could be implemented without needing to set up one new program. It would not involve growing the size of government or need people to fill out a form. It could be implemented quickly and would provide at least some relief for those who are struggling most.
I want to outline some of the reasons why I am advocating for this motion and how it would impact the people I represent. I represent a vast rural constituency. From communities such as Alexander, Pierson, Elkhorn, Pilot Mound, Ninette, Medora, Goodlands, Waskada, Tilston, Kola, Minto, Lyleton, Baldur, Glenora, Belmont, Elgin and all the others, commuting and travelling long distances is just a fact of life. As a fierce defender of the rural way of life, it is my responsibility as a parliamentarian to ensure these voices are heard.
While the city of Brandon is the largest community, it is also the regional hub where people drive in to from all over the region every single day. It is not unusual to drive 75 to 100 kilometres every day just to get to work or go to school. In some cases, someone who lives in one town must drive to the next town over to go to work.
It is very common for a teacher, a nurse, a social worker or someone in the construction industry to drive from one town to another, or for a senior to need to drive to their doctor’s appointment or the pharmacy. These examples are not just unique to my constituency. They are happening in every province in the country.
I fear that too many members of the government, this NDP-Liberal government, have no idea what happens in rural constituencies. I fear they have either forgotten, or they simply cannot or do not care, about the realities of living in a small community or on a farm.
People drive pickup trucks to work, for their daily lives or simply due to the fact they need four-wheel drive for the blustery prairie storms that we get. There are no buses, subways or LRTs anywhere in sight. There are no taxis, Ubers or Lyfts. There are no bike lanes, but there are snowmobile trails. There are simply no public transit alternatives for people who must get from point A to point B in rural Canada.
While the reward for living in rural Canada is too great to put into words, the consequence is paying for a lot of fuel. That is the cost of living in a small community, one that many do as they decide to raise their family or retire outside of a major town or city.
It is not only the odometers in rural Canada that are worth mentioning but also the gap in earnings cannot be ignored. As Statistics Canada has reported, the variation in earnings from urban to rural areas accounts for a large part of the variation in provincial earnings. Some of the poorest regions in Canada are found in rural and remote communities.
As well, I will complement my colleague on the doubling of the price of housing that has taken place under the Liberal government. It has not made it any easier for any Canadian.
These are the people who are hardest and fastest hit with the rising price of fuel. They feel it immediately and have few options to avoid the rising cost of gas. They do not have the money to purchase a more fuel-efficient car. They do not have the luxury of working virtually, and they do not have the savings to get them through this prolonged cost-of-living crisis.
Today we are pushing for one way to provide immediate relief, which would be to temporarily remove the GST from gas and diesel. For those wondering why we would target the GST and not other taxes, it is because, unlike other static taxes, the GST is also a tax on a tax. When the price of gas goes up and the carbon tax goes up, the GST goes up as well.
Our proposal is targeted, timely and can be implemented in short order. It is just one way the government could acknowledge that our constituents are facing severe hardship due to the dramatic escalation in gas prices.
In closing, the time for inaction and excuses is over. People are tired of hearing nothing but platitudes. This proposal is guaranteed to provide that tax relief. It acknowledges that the government can reduce the financial pinch that families and seniors are facing at the pump. It acknowledges that rural Canadians and those who must commute are struggling to get fuel in their cars and trucks to get to work or take care of their families.
These are extraordinary circumstances. I call on all my colleagues to support this motion, to stand up and to vote to provide some relief for those seniors living on fixed incomes and those families struggling to put fuel in their cars or trucks.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to take part in today's debate.
I have not had an opportunity to congratulate the member for on his new role in the House. I would like to do that now. Of course, this is a return to a role he held previously, and I am always excited to work with a fellow British Columbian on policy.
The motion under consideration before us today brings to mind the musings of a 20th century journalist who said that for every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, elegant and wrong. Make no mistake, our government cares about tackling global inflation and making life more affordable. In fact, I gave a speech in the House yesterday where I outlined many of the very real solutions our government has put forward to make life more affordable. I will raise some of these initiatives later on in my speech, but I would first like to turn to the issue of rising energy prices.
Certainly we can all agree that the problem of rising gasoline prices is a complex one that must be seriously considered. Canadians and people around the world are facing higher prices at the gas pump as a result of the unprecedented challenge of restarting the world's economy in the wake of a global pandemic and the significant global oil market disruptions arising as a result of Russia's illegal war in Ukraine.
The proposed solution is wrong because gas taxes represent a small portion of the total price that consumers pay at the pump, so cutting them would be ineffective in protecting Canadians from these global market forces. Daily changes in gas prices can be greater than the 5% proposed in today's motion. That means that any positive impact of the proposed fuel tax cut could be wiped out the day after it was implemented. Canadians could literally wake up paying the same price for gas as they did the day before.
The government would also be in the uneasy position of having spent tens, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars trying to unsuccessfully fight market forces over which it has very little control. What would happen then? Would the opposition have us further cut gas taxes? How long would the measures last?
More importantly, what programs would the Conservatives cut to make up for the shortfall in revenue? They voted against our tax cuts for the middle class. They voted against decreasing the age of retirement from 67 to 65. These are all programs that make life more affordable for Canadians, but also programs the Conservatives would rather us do without.
It is interesting, but it seems that, according to the Conservatives, the solution to almost every problem we face in Canada can be solved by further subsidizing the oil and gas sector. Our government has cut taxes for the middle class twice, reduced the cost of child care, improved retirement security and made post-secondary education more affordable. The Conservatives vote against these important measures and then move a motion to cut the funding source for these important programs, which actually do make life more affordable for Canadian families.
This is because taxes help pay for the government programs and services that benefit Canadians. They provide a safety net on which all Canadians can rely in times of crisis and allow us to make the sort of investments that could help our economy grow and create more opportunities for future generations. Funding these investments means ensuring that everyone pays their fair share of tax, and taxes on gas are an important component of the Canadian tax system in this regard.
Moreover, there are very real costs associated with fuel consumption with respect to carbon pollution and climate change, which all Canadians have to pay when fuel is consumed and released into the atmosphere. The member for knows all too well the very real costs of the floods and forest fires that have affected so many families in British Columbia and across Canada. The fact is that climate change presents a threat to our long-term health and economic prosperity. Putting a price on carbon pollution is the most effective policy to address it.
Fortunately our government, along with most Canadians and provincial governments, understand this. That is why we recently confirmed our plan to increase the carbon price through to 2030. At the same time, we will continue to return the direct proceeds from the federal carbon pollution pricing system to their province or territory of origin. In jurisdictions that do not have their own fuel charge consistent with the federal backstop criteria, such as Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, approximately 90% of direct proceeds from the fuel charge are returned to the residents of those provinces through climate action incentive payments. As a result, in most households, these climate payments actually represent more than the increased costs they face from the federal carbon pricing system.
What is more, the remaining fuel charge proceeds are used to support small businesses, farmers, indigenous groups and other organizations. Going forward, the federal carbon price will continue to be revenue-neutral for the Government of Canada.
This is one thing that has always confused me about the contemporary Conservative policy. In 2019, Conservatives promised to eliminate carbon pricing entirely, a strange promise as both the member for and I live in B.C., where a price on carbon has been in place for more than 10 years. That particular promise essentially meant no savings for British Columbians and no fighting climate change in other jurisdictions. This of course is a lose-lose proposition for the people of British Columbia. It would be much more effective to ensure that the B.C. carbon price is revenue-neutral, a position I have supported since its inception.
In 2021, Conservatives reversed their position and promised to eliminate carbon pricing by getting rid of our revenue-neutral system and creating a less efficient special bank account where they would collect money on Canadians' behalf and tell them how to spend it. Now in 2022, Conservatives are again calling to eliminate carbon pricing, basically abandoning any real or serious climate plan that will allow us to hit our IPCC targets.
This motion in itself would potentially save up to eight cents a litre, which is remarkably close to the current carbon price of approximately 8.8¢ per litre. With revenue-neutral carbon pricing in place, we are making sure Canadians and Canadian businesses have positive incentives to make consumer choices that are good for them and good for the environment, and that encourage innovation and create clean solutions that Canada will be able to export to the world as demand for clean technology continues to grow rapidly.
Our policy is benefiting the majority of Canadian families, helping to fight climate change and helping to create clean jobs. I am confident that any future generation who might study contemporary Conservative climate policy or the lack thereof would see it as short-sighted and not meeting the real needs and challenges that Canadians are facing today.
At the same time, I think we could all agree that it is important that our government continues to focus on measures that make life in Canada more affordable for the average family. That is why our government is cutting taxes for the middle class while raising them on the wealthiest 1%. We have delivered on that commitment in real terms.
We have increased support for families and low-income workers through programs such as the Canada child benefit and the Canada workers benefit, which have helped lift over one million Canadians out of poverty since 2015, including 435,000 children. In fact, our anti-poverty measures helped reduce Canada’s poverty rate to all-time historic lows. We have increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for low-income seniors and enhanced the GIS earnings exemption, and we are increasing old age security for Canadians aged 75 and older in July of this year.
As well, to protect Canadians from the impact of inflation, the government indexes the Canada child benefit to inflation, as well as the Canada pension plan, old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, the goods and services tax credit and other benefits that our most vulnerable Canadians rely on. This means that, as inflation rises, so too do these benefits. To further offset the impact of inflation and make life more affordable, we have increased the basic personal amount that Canadians could earn before paying any federal income tax. To ensure that this support is targeted at the middle class, the benefits of the increased exemption are phased out for high-income taxpayers.
