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View Alain Therrien Profile
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-03-09 17:53 [p.1831]
Madam Speaker, I would first like to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.
We support this motion, where we see two important trends. The first is transparency, which we obviously support. In her remarks, the member for Laurentides—Labelle clearly stressed the benefits of transparency in politics. The Bloc Québécois always makes a point of being transparent in its political actions.
Second, the motion talks about the current federal deficit. Racking up such a deficit in a time of economic prosperity is no small feat and makes no sense. Historically, the creation of the Canadian federation and the Constitution left an indelible mark that has had negative and even harmful effects on the budgets of Canada's provinces and Quebec. I am talking about the fiscal imbalance. This expression began to be associated with a very simple situation: the needs were in the provinces and Quebec while the money was in Ottawa.
Back then, the provincial and Quebec governments had recurring deficits because the federal government was getting extremely high revenues from various forms of taxation without doing much spending. People who know about fiscal imbalance have said from the start that the truth first came to light in 2003. Quebec was actually the first to catch on. That is par for the course, as Quebec tends to figure lots of things out before anyone else, including the fact that Canada is dysfunctional.
The other provinces confirmed it was true, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer constantly tells us himself that there is a fiscal imbalance between the federal government, the provinces and Quebec. To prove that I am right, the fiscal imbalance was first mentioned not in 2003 but way back in 1902. As far back as 1887, the Canadian provinces were saying there was a fly in the ointment of the Canadian federation, as Marjolain Dufour would put it. In spite of this fiscal imbalance, the federal government continues to rack up one deficit after another. It beggars belief.
The amounts paid for health care are an example of the fiscal imbalance. Everyone in Canada, except the federal government, agrees that the figures are too low. The Liberals want to spend, spend, spend but are cracking down on the provinces. In the Thompson report, published in 2014 in Quebec by the Groupe d'experts pour un financement axé sur les patients, a panel of experts in support of patient-focused funding, noted that an aging population, population growth, technological improvements and inflation are driving up health care costs by an average of 5.2% a year—and this is just to maintain services. The federal government, however, gives the provinces just 3%. That is what you call a fiscal imbalance. The federal government continues to rack up deficits, which is about as amazing as putting a grasshopper on a pogo stick.
My colleague from Joliette, who is an economist, talked about the current economic situation. Theories developed by John Maynard Keynes in and around 1936 taught us that it is important to stabilize the economy and spend more in times of economic crisis. To avoid going into debt, governments should spend during economic crises. In contrast, in times of economic prosperity, governments should cut now-unnecessary spending and use the surplus to pay off previously acquired deficits. Basically, governments should run deficits during recessions and pay off debts when the economy is growing, but the Liberals run deficits during periods of growth. I am not making this up.
Such is the current federal government's management. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, in Canada, deficits at the federal level are rather rare, but this government manages to run deficits anyway. I must tip my hat and say that I am very impressed by the government's management of the public purse. I am being sarcastic, of course.
In 2015, when the Prime Minister was running for office, he promised to take advantage of the low interest rates to run deficits to improve infrastructure. His government was going to rebuild Canada and use these investments to provide services to the public. Wonderful! He said there would be deficits at the start of his term and then a return to balanced budgets. That is not so bad.
As it turns out, there were successive deficits. They dug a $100-billion hole during their first term in office and, on top of not eliminating the deficit, they announced an even bigger deficit while promising more of the same in the next election. Not to worry, everything is fine and dandy. The Liberals continued to run deficits at a time when everything was going well. The clouds now hanging over our heads were yet to arrive.
If governing means anticipating events, if a good government is one that can foresee what is coming, then this government leaves much to be desired, as we saw during the rail crisis.
Let's take a look at what is happening today. The Liberals ran up chronic deficits with chronic spending. Instead of investing in infrastructure and then stopping to reduce the deficit, they continued with their chronic spending. The hole just kept getting deeper with each passing year, and their brilliant idea was to keep digging.
What will they do now when the stock exchange is in free fall, there is the threat of the coronavirus, and the rail crisis has become a serious crisis because people are unable to plan ahead? The problems are piling up. This government is unable to respond when the need arises. This government is unable to tell us when it will stop running up deficits or when things will start getting better. That is a problem. There is no transparency. The Bank of Canada has lowered its prime rate by 0.5% to help the government avoid an even deeper economic crisis. That is where things stand with this government.
To look at them, we get the impression that the Liberals do not realize that they are a bunch of amateurs. That is unfortunate, because the people of Quebec and the rest of Canada are the ones paying the price.
We will be voting in favour of the motion and hope to get some answers to understand how this government is managing our public finances. One does not ask for directions from someone who is lost. Of course, the sharing of this information will help us understand the extent to which the government's lack of vision is characteristic of what the Liberal Party of Canada has always stood for.
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