Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak today on our opposition motion. We have a government across the way that for the last four and a half years has governed as if the good times would never come to an end. It appears that the government's luck has run out in the face of a slowing economy, soaring deficits and debt, and economic uncertainties arising from the coronavirus, the illegal blockades and today the collapse in the price of oil.
Therefore, we have put forward a very straightforward motion, a motion in the name of transparency, calling on the government to do something it should be quite enthusiastic to do, which is to release all documents whereby it may have been provided advice or input about the possibility of an economic downturn. Canadians deserve to see those documents to know whether the government heeded those warnings, whether the government took precautionary measures or whether the government did what it appears to have done, which is to ignore those warnings altogether.
I say that the government should be quite enthusiastic because it is what is in the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Finance wherein the Prime Minister states, “I also expect us to continue to raise the bar on openness, effectiveness and transparency in government. This means a government that is open by default.” Surely consistent with the finance minister's mandate letter would be a government that would be welcoming our timely motion here today.
When the Liberals came to office in 2015, they inherited a strong economy from the previous Conservative government. They also benefited, in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, a period of strong global economic growth, from low interest rates and a return in terms of commodity prices from a low at the earlier part of the decade.
When I got here in 2015, I know that my Conservative colleagues and I provided advice to the Liberals in terms of encouraging them in the face of a relatively strong economy to take a responsible approach, to pay down debt and prepare for a rainy day. That is precisely the approach that Prime Minister Stephen Harper took when the times were good in 2006 and 2007. Between 2006 and 2008, the Harper government paid down $38 billion of debt, which constituted the largest debt repayment of any government in Canadian history.
Why did the Harper government do that? It was because it recognized that the good times would not last forever. As it turned out, they did not, because in 2008-09, we saw the largest global economic recession since the Great Depression. However, because of Stephen Harper's foresight, Canada had the fiscal capacity to respond to that global economic downturn, later resulting in a recovery that was faster and stronger than that of any other G7 country.
That was the Conservatives' approach. That was the approach that we encouraged the government to take, but it had different ideas. The Liberals' approach, contrary to ours, was to spend, spend, spend and spend some more. One could say that the Liberals spent like drunken sailors. However, as Ronald Reagan used to say, that would be an insult to drunken sailors.
The Liberal government has added $75 billion of new debt in just four years. By the end of this fiscal year, Canada will be on track to adding $100 billion of new debt.
The finance minister said that we should not worry, that the good times would continue. It is not so, as dark clouds are on the horizon for Canada's economy.
We have seen a significant slowdown in the Canadian economy. Indeed, in the fourth quarter of 2019, Canada experienced just 0.3% GDP growth. That constitutes negative per capita GDP growth. In fact, in November we actually saw a decline in the Canadian economy, and 71,000 jobs were lost.
While Canada grew at only 0.3% in the last quarter of 2019, our biggest trading partner, our biggest economic competitor, the United States, saw a GDP growth of 2.1%. There is quite a contrast between the growth in the United and the dismal performance of the Canadian economy.
That pattern of lagging behind the United States is projected to continue into this year. Indeed, the Canadian economy is expected to grow at only half the rate of the United States'. Meanwhile, unemployment is 30% higher in Canada than in the United States. Indeed, under the Liberal government's watch, Canada has the unenviable position of having the highest unemployment rate of any G7 country, save for Italy and France. These are hardly jurisdictions we should be seeking to emulate in terms of economic performance, yet that is precisely the approach the government seems to want to take.
The over four and a half years of spending and more spending, without any plan for a rainy day, has left the Canadian economy weak and vulnerable.
In the face of that, Canadians deserve to know the government's plan. What is the government's plan to get beyond per capita negative GDP growth of a pathetic 0.3%? What is the government's plan to stimulate the economy and restore some level of fiscal responsibility? We know that today's $30-billion deficit could very easily translate into $50-billion or $60-billion deficits if there is a further slowdown.
I know that unlike the Liberals, we on this side of the House do have a plan. It involves unleashing the Canadian economy by cutting taxes for workers and small businesses, repealing the anti-development bills, Bill C-69 and Bill C-48, and reducing red tape with a two-for-one rule that builds on the legislated one-for-one rule and is consistent with what has been undertaken by the Province of Manitoba and our largest competitor, the United States.
The Conservatives have a plan to, in a reasonable way, get spending under control by eliminating waste, reducing red tape and reducing the burden of government to eventually get to what the Liberal government inherited from our previous Conservative government: a balanced budget.
In closing, where is the government's plan? It has no plan beyond spending and spending some more. In the face of that plan versus our plan to unleash the Canadian economy, I will take our plan any day.