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View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
2018-11-27 12:54 [p.24017]
Mr. Speaker, today we are talking about the Liberals, who are proposing a hefty 850-page bill. It is an omnibus bill. It is the largest bill ever introduced in the House of Commons. The omnibus bills that the Conservatives used to introduce were 75 pages long. Today we are seeing an 800% or even 900% increase with this 851-page bill. The Liberals were elected on a promise to be more transparent and more accountable.
Furthermore, we are debating this unusually large bill under a gag order. This morning, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour was boasting about how she has already given opposition members 15 hours of debate.
According to my calculations, 15 hours of debate divided by 851 pages equals one minute and five seconds per page. Is it responsible to allocate so little time to debate a bill? I use the phrase “debate a bill” loosely, because only eight NDP MPs and five Conservative MPs spoke to this bill before today, if memory serves.
The Liberals say that they are more democratic, more transparent and more accountable, but I have my doubts. I think that everyone has reason to doubt the goodwill and good faith of the Liberals.
As my colleague from Jonquière said, this bill amends seven acts. The Liberals have never been able to tell us how many clauses and subclauses are in this mammoth bill. They themselves do not even know. They do not even know all the things they put in this bill. It is ridiculous to have to debate it under time allocation.
I will focus on just a few points in my speech because, unfortunately, nobody in the House can cover all the measures introduced in the nearly 900-page bill in just 10 minutes.
Women have been waiting 42 years for the Liberals to keep their promises on pay equity. Unions have been fighting Canada Post in court over that for 30 years. The government is yet again telling women they will have to wait. Pay equity legislation will come into force not in a matter of weeks or months, but in four years.
Our party has been a tireless advocate for this important issue. We have even proposed changes in the past. As we heard from my colleague from Jonquière, the NDP proposed 36 amendments. The Conservatives proposed amendments. The other parties proposed amendments. How many amendments did the Liberals accept? Not one single amendment was accepted, despite the fact that they reflected the demands of unions and the demands of various women's groups. Not one amendment was accepted to improve the bill, to give women a stronger voice. The Liberals did not agree to any of our suggestions.
Canada is facing some major challenges that require a bolder approach than the one the Liberals are using. The first initiatives requiring employers to determine how many people must receive more pay are a step in the right direction. However, what could possibly justify how long it will take to implement this? Is it acceptable that women continue to be underpaid for another four years under this government?
In 2018, women earn on average $12,700 less than men. If we multiply that by four, that means nearly $51,000 less for women. The government says it is proud to have introduced pay equity legislation. However, women will still have $51,000 less in their pockets, which is a lot.
If I had to summarize the government's action, I would have to say that it is nothing but half measures. The time it will take to implement pay equity is the biggest problem lurking behind the government's facade of good intentions, but it is not the only one. There is also the fact that budget implementation act, 2018, No. 2 does not require employers to apply pay equity to workers who were already under contract if changes are subsequently made to the contract following a call for tenders. Why? We do not know.
The bill also does not include any of the pay transparency measures that advocates have called for. Salaries cannot be compared when pay equity issues are being addressed. What is wrong with that picture? Will the pay equity commissioner have the resources needed to do his or her work properly? We do not know that either.
Speaking of half measures, why did the government not adopt the recommendations set out in the Bilson report, including the creation of a pay equity hearings tribunal? Lastly, the Liberals are once again professing to support equality while telling a segment of the population that is being treated unfairly to grin and bear it. I would like to remind the government that women represent 51% of the population.
The government made its choice. It chose not to make the investments needed to ensure that women receive equal pay, and chose instead to give big business, the richest people in the world, $14 billion in tax cuts. This measure was introduced last week in the Minister of Finance's fall economic statement. Did the rich and these big corporations really need that $14 billion this fall? I do not think so. They are getting help, yet many of them evade taxes or openly use tax havens to avoid paying taxes.
The same is true for web giants like Netflix, Apple and Facebook, which pay virtually nothing in taxes and then get tax breaks. However, they use our services and are quite happy to hire highly skilled workers from Quebec and Canada. The Liberals claim that our SMEs are important and that they want to support buying local, but they support the web giants that do not need to worry about all of the taxes imposed on our SMEs under Canadian law.
How much of this money will go to rural areas? We have no idea. The government is allocating billions of dollars for businesses to buy new equipment and innovate, but how can we innovate when our rural areas do not even have access to high-speed Internet or a 3G or LTE cellular network?
The Auditor General criticized the government for its lack of judgment in managing public money allocated to the connect to innovate program. Some municipalities in my riding are turned down for this program or CRTC funds for ridiculous reasons, such as the fact that there is already a home with high-speed Internet within a 25-kilometre radius. This is happening in Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague, and all the areas served by Coop CSUR in the Soulanges area are under the same restriction. Do we really want a double standard for our rural and urban areas?
