Mr. Speaker, almost three weeks ago now, I watched Canada's Minister of Finance deliver her budget speech in this place, and I listened to someone who represents the tone of the government and the doublespeak it continues to deliver to Canadians.
However, let me begin with a compliment. One of my Liberal colleagues in the House asked me just prior to the budget what should be in the budget for it to be palatable. My response was that if the budget came in below a $50-billion deficit, I would be surprised. I confess that I did expect a much larger deficit, given the government's and the Minister of Finance's predisposition to spend other people's money with no regard for the negative consequences and no foresight for what this country will need in the future. The minister's budget did not quite get over the bar. It was close, but let us accept that my expectations were very low, given what I have seen from the profligate government.
The future is always uncertain. If there is one thing the past few years have shown us, it is that the world's challenges and Canada's challenges will continue to increase. The events that challenge governments are not slowing down, as the eight billion people who inhabit this world are becoming more divided economically, politically and socially. Those events are, in fact, increasing. Natural disasters, pandemics, wars, safety and an emerging world food crisis are challenges that have not tested a Canadian government for some time.
Much like the financial meltdown of 2008, from which Canada emerged relatively unscathed thanks to good government both before the event and during the event and a doggedness to get back to balance in this country, we need to focus on the state of the country that we are leaving to those who come after us. We do not prepare for events when we are in the middle of events. We prepare ahead of time to abate the risk that events beyond our control will happen. That is the practice of risk management, and it seems lost at all levels of the government. The rot, as I see it, has taken hold through many levels, but it comes from the top.
To say that this is a government large on words and short on outcomes would be an understatement. I could say much of what is broken, but I will keep my remarks today focused on the budget and Canada's failing finances under the government.
I appreciate that all politicians bring their own background to this job when they are elected. I appreciate, as well, that the Minister of Finance is learning much on this job. However, I listened to her budget address, and I do need to point out the absolute doublespeak that filled her short speech to the House. Doublespeak is the iteration of two scenarios, both of which cannot exist together, like the so-called “having cake and eating it too”.
In Quebec, the saying is “le beurre et l'argent du beurre”.
She stated that Canada is doing very well economically and, without missing a beat, justified why Canadians need to go a further $52 billion into debt as a nation. There was a time when public officials showed responsibility and restraint when they bragged about the strength of a country's economy. Those strong economic times were opportunities to pay back debts incurred in difficult times and to prepare the country, financially and socially, for future events, which always arrive without warning.
Canada's government seems to have decided that we need to fund our military after seeing the threat of a hostile Russian autocrat invade a peaceful democratic country, yet these threats have been on our horizon for years. Funding Canada's proud military seems to be a revelation to the government. However, the funds are a drop in the bucket of what is required and their delivery is somewhat speculative and down the road.
Two years ago, the world was hit with a generational pandemic and Canada was ill prepared in so many basic ways. The foresight to have policies that allowed pharmaceutical firms to flourish here was long gone. Monumental deficit spending has become like a sugar high for the government, and the hangover is going to be massive. The results are already becoming evident: escalating inflation, asset bubbles and an inability to properly fund the basic social services that Canadians thought they had invested in, like health care and recently like day care. Now there is a scheme to buy support by funding dental care. Programs are great until we have to pay for them. The government members seem to think that problems like that belong to tomorrow's taxpayers, not today's voters.
Canada has another stimulus budget when the government says the economy needs no stimulus. It is a strange contradiction in thinking, yet someone told me that it is not really untrue if we really believe it. I hear the government members say repeatedly in the House that they will take no lessons. That is obvious, but it has to change. Here is a basic lesson, and I do not mean to sound trite: Economic stimulus causes inflation. Too much printed money pursuing the same pool of goods means the price of those goods will increase.
Exhibit one in Canada is housing. My colleagues know I will not dumb this down by pretending that Canada's housing problems are the result of one factor: inflation. How could it be? Inflation has taken root throughout the economy. The latest CPI numbers show us at an annual increase of 6.7%, a 40-year high, and house prices are increasing at three times that rate.
Let me address some further doublespeak in the speech from the Minister of Finance: “Inflation, a global phenomenon, is making things more expensive in Canada too.” This is an excuse. The minister's policies caused this outcome in Canada. She can try to blame it on the Governor of the Bank of Canada, but he is already trying to save his reputation in this regard. He is saying governments need to spend less as a first course in taming inflation, and the minister still wants to spend more.
This is supposed to be responsible government, and if it really is the minister's opinion that the fault lies with the Bank of Canada, then I will remind her that the governor reports directly to the minister. This is about accountability. The governor knows it and so should the minister. I will give another quote: “we will review and reduce government spending because that is the responsible thing to do.” Okay. Prove it. Words are not matching actions.
Let me address the so-called fiscal anchor the minister likes to tout. Debt-to-GDP is a comparative metric but not one that speaks to fiscal accountability for governments. The minister seems to pretend that there is only one government debt in Canada, ignoring 10 provinces and three territories, or perhaps she believes that GDP can be counted twice. When I hear the minister refer to our debt-to-GDP ratio as if the provincial debts should not be included, I know she is either uninformed or misinforming Canadians.
It is a ruse. Canadians are much poorer as a country after seven years of the government. Our country's combined capital stock showed a decrease last year. Depreciation of our country's assets exceeded the amount invested in new capital here. These are metrics that matter, and the government has driven investment out of this country.
I will give another quote: “Canada has a proud tradition of fiscal responsibility. It is my duty to maintain it and I will”. Does the minister actually believe her own words? Let us acknowledge that the Prime Minister's governments this country has endured have been anything but fiscally responsible, and the saga continues with this year's projected $52.4-billion deficit in an economy supposedly close to full employment.
Let me address some of the nonsensical and counterproductive spending in this budget. There is a new Canada growth fund, in addition to the boondoggle that is the Canada Infrastructure Bank. It will attract the billions of dollars in private capital that we need to transform our economy at speed and scale. It will invest using a broad suite of financial instruments, including all forms of debt, equity, guarantees and specialized contracts. There is lots of debt available for investing in projects in Canada; there is lots of equity. If the government is guaranteeing returns or specializing contracts, this speaks to its basic misunderstanding of financial markets' search for clarity and transparency. It also speaks to the Liberals' predisposition to increase the risk being borne by taxpayers on projects that do not make sense.
I am going to close on a positive note that I heard in the speech of the Minister of Finance. She wants to “tackle the Achilles heel of the Canadian economy: productivity and innovation”, and said, “we are falling behind when it comes to economic productivity.” It is good the minister has an eye on the mess the government has made of Canada's economy. We are falling behind, and we need to address it.
This budget falls far short on this important issue, so far short that it does not even address the reason we have fallen. That is evident in the approach of the government over the past seven years. The first step the Minister of Finance could take would be to acknowledge that she has helped create this problem and start to undo some of the significant economic damage her government has visited upon Canadians over the past seven years. To solve a problem, we must first admit we have one and, indeed, admit we have caused it by our own actions.