Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this place today to give my first speech. I want to thank my fellow Manitobans from the riding of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley for placing their trust in me to be their voice in this great place. I want to thank my family and my campaign team, and also offer you my humblest congratulations, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
As members of Parliament it is our duty to be the voice of every Canadian, make his or her life easier and build a future for our country that is prosperous and filled with opportunity. The Speech from the Throne just does not do this. With no plan or even mention of a balanced budget, we are passing our bill to the next generation to pay. This is unfair and frankly reckless.
Right now, Canada is starting to see an economic storm coming our way. Instead of making plans to weather the storm, the government seems intent on reckless spending that leaves our cupboards bare and puts Canada's economic future into question.
In the run-up to the 2015 federal election, the Prime Minister made a big promise. It was not a small one. It was not something that was buried in his campaign platform. He said, “We will balance that budget in 2019.”
I think when Canadians hear the Prime Minister make a promise like that, they expect it to be kept. Particularly when there is a majority government, one would think that would be very attainable. However, not only did the Prime Minister break this important promise, but the budgetary deficits under the Liberal government have been high and onerous for Canadians. In fact, the Prime Minister missed the mark in 2019, despite his promise, by $14 billion.
While reading over the throne speech, I thought I would find the word “balanced” somewhere in there, but no, that word does not appear anywhere in the speech. Then I continued to look for the word “budget”, but there was no mention of the word “budget” either. How could the government leave the word “budget” out of the blueprint for its parliamentary agenda?
To contrast this, in the Conservative government's 2013 throne speech, there was an entire section entitled, “Balanced Budgets and Reducing the Cost of Government”. The Conservatives recognized that in Canada balanced budgets were important because they would leave us prepared in the event of an economic downturn.
What is worse is that in 2015 the Liberal government inherited a balanced budget. Since then, Canada's federal debt has increased by roughly $73 billion. This additional debt has caused taxpayers to pay even more interest. If this trend were to continue, it would be safe to say Canada would have a structural operating deficit, which, considering what the Liberals inherited during a period of economic prosperity, is completely irresponsible.
It is the government's duty to look out for Canada's future. It is ridiculous that there is not one mention of how the government will budget its promises. I know the Liberal government is used to writing blank cheques, but that is not how Canada and Canadians operate. Canadians spend a lot of time at the kitchen table, finding ways to balance their own budgets and stretching every dollar so they can make it to the end of every month, and save for a rainy day.
The government should also be working on finding ways to balance the budget and leave more money in the pockets of Canadians. Canadians know that their hard-earned tax dollars go to pay interest on all this debt. In fact, the interest Canadians paid in 2019 on our massive federal debt was $23.3 billion. This is money that could have been spent on programs that would help Canadians, but rather went to bondholders and bankers.
I know the finance minister is very fond of bragging about our declining debt-to-GDP ratio. It is far easier to talk about something debt related as declining rather than increasing. However, Canadians understand that our national debt is increasing. Our debt-to-GDP ratio will only decline as long as our economy is growing at a pace faster than our debt is rising.
Given the economic storm on the horizon, and as our economy slows, soon the declining debt-to-GDP ratio that the minister likes to brag about may no longer be in his very weak arsenal of debate.
I also wish to highlight that Statistics Canada reported last week that our job market had lost 71,200 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate rose to 5.9%, the highest in more than a year. This is the largest drop in Canadian employment in a single month in 10 years. These are real people who have to come home and tell their families that they no longer have a job. While the U.S. economy is on the upswing, ours is on the downswing.
As the members opposite scratch their heads, wondering what went wrong, I would suggest a trip out west might help them understand. Alberta's unemployment rate is 7.2%. The housing market is in a downward spiral. People are losing their homes and many of Calgary's downtown office towers sit empty.
The Liberal government could continue to look west for an example of how to be financially responsible. As a Manitoban, I understand personally what happens to a government when it does not take financial responsibility seriously. Manitobans toiled under an NDP government for 17 years; a provincial NDP government that taxed and spent, much like the current federal government is doing right now. There were 17 years of debt, decline and decay. The Liberal government appears to be taking Canada on a similar path of financial mismanagement and reckless disregard for the hard-earned tax dollars of all Canadians, and it is very concerning.
However, Premier Pallister and his PC government in my home province of Manitoba brought the province back on track. They are balancing their budget, while continuing to make record investments in health care and education. They continue to do this all while lowering the sales tax to make life easier for all Manitobans. This is what all Canadians should expect from their government.
Back in 2018, when all this was transpiring, I held out hope and thought that there must be a plan to get the federal budget back to balance. Surely, if anyone was on top of this, it would be the Liberal Minister of Finance. However, then I happened to watch a finance committee meeting in which the finance minister was asked over and over again by my esteemed colleague from Carleton about when the budget would be balanced. It seemed like a softball question for our erudite Minister of Finance, yet he could not answer. In fact, by the end, it was apparent he was not interested in the subject at all. Much like last week's throne speech, the minister could not even say the words “balanced budget”.
The finance minister is supposed to be the guardian of the treasury. He is supposed to have his hands on the financial steering wheel of the country, a steady hand. There is no attention being paid to the continued piling on of debt on millennials and future generations of Canadians, and that must stop.
As I begin to close, I would remind members of the House, particularly those on the Liberal side, that it is our duty to serve every Canadian, create opportunity and ensure that the next generation has a brighter future, not led by the debt we leave behind. To do this, the Prime Minister and his Liberal team must change course. They must put some serious thought into ending this reckless spending and putting forward a serious plan to put Canada's financial and economic future at the forefront.