On another subject, how will the poverty reduction strategy be funded? Apparently, it will be made up of existing programs without any additional money. I think the Liberals are just thumbing their noses at us. They have targets, but no plan. That seems to be a theme with this government, because it does not have a plan for the environment either. The Liberals got themselves elected in 2015 by saying, “We have a plan, we have a plan, we have a plan”. Today, there is no plan, there is no plan, there is no plan. I think I will use that in an ad.
Are they going to help the most vulnerable citizens access health care services more easily? No. There is no plan for pharmacare either, even though we know that we could save $3 billion a year according to conservative estimates. We could make a lot of investments in health care with that money.
What other measures does the bill include to drastically reduce our CO2 and methane emissions starting this year? None. Is the government planning to help rural areas go green, develop public transit, make their homes more energy efficient, or use solar and wind power? No.
Is the government going to implement restrictions to help big corporations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions? No, of course there is no plan to do that. Will the federal government finally have a costed plan for reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions? No, it has no plan for that either.
It has been pointed out that many citizen movements have been launched. In Quebec, artists, scientists, economists and citizens have signed A Pact for the Transition. Millennials have been criticized for not being more involved in all kinds of things, but yesterday, young people who realized that the government is not doing anything for the environment took action, and a youth environmental group called ENvironnement JEUnesse brought suit against the federal government for failing to take action on the environment.
I have to stop now because I am out of time, but that shows just how important the environment is to people 35 and under and how absurd it was for the government to spend $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money on a pipeline.
That move was not a plan or investment for keeping our planet healthy for current and future generations. It is shameful.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
View Nathan Cullen Profile
2017-06-15 11:11 [p.12745]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today.
I just checked the stock market ticker, and there is a run on red Kool-Aid going on right now. The amount being drunk by the other side, believing their own noise, is exceptional. When it comes to fundraising and clearly broken promises to the Canadian people, it is most remarkable that Liberals say this makes it transparent. It makes it more transparent that the Prime Minister is breaking his promise to Canadians and makes it more transparent that people can buy access to the Liberal Party of Canada, directly to the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers.
I have a long list of all the various special access programs and all the various ministers. I hope I have the opportunity to read it.
Of course, it is not only the Prime Minister that people can buy access to—no, no. People can pay to play with virtually any minister on the front bench about an issue that they are engaged in if they have the money to do it.
Here we are with Bill C-50. This is an unusual moment for me, because this may be the most tepid and conditional support for a bill that I have ever given in my parliamentary career. That is because it does so little. In its vagueness and the cloud that it seeks to create, it borders on nothing, and sometimes it is hard to vote against nothing.
There is this bit of noise that says Liberals are going to follow the law. That is basically what the bill says. The law in Canada requires that the names of people who make donations to political parties eventually be made public, along with how much they have donated, so now they are going to follow the law. Wow. It is breathtaking. Oh, are they are going to do it a bit quicker? Congratulations.
It reminds me a bit of asking kids to clean up their rooms, which are total disasters. There are toys and clothes everywhere. They walk in, pick up one sock, put it in the laundry hamper, and say they are done. The Liberals have made an entire mess—of their own creation, by the way—of these cash-for-access events. They were invented, designed, and executed by the Liberal Party once it formed government. Liberals made the mess and then said they were going to fix it.
They even made the great mistake of over-promising and under-delivering, because they leaked this bill to The Globe and Mail before it came out. The Globe and Mail had a breathless headline saying that the Liberals were going to end cash-for-access fundraisers. I thought, “Great. That would be a good thing”, because being able to buy access to the government is not only unseemly but also breaks a bunch of laws if those people happen to have any business with the government, which again, as we will see when I get to the list of all of the cash-for-access fundraisers, is happening with the justice minister, the natural resources minister, the finance minister, and the Prime Minister.
The Liberals were going to end it, said The Globe and Mail, as per a report of a Liberal insider, and then, lo and behold, we get Bill C-50. It is 16 pages that manage to do virtually nothing. Wow.
We are going to go through this exercise today and other days debating this most virtuous act that is all sizzle and no steak, as they say back home, and attempts to do something that I would suggest is quite cynical. As my colleague from Edmonton pointed out earlier, the timing of this bill was most suspicious.
In the wake of breaking yet another promise to Canadians—that 2015 was going to be the last election under first past the post—suddenly the Liberals said they were going to attempt to change the channel over to cash for access, because they did not want us to pay any more attention to the fact that when Liberals campaigned in the last election, they swore hand on heart that 2015 would be the last first-past-the-post election and that they would bring in a more fair and equitable voting system.
They were going to move it over. I thought if they were going to change the channel, they would have to change it to a better station. They decided to change the channel over to cash for access, this practice and culture within the Liberal Party that enables people who have a lot of money to speak directly, personally, intimately to ministers of the crown.
Let us clear up one thing. My friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands attempted to get the Liberals to say something about this. Liberals say that all members of Parliament fundraise. They are trying to say apples are oranges and night is day and there is no distinction between someone paying to go to a fundraiser for a minister of the crown, who is, pen in hand, writing laws as we speak, or to the Prime Minister himself, who under the political system we have has extraordinary powers, and a backbench member of the House of Commons holding a fundraiser. The Liberals are trying to say that the expectation of influence is the same for those who participate in those fundraisers.
