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View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, we are here in Parliament today talking about the affordability crisis that so many Canadians are dealing with, and in a way it feels like progress that we are even talking about this, because most of the debates that happen in Parliament are scheduled by the government, and for two years the government has been ignoring the problem of “Justinflation” that so many Canadians have been dealing with. For two years the government has been ignoring the cost of living crisis, but the election of the member for Carleton as Leader of the Opposition has really focused the mind of the government. Immediately after the Leader of the Opposition took his position, the government started saying that now it needs to try to talk about the affordability issue.
However, unfortunately, the measures the government has put in place are not moving us forward. They are not actually addressing the problem. In fact, in some respects they are making the problem worse. The government still does not appreciate the degree to which it really is its policies, the policies of the current Prime Minister, that have created and continue to create the kind of affordability crisis we are talking about.
At the outset, I think it is important to go over a bit of the history of this. Back in 2020, the member for Carleton, who was at the time our shadow minister for finance, said that Canada was about to face this problem of significant increasing inflation. He said that the significant increase we were seeing in government spending was going to drive inflation. Government being more expensive was going to make it more expensive for everyday Canadians to buy the various goods they needed.
At the time, those concerns were dismissed by the government, including the finance minister, who is still the finance minister. She was more concerned about apparent impending deflation, and that of course turned out to be very wrong. It was clear from the arguments being made at the time, and it is clear now, that when we have the government pouring more and more money out there, borrowing more and spending more but not actually driving increases in production, that is simply going to be inflationary. When we have more money chasing fewer goods, that is going to make everything more expensive.
These arguments were made and have been made over the last two years, but they have been continuously ignored by a government that clearly would rather talk about other issues. It clearly would rather be trying to shift attention away from those things, which really are the fundamental priorities of Canadians.
The government also, first of all, denied it. It was refusing to acknowledge the inflation crisis that it was causing, but as the numbers have come out and as we have seen increasing inflation, it has been harder and harder for the government to deny it. The new form of denial is for them to say, “It is not our fault,” and that they have nothing to do with it. They say that inflation is happening everywhere and is the result of the invasion of Ukraine and other such events, or it is supply blockages and is really an issue of the challenges in global supply chains.
I have a few responses to that. Number one is that this inflation was clearly an issue prior to the invasion of Ukraine, but it was two years ago that we started sounding the alarm on this issue of inflation. Of course, the invasion of Ukraine, as such, started in 2014, but this particular further invasion of Ukraine started six months ago.
It is also hard to make sense of the claim that global supply chains are responsible for instances where the goods are produced here in Canada yet the prices have been going up. Global supply chains can hardly be blamed for the escalating price of property and real estate that makes it increasingly difficult for Canadians in my age demographic and younger to be able to afford housing.
The government is constantly looking for other people to blame. It no doubt will blame the previous government at some point in today's debate, as well as global events that are beyond its control, but the reality is that the government is pursuing policies and pouring more money through borrowing and spending, without proper controls or encouraging more production. These economic policies of the government are driving inflation.
Canada is not the only country with rising inflation, but the point is that other countries that have this problem have pursued the same policies that the Liberal government has pursued. Some countries that are pursuing policies that entail exactly the same problems are getting the same results. However, other countries that are being more prudent and responsible in their spending are not experiencing the same challenges, and that is the reality. The escalating inflation is the result of the economic policies of the government, and it needs to own that challenge.
This is where we have been for the last two years. The government has been trying to distract attention on other issues, but then we have the Leader of the Opposition come into his position and continue his laser focus on issues of affordability and cost of living. Then, right away, the government says that perhaps its needs to talk about this affordability and cost of living thing, so it has tried to come up with a solution. Unfortunately, when we have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The government's approach when it comes to the economy is always the same: more spending, more borrowing and higher taxes. That solution to the inflation crisis is going to make the problem even worse.
The government wants Canadians to believe that their lives will be made better and more affordable by giving away more money. I will share a little story.
I have five children and my three-old son recently came to me with a wad of U.S. dollars. I knew exactly where he got them from, because I had just returned from a trip to Washington and had left the money on the counter. He said, “Daddy, look what I got.” Then he very generously said he would give me one. I told him that was great, but asked him where he got it from. I think that is how Canadians feel when the government offers them more money. The government says that it will be generous and give more money to people, but Canadians want to know where that money has come from.
