Mr. Speaker, today is an occasion for us to reflect upon the economic events that are unfolding before our eyes. To do so, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Edmonton Mill Woods.
Let us begin with the story of the grasshopper and the ants:
One fine day in winter, some ants were busy drying their store of corn, which had gotten rather damp during the long spell of snow. Presently came up a grasshopper and begged them to spare a few grains. “For,” he said, “I am simply starving.”
The ants stopped work for a moment, though this was against their principles. “May we ask,” said they, “what were you doing with yourself last summer? Why did you not collect a store of food for the winter?”
“The fact is,” replied the grasshopper, “I was so busy singing that I hadn't the time.” “If you spent the summer singing,” the ants replied, “you can't do better than spend the winter dancing,” and they chuckled and went on about the work.
The ants had been responsible. They knew that the sunshine of the summer would not last, that it was merely one season of the year, so they worked hard to accumulate and set aside grain for the difficult times they knew would be ahead. What did the grasshopper do? He assumed that the sun would always shine and that times would always be good, and that therefore he did not need to do anything but dance and sing and play.
It is no so long ago that the sun was shining on the global economy. In the years 2016, 2017 and 2018, things were quite good. The U.S. economy was roaring, having some of the best growth it had experienced in two decades. Commodity prices had recovered from their lows in 2014, and interest rates were as low as one could expect them to be. In fact, it was almost a perfect coincidence of events where growth was high and interest rates were low, all of which maximized the sunshine that blanketed the economic countryside.
Conservatives said, “Like the ants, now is the time to store away the grains because the sun will not shine forever.” Liberals told us that we should dance and sing and spend. They said that we should spend the cupboard bare, and not worry about the bad times for the good times were here. They said that it was the time to squander those good times and to celebrate in a period of self-praise all the riches that fell from the sky.
Conservatives warned that one day winter would come, that trouble would arise and that we would want then to open our cupboards and find them overflowing with a surplus of supply to get us through those cold, dark months and into the economic springtime down the calendar. Of course, across the way the government said no and that it was going to continue to spend.
What did the Liberals do? In every single year since they formed government, their deficits have been bigger than they promised. They told us that deficits would never exceed $10 billion a year, yet they reached $29 billion. They told us that the budget would be balanced in 2019. That year came and went, and now they predict that the budget will never be balanced. They put us on track to add $100 billion to our national debt.
They did this all while the sun was shining, convinced that the economic laws of the four seasons had been abolished, that bad times would never return and that all we needed to do was sing, dance and spend. It appears winter may have arrived.
I looked at Bloomberg News today at 9:30. I quote:
Canadian markets were battered on all fronts as the collapse in oil sent shockwaves through a country with one of the biggest exposures to the commodity among the Group of Seven.
Stocks cratered 10% with the biggest drop since October 1987, the loonie weakened and government bond yields plunged to fresh records as investor pessimism deepened for an economy that barely eked out any growth in the fourth quarter and is already grappling with the coronavirus.
I emphasize again the last point in the Bloomberg article, that in the last three months of 2019 we had growth of 0.3%, and that was before the illegal blockades and before the coronavirus broke out and started to impact on global economic matters.
I go back to Bloomberg:
The slump in oil will exact another heavy toll on the natural resource-dependent country, which generates about 9% of its gross domestic product from energy and has the biggest exposure to the sector on its stock market at 15%.
Remember, that is the sector the Prime Minister wanted to phase out altogether, and it looks like he is achieving some success.
Not only would the ants be unhappy with the approach the government took to the good times; so too would be Keynes, the great economist leftists these days try to appropriate for themselves. In his great work The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes explained that during good economic times governments should run large surpluses and pay down debt in order to prepare a buffer and allow for economic stimulus when troubled times later come. That is exactly the formula followed by the previous Conservative government.
In the first two years it was in office, it paid off almost $40 billion of debt under Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty. To their credit, Chrétien and Martin in the years prior did likewise. That decision to pay down debt prepared us for the winter ahead. When the winter came, and it was a serious winter, we in Canada were more prepared than any other G7 country. We weathered that grand winter storm better than anyone else because our cupboards overflowed with the surplus of responsible planning and hard work that had happened in the summer months.
The current government, having done the opposite, now leaves us weak and vulnerable as we enter this winter period. Having rendered us so weak and so vulnerable, what can we do now to get us through the winter? We as Conservatives have a plan.
That plan would reduce taxes on workers and entrepreneurs to stimulate hard work, enterprise, investment and consumer activity. It would remove the anti-development barriers imposed by bills C-69 and C-48 which prevent us from shipping our resources from the Pacific coast, and from building pipelines to deliver them there in the first place.
We would require a two-for-one red tape reduction rule. That is to say if the government brings in one new economic regulation, it would need to get rid of two of them in order to remove the red tape that is holding back our economy.
We would replace wasteful corporate welfare, like the millions for Bombardier, Loblaws, Mastercard and BlackBerry, with lower taxes for all entrepreneurs to unleash their power to generate wealth and get us through these hard times. In other words, we want to unleash the fierce and ferocious power of free enterprise, which is the only source of prosperity that will get us through these difficult times.
We believe in responsible planning for trouble ahead. That planning did not occur, so now we as Conservatives step forward again with a responsible plan to get us through the hard times, to get us over the difficulties and to allow Canadians to fulfill their potential so that anyone who works hard can achieve his or her dreams.