What planet do the Liberals occupy? They know full well that the access they are selling is influence. People do not pay $1,500 to sit down with the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Natural Resources, or the Minister of Finance with the expectation that their words will have no effect on the laws, bills, or programs that emanate from the government.
There is a great quote by the Prime Minister from December 13 of last year. He admits that lobbyists are showing up to his fundraisers, which probably breaks another law, but okay. Lobbyists are showing up to the Prime Minister's fundraisers. It is a natural question to ask why a lobbyist would pay $1,500 to see the Prime Minister. I wonder what a lobbyist would want to do.
They would probably want to lobby on behalf of their clients, who pay their salaries. Industry, big banks, and pharmaceuticals hire lobbyists. The lobbyists attend the fundraisers, pay the money to the Liberal Party, and then get a little one-on-one time with the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister explains it away this way:
Any time I meet anyone, you know, they will have questions for me or they will take the opportunity to talk to the prime minister about things that are important to them.
I love it when he uses the third person. It so impresses me when someone uses the third person to talk about himself.
He went on:
And I can say that in various Liberal party events, I listen to people as I will in any given situation, but the decisions I take in government are ones based on what is right for Canadians and not on what an individual in a fundraiser might say.
That is weird, because if we talk to these lobbyists about why they attended a certain event, they tell us they were lobbying the government on behalf of their clients, and that it was effective because they got some very good, close, personal time with the Prime Minister or various ministers, and it felt very effective.
Business is in the business of business, of advocating and encouraging the policies that work for it. This is not a charitable exercise for a lobbyist. My friend said earlier, it is “the grandness of democracy”. I got a little wispy there for a moment. When someone who works for an industry drops $1,500 on the table to lobby the Minister of Natural Resources, he or she is participating in the grandness of democracy. “Here is my $1,500, on behalf of the mining companies that I represent, to spend time with the natural resource minister.” The minister had promised the Winnipeg Free Press that he would never attend a cash-for-access event. Where was the Minister of Natural Resources two weeks later? He was at a cash-for-access event with people from the natural resources industry.
These dots are not hard to connect, yet for Liberals it seems that they are, because they just produced a bill that will enshrine the status quo. It will say that cash for access will continue. It even falls short of their promise that these events could not be held in private homes, because the bill allows for that to continue.
They said they were to be held in public spaces. That was in their speaking notes at the press conference, The Liberals said they would ensure that fundraisers would be held in public spaces that the public can attend. First of all, there is that slight little hitch: the public can attend if they happen to have $1,500. When I see a sign for public skating, I know what that means. A public swim at two o'clock would mean it was probably a couple of bucks or $4.00, and I can take my kids swimming or skating. If it says that there is public skating at four o'clock and it is $1,500 to get in, it does not feel so much like a public space anymore. Rather, it feels very much like a private space, a Boulevard Club or Granite Club sort of public space, which is a Liberal interpretation of what a public space is.
The bill also has a convenient loophole that has been deemed the Laurier Club loophole. if someone makes the $1,550 maximum donation at a Liberal convention, this law does not apply. Is that not convenient? Where do many people who attain status at the Laurier Club make their donation? It is at a Liberal convention. In fact, according to Liberal records, a quarter of the Liberal donations came from just 4% of their donors. Twenty-five per cent came from 4%. That is according to Liberal records.
If the Liberals scowl and tut-tut, then it must mean the Liberal Party of Canada is lying, which I would never suggest. That has never happened, even with all that sponsorship scandal. In any case, the Liberal Party has reported that this is where its money comes from.
The list of what the bill does not do is so much longer than what the bill does. It says we are going to report who attends cash for access quicker. We are going to notify the public a few days in advance that the event is happening, and the public is welcome to attend if they have $1,500. There is a special rate for youth, those under 25, because a lot of people I know under 25 have $250 burning a hole in their pockets. I speak with many people in high schools and universities, and I chat with the pages. I am always amazed how they are constantly leaving hundreds of dollars lying around at the coffee shop, the bar, of wherever we are having our chat. It is a funny thing.
Someone just triggered a name, which reminded me that I made an unfortunate comment about a former colleague during question period. Joe Volpe, a former Liberal, served many years in the House. I got a note from his family suggesting that was an unkind comment that caused them some pain. It is only fair for me, certainly because my former colleague is no longer here to defend himself in the way that we do, to apologize for making that comment about Mr. Volpe, and by extension, to his family.
There are two versions of how the Liberals operate. There are the ones who make the promises in the campaign. Sometimes they repeat the promises, even when they form government. Then there is the version of what the Liberals do when they are in government. We need to bring this into some sort of psychological disorder, because Liberals are able to countenance these two alternative realities at the same time.
In November 2015, the Prime Minister said:
There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.