The government does not generate any money of its own. Government does not work to produce money. It takes money from taxpayers and then redistributes it. Just like my son, who I know is not going out, earning that money and generously offering it to me. I know that he is finding it somewhere around the house. When the government says that it will give more money, it clearly has to find it somewhere around the house, and that is the issue with it. It wants everyone to see how generous it is being, that it is giving away more money. In question period the other day, the Deputy Prime Minister said that the government was giving $1,000 to these families and $500 to those families, but Canadians are asking where the money is coming from.
We have run up more debt under the current Prime Minister than in the entire country's history prior to 2015. That is incredible. That is more debt than in the country's entire history from 1867 up until 2015. This is driving the challenges in the cost of living and inflation. Then the government's solution to the problem it has caused is to do more of the same. We have inflation because of high taxes, high borrowing and high spending and the government tries to solve that problem through more taxes, more borrowing and more spending.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Liberals' approach is going to cost more, and any of these giveaways that they are promising to Canadians, such as these $500 here and $1,000 there, is real money. This is significant money for people, but I think they also understand that the money comes from somewhere and that those dollars are eaten up every day by higher prices. The same government that is saying that it is going to do more on these spending items is actually eroding the value of that money as it is handing it out.
This is a failed policy. Again, doubling down on the same failed approach of more borrowing, more taxes and more spending is not going to achieve a different result. It is “Justinflation” from start to finish. This is what we predicted two years ago. That is what we are seeing now and that is what is going to be further exacerbated by these new policies.
I note that expert analysis from Canada's leading banks said that these policies from the government are going to be inflationary.
l listened to the leader of the NDP, the coalition partner of the government, talking about this issue on CBC's The House. I think it was this past weekend. He said that the NDP did not agree with the analysis from the big banks. The leading economists in the country are saying that the government's policy is going to be more inflationary. Dismissing that expert analysis because people have an axe to grind with the big banks is really missing the point. The government talks about drawing from experts. It should listen to experts and acknowledge that its policies will continue to be inflationary going forward.
The Conservatives are offering a better approach, a common-sense approach for moving us forward.
First, we need a dollar-for-dollar rule when it comes to new spending. If the government is going to approve new spending of $1, $10, $1 million or $1 billion, it should first find an equivalent amount of savings. If there are new areas needing money to be spent, it should identify areas for those savings, areas to find efficiencies, and then put those dollars to toward the new areas.
There are new emerging priorities. There are always going to be new things needing money, but there are also going to be plenty of examples where dollars that were spent in the past no longer need to be spent or, perhaps, should not have been spent in the first place.
I think about some of the things that the government has spent money on, like the $25 million on the ArriveCAN app, which could have been easily saved. We could talk about the failed $35-billion Infrastructure Bank. We could talk about the subsidy package for private media, which is unfortunately eroding confidence in the media. We could talk about the government's various corporate welfare programs. All of those things have, frankly, hurt Canadians instead of helped them.
There have been many opportunities with respect to wasteful spending within the government or spending that was poorly targeted toward objectives. It is great to find new areas to make investments. Let us apply the same discipline that households and businesses have to apply by having a dollar-for-dollar rule.
A great way to help make life more affordable for Canadians would be to stop increasing taxes. Of course, we would like to see lower tax on this side of the House, but as a first step for the government, stop making the problem worse. Right now, the government has automatic scheduled tax increases for next year. On January 1 of next year, happy new year, and on April 1 of next year, which is sadly not an April fool's joke, tax increases are currently scheduled: increases to the carbon tax, which will drive up the cost of gas, groceries and home heating; increases as well to payroll taxes. Those payroll tax increases will take effect on January 1 and then subsequently the carbon tax hike.
It would be a very basic first step for the government to acknowledge it is in a hole right now, so it should stop digging, stop making the problem worse and stop inflicting more pain on Canadians by raising their taxes. Although that would be against the basic instincts of the government, that would be an important step to take, to recognize there is actually a problem that needs to be solved. If the government is unwilling to listen to us and reverse these planned tax increases, then I think it will be clear that the government's words about affordability are just that, only words. We have seen this before. When Canadians are connecting with and responding to a Conservative message, sometimes the government tries to use the same words. It tries to talk about the same things.
The proof is going to be in the pudding. The proof is going to be whether the government follows through with its planned tax hikes, or whether it continues with its approach of borrowing, spending and taxing always going up, or whether it will listen to Canadians, who are feeling the squeeze as a result of “Justinflation”, stop this damage and try to reverse the planned tax—
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