Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government finally tabled a budget for Parliament to debate and Canadians to review. This was a new record. It was kind of a dubious record, but it was a record nonetheless. This budget would send the national debt to a staggering $1.4 trillion in five years. Almost as concerning is that the budget contains no measures to return to a balanced budget. This pattern of reckless spending has been a hallmark of the current Liberals since coming to office. They spend without a plan. They spend with lofty hopes and dreams that the budget will balance itself.
The people of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte who call my office and email us are anxious and looking for a plan. Adding $1.4 trillion to the national debt saddles our grandkids, their grandkids and their children with the burden of paying this back. That is unfair to them.
I understand these are unprecedented times, and we need to help Canadians survive as we navigate the global COVID pandemic. However, these measures should be temporary, and a plan should be in place to ensure we return to a balanced budget. The Liberals have no plan to balance the books, and there appears to be no end in sight for their reckless spending.
I want to shift gears for a bit. While we all understand the pressures that Canadians have been under for the last year and a half as we have dealt with the pandemic, the Prime Minister had the opportunity to invest historically in mental health, and to help build the infrastructure our mental health care system will need to support people as we come out of this pandemic. As with most things the current government attempts, it missed the mark.
Suicides among men are rising at staggering rates. A Leger poll commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada noted a sharp increase in respondents reporting depression. The poll noted the number jumped from 2% to 14%. McMaster Children's Hospital found that youth suicide attempts have tripled because of COVID restrictions. The same study found there was a 90% increase in youth being referred to the hospital's eating disorder program. There is no doubt that people are struggling, and there is no doubt the Prime Minister failed to deliver investments in mental health.
This budget does absolutely nothing for growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians or the economy. David Dodge, the former Bank of Canada governor, was quoted in a National Post news article as saying:
My policy criticism of the budget is that it really does not focus on growth.... To me it wouldn’t accord with something that was a reasonably prudent fiscal plan, let me put it that way.
Robert Asselin, a budget and policy adviser to former finance minister Bill Morneau, said this budget was “a political solution in search of an economic problem.” When the Liberals' friends are let down by their budget, how can they reasonably expect Canadians to get excited about it?
Seniors have been disproportionately impacted by COVID. They have been isolated from their children and grandchildren, and in some tragic cases have passed away with no one around them in their final moments. I do not bring this up lightly. Once again, the Liberals had an opportunity to make foundational investments and failed to deliver. The programs and supports that were announced in this budget offer up very little detail and will leave many seniors behind. The government needs to respect Canada's seniors, ensure it acts on its promises and move forward with funding to help provinces and territories address the acute challenges in long-term care.
Part of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte is rural, and constituents constantly write to me and my staff about their poor broadband connectivity. The Prime Minister promised to invest in rural broadband and ensured the money rollout would come faster. This has not happened. We have seen announcements and reannouncements of the same funding, but the projects are not being built. These delays and inaction have had a real impact on rural areas in my riding, with so many people working from home. It is time for empty promises to end and for real action to kick in.
The Prime Minister promised an additional $1 billion over six years, starting this year, for the universal broadband fund. With proposed budget 2021, $2.75 billion would be available for projects across Canada, yet communities in my riding are suffering because the current Prime Minister and his cabinet prefer to make announcements rather than take concrete action to support rural Canadians.
The Prime Minister has created such uncertainty in the economy over the last year and a half that people are not sure when we will get back to something that resembles normal. The uncertainty of the pandemic and the lack of action from the Prime Minister to build a robust economy have created a shortage in many supply chains. This is having a dramatic impact on businesses in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.
One developing supply chain shortage is a shortage of semiconductors. I recently spoke with car dealership owners in my riding who told me they were having a difficult time getting inventory because of this shortage. Another stalwart business in my riding is Napoleon Home Comfort. It manufactures barbecues and fireplaces. It employs hundreds of people, and opened in 1980. It is days away from potentially having to close its doors and lay off hard-working Canadians because the shortage of semiconductors would prevent them from manufacturing their products. This semiconductor shortage has the potential to affect tens of thousands of supply chain manufacturing and distribution jobs across Canada.
Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte residents rely on transportation providers such as local motor coach operators Hammond Transportation and Greyhound. We all know that Greyhound has decided to pull all its Canadian operations, leaving people stranded across the country. In my riding, people used Greyhound to commute to work: People who work in Toronto found it more cost effective to commute daily via the bus to earn a living.
Hammond Transportation is a family-owned school bus, charter bus and motor coach company. I met with the owners recently to hear their issues first-hand. Like many motor coach companies across Ontario and Canada, Hammond has taken on new debt to continue to operate as revenues slide. The lack of a coordinated border reopening plan has impacted its quarterly planning and has reduced its recovery trajectory. One of the biggest concerns Kent Hammond, the owner of Hammond Transportation, brought to me was the impact of winding down Canada's emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy. With border openings uncertain and tours impossible, there is no way the company can plan for a firm start-back date.
With most of this budget, critical industries and sectors were overlooked. The impacts of changes were drastically underestimated for some sectors. Frankly, it is poor planning and management. To say that I was disappointed with the over 700 pages of the budget would be an understatement. The Prime Minister had an opportunity to deliver a budget that would carry, impact and help industries and businesses, particularly small and medium-sized ones, to come out of this pandemic on solid ground. Unfortunately, he failed.
The Prime Minister failed to deliver investments in mental health supports for Canadians and our health care system as those who are struggling through the pandemic seek additional supports. The government failed to deliver impactful investments for seniors. Instead of rolling up their sleeves and getting to work, the Prime Minister and his finance minister repurposed funding announcements and issued more empty promises.
The Prime Minister failed to deliver proper investments for rural broadband as more people worked and studied from home. Having a strong and reliable Internet signal is critical. This disproportionately impacts rural Canadians, but the Prime Minister seems to be more worried about urban concerns.
It is truly unfortunate that the Prime Minister squandered this opportunity to deliver real and meaningful investments that would support Canadians. Furthermore, if he cannot even make his friends Mark Carney and Robert Asselin happy with this budget, how are Canadians expected to be excited about it?
Opening a business at any time is scary and stressful, but doing it in a pandemic is even more courageous. Stephanie Stoute, in Barrie, opened Curio Exploration Hub. It is a new, innovative child activity centre. She found herself struggling when she opened because she did not qualify for the existing COVID programs. Ms. Stoute is a hard-working entrepreneurial mother of two who is pushing forward. However, the government and the Prime Minister were not there for her when she needed them.
I asked a question in the House on December 8, 2020, about Ms. Stoute's concerns. While Ms. Stoute's business is still open, the Prime Minister has not made it easy for small businesses to access supports so they can survive and thrive on the other side of the pandemic.
The world is a dark place right now. We are a nation that is suffering, and we need, more than ever, to work across party lines to ensure we have the best interests of Canadians top of mind. Canadians are looking for real and authentic leadership. We have an opportunity to do this, but we need to work together to ensure we make investments in seniors, in rural broadband, in small and medium-sized businesses and in domestic vaccine protection so we can get Canadians back to work and get our economy growing.
We also need to make sure we have sufficient investments in mental health to support those who are struggling from the effects of the pandemic and lockdowns. We may be in a dark place right now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. For us to get there, we need to all work together.