When this measure is fully implemented next year, single individuals will pay $300 less in tax each year and families will pay $600 less. We are also working with provinces and territories to implement a Canada-wide, $10-a-day, community-based early learning and child care system that will make life more affordable for families, create new jobs, get parents back into the workforce and grow the middle class, while giving every child a real and fair chance at success. These are the right ways for the government to make life more affordable and offset the impact of inflation.
I have primarily discussed government fiscal policy, but I think it is worth discussing monetary policy as well. A strong monetary policy framework is also crucial to keeping prices stable and keeping inflationary pressures in check. Our government and the Bank of Canada believe that monetary policy could best serve Canadians by continuing to focus on price stability. That is why, last December, the government and the Bank of Canada announced the renewal of the 2% inflation target for another five-year period.
The renewed framework will keep the bank focused on delivering low, stable and predictable inflation in Canada. Since Canada's adoption of the inflation-targeting framework 30 years ago, inflation has averaged close to 2%, which has contributed to our country's strong labour market performance, to our economy's growth and to our prosperity. Maintaining a stable environment for the prices that Canadians pay is the paramount objective for Canada's monetary policy. That policy is independently administered by the Bank of Canada and has been tremendously successful since its implementation.
There are very real challenges with regard to global inflation and strong fiscal and monetary policies help Canadians work through these challenges. These are the right ways to make life more affordable for Canadians and protect them from the impacts of inflation.
The proposal put forward in today's motion is not. It is wrong because it would be ineffective and it would be costly. It is wrong because it would undermine important goals like protecting Canadians from the impact of climate change and ensuring we can afford to invest in our highest priorities. It is wrong because the federal government does not have the authority to cut the Quebec sales tax, and it is wrong because our government is already taking more effective and appropriate steps to make life affordable for Canadians and protect them from the impacts of inflation.
I am thankful for the opportunity to make this case.
Mr. Speaker, the cheering crowd has me feeling generous, so I will be sharing my time with the member for .
The member for 's motion reminded me of a university class I used to teach on populism. A fairly simple definition of populism is proposing simplistic solutions to complex problems. Inflation is a complex problem to which people can propose simplistic solutions. Let us unpack that together.
One good approach to analyzing populism is to look at populist themes, which I find even more interesting. What are those? A stock populist theme is telling people we are going to put more money in their pockets. Beware of politicians who say that. It is not as though public services pay for themselves. These are tough times. COVID‑19 put our health care system through the wringer. We need health transfers, and that money does not grow on trees. It comes from taxes. Nevertheless there will always be politicians who say they are going to put more money back in people's pockets. That is a populist theme.
Another populist theme involves denying global warming. Some people simply want to keep things as they are and not make any effort, because they believe global warming does not exist, so the oil and gas sector is not to blame. People who study populism often see this type of discourse.
To my great delight, both of these populist themes have been included in the motion moved by my Conservative colleagues. We are not in an election period, but I already have concerns about the electoral intent of provoking discontent among the population. It seems to me that that is what this motion is all about.
I say this because that kind of discourse is completely inconsistent. During the last election campaign, the leader of the Conservative Party came to Quebec and said that he would respect Quebec's jurisdictions. This motion proposes that the House reduce the GST, which is perfectly feasible, because the GST is federal. It also proposes reducing the QST, the Quebec sales tax, which I think is entirely impossible. The House of Commons can adopt as many motions as it likes, but it cannot change Quebec's laws. Suggesting to Canadians that Ottawa can reduce the QST is pure fiction. This is really just a figure of speech, a kind of populism.
The other thing the motion calls for is a 5% reduction of the price of gasoline at the pumps. That may appear to be interesting and attractive. It is easy to understand and is just another populist theme. In the meantime, their motion was tabled on March 17 and gas prices have already gone down by 5%. In fact, the purpose of the motion is to use inflation to rally the discontented.
Then the Conservatives also talk about a temporary reduction. I wonder what they mean by “temporary”. In the context of fighting climate change, when we really should not be giving people any incentive to consume more gas but instead maybe encourage them to use an electric vehicle, I wonder what temporary means. The motion says that “the House call[s] on the government to immediately provide relief at the pumps to all Canadians”. If that is not an attempt to get people to consume more oil, then I do not know what is.
Another key aspect of my colleagues' motion is a very Conservative intention to get everyone but the oil companies to pay. The oil companies are the main beneficiaries of the increased price of crude oil. It is not the government who is pocketing the huge profits being made at the extraction stage with the increased price of oil, it is the oil companies.
However, that is not all. Oil companies also pocket exorbitant profits at the refining stage. The refining margin, or the amount oil companies charge to refine crude oil, has quadrupled in one year, rising from $1.15 U.S. per barrel in February 2021 to $4.40 U.S. today. We might wonder who benefits here. Certainly it is not the government that benefits from the rising price of oil and refinery costs.
According to the Conservatives, the government is never generous enough towards the oil companies. The best way to protect consumers from the oil companies that are fleecing them is to ensure that the oil industry contributes to relief measures for Canadians who bear the burden these companies have created.
Just yesterday, the Conservatives opposed the idea of asking the oil companies for a special contribution to finance measures that would help Canadians deal with inflation. With today's motion, the Conservatives are proposing that all taxpayers contribute to the relief for gas consumers, whether through taxes or service cuts. To put it bluntly, that is a very bad idea.
In conclusion, I want to say that being irrational is the worst thing that a politician can do. Being rational is essential in politics. We must be aware of where our own interests lie, because many things can make us act irrationally. Love makes us irrational. I am irrational when it comes to my partner. I often forget my own interests.
Allow me to explain by referring to French singer Johnny Hallyday. Although I am not a big fan, some of my colleagues may know him. Some might say that Johnny Hallyday sounds a little irrational when he cries out about his feelings of love. That is the kind of irrationality that comes with love. I sense something irrational when I hear my Conservative friends shouting, “build a pipeline”.
The background on my phone is a photo of my son and my partner. On my computer, it is a Quebec flag. I am also irrational when it comes to Quebec. When I look at my Conservative colleagues' computers, I always see “I love oil and gas”. That is irrational.
Much like I have an indescribable love for my partner, the Conservatives have an irrational love for oil, and they cannot get out from under that spell. This irrational love can make our political processes ineffective because the oil lobby is given too much weight.
Let us see what is coming down the pike. Oil Change International estimates that the federal government invested $78 billion to support the oil and gas industry in 2019–20 alone. In 2015–17, it invested $111 billion. Export Development Canada hands out $14 billion to the oil and gas sector every year. We paid $21 billion for a pipeline.
At the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, I am currently studying carbon capture and sequestration strategies. Everyone agrees that they do not work. However, billions of dollars will be invested in them. Moreover, the Conservative Party is telling us today that if we want to solve the inflation problem, we might have to give the oil companies more money. That is the epitome of irrationality.
What I am hearing from the Conservatives is all the more shocking because the Liberal Party is caught up in this crazy fossil fuels spiral and it, too, feels compelled to add to it. Canada is therefore trapped in the oil industry's stranglehold and it cannot escape it. Everything is analyzed from the oil industry's perspective. The Conservatives are analyzing the crisis in Ukraine solely in terms of the oil industry. It is outrageous.
Now inflation is only being analyzed from the oil industry's perspective. This is very dangerous. I therefore call on my Conservative colleagues to see the light at the end of the tunnel and put an end to this toxic relationship they have with oil. I am doing this for their own good.
Mr. Speaker, unlike my colleague from Jonquière, I am proud to say that I come from a united region, Abitibi—Témiscamingue, and I am equally proud to be from both Témiscamingue and Abitibi. In fact, there are some great debates about where one region begins and the other one ends. I am extremely proud of this.
We had a lot of snow this winter, but fortunately the snowbanks are beginning to melt, and good weather is returning. This has been a source of inspiration for me this week, as I go about my business. When I heard that we would be debating gas prices, I was told not to worry because sometimes it is worth listening to the Conservatives on energy and the environment, since their solutions are often precisely the opposite of what needs to be done. This might be the case here.
It is a well-known fact that the current spike in gas prices is partly related to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia. Lowering the price at the pump might sound like a good idea, but it is important to understand that doing so will in no way address the real problem.
Of course, this will not solve the problem of inflation. What are we talking about? The motion proposes a 5% reduction, which represents about 8¢ or 9¢ on the price of a litre, which I saw advertised as $1.84 on my way here this morning. Remember the outrage when another space had to be added to the signs at gas stations because the price per litre had risen to over $1? Someone will have to explain the other 80¢ and how we got to $1.84. Obviously, that is the oil companies' profit margins.
Does this motion solve the problem? Not at all.
However, I do agree with people when they tell me they are feeling the pinch in their wallets. I empathize with them. Plus, knowing that this price increase could very well affect food prices makes me empathize even more. This price increase will also affect the cost of plane tickets and other consumer goods.
Runaway inflation is a major worry. It affects everything, and it calls for comprehensive measures to address it. We have to find solutions that will strengthen our economy and eliminate subsidies for dirty western Canadian oil, or as Barack Obama put it, the tar sands.
The Bloc Québécois has been saying for some time that Canada needs to rid itself of its reliance on fossil fuels, make choices, and adopt Quebec's innovations, but the Canadian government continues to subsidize western Canadian oil and is in fact still doing so. Quebeckers know this choice does not make sense for the future of Quebec's youth.
This week, I read what Quebec's Minister of Finance, Éric Girard, had to say about cutting the QST on gas and diesel. He said it was a bad idea. Quebec is not ashamed of its push to electrify transportation because we headed in that direction a long time ago. This is actually a fantastic opportunity, a gold mine even.