That was a promise. He said one does not get access to the Liberal government simply by making a donation, even the appearance of access. That is a very high bar. I thought that was great and I wondered if they could attain it. Then we found out the justice minister, in April 2016, attended a Liberal fundraiser at a Bay Street law firm, Torys LLP, which is registered to lobby the justice minister. There is no problem there, right? We have the justice minister attending a fundraiser by a registered lobbyist with lawyers.
Then the finance minister held a private Liberal Party fundraiser for business executives at the waterfront mansion of a Halifax mining tycoon, and he was pleased to suggest that it was really just a way of holding pre-budget consultations. I have attended pre-budget consultations as part of the finance committee. In my own riding, we held a town hall and welcomed people to come talk to us about what they thought should be in the budget. What did we charge? It was nothing. In fact, I bought the coffee, because I thought that was appropriate. If we want to invite the public to inform how the government should construct the federal budget, which is their money anyway, we should not charge them for the privilege of the conversation.
The finance minister thought that was appropriate. Here is what he said:
I am pleased to say that we have taken on a consultation process for our budget that allows us to listen to all Canadians. ...We have the most open process ever put in place, and we will continue to listen to Canadians as we craft the next budget on their behalf.
He just walked out of a millionaire's mansion, where people paid $1,500 to have that bit of time with him to inform him. That is the “their” he is talking about.
For the middle class, and those struggling to join it, unless people have the $1,500, they do not get to talk to the finance minister the same way.
On October 21, 2016, the finance minister assured us that these events are “open to the public”. Like every member of Parliament, I am actively involved in fundraising activities for my party. Invitations are sent out to hundreds of people, and they are in fact open. Trying to say that access to the finance minister, who is writing the federal budget, is the same as access to any other member of Parliament, muddies the water.
We looked at the email the Liberals sent out inviting people to this event. I do not know a lot about the Internet, but I did learn that when one uses robots.txt that makes the invitation non-searchable.
Why would they send out an invitation that was not searchable? Do they not want people to know about their event? Usually, I do. I would never use a sneaky backdoor way to make sure that nobody could actually find it. Now we find that the government House leader—this is interesting—had a fundraising event held by a pharmaceutical billionaire who has a lawsuit challenging the federal government's ban on importing two of his company's drugs into Canada. He held a fundraiser for the Liberal House leader. She argued that this event is an example of “lawful and ethical fundraising”. That is her quote.
A billionaire pharmaceutical-company owner who is fighting the federal government trying to get his drugs into Canada held an event for the government House leader and she said that it is an example of ethical and lawful fundraising.
A week later, the natural resources minister told his local paper in Winnipeg that he would never attend a cash-for-access event. He called it a pay for play. Later, he attended a fundraiser by a major law firm that actively lobbies on issues relating to permits regulating the mining and gas sector. Why would they want to talk to the natural resources minister? After attending the event, the minister's spokesperson claimed that these fundraisers were entirely correct because the term, “pay to play” implies a connection to government business and party fundraising. My God, how thick do they have to be? Why would a law firm that lobbies on behalf of mining and natural resources want to have a special fundraiser for the Minister of Natural Resources? This wilful blindness continues, and it goes on and on.
The Prime Minister held a secret Liberal fundraiser, which is what the Liberals are trying to improve, with Chinese Canadian billionaires. This fundraiser was in Canada's national interest, for engaging positively with the world to draw in investment. A headline in The Globe and Mail editorial just this week asked why the current government is doing Beijing's work. This is the radical left-wing newspaper, The Globe and Mail, wondering out loud why the Liberal government is doing Beijing's work. Then we find out that there are fundraisers connected to investors in Canada by Chinese Canadians and others.
The list is too long. I am going to run out of time. This is unfortunate. It is unfortunate that the list is so long. The Prime Minister himself set the bar initially, saying that there was going to be no preferential access. He said this loud and clear, in black and white on Liberal.ca, and repeated it a bunch of times and then set the example for his ministers, which they dutifully followed and held their own fundraisers and special access events with people directly connected to their ministries. It is unfortunate that they see no problem in this. What did they not do?
They did not give Elections Canada the investigative powers that Elections Canada has been asking for to go after illegal fundraising. That is weird, is it not? They were going to try to clean up fundraising in Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada said, “I need this tool over here to do my job properly.” Then when the government introduced its bill to clean up fundraising, they neglected to put it in.
Liberals sit on the ethics committee and recommended proposals to the government. Not a single recommendation from that made its way into Bill C-50. Therefore, we must pull back and look at this smokescreen attempt by the government and ask what pattern the government has when it comes to how it treats Parliament. Chantal Hébert, of all people, wrote a column yesterday wondering out loud again, who this government is because it looks so much like Stephen Harper's approach to Parliament. We see that the Liberals cannot properly name watchdogs of Parliament. When we offer them a solution they say, “We don't like it, change this”, and when we change that one aspect of our proposal, they still vote against us. They have a nominations problem. They have performance anxiety.
When the Prime Minister, eight months ago, promised to clean up nominations and get rid of the backlog, the backlog went up 60% for nominating important positions around this country, including watchdogs of Parliament and judges on the bench. We now have Jordan's law, and cases, maybe thousands of them, are about to be thrown out because the government cannot be competent enough to do its job.
