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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with a very dynamic member of Parliament, the member for Courtenay—Alberni. He will be taking the second half of this first round for the NDP.
There is no doubt the NDP will support this motion. What member of Parliament could actually stand in this House and say that he or she opposes transparency and getting this information out about what the government has prepared in terms of an economic downturn. No member of Parliament worth his or her salt would be opposed to that transparency.
As a number of other members have indicated, it is really unfortunate that it has to be an opposition day motion to compel the government to bring forward information that it should be presenting to parliamentarians anyhow. This should be part and parcel of Canadian democracy. Regardless of whether we are talking about a majority government or a minority government, the issue of transparency and full disclosure should be always present.
I am happy to see my Conservative colleagues have learned a lesson from the many years of the Harper government where there was no transparency and the Conservatives were not forthcoming on this kind of information. They appear to have learned their lesson. That is very good. Hopefully the Liberal government has now learned its lesson and the transparency that not just parliamentarians but all Canadians are entitled to will be brought forward.
When we talk about the economic downturn in terms of the preparation the Ministry of Finance or other ministries may have done, it is particularly relevant today when many people see the threat of COVID-19. In some countries we are seeing the spread of that disease in a very unfortunate and tragic way for many victims. We need to know what the economic impacts are and what the government has prepared in terms of an economic downturn that is linked to that virus.
I would like to talk about two other aspects of economic downturns. Regardless of whether we are talking about COVID-19, the fall in oil prices or anything else, there are two considerations that have to be front and centre in the deliberations of this Parliament.
When we talk about the economic downturn, we always forget to mention how it affects ordinary people. Over the past few years, Canadians' quality of life has diminished. There is no doubt about that. There have been cuts to services and today there is a gap in the services provided to the public.
In reality, the economic effects of this downturn have resulted in Canadian families having the highest level of debt among all industrialized countries. This debt is due to the federal government's lack of foresight. The effects of the economic downturn on the finances of ordinary families means that 50% of all Canadian families are $200 away from not being able to pay their monthly bills.
We need to look at those two elements and consider the fact that Canadians have the highest family debt load in industrialized countries and certainly the highest family debt load in Canada's history. At the same time, half of Canadian families are $200 away from insolvency in any given month. We have to wonder why, when we talk about economic downturns, we neglect the fact that Canadian families are worse off than they have been.
Over the last couple of decades, we have seen the deterioration in the quality of life of Canadians. There is the housing crisis where tens of thousands of Canadians do not even have a roof over their head. Nearly seven million Canadians do not have access to the medication that is so vital to keep them in good health and in many cases to keep them alive. Millions of Canadians do not have access to basic dental care.
The week before last, we talked in this House about the importance of having basic dental care rather than a tax cut for people with six-figure incomes. Even though the government voted against that, the reality is that it has touched a chord with the Canadian population. Last week, which was a riding week, people in my riding were talking to me about the importance of bringing basic dental care into Canada.
We see the deplorable state of indigenous communities because of the lack of investments made.
When it comes to the economic downturn we are talking about, whether it is for COVID-19 or any other reason, the reality is Canadians have felt for decades that they have not been the priority.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer tells us that $26 billion a year go into offshore tax havens. Wealthy and profitable corporations use them and basically take taxpayer dollars that should be invested for the benefit of all and, with impunity, put them overseas. We have seen massive handouts for the banking sector and handouts such as $12 million to Loblaws for a fridge. There have been many other cases of corporate welfare.
This simply indicates the extent to which the current government and the previous government lost their way in responding to the needs of Canadians. When we are talking about economic downturns, the priority has to be to put Canadian families first, to start investing in pharmacare, basic dental care and affordable housing, and make sure that indigenous communities finally get the investments they have been deprived of for decades. All of these things will help turn around the economic downturn that Canadian families have felt.
There is another element and this is a key one. The issue of climate change has had a profound impact on our economy. Two weeks ago, the Insurance Bureau of Canada came to the finance committee and talked about $5 billion a year in insured liabilities and another $5 billion in economic costs. That is a $10-billion price tag for climate change, and that is growing. As members know, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is talking about that rising to $45 billion a year over the next couple of decades.
When we talk about economic downturns, the importance of making that shift to put in place the transition to ensure workers are taken care of and investments in clean energy are in place is more critical than we could possibly imagine in our nation's history. Instead, we have a government that is spending over $17 billion to subsidize the Trans Mountain pipeline debacle, something that does not have a business case. The pipeline simply could not be built by the private sector, so the government took it over and is now hemorrhaging money for Trans Mountain. At $17.1 billion, it is a money-losing project. Over $100 million was lost last year. When I asked the finance minister at the finance committee at what point the government was going to stop throwing money at Trans Mountain, whether it was $25 billion, $30 billion or if the sky was the limit, he could not reply.
At a time when we see the economic impacts, the downturn related to climate change, and it is crucial to make those investments into clean energy and transition our economy, we instead see the current government, like the previous government, throwing money at the oil and gas lobbyists. It seems to have a limitless capacity of putting in place oil and gas subsidies instead of cutting back and curtailing those subsidies and putting them into clean energy, where I know energy workers in Alberta would want to see those investments. I know when we talk about the 100,000 capped oil wells in Alberta and Saskatchewan and the tremendous potential for geothermal energy, they would want to see those investments. Instead, we see the government hemorrhaging tens of billions of dollars to provide support for Trans Mountain.
These are the issues when we talk about the economic downturn. We need to start making these investments to transition now, as the economic downturn related to climate change hits us. We need to start reinvesting in families to ensure that families are no longer left behind. That is the motive behind the green new deal motion, private member's Motion No. 1, that is before Parliament, which we hope to bring to a vote at some point this year.
These are the kinds of things that will make a difference in the lives of families and protect our country and our planet. I certainly hope that the impacts of climate change and the economic downturn that is related to them are taken seriously by all members of Parliament.
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