Apparently the Conservatives are admitting to us that they made bad choices in the past and that the only way to address these sudden jolts to the Canadian economy is oil independence. The future is making that clear, and so is what is happening in Ukraine.
Quebec has made investments in knowledge building, because it cares about the future of the planet at heart and has green energy available. As a result, all of its industries are carving out a prominent place for themselves.
My colleague will be pleased to hear that this week, the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology is wrapping up its study on critical and strategic minerals. I am very proud to say that we heard about major advances in the development of value chains. I am talking about batteries for electric vehicles, chemical industries returning to Quebec with international investments, and growth in the aerospace and heavy-duty vehicle industries, as well as the quantum industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and many others.
The future is not in oil. It is in the green transition. Quebec is benefiting because it has been preparing for this for a long time. Every SME that is part of the economic fabric of Quebec has repeatedly said that we must ignore what is going on and categorically reject the industrial shift that is happening around the world. I am hearing some regrets here.
Carbon capture and sequestration is a mirage that the Conservatives are desperately hanging onto in a bid to keep us in the 20th century for as long as possible. It is not a real solution. The longer we stay entrenched in the economy of the last century, the greater the shock will be because our shift will come too late.
The Conservatives keep resorting to sophistry by making arguments that are logically flawed. That is what this motion is about. The Conservatives have moved this motion for debate so that they can repeat the same arguments over and over until they are believed. That makes no sense. Repeating a bad idea over and over will not make it good. They want to abolish the carbon tax, jump-start Canada's oil industry and develop pipelines.
We believe that we must continue with the energy transition at a slow and steady pace. The transition cannot be interrupted every time the price of oil goes up, no matter how high it goes. Listening to the Conservatives would be like changing a ship's course based on the ocean's waves. Good luck to anyone trying to navigate like that.
I want to point out to Quebeckers that the federal carbon tax is imposed on provinces that have not yet set a price for each tonne of carbon they produce. Which provinces have yet to do so? It will shock no one to hear that the stragglers are Alberta and Ontario, but not Quebec, since we have our own carbon market.
On April 1, the price will go up from $40 to $50 a tonne, and that will translate to a 2.32‑cent increase at the pump. Compared to the 30‑cent jump a week ago, that is pretty minor.
The carbon tax does not reduce purchasing power. It is simply intended to encourage Canadians to make greener choices. The energy transition is both vital and economically viable. Quebeckers are increasingly making green choices in their investments by entrusting their nest egg to companies that honour agreements and fight climate change. I have been doing it myself for the past 15 years or so, and I must say that those investments have been the most profitable ones over that period, so imagine how they will do in the future.
Unfortunately, investment funds in Canada have still been slow to divest from fossil fuels. Few funds have a policy of excluding fossil fuel companies. However, plenty of companies honour the agreements or have made consistent investments to help keep temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, like climate science tell us we need to do.
There is so much at stake, and the transition needs to happen now in our pension funds, which are still packed with fossil fuel investments. I urge my colleagues to take a closer look at this and to write to their banking professionals. That would be a much more meaningful solution than lowering a tax.
The Conservatives are a predictable bunch. Whatever the problem is, their solution is always the same: helping the oil companies. On their last opposition day, they put forward a motion saying that the best way to help Ukrainians is not to help Ukrainians, but to increase oil sands production. That is frankly bizarre. We know very well that this would have no impact in the short term.
This week, the measure that the Conservatives are proposing to help people deal with runaway inflation in all areas is not to help people, but rather to target one area, which is oil again. Today's motion is a false solution to a real problem.
I have personally made the green transition. I bought a 100% electric vehicle. I am making a little heartfelt plea. One of the issues is not what it cost me. When President Zelenskyy addressed the House, I took the opportunity to attend in person. It was a bit foolhardy because it was not very warm out, it was a long distance to travel, and the charging stations are very far apart. I had a bad experience. I came over to the Ontario side, and in Mattawa, whose residents I salute, in passing, I found out the two charging stations there were not working. In the end, I did not get home until 7:15 in the morning. That is the problem.
If we truly want an energy transition, we will have to have high gas prices. There is no harm in sparking interest in a genuine energy transition and encouraging people to purchase electric vehicles. Also, since everything in life is based on supply and demand, there is a basic economic principle at play here. The higher the demand for electric vehicles, the more companies in the United States and around the world will offer electric vehicles in Quebec, because demand will be high. The more tax credits are available for the purchase of an electric vehicle, the higher demand will be. That is an advantage.
Speaking of supply and demand, I want to close by saying that in my view, the more electric vehicles are available, the less demand there will be for gas, and the less demand there is for gas, the more prices will drop. That may be the solution, rather than cutting social programs and taking money out of Canadians' pockets.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to the motion today.
I commend the sponsor of the motion for putting some concrete ideas on the table about how we could try to provide relief to Canadians who are living through very difficult economic times. That certainly has been a focus of the work of the NDP over the last number of years. I will not belabour the history of our attempts to make sure that working people and vulnerable people in Canada have what they need in order to live a life of dignity, but it has certainly been a focus of ours through the pandemic.
That is why I think we have seen a real willingness on the part of New Democrats to come to this place with the understanding that while we may not have liked the outcome of the election, we respect what Canadians did in building a Parliament with the expectation that parliamentarians would come here to work on their behalf and try to navigate the Parliament that they elected and try to come to agreement on concrete policy ideas that would make a difference in their lives.
That does not mean that every idea put on the table will find agreement in this place, but I think we are doing our job well when we take those proposals seriously and make counter-proposals in the event that we do not like the initial offering. I think Canadians enjoy seeing their parliamentarians engaged in that kind of work.
There is no question that these are difficult economic times. I had the opportunity yesterday to speak to some of the reasons that Canadians are having such difficult times and why, even sometimes in the face of good-news announcements about the economy, we are not seeing that news translating into financial and economic security for the many Canadians who are worried about losing their jobs in an economy that still needs more workers. We hear there is a labour shortage, but many Canadians are living with pretty serious job insecurity. They are already either out of work, working reduced hours or concerned about the future of their industry. That is true for industries that have been affected by the pandemic. We could think of the tourism and travel industry, the entertainment industry and others that are still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic and wondering what they might look like in the future.
It also because of climate change. Many Canadians see the impacts of climate and extreme weather events on supply chains and understand the need for the Canadian economy to become more sustainable if we are to prevent the worst scenarios of climate change. Canadians are right to wonder about their own individual place in that and the meaning of those changes for their families. That all comes back to what I said my opening remarks, when I said it is incumbent upon us as elected representatives to work in good faith to find solutions and create a path that gives Canadians a better sense of certainty about where the economy is heading so that they can better plan their individual futures and the futures of their families and neighbourhoods.
The question before us today is in light of rising prices in this intense period of inflation that we have embarked upon and what that means for Canadians who are struggling with income and job security and rising prices. What can we do to provide some relief? We have talked many times about longer-term things that the government ought to be doing. Certainly we need to see policy action in the housing market, but that situation is not going to change overnight. It would be very hard to affect the affordability of housing overnight, but that does not mean there are not things we could be doing right now to put us on the path toward lowering the cost of housing. We certainly need to see better action in that area.
It is sad that we are so far away from an effective housing policy in Canada, but one thing the government could and should be doing right now, and New Democrats are working hard to get the government to do it, is just ensure that the public funds that we do spend now to build affordable housing actually build affordable housing.
Of course, the definition of affordability in the national housing strategy has been a barrier to that, because the way the Liberals initially chose to define housing affordability has actually kept so-called affordable housing out of the reach of far too many Canadians. One thing we could do is change that definition to make sure that the projects that are receiving public funds do in fact create housing that is truly affordable for those who find themselves in the greatest housing need. That is something we could be doing in the longer term.
As well, the NDP ran on child care many times. We were always told by the Liberals that it was unrealistic and could not be done, that there was so much jurisdictional negotiating to do that the provinces would never get behind it and it was not the role of the federal government. Some Liberals may be nodding because they remember these lines from the 2015 campaign, when they repeated them ad nauseam. They may remember them from the subsequent Parliament, where for four years, in a majority government, they chose to repeat those lines rather than to get to work and do something. What we found, when they found the political will after years of pressure from the NDP, from civil society and from Canadian parents who knew better and needed the help, was that they were actually able to conclude those deals rather quickly. What is remaining is for them to cement that in legislation to make sure those things cannot be undone in the way that a Conservative government subsequently undid the Canada health accord arrangement. Then to their shame, the Liberals chose to perpetuate that by not convening new rounds of negotiations on a Canada health accord and instead went around signing bilateral deals.
Are there things the government could be doing to create a context in three, five or 10 years where some of the price pressure on Canadian households would be reduced? Absolutely, there are. Another important place where Canadian households are suffering is dental care, because too many Canadians do not have coverage or the money to be able to pay for dental care. Someone told me a story earlier today about how their brother, who had a decent job but did not have dental care, had to move back in with his parents as an adult because the money he had to borrow in order to get his mouth fixed meant that he could not live independently anymore and he was going to have to remain living with his parents for some time until his financial situation improved. The government can work on that area right now to bring those costs down for Canadians into the future, next year and the year after.
There is still the question of whether government could do something that would have a truly immediate impact, and that is the proposal we find ourselves discussing today. In this case, the Conservatives have proposed lifting the GST off of the price of gas at the pump. Again we have a concrete proposal that can provide immediate effect, but we have to ask whether this is the right proposal and whether it is going to have all of the right consequences.
I would first say that part of the issue I have with this proposal is that it really prioritizes reducing the price on just oil and gas. That is only one of the issues that are confronting Canadians in this difficult time. I think we want to try to find financial relief for Canadians that is not simply about putting more emphasis on oil and gas when we know, in the face of the climate crisis, that we need to de-emphasize the role of oil and gas in our economy. That is one flag that goes up in respect of this proposal.