We say to the government with respect to Bill C-50, this is an opportunity to make things better, to give Canadians more confidence not less. This is an opportunity to follow through on the Prime Minister's own promise. Let us not miss this opportunity. We will amend the legislation at committee. We will see where Liberal ethics truly lie.
View Dan Albas Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise and participate in debate, and more so in this case. However, if I might be indulged for just a moment, I would like to share a little news with this place.
First of all, about a year ago we had a vote in this place on whether or not the Supreme Court was the best body to hear a case out of New Brunswick, the Comeau case. Many might remember that it was the case of a man who bought both spirits and beer in Quebec and transported these items home to New Brunswick. He was fined for crossing a border with a Canadian-made product, and I and many people in this place have taken issue with these unfair and inequitable trade barriers.
I am happy to say today that the Supreme Court has announced that it will be hearing the Comeau case. I want to show appreciation for all the members who supported that motion and I do hope the Liberal government members will reconsider their opposition to it. I also hope they will argue for a restored section 121 of our charter, our free trade clause, because I believe it is a constitutional right. I believe we are one country, not just as a political unit but as an economic one, and I hope the Minister of Justice and associated ministers will take that position and argue for a liberalized opening of trade in Canada.
I am very happy to join the debate on this particular budget and the related implementation bill. Obviously, over on the opposition side of this place, there is an expectation that there will be some disagreement over measures proposed in a budget implementation bill. However, I also do not believe it is productive to re-fight an election, and likewise it is my view that it is counterproductive to oppose everything simply for the sake of opposing, as we often saw in the previous Parliament.
However, it is my intent today to raise a few issues that I have serious concerns with. For starters, let us all agree that this is, for all intents and purposes, an omnibus budget bill. From my own perspective, having sat on the government side of this place, I recognize that when a government is trying to implement a broad fiscal agenda, as much as it would be ideal to debate every measure on a stand-alone basis, that expectation is just not realistic, so I am willing to give some consideration for the Liberals to use an omnibus budget bill.
However, where I will call out the Liberals is on promising during the election to not use an omnibus bill, and yet here we are, debating an omnibus piece of legislation. This is exactly the type of hypocrisy that drives cynicism among Canadian voters in our political system, which ironically is yet another campaign theme the Prime Minister was all too happy to rally against during the election campaign but on which he now adds fuel to the fire.
Getting back to the budget, there is a very troubling aspect to this budget implementation bill, and that is the fact that this budget mentions items that are not actually budgeted for. Let me give a few examples.
The budget had a line item of “helping working adults upgrade their skills”. This sounds like something that most Canadians would support. However, how much actual money did the Liberals budget for in the 2017 budget? Zero. There is nothing in the 2017 budget to actually fund that item, nothing. There is only a promise to do so in the 2019 election year.
Another curious item in this budget is “investing in skills innovation”. Once again, it sounds like something most Canadians would support. Would anyone here like to take a guess at how much actual money the Liberals have budgeted to pay for this in the 2017 budget? How about zero? That is right: zero, as in nothing. Once again, there is a promise the Liberals might spend something in the 2019 election year, which I would say is no coincidence.
Another line item in this budget is “expanding the youth employment strategy”. Who would not support that, but wait—let us guess how much money the Liberals budgeted in 2017. Once again the answer is zero. There is not a dime. I cannot say, “Not a penny”, because of course there is no longer a penny, but let us guess what year the Liberals promised they might actually spend money on a youth employment strategy.
If members guessed the 2019 election year, they must have a crystal ball because, of course, that is the right answer.
Let just just think about that for a moment. Unemployed youth who need jobs today will have to wait until 2019, when the Liberals need to be re-elected. Let us seriously think about that. At the same time, we can ask why they even bother putting line items in a 2017 budget for measures not even budgeted within the 2017 budget. This is from a Liberal government that promised that better is always possible, just not until 2019, apparently, when it needs to be re-elected.
I recognize that this budget comes from the finance minister and not from the majority of members sitting on the government side of the House. I mention this because I believe that many would agree that fluffing up a budget with items not in the budget is not raising the bar in this place. Yes, we all know that a budget implementation bill will always be heavy on government messaging, but this budget takes it a step further by playing politics with the lives of Canadians.
I can cite many more examples of line items in this budget that are actually not budgeted for 2017. In those cases, surprise, surprise, there is money for those things, but guess when: 2019. Again, that adds to the cynicism.
Here is my other major criticism. As much as there are line items in this budget that we know are not actually budgeted for, guess what is missing from the budget. There is absolutely no time line, if ever, for the Liberal finance minister to return Canada to a balanced budget.
Let us recap. Here is a Liberal government that looked Canadians in the eye and said, “We will return to a balanced budget in 2019.” At some level, even the Liberals must realize why a balanced budget is a good thing to have. Otherwise, why did they bother to promise to deliver this to Canadians by 2019? No one ever forced the Liberals to make such a promise, yet they did. Here we are today, and I seriously challenge any member of this House, the government side included, to get the finance minister to even mention the words “balanced budget”, let alone in what decade he intends to honour the Liberal promise to deliver one to Canadians.
