Mr. Speaker, I am here on behalf of hard-working families and friends of Cariboo—Prince George. We have some concerns with the budget released by the government three weeks ago.
Historically speaking, budgets are presented once a year. They identify planned government spending and expected government revenue, and provide a plan for job growth and a road back for when borrowed money will eventually be paid back. More important, they provide hope.
In releasing the national budget, governments send a message to Canadians that they have a sound fiscal plan. The budget serves to build confidence with investors, business, and political allies throughout the world that Canada remains stable, that our country is sound, and that it will continue to be a leading country for investment, growth, and partnership.
Budget 2016 did one thing extremely well. It confirmed that we were in for another era of broken Liberal promises. A few of these broken promises include tripling the modest $10 billion deficit projection, backing away from the Liberals' pledge to balance the budget by 2019, and a broken promise to bring the debt-to-GDP ratio down every year of their mandate. That is not even touching their spending promises. I most certainly need more than 10 minutes to get into that.
The price tag is $29.4 billion for 2016 alone. That is a broken promise in the magnitude of almost 300%. I am not sure about anyone else, but I cannot run my finances off of credit, and the government is doing just that: maxing out Canada's corporate credit card.
Over the years, I was fortunate to have been part of a few incredibly talented teams tasked with building business plans, long-term budgets, and strategic forecasting, where our vulnerability as an industry and as an organization lay. I can say with complete sincerity that no way would a budget with no plan to make a company flush, let alone turn a profit, ever have been accepted. Why should we ask Canadians to approve such a plan, especially when they are the ones who will be left footing the bill for years to come?
Not only is the government saddling Canadians with enormous debt, it backed away from the promise of an open and transparent model of government. Even a report from the independent parliamentary budget officer found that Liberals were hiding information from Canadians, creating their own economic growth projections, and exaggerating job growth expectations. Debt just does not go away no matter how hard the Liberals try to wish it away. Borrowed money is not free money.
Over the last 20 years, my wife and I have been small business owners, and we know first-hand how challenging it can be to make ends meet. Instead of falling through on their election promise to lower the small business tax from 10.5% to the scheduled 9%, the Liberals have left it at the current level. However, should this surprise us?
The Prime Minister had this to say on this matter during the campaign, “We have to know that a large percentage of small businesses are actually just ways for wealthier Canadians to save on their taxes”, to hide money, “and we want to reward the people who are actually creating jobs, and contributing in concrete ways.” We all know the Prime Minister has never had to worry about choosing between putting food on the table for his family or making payroll for his employees at the end of the month, but the constituents in my riding of Cariboo—Prince George have.
I would like to relay a recent conversation I had with local farming families. There are over 4,000 beef producers in B.C., employing roughly 8,800 people directly and indirectly. Beef producers contribute approximately $25 billion to Canada's economy, $35 million of that alone from one of the communities in Cariboo—Prince George. There are over 68,000 beef producers Canada-wide, yet there is not one mention of hard-working farm families in this budget.
The message I was asked to deliver is this. The hard-working farm families, many of which have worked their operations for generations, are small business owners. Their businesses are run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The money they make is not spent on fancy cars, condos, or vacations. That money is spent directly in the communities in which they live.
The current government failed the hard-working farm families in its Speech from the Throne and, once again, in its first budget speech. The government failed rural Canada. This is simply unacceptable. Our farm families have faced increasingly challenging times in the last six months due to market volatility stemming from the current government's lack of recognition of the importance of this vital industry.
Now that the Prime Minister has approved his first budget, I think he is just figuring out that budgets do not balance themselves. That is why the Liberal government has chosen to raise taxes on our job creators by ending the hiring credit for small businesses. I can only assume, based on his words, that the Prime Minister believes that these are the wealthy Canadians who can afford to take the hit. Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said this:
...the new government promised to reduce the small business corporate tax rate to nine per cent by 2019. That promise was broken...[when they] announced the rate will remain at 10.5 per cent.... This decision will cost small firms over $900 million more per year as of 2019.
One does not need to be an economist to realize that job creators in this country, be they the hard-working entrepreneurs, the local farmers, or the neighbourhood grocery stores, will find it harder to operate in light of these Liberal tax hikes.
The current Liberal government was elected on a promise to address a perceived infrastructure deficit. To do so, it is borrowing $12 billion over the next five years. However, the majority of this money would not go toward roads, bridges, and public transportation, the infrastructure promises on which the current government was elected. The Liberals had the perfect opportunity to invest in projects that would provide concrete, long-term benefits in the form of jobs and increased economic activity.
The review of the Canada Transportation Act, released in December, pointed out a need for a national transportation strategy, saying it will be fundamental for Canada's economic development, moving forward. Canada is a trading nation. We need trade agreements that give our producers the ability to compete in global markets. We need secure and seamless movement of these commodities and access for business to and from our country and our communities. This is critical for Canada to remain competitive. I may have missed it, but I did not see any money set aside in the budget for our ports and our airports, Canada's vital transportation gateways. While investment in green infrastructure is commendable and remains important, the current Liberal government is so blindsided by its own buzz words and pet projects that it is failing to invest in the crucial projects that are the foundation of our regional and national economies.
I too was elected on a promise to fight for my hard-working constituents of Cariboo—Prince George, to keep taxes low, be a strong voice in Ottawa for the people who do not feel they are being heard, and to bring the priorities of Cariboo—Prince George to Ottawa. I look at budget 2016 and I see nothing for rural Canada, nothing for the mills, mines, farmers, or small businesses. Investment in high-speed transit in major centres would not create jobs or opportunities in the industries that fuel the economies of Cariboo—Prince George, where people have been hit hard by the downturn in the resource sector. Giving them an additional five weeks on EI is nice, but they need jobs.
We are still waiting for a softwood lumber agreement. We are still waiting for the trans-Pacific partnership agreement to be ratified. We are still left with higher taxes, a large national deficit, no additional resources for our police forces, and measures that actually do more harm than good for small businesses that are the backbone of our economy.
For my colleagues across the floor, I would say that Canadians did not give the Liberals a mandate to borrow beyond our means, they did not give them a mandate for a pile of broken promises, and they most certainly did not give them a mandate for higher taxes that would be passed on for future generations.
I will leave with a quote from the late Jim Flaherty, regarded as the world's best finance minister, who shepherded us through the world's worst economic recession since the Great Depression while having the strongest job growth in the G7, keeping taxes low, and balancing the budget. He said,
...nearly 150 years ago, Canada was founded with fiscal responsibility as its cornerstone. The men and women who carved this great country out of the wilderness simply called it “good government”.
That is what minister of finance John Rose was talking about when he stood before this assembly to deliver Canada's first budget speech in 1868. He said, “...I say that we ought to be most careful in our outlay, and consider well every shilling we expend”.
Canadians deserve a responsible government that is thinking about the long-term interests of this country. Simply put, Canadians deserve better.