Another flag that goes up from the point of view of equity is that while many Canadians rely on cars to get to and from work and to drop off their kids and pick them up from school, not all Canadians do that. There are other Canadians who are not using a car, sometimes because they cannot afford it and sometimes because they have made a choice to use other means of transportation, whether active transportation or public transportation. There are seniors who do not drive because their eyesight is not up to it and they have had their licence revoked or they have made the decision themselves not to drive anymore. These people are also experiencing these very real cost pressures, so if we are going to provide immediate financial relief, it is important to find something that can apply to as large a category of people as possible and is sure to capture the most vulnerable. That is not to say that it has to be limited to the most vulnerable, but it certainly ought to capture them. I think we have to look in the mirror and wonder if we are really getting that balance right. That is a very important consideration.
The other thing I would say is this: While I think that tax relief is a mechanism can sometimes be appropriate, I would like to propose an amendment near the end of my speech on this motion, and I would be remiss if I did not think that this motion coming from the Conservatives is part of a larger project to always find a way to simply blame government when we know that there are a lot of other things that are driving cost pressures.
High prices at the gas pump are not a new thing. Oil and gas companies have been finding ways and pretexts to raise the price at the pump for years. Sometimes they pertain to, in this case, a global crisis that is well outside the immediate control of the Canadian government, but sometimes a long weekend is good enough for them to jack up prices. Tax relief on the cost at the pump without any further guarantee that prices would remain low and that those savings would be transferred to the consumer raises the question of whether oil and gas companies would simply see this as another reason to raise their own prices in order to capture that extra bit of revenue, instead of having it go back to consumers. While I am glad to see a real proposal come out of the Conservative Party, and I might hazard to say it is the first in this Parliament, I think those are all reasons that we do not think this proposal is quite on the mark.
What I do think might be on the mark and still within the scope of this motion, because it is about providing tax relief on an energy product in the context of significant inflation, would be to instead see the lifting of the GST not at the price on the pump but on home heating, because that is something that applies to everyone. While I respect that driving one's car, whether it is for work or for other reasons, is well integrated into the lives of many Canadians, and this is true for me at home, there is a little more flexibility for people on how much they drive and how often they drive than there is on whether they heat their home.
If we are living in Canada in the winter, we are going to be heating our homes. It does not matter if we are a vulnerable senior who can no longer drive. It does not matter if we have made the choice to use public transportation or active transportation and it does not matter if we are using an electric car: We are going to be heating our homes. If we are serious about trying to provide widespread relief to Canadians and if we are serious about ensuring that this is not just another way to talk about oil and gas in Parliament because some people feel that makes the government feel uncomfortable or because it is a nice thing to say to lobbyists from the oil and gas industry when they come visit our offices, then I think a proposal around home heating is a better way to go.
Of course, this idea was touted for a long time by Jack Layton, and as far as we are concerned, it is a bit of unfinished business. There are a lot of other essential goods that the GST does not apply to because we recognize that Canadians simply cannot go without certain things and we think it is reasonable to withhold charging the GST on those things. I think home heating is another example of how that can be done.
There is another thing I would add, and I am going to speak from the Manitoba experience here as I am not an expert on public utilities across Canada. In the Manitoba context, if a public utility wants to raise rates, they have to go through a public process. They have to make submissions to the public utilities board. They cannot just wantonly raise their rates, unlike oil and gas companies at the pump.
By withholding the GST on home heating, not only would we have a tax relief measure that would apply more broadly across the board, but we would also have better assurance that companies will not simply make up the difference and take that revenue for themselves while charging the consumer more, because, at least in some parts of the country, the companies that might consider doing that would have go through a process of public review in order to raise the prices.
I think this proposal, which I am going to formally move shortly, is better in that regard. It is better in that it actually captures more people. I think it is more likely to provide real relief to some of Canada's most vulnerable, while also still providing meaningful relief to Canada's middle class, which is also really struggling through this time of inflation. It is a better proposal because we have more reason to expect that tax relief will not simply be eaten up by companies raising their prices. It is also a better proposal because it does not prejudice any one particular type of energy. There are people who heat their homes with renewable energy. There are people who heat their homes with electricity. There are different ways of heating a home, so this is not focused specifically on oil and gas.
It can also continue to benefit Canadians as we transition toward a lower-carbon economy. It is not a proposal that predicates tax relief upon the persistent use of fossil fuels. It recognizes that people are using fossil fuels to heat their homes. It provides tax relief to them anyway, but it does not build oil and gas into the tax relief remedy. I think that is important in the context of figuring out how Canada can provide meaningful help to Canadians in this difficult time, while continuing to honour our very real and important commitment to doing our part to ensure that climate change does not run away on us and cause even more hurt, turmoil and economic dislocation than it is already likely to do.
Those are all the reasons that I am glad to be having this debate in the House today. I have said before that the New Democrats are here to work in the spirit of collaboration with anyone here prepared to work with us to do things that we believe are in the best interests of Canadians. That should come as no surprise to anyone, particularly on this day, when I think the New Democrats have proven that we are prepared to work with people. We do that with eyes wide open. Our eyes would be similarly wide open in working with the Conservatives on improving this motion, and that is something that we are prepared to do. We will continue to be prepared to work with anyone in the House who is prepared to work with us to make a difference in the lives of Canadians. That is what we are here to do. It is what Canadians expect of us. It is not just what Canadians expect of the New Democrats; it is what they expect of every member elected to this chamber.
It is in that spirit that I move, seconded by the member for , that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the words “provide relief” and substituting the following: “to Canadians by removing the federal sales tax from the home heating bills of Canadian households”.
Mr. Speaker, it is my great privilege to split my time with the member for , and I thank him for his work in his constituency.
Perhaps people are excited. We should be generous with the other members, and perhaps the member for was just excited about his new cabinet position in the coalition. I look forward to his testimony and discussion of the WE scandal and other things in the coalition. It will be quite riveting testimony from the member.
Today, I rise on behalf of the hard-working people of Northumberland—Peterborough South who are struggling every day just to get by. Across our country, we are facing a cost of living crisis from coast to coast. The number of Canadians who are struggling to fill the gas tanks in their cars, who are struggling to finish off this heating season in a cold spring, and who are struggling to put food on their tables is getting larger and larger. More Canadians are struggling and unfortunately, in my beautiful riding of Northumberland—Peterborough South, we are not immune to this crisis.
What is the government's suggestion or solution to this? It may very well be, with coalition partners, to foist one of the largest tax increases in history on Canadians. Let me explain. When a government prints money to spend, prices increase. The more that the government has to print money, the more it spends. It just keeps going. It is a cycle. The government keeps spending money and printing money. That drives down the value of money. Everything costs more, from our houses to our cars to buying groceries. It is driving down money. Inflation has a real effect, just as taxes do. That $10 we had in our jeans is now worth $8. It is exactly the same as if taxes were increased by 20% when we have inflation that has increased over the last couple of years to 20%. It is the same impact. This is indeed an inflation tax.
We see the evidence everywhere. Not since 1991 have we seen inflation at this rate of 5.7%. Everyone's paycheque is going down 5% per year. People have been given a pay decrease of 5%, and that is shocking. Things were not good before. The last seven years have been tough on Canadians. Just last year, over 53% of Canadians said they were within $200 of insolvency. The government's solution is more inflation, or “Justinflation”.
We have, year over year, increasing grocery bills of an additional $1,000. The members of the House can probably all afford that. The many productive, upper-middle-class and wealthy individuals can afford it, but it hurts the single mother in Orono who is working every day to pay for her children's future education and put food on the table. She has gone to work every day on the front line during the pandemic making minimum wage and now is struggling to fill up her car. She would probably love an electric vehicle, as many Canadians would, but increasingly now many more do not have $100,000 for an electric vehicle.
We can take the approach of “let them eat cake” and ask why do they not just buy an electric vehicle. It is unreasonable. The modern incarnation of “let them eat cake” is to say, “Go and buy that EV,” to someone who cannot afford $100 to put in their gas tank.
When we add the inflation tax to the carbon tax, we get a particularly nefarious combination. I had the opportunity to ask the Governor of the Bank of Canada about the impact of the carbon tax. It was strange to me that the Governor of the Bank of Canada did not know the answer to a relatively simple question when I asked what the inflationary impact was of the carbon tax. He did not have an answer, but he was kind enough to write a response. In that, he ascribed nearly 10% of the inflation we are experiencing to the carbon tax.
Once again, the government is tone-deaf to the needs of the people of Northumberland—Peterborough South. Its response is not to maybe pause the carbon tax or even pause the increase on the carbon tax, because the goal of the carbon tax is to make gasoline more expensive so that we look at other solutions. That goal is accomplished, guys.
People cannot afford gasoline and they cannot afford an EV, so the government is driving people into poverty. Why not just pause the increase to the carbon tax? The prices of gasoline and diesel have already increased. That goal has been accomplished. At this point it is just punitive.
There are many, including those in rural Canada, who just do not have that alternative, including in my riding and elsewhere in rural parts of Canada. I invite those in urban ridings to come to my riding and meet the great folks of Northumberland—Peterborough South. I invite them to come and meet the soccer mom who puts gas in her SUV to take her kids to soccer practice, and tell her “No, you cannot do that.” They could meet the factory workers who are making a reasonable dollar but are still struggling to get by because of the carbon tax and the inflation tax. I invite them to come and tell them that they cannot put gas in their cars and cannot go to work, because that is what the government is saying to them.