Here is what we do know. Back in October last year, the finance minister's own department projected that not until 2051 would Canada return to balance. What did the finance minister do? He intentionally withheld that information from Canadians until December 23 of last year. What kind of finance minister does that? Why has “balanced budget” become a dirty word to this finance minister? These are all troubling questions.
It is not unlike the fact that this budget proposes to run a deficit in 2017 that is almost three times larger than what the Liberals originally promised to get elected. Though I have sat on the government side of the House, it was never under a government that made so many promises to Canadians it clearly had no intention of keeping.
I can tell members that in my riding, even many who voted Liberal are seriously disappointed. They feel duped, betrayed, and beyond that. I am not going to use any unparliamentary language.
There are a few points I will mention about this budget. It is well known that the Liberal government has eliminated some of the targeted tax incentives enacted by the previous government. Let us call them what they are often called: boutique tax credits. Curiously, the Liberal government eliminated a tax credit that helped families with kids in fitness activities. It killed the tax credit that helped make public transit more affordable, and then it turned around and introduced a tax credit that helps teachers pay for school supplies.
It would be one thing to eliminate all targeted tax credits equally, but essentially, what the Liberal government is doing is sending a message that targeted tax credits are wrong if enacted by a Conservative government but okay if enacted by a Liberal one. That is just partisan politics at its worst.
Before I leave the topic, let me just say this. I have heard from some teachers, particularly those who teach at the elementary level, that this tax credit will help them, and that is a good thing. However, I have also heard from families and from those who are disabled that eliminating the children's fitness credit and the public transit tax credit will hurt them, and these are not good things. Some are actually shocked that the Liberals would cancel a tax credit designed to support public transit solely because of Liberal ideology, because we all know that increasing public transit use helps to decrease our carbon footprint. Of course, when it comes to doing that, we know that the present Liberal government only supports tax increases on carbon to make life less affordable for the same middle-class families it professes to want to help.
Another point I would like to raise is about the so-called infrastructure bank. This one, I will be frank, scares the heck out of me. I will explain why. We are hearing that the mandate for the infrastructure bank would be to fund only projects with a price tag of $100 million or more. There is not a single city in my riding, and I would submit, in the ridings of a large number of members in this place, that has the population base to support any project even close to that magnitude. About the only major cities in Canada that can support these types of projects just happen to be the ones that elected the most Liberals, and how convenient that is. The problem is that the small and smaller rural communities in ridings such as mine would have to help pay for them, and they are strongly opposed to that.
The Canadian Press reported that the finance minister admitted that global investors will only invest in large transformational projects that produce enough revenue from which they can earn a high rate of return on their investments. In other words, the Liberal government would be borrowing money it does not have, at reduced rates, so that Canadian taxpayers could finance and subsidize high rates of return for private international investors.
What is more disappointing about this scheme is that taxpayers in rural, smaller, and even mid-sized communities would be taking on this debt. They would be helping to pay the high interest to pay these private investors, and they would not even be eligible or able to afford the projects in question because of the pricey $100 million minimum price tag. Worse is that the Liberals would borrow roughly $32 billion to use as seed money for the creation of the investment bank. It is money that will not be spent on building infrastructure today in the very same municipalities that will not be able to participate in this expensive program.
The infrastructure bank, in my view, would be detrimental not just to my region but to many regions across this great country, and the person in charge of it is a finance minister who refuses to even say the words “balanced budget”. What could go wrong? Article after article I have read has come out opposed to the scheme. Comments range from it being not needed to being a disaster waiting to happen, but of course, the Liberals' attitude of “we know best” prevails.
I would be very curious to know how many Liberal MPs from smaller rural areas think the infrastructure bank is a great idea, because the citizens they represent would pay for it but would not benefit from it. As one senior citizen in my riding pointed out, the federal government used to sell Canada savings bonds to raise capital for things like building infrastructure and paid the interest to Canadians, so those returns stayed in Canada, but not anymore. Now the lucrative interest financed by Canadian taxpayers would instead be paid to big-league international players. I suppose that is helpful when one is a celebrity Prime Minister throwing taxpayer-financed parties in Davos with global elites. I will leave it to the Liberal members in this place to explain why they think that is a great idea.
There are other areas of concern I have with this budget implementation act. Yesterday morning, the parliamentary budget office issued its latest report. We know that the Liberal government is not happy with the PBO, who caught and exposed the Liberals for trying to hide the fact that they did indeed inherit a balanced budget from the previous government. Let us not forget that it was also a recent PBO report that revealed that the Liberals' promised infrastructure spending to date has largely been smoke and mirrors. What are the Liberals doing? In the words of the PBO, the Liberals are limiting “the PBO's ability to initiate reports and members' ability to request cost estimates of certain proposals”. Basically, the current so-called transparent Liberal government is going to restrict what the PBO can and cannot investigate.