I want the government to think hard about that and the impact it is having on rural Canada. I want it to think about the farmers out there who are paying tens of thousands of dollars in carbon tax every single year. We will be more reliant on Canadian farmers, not just in this country but around the world, given what is going on in Ukraine. We will be dependent on them, and what are we doing to them? We are making them pay tens of thousands of dollars in carbon tax.
It is not because farmers do not want to fight climate change. They do, but there just are not alternatives. We heard testimony in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food that there just are not alternatives to things such as drying grain and heating barns, so farmers are reliant on fossil fuels.
The government is not driving people to fight climate change. In fact, it is driving them away from fighting climate change because they cannot invest in the innovation and the technology they need. The exact opposite of what it wants to happen is happening.
Let me talk about what the opposition motion is. The opposition motion starts by acknowledging that we are in an affordability a crisis: We are in a financial challenge as a country and Canadians are struggling to get by. Then it says that Canadians should be given a bit of a break. They are going through a lot with the opioid crisis, the housing crisis and now an affordability crisis. It says that we should reach out our hands and give them a 5% break on the gasoline and diesel they need to put in their cars to drive their kids to school, to go to work and to build our country. To me, this is entirely reasonable and it is a break Canadians need.
In conclusion, Canadians have had a tough go over the last two years. It has become increasingly challenging for people to buy a home. There are 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds who have good jobs and did everything they were told to do. They went to school, got a trade and worked hard. They have done everything asked of them, but they still cannot afford a house.
The pensioners, the seniors, who gave their lives building this country can now barely afford to buy groceries. Their prosperity and the prosperity of our country is being undermined by this coalition's dedication to the inflation tax and the carbon tax.
We need to return to making Canada affordable again. We need to return to prosperity. Right now, we need to give Canadians a break, and that is why I am proud to vote for the opposition motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today after a two-week adjournment, which my colleagues and I spent in our respective ridings.
As the saying goes, just because we are in our ridings does not mean we are not working. Some people think we are off duty, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is in our ridings that we have the pleasure, the opportunity, the privilege and the duty to meet the people we represent here in the House of Commons and to speak directly with them. We are first and foremost the representatives of our constituents, no matter who they voted for.
Over the past two weeks, I met and talked with hundreds of Louis-Saint-Laurent residents at charity and community events, restaurants, cafés and gas stations. One issue that affects them directly, along with people in all ridings in Canada, is inflation.
Here we are with inflation at a 30-year high of 5.7%. Some members of the House were not even born the last time the inflation rate was this high.
Inflation affects everyone. It affects people who have to buy groceries and realize that putting food on the table costs a lot more, around $1,000 more per year for a family. Buying fruits, vegetables and meats can cost 10% to 15% more than last year.
Inflation is hitting housing even harder because of the housing bubble our country is currently contending with and prices that have gone up over 29% in the past year.
Inflation affects everyone, but it comes as no surprise. It did not show up on the weekend or two weeks ago while we were in our ridings. Inflation reared its ugly head many months ago and is not going away anytime soon. It is actually gaining momentum, not losing it.
This is not the first time we are addressing this issue here in the House of Commons. A few weeks ago, I asked the what she planned to do to help Canadian families struggling with inflation.
If there is someone powerful in cabinet right now, it is the Deputy Prime Minister. We will see how things go, but, today, she is especially powerful in her capacity as Minister of Finance, since she has full control over the economic levers that can help and not harm Canadian families.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance answered that, according to the IMF, Canada has the second-highest growth rate among the G7 countries. That will certainly not help people who are having a hard time buying groceries today. The IMF says that things are going well: That is great for the IMF, but not so great for people buying their groceries.
What did she say next? She said that Canada was doing well, since its real GDP has grown by 0.6%. That is outstanding, and it will certainly put more food in Canadians’ grocery baskets, right? I do not know where she found that concept of the real GDP, but I did not find anything like it at the supermarket this weekend. The people I meet never talk about the real GDP, except the .
She is totally disconnected, but she is still very influential right now. We will see how things play out.
What did she say next? She said that we should not worry, that other countries are also facing inflation, and that the situation is worse in the United States. It is unbelievable that she would compare us with the worst case. The Conservatives and all Canadians worth their salt want to compare themselves with the best, not the worst.
Telling Mrs. Tremblay that she should not worry and that there is no problem because the situation is worse in the United States will certainly not help her do her shopping. It will not add any food to Canadians’ grocery basket. However, that is what the Liberal government has to say about inflation.
That is why we propose temporarily eliminating the GST in the fuel sector. I will explain why we chose this approach.
First of all, who benefits the most from high inflation? Unfortunately, the government does. I say “unfortunately” because it is unfortunate that the government benefits when inflation goes up. Indeed, when prices go up, revenues also go up. Of course, the tax is still 5%, but when people pay $20 for something today that cost $15 last year, that generates more tax. The one who benefits is the government, because the government increases its revenues with inflation. That is exactly what is happening right now.
That is why our motion uses the word “temporary”. At a time when we are in an inflationary spiral and the government is receiving millions in tax dollars because inflation is high, prices are high and more money is being collected, our temporary measure is meant to give Canadian families a little breathing room. We want to reduce the gas tax to zero, essentially eliminating it temporarily.
Why are we targeting that sector?
First, it is important to know that the gas tax brings in $3.5 billion for the government, generally speaking. That is the amount of money that will stay in the pockets of Canadian families. Let me be clear. Canadians know best how to manage their money. It is up to them to keep that money in their pockets and make the choices that are right for them, rather than paying a tax and giving that money to the government. Indeed, the tax increases when inflation rises.
Some people live in an area where they do not need to use their car. They do not need to drive anywhere. We can understand that. However, not everyone is in that situation.
I will paraphrase my friend from , who made an extraordinary statement a month ago about how we must be aware of the fact that not all Canadians are at the same level, but that everyone must be heard, listened to and, above all, respected. As he said so well, not everyone can earn a living on a MacBook at a cottage. That is the reality. He sharply criticized his own government in an extraordinary statement in which he repeated almost word for word what the Conservatives were saying. Unfortunately, two weeks later, he voted with his government. He will live with his decisions.
That is why we believe that temporarily removing the GST on gas is the right thing to do. Yes, that directly affects families and workers who must travel. However, we must stop thinking that the gas tax pertains only to the gas that we put in our vehicles. This gas tax has a much greater impact.
Do we think that the fruits and vegetables we buy at the grocery store just fall from the sky? Of course not. Food is not processed and transported from one place to another just by blinking as Jeannie did. Likely it is transported by gas-powered vehicles. That is why the impact of the GST on gas does not just affect those who fill up their big pickup with gas. It affects all Canadian families, especially the poorest among us, who we must respect.
In our view, this is the best measure. Now, what does the government plan on doing? First, which government are we talking about? Are we talking about the government that was duly elected about six months ago or the new NDP-Liberal government, which was just put into our Constitution? If that is the case, watch out dude, it is not going to be pretty.
What we have learned this morning is that now we have a brand new government in this country.
Did you vote, Mr. Speaker? I did not either. Canadians did not go to the polls, yet we learned this morning about a new NDP-Liberal government.
Who would have thought? Certainly not some of the current government ministers I saw this morning who did not seem to be in a good mood. Maybe they woke up on the wrong side of the bed or forgot to put sugar in their coffee. What I can say is that it is not party time for everyone on the other side. I say that, but we will see. Things are just getting started.
I am being sarcastic here, but I should not be. This is very bad news for Canadians, because although 80% of them did not vote for the NDP, both the NDP and the Liberals now have their hands on the wheel, or, at least, there is one big NDP hand on the wheel. This will unfortunately mean more taxes, more spending, more debt and more deficits.
The Conservatives are thinking about Canadian families. We are thinking about Canadians' wallets. We want to help Canadians directly, which is why we are proposing that the government temporarily stop collecting GST on gas.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I want to take this opportunity to share some thoughts with members on my basic understanding. I can honestly say that the issue of the price on gas has always been of interest to me, since I was a 12-year-old young man pumping gas at Turbo for 51¢ a gallon. Members can do the math to figure out the cost per litre; it would have been a whole lot cheaper.
Ever since then, and this goes back to the 1970s, it has been about supply and demand. I can recall being at the station and there would be lineups of cars because of the fear that the earth was running out of fossil fuels. At least, that was one of the conspiracies that were talked about back then, when I was but a 12-year-old young man. Today we are again talking about the price of fuel. We have seen dramatic increases in fuel prices.
It is fair to say that we have to put it in the context of time. With respect to what is happening in Europe and the horrors that are taking place in Ukraine today, and we have to just turn on the news to get a very good sense of some of the horrors I am talking about, this House has unanimously recognized that what is happening in Ukraine is wrong. We have recongnized how offensive the Russian government, in particular President Putin, has been. At the end of the day, there has been a cost. We are starting to see that cost first-hand at our pumps as the world demand for oil is somewhat in turmoil today.
We have seen the government, in particular the , come forward to talk about the Competition Bureau. The Competition Bureau has been notified in the strongest way to monitor the price of fuel and to act wherever it can on the whole issue of collusion and how oil companies might be jacking up the prices, which would affect all of our constituents. We are very much aware of the issue.
The Conservative Party, through an opposition motion, has taken it to another level and another step. The Conservatives are saying, let us reduce the tax on the price of a litre of gasoline. I have a bit of a problem with that. I understand the value of general revenues overall to our national governments and provincial governments. They are what enable us to provide the many different social programs that we have been providing throughout the years. The Conservative Party are saying to do this on a temporary basis. The Conservatives have not given any explanation of what they mean by temporary.
However, I posed a question earlier. We have Progressive Conservative or Conservative governments in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. I asked which one of those Conservative governments has actually reduced the price of a litre of gas by reducing their tax on gasoline. To the best of my knowledge, that has not taken place. It has not taken place because, at the end of the day, I suspect the concern is the overall pricing of gasoline and what we can do to ensure gouging is not taking place at our pumps. The different levels of government do have a role to play. As I pointed out, for us it is through the Competition Bureau, which is monitoring the situation.
Inflation is something we take very seriously. If we look at the Liberal Party of Canada's agenda on the issue of inflation, from the 2015 election all the way to today, we will see that from day one we have been very progressive in our thinking and in being there to support Canadians.
In yesterday's debate I made reference to the tax breaks for Canada's middle class and pointed out how the Conservative Party voted against those tax breaks. However, for the first number of years, the focus of our government was on Canada's middle class and how we could expand the middle class. The results of the policy measures we had in those first few years had a profoundly positive impact. Canada's economy was doing exceptionally well in comparison to other countries around the word, in particular in comparison with the United States and European Union countries.
Then we hit the pandemic, and we saw Canadians come together once again to take on something that was happening around the world. The impact it had on our economy was quite severe. If we look at what we were able to accomplish by working with Canadians and the different types of support programs we brought in to support Canadians, whether it was the CERB or programs for direct support for seniors, people with disabilities, students and just vulnerable people in general, we were there and we had the backs of Canadians through that difficult time. It paid off, just like our first four years of dealing with the middle class did when we generated over a million jobs in those four years up to the pandemic.
If we compare Canada to other countries around the world, whether the U.S. or G20 countries, we did exceptionally well in comparison. Well over 100% of the jobs have returned from prepandemic times. I like to believe it had a lot to do with the government programs that were rolled out. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 80% to 85% of all new money spent on pandemic relief came from Ottawa to again support Canadians.
Inflation is something that has come up as a major issue over the last couple of years and the government continues to give more attention to it. With respect to making comparisons, we have to put that into perspective with what else is taking place in the world. The speaker before me said we should compare it to the United States. In Canada, our inflation rate is at 5.7% compared to the U.S., which is 7.5%. Then we were criticized as to why we were only comparing it to the U.S.
Let us look at the G20 countries. If we average out the inflation rate of the G20 countries in the world, it is over 6%, which is higher than Canada. For a government, that does not mean there is no room for improvement. There are things we have put in place and have taken action on to ensure we are contributing as much as possible in a positive way to our economy and the growth of our economy. We are trying to minimize some of the negative impacts of inflation. For the Conservative Party to give the impression that there is a huge black cloud over Canada because of inflation is somewhat misleading.
At the end of the day, the government policies we have put in place have done exceptionally well, especially if we compare ourselves to other countries in the world. That does not mean there is not more work to be done. There is a lot more work to be done, such as the presentation of the 2022-23 budget, which I know will be a true reflection of what Canadians believe is the right thing for this time and age.
Madam Speaker, it is a true pleasure for me to rise in the House on behalf of the residents of my riding of Davenport to speak on the opposition day motion put forward by the Conservatives that calls on our government to introduce a temporary 5% reduction on gasoline and diesel, whether collected under GST, HST or QST, which would reduce the average price by approximately eight cents per litre.
The federal government is acutely aware that many Canadians are being squeezed by higher prices for gasoline and by elevated inflation in general, but I believe that this motion will not help Canadians. A tax holiday on oil and gas could result in energy companies pocketing the difference in cost. There is no guarantee that savings will pass on to Canadian consumers at the pumps.
Increases in prices for a variety of goods is a global phenomenon, driven by the unprecedented challenge of restarting the world's economy, as well as the instability of global markets as a result of Russia's attack on Ukraine, which has jolted commodity markets with a surge in prices, particularly for oil, natural gas and wheat. Obviously, the most direct impact of the war is on the people of Ukraine. As we have repeatedly said, we remain steadfast in our support for Ukraine and will continue to put pressure on Russia and choke President Putin's ability to fund his unprovoked and illegal act of aggression.
As we know, and as do the members of this venerable House, the federal government has been swift and decisive in its actions, along with Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom, to put in place aggressive sanctions on Russia. Indeed, they are the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a major economy. However, in order to really be effective and in order to really have an impact, we have to be prepared for there to be some adverse consequences for our own economy, which could also affect Canadians' cost of living temporarily.
Along with higher prices for a broad range of commodities, the Russian invasion threatens renewed global supply disruptions, all of which are expected to add upward pressures on prices. The OECD recently estimated, in a special report on the economic and social impacts and policy implications of the war in Ukraine, that global growth could be reduced by over one percentage point over the next year, while global inflation could be 2.5 percentage points higher.
While Canada's natural resource sectors will benefit from higher commodity prices, higher prices will additionally disrupt supply chains and will have significant further impacts on inflation in Canada, including what we are currently seeing at the gas pumps.
The pandemic also remains a threat to global supply chains and inflation with the recent surge in cases in China and another wave beginning in Europe. As global economies have unwound COVID-19-related restrictions and reopened their economies, the price of goods has gone up around the world. Indeed, the Bank of Canada and private sector economists anticipate that inflation may stay higher for somewhat longer than initially expected, but they expect it to ease back toward the 2% target over the next two years as pandemic-related forces fade. As we have always said, restarting the economy is a complex process, and the Canadian and global economies are still feeling the impact of the pandemic.
That said, Canadians should rest assured that when it comes to government benefits and concerns over inflation, the federal government indexes the Canada child benefit to inflation, as well as the Canada pension plan, old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, the goods and services tax credit and other benefits for the most vulnerable people. I am very proud that the key government supports for those most vulnerable in our society are indexed to inflation, so that while inflation will have a huge impact on our society, our most vulnerable are protected. This is not the case in many other countries.
Other measures we have implemented to support Canadians include the cutting of taxes for the middle class while raising them on the top 1%. We are also working very hard to address housing affordability.
In addition, we are also working with provinces and territories to implement a Canada-wide, $10-a-day, community-based early learning and child care system that will make life more affordable for families, create new jobs, get parents back into the workforce and grow the middle class, while giving every child a real and fair chance at success. All provinces and territories have signed on to this national plan except for Ontario, and I know Ontarians, especially the residents of my riding of Davenport, are hopeful that they will sign on to this plan very soon.
A strong monetary policy framework is also an excellent weapon in our arsenal to keep prices stable and keep inflationary pressures in check. The federal government and the Bank of Canada believe that monetary policy can best serve Canadians by continuing to focus on price stability. That is why, last December, we announced with the Bank of Canada the renewal of the 2% inflation target for another five-year period. This renewed framework will keep the bank focused on delivering low, stable and predictable inflation in Canada. Since Canada adopted an inflation-targeting framework 30 years ago, inflation has averaged close to 2%, which has contributed to our country's strong labour market performance. It has also contributed to our economic growth, as well as to our prosperity.
Maintaining a stable environment for the prices that Canadians pay is the paramount objective of Canada's monetary policy. That has been the case for the past 30 years and will remain the case for the next five years as well. Doing so supports a strong and inclusive labour market that provides every Canadian with opportunities for a good quality of life. That is why the review and renewal of Canada's monetary policy framework every five years is such an important moment. This renewal of Canada's monetary policy framework is fundamental to Canada's economic success. It is about continuity and about continuing to do what we know works.
As colleagues can see, the federal government is already working hard to address the cost of living and to make life more affordable for Canadians. Thankfully, by delivering significant fiscal policy support to Canadians during the pandemic and avoiding harmful austerity policies, we have seen a rapid and resilient recovery so far. The vast majority of the government's recovery plan is targeted toward growth-enhancing and job-creating initiatives, initiatives such as the investment to support child care and the adoption of new technologies that will help boost supply, increasing space for the economy to grow without the risk of higher inflation. The federal government has moved from very broad-based support to far more targeted measures that will provide help where it is needed the most, when it is needed.
I am pleased to say that our plan is working. Canada has exceeded its goal of creating a million jobs well ahead of expectations and has the strongest jobs recovery in the G7. In fact, as of February, despite the temporary effect of omicron on Canada's labour market, 112% of the jobs lost since the peak of the pandemic have been recouped in Canada, significantly outpacing the U.S., where just 90% of lost jobs have been recovered so far. Canada's GDP has now returned to prepandemic levels with the economic recovery well on track and the focus now shifting to sustaining and enhancing Canada's growth potential.
However, we know that more can be done, especially as we emerge from COVID-19. Despite impressive economic performance in certain parts of the economy, as I stated earlier, the government is mindful of the global phenomenon of elevated inflation and its impact on the cost of living, including higher prices at the pumps.
The federal government has and will continue to focus on actions that will create jobs and growth and make life more affordable for Canadians, not through a temporary 5% reduction on gasoline and diesel but through meaningful and concrete actions that will grow our economy, provide good-paying jobs to the middle class and create prosperity for Canadians now and into the future. This will be a core priority that will form the foundation of the upcoming budget.
Madam Speaker, I am happy to be here today.
It is always an honour to rise on behalf of the good people of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola on an issue that is so incredibly important.
Kelowna has seen high gas prices of about $1.84 a litre. In Merritt, an area that often has protests for high gas prices, it is at $1.93. These are challenging times, and these prices aggravate many problems we have in our country right now.
Before I go any further, I will say that I will be be splitting my time with the wonderful member for .
I hear from pensioners who say the cost of groceries is going up all the time. Those high costs are going to be aggravated by increased transportation costs because of the high cost of both gasoline and diesel. Commuters need to be able to get to work, and because of rising house prices in this country, people are now living farther and farther away from where they work. There is a price to be paid for that, and these record highs in gas prices are making life less and less affordable.