It is no secret that the PBO has been a thorn in the side of government since the Conservatives created this critically important office. The former government had battles with the PBO, but unlike the current government, it never changed the rules to muzzle it.
A government is free to disagree with the PBO as much as the former government did, and it was justifiably scrutinized and held to account for doing so. However, we know that the Liberals realize that the optics of battling the PBO are not sunny enough. They are not sunny ways. The Liberals are, instead, muzzling him and limiting the scope of what can be scrutinized and who can authorize said scrutinizing.
The Liberal government has, increasingly, become known for saying one thing, typically in flowery language, but quietly doing the opposite. It is a sad state of affairs to see the Liberals being so sensitive to criticism and scrutiny that they resort to muzzling and manipulation.
It was quite something to recently see a former leader of the opposition point out that the former prime minister gave answers to questions without using platitudes and non-answers, as the current Prime Minister does. The muzzling of the PBO will only further destroy transparency and credibility, again fuelling the cynicism people have about our political system, something the government had promised to do differently.
It is important to recognize when we are actually becoming part of the problem. I understand that politicians will try to present in the best light, but they should, in presenting in the best light, actually shine on substance and then let the people decide.
The bottom line is that this Liberal budget implementation act is sending Canada in the wrong direction. We have massive amounts of new Liberal-created debt on the way, with no plan whatsoever for how and when it can be paid for. At the end of the day, all this newly created Liberal debt is going to have to be repaid, and it will be our kids and grandkids stuck with those bills, all at a time when we know that our demographics in Canada are changing. This was revealed yesterday. There are more older people than younger people in Canada, and we all know that many people are expecting to be supported by their government as they age. We are adding more debt for the very same people we are going to be asking to help those individuals as they age.
This is not something that just showed up. This is something we cannot put a positive spin on. We have this problem. The Japanese are ahead of us on this. We have to ask ourselves if we can continue to push our economy in a direction where we cannot pay the bills and will be pushing them onto fewer and fewer people.
The fact is that the fastest-growing segment in our society is those aged 65 and over. We know that in Canada, the ratio of those still in the workforce versus those who are retiring is changing and that 20 years from now, the number of those working is going to be much smaller than the number of those who are retired. That is why all expert evidence says that Canada needs to raise the age of eligibility for old age security, precisely as the previous government did, yet this so-called evidence-based decision-making Liberal government overturned that.
Briefly, I am looking for answers. I like accountability, but if the Liberals do not like the ideas of the previous government, they should put forward something, not just platitudes. That is why I support the Supreme Court case going ahead. It may be a chance for us to become not just a political unit but an economic one. It will help us offset these challenges as we age.
This is a great country, and it needs to stay great. It needs to stay great by remembering the founding principles of the Fathers of Confederation. They said that this country is built on hard work and sacrifice. Sacrifice should not be political sacrifice, where a good policy is eliminated just to get elected. Sure, all parties will dance close to that edge, but as a group, we need to start taking responsibility for where our country will be and what country our kids and grandkids will inherit.
I will be part of the solution, but I also need other members of Parliament to work with us to propose those solutions.
I will not simply oppose. There is lots to oppose in here. There are also some good things. However, we are going to have to do it in a way that, at the end of the day, gives us that solid footing to move forward. The government has yet to show it wants to take that step. In many ways it has taken us back.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
View Michelle Rempel Profile
2016-11-28 17:16 [p.7335]
Mr. Speaker, at a time when so many people have lost their jobs or are at risk of losing their jobs in the near future, the government is about to implement a new payroll tax and take more money off the paycheques of my constituents.
For those who are listening, who may not realize what is about to happen, the Liberal government is about to increase the amount of money taken off an individual's paycheque that goes to the Canada pension plan. Also, the amount of money that their employer pays into this plan will also increase.
For many Canadians, this amount of money coming off their paycheques will make it harder to pay their monthly bills. For employers, especially small businesses, this increase to their operating costs will force many to make choices on whether to hire more people or simply to let people go.
Today I want to do two things in debate. First, I want to refute the government's primary argument for doing this, and, second, I will refute the government's assertion that this is the best policy to help Canadians save for retirement. I will point out how many of its policies are actually detrimental to them doing so.
On the first point, this is a payroll tax increase. The Liberals believe that my constituents cannot be trusted to make the right decisions to save for their retirement. They want my constituents to believe that the lowly taxpayers do not have the capacity to plan for their own savings and manage their retirement. They want them to believe that dependence on their government in their old age is the path to their security. They want them to believe that the government's seizure and control of their funds is in their best interest.
While there is a role for government in many situations, the fundamental belief in the freedom of Canadians is what sets Liberals apart from common-sense people. Liberals believe that it is only through government control that Canadians can prosper; whereas common-sense Canadians understand that the government should exist to enable our freedom, not to diminish it.
When I listen to the rhetoric around this particular bill and this particular financial instrument, I hear the government saying that Canadians are not saving enough and the government will come in and save them. I hear nothing about how the government will enable their freedom and enable their choice to be economically prosperous.