In fact, the Conservative Party of Canada was talking about these issues in the 2019 election, when my friend from Winnipeg joined us. We talked about it being time for people to get ahead. As a party, we have been speaking to the very real pressures Canadians have been feeling, but the Liberal government has simply been adding to the pain.
Liberal members may say they added an inflationary clause on this program or that program, but the rank and file, the working poor and those low-income families who do not have children are paying higher Canada pension plan contributions. As of April 1, they are going to be paying higher carbon taxes, whether in my home province of British Columbia as it goes to $50 a tonne or in any of the other regimes we have in Canada, including the backstop.
The government continues to add and add and add. It is incredibly important for us to be proposing things that will help make it better. Someone told me once that sometimes life cannot be easy, but it can always be made easier, so this common-sense plan for a 5% reduction in GST or its harmonized equivalent across this country to give every Canadian a break when they fill up at the pumps will be incredibly important for many reasons.
The first reason is that obviously we are seeing large increases in gas prices. Contrary to some of the rhetoric we hear from the NDP and others, who suddenly say it is big oil that is causing this, we know there is international instability that has to do with the situation in Ukraine. Again, my heart goes to those people who are suffering in Ukraine right now and fighting for their very freedom and their very sovereignty. This has caused international prices to go up, and therefore that variable, when we are adding up the bill, goes up as well.
Then we have fixed gas taxes, such as the excise tax that goes toward municipalities. Then we have the carbon tax on top of that. What sits at the very top and multiplies and compounds all the pain is the GST. The GST on gasoline and diesel is multiplying and compounding that pain, making it absolutely intolerable and worse.
Inflation hurts people, especially the most vulnerable. It affects rural and remote communities that are totally dependent on food and basic goods that have to be trucked in.
The Liberal government has not yet responded to our calls for action to make the cost of living more affordable. Because of the high cost of crude oil, the GST on gas and diesel is one way for the government to boost its revenue.
I have to stress this. This is windfall revenue that the government is receiving. Usually it gets between $3.5 billion and $5 billion depending on the year, but that is under regular conditions and not what we see today.
As I said earlier, on April 1, the carbon tax will increase in British Columbia and in all provinces that have their own systems or are subject to the federal carbon tax.
The GST will be added to that. In other words, it is a tax on the tax. This will add to the pain caused by high gas prices and the increase in the carbon tax. That is why we want a 5% decrease. That way, every Canadian will have more money to deal with the highest inflation rate in 30 years.
Those are 30-year highs, the highest I have seen in my lifetime, and the government just seems unmoved. Some may say it is a stoic quality; I would say it is just indifferent. More needs to be done. Again, this is a common-sense measure that would deal with the escalation of gas prices caused by the costs of crude.
Also, while I am on my feet, I will point out the issues we have in our country with pipelines. In British Columbia we actually have a net deficit every day, a structural deficit of gas that is not refined in British Columbia, and that raises the price there. Having pipelines and having a proper system would help with that. Unfortunately, the government has been relatively indifferent to this problem. It may say that it has bought a pipeline, but again, it is billions upon billions of dollars. I think the original estimates were $5.5 billion for the original and around $12 billion for building the expanded TMX, but guess what? It is now over $21.5 billion and counting, and the government still will not say when it is going to get finished. All those costs get incorporated and magnified by the GST. If we want to see how truckers could get foods to stores as cheaply as possible so that pensioners and families could buy affordable, nutritious food, they need to see a break.
In previous years when we have said the government should defer or cut the carbon tax, it has been completely opposed. I hope that the government will. When I first came here in 2011, the first thing I noticed was that often it is not whether an idea is good or not; the merit of an idea is often based on who proposes it. I do hope that members opposite in the government and in other opposition parties, including the Bloc, recognize that ultimately a good idea is a good idea. I cannot say what the NDP is anymore; maybe NDP members could clarify their position for me.
Across this great country, people in all our ridings, not just mine, are feeling the pinch. If we want to get them to continue to support other measures that are important to members, they need to feel that we are taking care of them, that we are thinking of them as we walk and chew gum, that we are trying to support them as we have supported people internationally, and trying to make sure that our children and our pensioners have affordable access to nutritious food. Do not even get me started on our northern communities. Again, rural and remote areas always pay through the nose.
I am not sure how much time I have left, so let me just sum up.
Please, to all members in this place, take a look at the proposal. It is for a 5% reduction at a time when government is getting so much windfall. Whether it be through inflationary means or a higher carbon tax or higher crude prices, the government is loading up and receiving a ton of revenue, so let us just say, “Stop. Pause. Give a temporary reduction. Zero-base the 5% and let Canadians keep a little more of their money when they go to fill up with gasoline at the pumps.”
It is a simple suggestion, and I look forward to questions and comments. I always love hearing what my colleagues have to say.
Madam Speaker, I wish I could say it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to this motion, but that would be misleading in this place. The circumstances that have led to the necessity for this opposition day motion completely efface the normally noble feelings I have to expect when standing in the House.
The price of fuel has been increasing: This we all know. We can sit here and debate the macroeconomic reasons for how we got here. We can point fingers at various governments, regulatory bodies, international associations, etc., but what would that do? What would pointing the finger at government agencies do for the business owners who I spoke to during question period in the last sitting week? The reality of the situation is that no amount of bickering in this place about past governments will lower the out-of-control fuel bills Canadians are being stuck with.
People of all ages and stages of life are grappling with these costs. Their budgets do not have room for the increase when paying the minimum payment on their exhausted credit cards is their primary concern. Bickering about OPEC or about allegations of corporate greed among oil and gas companies does nothing to help the young couple from Stirling I spoke to earlier today, the retiree from Bath last week, or the gentleman from Tamworth who emailed this morning begging for relief. Empty words and pit-bull rhetoric from wordy politicians gets old and will not help.
However, this motion would help. This is why it is critical that we pass this motion today and do so unanimously, so we can all go back to our constituents and say that we did this together. We set aside any professional grudges we held. We set aside our pride. We set aside our loyalty to our parties and we delivered a financial reprieve to those suffering from these ridiculous fuel prices.
It is no surprise at all that those in the House who are lucky enough to represent the more rural ridings in Canada feel particularly strongly about this issue. To be clear to my more urbanite colleagues in all parties, I do not mean to minimize the effect that these fuel prices have had on their constituents. I know they suffer too, but the simple reality is that the people in rural Canada, such as those in Hastings—Lennox and Addington, rely more on fuel than lobbyists in downtown Toronto or bureaucrats here in Ottawa. There is no city bus from Eldorado to Enterprise. There is no LRT from Bancroft to north Thurlow. Many people do not live within walking distance of where they work. The vast majority of voters, constituents and human beings do not: They need to drive cars, and believe me when I say driving around Hastings—Lennox and Addington requires a lot of gasoline. There is a lot of driving.
Farmers, who have often invested millions of dollars in their machinery, do not have the option to use some tax credit to convert their fleets to electric, nor do haulers, foresters or any small business owners reliant on any type of machinery.
Another point that often gets left out is that of home heating. I spoke to a senior late last week who is living on a fixed income. This particular gentleman lives in the rural community of Marmora. People there cannot switch over to a more cost-effective heating option not only because it is cost-prohibitive, but because in many instances, such as his, the infrastructure just does not exist.
These are good people. Many of these people have been raised to work hard and play harder. These people have paid their taxes, volunteered in their communities, coached sports teams and baked for school fun fairs and church bazaars. These are Canadians who rely on their vehicles to get to work and take their children to activities. These are Canadians and non-profit groups that depend on their vehicles to keep serving their communities. They needed a reprieve yesterday.
They do not deserve to suffer under paralyzingly high fuel prices. Something needs to be done, and today something can be done. Today, we can call on the government to pause the GST on fuel and give Canadians a break. This would immediately reduce prices at the pump by about 8¢ a litre. I recognize this does not solve the problem, but it helps. The reality is that 53% of Canadians cannot keep up with rising costs. Higher fuel prices raise the cost of everything. It is not just a ripple effect anymore; it is a tidal wave, and Canadians are feeling it across this country.
I urge the members of this place to consider this. The official opposition has before them a realistic, tangible and direct solution for Canadians suffering from high prices. To date, this legislature's reaction to those gas price increases has been completely inadequate. A vote against this motion is a vote for the status quo. It is a vote against the low-income senior who is forced to choose between heating and meals. It is a vote against the single parent of four kids struggling to make ends meet. It is against the farmer who grows our cities their food. It is a vote against the struggling student working three service jobs through town to get through school.
This is a good motion. It would help all of our constituents. An opposition day motion should not automatically elicit a paroxysm of partisan mania from other parties, yet it happens far too often. While I am not surprised, I am extremely disappointed that the NDP has now formally signalled to the Liberals that it will support whatever measures are needed to prop up this minority Parliament.
Regardless of one's political leanings, the option was not on the ballot. It is not democracy at its best. Today, I implore the members who vote against the motion to at least consider listening to their constituents crying out for help. If they have not already, they should ask their staff to read the emails sent to them and listen to the messages that are being left on phones. I guarantee they will have many instances to share with them.
Try to understand the sleepless nights that these increases in prices are bringing. If members vote against the motion, at least they could think about how else they could ease the financial burden of the short-sighted economic policies from governments the world over that have been foisted onto the backs of our seniors, our single parents, our indigenous communities, our farmers and our rural Canadians, and they could act.