There is a huge fallacy in trying to convince the Canadian population that the best way for them to plan for their old age, for their retirement security, is to depend upon a large bloated Liberal government. I cannot believe that the government would actually put out that duplicitous comment and not believe that there would be some sort of push-back from the Canadian population.
This is why it is not the correct policy at this point in time. First, the government is creating a crisis where there is none. Certainly we need to ensure that Canadian seniors are well taken care of, that they are well looked after and honoured in their retirement. This measure will not impact Canadian seniors who are already into their retirement. In fact, it will do absolutely nothing for them. This will not increase their pension or help their prospects. Moreover, this will certainly not help their children, which many retirees are concerned about. In fact, this will disable them and disadvantage them.
I think the Liberals have been trying to sell this plan as some form of curative for pensioners who are already in retirement, and we know that is not the case. The fact that there is duplicity in the communications is so dishonest.
Let us talk about people who are planning for their retirement right now. First, there has been no formal consultation to date, absolutely none. The government has not talked to anyone. The Liberals announced this with great fanfare, hoping the Canadian public would turn a blind eye to this absolutely abysmal piece of legislation, which is based on zero financial credibility, and, frankly, zero actuarial credibility. However, I digress.
Beyond the lack of consultation, I would like to see the government commit to creating jobs for Canadians and creating the economic conditions in which people can increase their opportunity for economic growth and prosperity.
In terms of looking at policy instruments which would enable the prosperity of Canadians and my constituents, the government has absolutely failed. The bill will not do this. All this does is take away Canadians' freedom and require more dependence on the government. That is shameful.
Let us talk about these things. First, aside from the great arrogance of the government assuming that Canadians cannot save for themselves and must rely on the great saviourship of the Prime Minister and all of his wonderful gazes into the cameras, Liberals want to put in place a national tax on everything. There is the carbon tax, which will actually not reduce greenhouse gas emissions but only function as a GST, because, number one, they have not done any proper modelling in terms of price elasticity around the demand for carbon. It would only increase the price of everything for people who are struggling to make ends meet.
Liberals want to increase EI premiums, which would put a further chill on small businesses and job creation. They have put in place regulatory uncertainty for major resource projects. Anyone who is looking to invest in Canada right now is going to decide not to because of the political uncertainty, which also puts a chill on job creation. They are not doing anything to retain labour in my province of Alberta. They are allowing the best and brightest in Canada to bleed into the wind.
Liberals talk about increasing humanitarian levels of immigration without looking at the economic implications of that. They are running up a huge debt. I looked at some of the numbers that came out of the parliamentary budget office this year, and, in a non-recessionary period, the government is spending at unprecedented levels. If we are talking about the future of people's retirement, the level of debt that the Liberal government is going into is shameful. I cannot even think about this most of the time. Spending for spending's sake, rather than with any sort of outcome or goal, is not going to help Canadians with their retirement.
Moreover, the thing I find so fundamentally arrogant, in saying that only the government can help them save for their retirement with a program that might not be solvent at some future point, is the fact that the government eliminated the tax-free savings account increase that the Conservative government put in place. They said average Canadians cannot deal with that, average Canadians cannot be trusted with putting their own money into it. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, it is the people in my riding, who are now out of work in the energy sector because of the Liberal government's ideological opposition to that sector, who used the TFSA the most.
Rather than giving Canadians a vehicle in which to save their money, the government is saying it is not going to do that. It is going to take it away. Canadians are going to depend on the government and the Prime Minister and his sunny ways, because he is going to see everyone through with all of his financial acumen, his economic expertise, all of his great connections and understanding how to scrimp and save given his trust fund background. It is saying that everyone should trust in him, and he will show everyone and their children the way. Canadians do not believe that. That is hogwash.
Canadians need economic opportunity and a commitment to freedom, a commitment to understanding that it is Canadian families and workers who first and foremost understand how best to use their money. It is Canadian families who best understand what they need to do to make their families prosperous and give their children opportunities. Increasing CPP premiums, for many small business employers, boils down to a choice between one employee or two. This is at a time when the government has sent a chill through investments and is sending that sort of message. Then it is deciding to put a further chill on investment right now. It is irresponsible and garbage.
I do not even understand how Canadians cannot be infuriated with the arrogance that the government is putting forward in this bill, in saying that Canadians do not know how to spend their own money or how to save for retirement. From the bottom of my soul and with every fibre of my being, I oppose this bill. Because of the arrogance of the leftist, socialist school of thought, that the government first and foremost knows best how people should spend their money and save for their futures, I oppose this bill, and I know many of my constituents do as well.
Instead of putting this absolute pile of garbage forward, I wish the government would commit to creating economic conditions in which investment could occur in Canada and small businesses could thrive. I wish the government would push back against harmful economic practices in fragile economies like Alberta, like a price floor on labour or a carbon tax. This is the sort of economic policy that bankrupts and fails countries. I hope that my colleagues will take that into account.
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