This is what we were sent to this place to do: to act. If members must vote against the motion, be it because of pressure from their whip or leadership, then I pray they will listen to the words of the members here and their constituents at home, and use these to go back to their caucuses and create something more palatable for Parliament. None of our constituents, especially those in rural communities, can afford the indecisiveness and indifference that plagues politicians in Ottawa. The status quo is not acceptable. We owe them all better, regardless of political affiliation.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
The government is fully aware that there are currently inflationary pressures all around the world. Every country in the globe is facing the same challenge of reviving the global economy. We all have to deal with the disruptions in the supply chain.
Then we have to add to that the current instability of global markets because of Russia's attack on Ukraine. This invasion has resulted in rising costs for raw materials, which will put upward pressure on prices.
Canadians are worried about the rising cost of living and we understand that. I want to assure the House that the government is taking tangible measures to help Canadians absorb the rising cost of living. The government is there to support Canadians, especially the most vulnerable.
Let us also put things into context. Canada's inflation rate is currently 5.7%. The inflation rate in Canada is lower than it is in the United States and the United Kingdom. It is also lower than the average rate for the G7, G20 and OECD countries.
Canada does, however, have the highest rates when it comes to economic recovery. There are more Canadians working now than there were before the pandemic. There are more businesses open in Canada than there were before the pandemic. Canada's job rate sits at 112% of what it was during the worst of the pandemic, in spite of omicron's impact on Canada's job market. We have vastly outperformed the United States, where just 90% of the jobs lost have been recovered.
Canada's real GDP has now surpassed its prepandemic level. The economic recovery is well under way, even though progress is slower in some sectors. This is why we have maintained targeted measures to provide assistance where required.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine does, indeed, represent a major new source of uncertainty for the global economy, and it has led to a significant increase in the price of oil and agricultural products.
That said, I hope that the member for will agree that the measures taken against Russia were and still are necessary. Quick, decisive action was needed, and that is exactly what the Canadian government did. We worked together with the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom to implement the harshest sanctions every placed on a major economy. For these sanctions to truly be effective and have a real impact, we have to be prepared for some temporary consequences for our own economy.
That said, I would remind the member for Abbotsford and everyone in the House that government assistance programs are indexed to inflation. This ensures that the benefits paid to Canadians increase in line with the rising cost of living. This is true of the Canada child benefit, the goods and services tax credit, the Canada pension plan, old age security, and the guaranteed income supplement.
Speaking of old age security, this pension benefit is going up as of July for people aged 75 and over. Roughly 3.3 million Canadians will benefit from this, and they do not have to take any action. These seniors will automatically receive the additional payment if they qualify. This 10% increase will provide an additional $766 in the first year for seniors receiving the full pension.
The Canada child benefit that I just mentioned is also a key part of our efforts to make life more affordable for Canadian families. This program helps 3.5 million families with children each year. Compared to previous child benefit plans, the program puts more money in the pockets of nine out of 10 Canadian families.
The benefit has already lifted 435,000 children out of poverty and, every year, the payments are indexed to keep up with the increase in the cost of living. We are also working with the provinces and territories so that Canadian parents across the country can access early learning and child care services at an average cost of $10 a day. We have entered into agreements with nine provinces and three territories, and we are continuing our discussions with Ontario.
I carefully read the motion moved by the member, and I have to say that it would not do much for many Canadians. The motion calls on the federal Parliament to reduce the Quebec sales tax on gasoline and diesel. That is not a federal jurisdiction and we cannot reduce a provincial tax. The Government of Quebec has already indicated that it has no intention of reducing the tax. The member for Abbotsford can challenge that if he wants to.
As I stated earlier, our government realizes that the high inflation rate around the world has a real impact on Canada. We will remain vigilant. We will continue to be there for all Canadians, to make life more affordable for families, to build a resilient economy, to ensure that no one is left behind, and to build a stronger, fairer, more competitive and more prosperous economy. We want to build a Canada, and a Quebec, that is sustainable and united, fairer and more equitable, because no one can be left behind.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on the opposition motion brought forward by my Conservative colleague from .
Members may have noticed that there is an unmistakable air of non-partisanship in the House today and all throughout Ottawa. It is in this positive and productive spirit that I wish to invite my Conservative colleagues to work with us in partnership to serve the best interests of Canadians.
With that in mind, I will start by thanking the member for for raising this very important issue that I know is on the minds of many families across the country, from his side of the country to my own, and that is the rising cost of gasoline. On the surface, it is a bit confounding to see that an issue so very close to home for many Canadians, the price at the pump, is also a story about what is unfolding a world away with Russia's brutal, illegal, unprovoked and unjustified war with Ukraine, an invasion, it is worth noting, that is being funded by the very resource that we are discussing today.
One of the consequences of Putin's illegal invasion has been a sharp increase in oil and gas prices across the globe, including right here in Canada. While Canadians are willing to make sacrifices in order to preserve the freedom of the people of Ukraine and maintain European security, we know that the rise of the price of oil is placing the greatest burden on those who are least able to afford the sharp energy increases. Therein lies the hard truth for us as parliamentarians to consider.
We have a responsibility to seriously examine our reliance on a resource so volatile that a sudden turn of events, such as the heinous actions of a dictator across the globe, can have such a dire impact on how our own residents can afford to drive their cars to work or to heat their homes. However, here is where the Conservatives differ from the other parties in this place. Conservatives see this as an opportunity to yet again double down on this volatile resource, but doing so would only further endanger the financial well-being of low- and middle-income Canadians who will bear the brunt of the next sudden surge in gas prices, just like they are today.
There is a different way, a better way. As my father taught me long ago, when one is in a hole, stop digging.
This rise in gas prices only strengthens the case to speed up our transition to a carbon-neutral economy and to energy sources that will not fluctuate at the whim of world events: renewable energy like solar, wind and green hydrogen. A great example is the solar city program in Halifax, which puts solar panels on residential rooftops and is supported by the green municipal fund, a program of FCM funded by the Government of Canada.
We have a chance right now to signal that the federal government will not continue to put low- and middle-income Canadians in this difficult position again, and that comes down to how we allocate taxpayer dollars to support clean growth and the stable energy costs that Canadians deserve. We have done that already in a wide variety of ways, and here are a few local examples from my own riding of Halifax.
This summer, I announced the federal share of $112 million in joint funding from all orders of government to purchase 60 new battery-operated, zero-emission buses to electrify Halifax Transit, removing 3,800 tonnes of emissions annually by 2030. This funding also includes charging infrastructure for the fleet. In June, I announced a $5.5-million investment to create a renewable district energy system in the Cogswell Interchange redevelopment area in downtown Halifax, which is a project that will provide residents with a rate-stable, clean energy source for years to come by extracting waste heat from treated effluent in downtown Halifax.
I am proud of my past work as parliament secretary to the minister of infrastructure and communities to lead the development of Canada's first active transportation strategy and its associated $400-million fund, the first of its kind in Canada. This is in addition to the $25 million in joint funding from all three levels of government to improve the Halifax “all ages and abilities” bikeway network.
As a final example, I can share that productive discussions are under way between the federal government and the Atlantic provinces toward the development of the Atlantic loop, an interconnected, clean power grid that would serve as the foundation for a competitive, electrified economy across the Atlantic region.
These are just a few of the many measures we have taken, but we can still do more to cut and stabilize energy costs for Canadians so that we do not find ourselves back in this place again. The upcoming federal budget presents that opportunity. I sent out a pre-budget consultation survey to my residents in Halifax and received an overwhelming amount of feedback in return. Many were concerned about the cost of living and indeed the cost of energy.
In response, I wrote to the with two ideas I think would be worth considering. One is an acceleration of the implementation of interest-free loans for green retrofits, announced in budget 2021. This would allow Canadians to reduce their energy bills, insulating them from further oil price shocks in the future. The second is an acceleration of our government's efforts to support the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, including adding 50,000 new electric vehicle chargers and hydrogen stations to Canada's growing network and expanding purchase incentives for zero-emission vehicles, which have been massively popular.
Work is already under way in Halifax to prepare for this transportation transition, as last year I announced funding to advance cost-effective energy solutions for an electric vehicle smart grid integrated system in Nova Scotia. I believe these are the more productive kinds of ideas needed to address the root cause of the strain being put on Canadians, which is our reliance on a volatile resource to heat our homes and power our vehicles.
Ultimately, this is about using the power of government to help Canadians who need it. However, the mechanism presented by the Conservatives in today's motion is not one that will achieve its desired effect. Although I do believe the Conservatives have submitted this suggestion because they want to provide relief at the pumps, there is still no guarantee that their proposed measure would do anything of the sort. In fact, it could result in energy companies pocketing even more astronomical profits, as they have over the past few weeks, without any benefit accruing to Canadian consumers whatsoever.
Instead of putting more money into the pockets of oil companies and executives, we should instead focus on putting money into the pockets of Canadians in need. That is what our Liberal government has been doing throughout our time in office with means-tested benefits, indexed to inflation, that are supporting Canadian families with the rising cost of living, measures like the Canada child benefit, cutting taxes on the middle class, increasing the OAS and GIS for seniors, introducing the Canada housing benefit for the housing insecure and slashing child care costs to $10 a day. These are the measures that have a positive impact on the pocketbooks of everyday Canadians, not the pocketbooks of big oil and gas, yet the Conservatives have routinely voted against these very measures. It certainly shows us where their priorities lie.
As I conclude, we will continue to be there for Canadians by providing them with the financial support they need to get ahead and to stay ahead, by funding the transition to net zero so that they do not have to live in fear of the next big oil shock, and by putting in place programs that rely on stable, reliable, clean energy sources that protect the planet and the pocketbooks of Canadians for years to come.