Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in Ottawa and in this new chamber. As a Conservative, I am dispositionally inclined to prefer old things to new things. However, this is a beautiful chamber. The architects have done a phenomenal job. It will be an honour to be here prospectively for 10 years, or shorter if my constituents feel that way, or much longer if things go the way projects in government sometimes go.
I know it has been an eventful break for some members. We had the resignation and then un-resignation of a number of Liberals. We are certainly hoping John McCallum does not un-resign as well. We also hope the Prime Minister does not see this important post as an opportunity to have a soft landing for yet another failing minister. In any event, there would be so many to choose from.
I hope the Prime Minister did not take any illegal vacations over the break. I suppose he would prefer if I called them “irregular” vacations. I hope the finance minister enjoyed his time away, as well. Perhaps he passed some truly unforgettable time at his villa in France.
I had the opportunity to meet many of my constituents over the break. Many of them are finding the government's approach hard to swallow, so I suggested they try plant-based alternatives instead.
If members did not notice, 2019 is an election year, which means I am sure we will get a lot of great non-partisan work done together. I know the ambulance chasers and un-Canadian Neanderthals on this side of the House sure appreciate the Prime Minister's commitment to positive politics.
However, none of us take the insults personally. We wish the Prime Minister very well with his upcoming transition to the private sector. I suspect that the response of voters to his policies will demonstrate exactly why the Prime Minister liked the idea of a basic dictatorship.
Before I get to the substance of my remarks, on a couple more serious notes, I had the opportunity to visit Taiwan over the break, which was a real pleasure. We have seen the increasing aggressiveness of the PRC government toward Taiwan. All members should understand the importance of standing in solidarity with our democratic partners in Taiwan.
There are many news stories that we see from time to time in Canada and around the world that jump out at us, and probably did during the break. However, I want to draw the attention of members to one in particular that jumped out at me. Prior to Coptic Christian Christmas celebrations in Egypt, a terrorist tried to plant a bomb targeting worshippers. In this case, disaster was averted because of police action. An officer, Mustafa Abid, gave his life as he sought to defuse a bomb.
Christians face challenges in Egypt and in many countries in the region. However, there are also many from the Muslim community who believe in their rights and work hard to keep them safe. I am sure all of us would join me in saluting the courage and sacrifice of people like Mustafa Abid, who set an example of sacrificial love and service to his country and to its minority communities.
I have the opportunity today to share a few brief remarks on Bill C-57 and proposed Senate amendments.
Bill C-57 sets out a legal framework for developing and implementing a federal sustainable development strategy and it seeks to make the process of decision-making accountable to Parliament. The act requires that all government decision-making is done with the view to the impact on future generations. In principle, I think we would all agree that decisions made by government should not be made merely in terms of present considerations, but we should think about the impacts down the road, not only on ourselves but on those who come after us. It is our responsibility to try to position our country in every policy domain for success over the long term to ensure that, as much as possible, the country we pass on to our children and grandchildren is even better than the one we received from our parents and grandparents.
Bill C-57 invites us to explore the mechanism by which that happens and the reporting mechanism by which Parliament is kept up to date on the particulars of plans by government that are aimed at advancing sustainability.
This bill was passed by the House, it went to the Senate and amendments were made in the Senate. Now it is up to the House to consider the particulars of the amendments and to reply to the message from the Senate that speaks to that. The amendments consider, in particular, the strength of the mechanisms by which the government can actually enforce its commitments, allegedly what it intends to do, with respect to sustainability.
The Senate saw it, as part of its amendments, to ensure performance-based contracts provided by the government to contractors and employees incorporated sustainability objectives. This is a laudable goal and one that seems quite naturally associated with the objectives of the bill. That is the second of the amendments we are looking at as part of the message we are considering sending back to Senate with respect to Bill C-57.
Unfortunately, the government has rejected this proposed amendment from the Senate. In the message, it states:
...because the amendment seeks to legislate employment matters which are beyond the policy intent of the bill, whose purpose is to make decision-making related to sustainable development more transparent and accountable to Parliament.
It seems to me to be a very strange basis for rejecting the amendment, since the intent of the bill is surely to improve the quality of decision-making with respect to sustainable development. Improving transparency is part of that, but it is not the only part of it. Also, the very idea of greater accountability should involve building sustainability into the metrics used in performance-based contracts. That is the nature of the amendment from the Senate that the government still proposes to reject.
The proposed rejection of this amendment raises many questions about how serious the government is with respect to its commitment to sustainability. Given the second rejection of this second amendment, we might consider how serious the government is about pursuing sustainability in general. Indeed, if we look at the actions of the government across a wide variety of different domains, we see its lack of engagement with this area of sustainability in particular. We have a government which is not at all interested in the substantive principles of sustainability. It might like to use it and see it as a buzzword, but it is a substantive idea in which we believe on this side of the House. I do not think the government across the way does at all.
What is sustainability all about? What is this principle that is lacking in the approach taken by the government?
Again, sustainability is about a belief that the decisions we make today should consider the impact on future generations. We should try this in every domain of policy. This word is typically invoked in the area of environmental policy and is an important concept in that context. However, across the board, the decisions made by a government should be aimed at passing a better country and world onto the next generation. We should not be short-term in our thinking and capricious about the direction we go. Rather, we should think carefully if the steps we take today will leave our country in a better position into the future.
What are the characteristics of this policy? I have talked a little already about the idea of an intergenerational lens, thinking about our own children, if we have them, or nephews and nieces, whatever the case may be and the impact this policy will have on them. It also calls for the exercise of the virtue of prudence; that is, seeing the world, the challenges we face, in the face they are. I know my friend from Spadina—Fort York, having read the book I recommended to him, After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre, will be more familiar with this concept now that the House has resumed; prudence in seeing the world as it actually is and making decisions in a judicious way, not considering simply how we might like it to be.
Some members across the way might like it if the way the world worked was that we could just run deficits in perpetuity. However, the reality of the way the world works is that we just cannot do this. As one former British prime minister said, either Thatcher or Disraeli, and my friend from Calgary Shepard will correct me, “The facts of life are conservative.”
An hon. member: Disraeli.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: It was Disraeli. Maybe Margaret Thatcher said it afterward, while quoting Disraeli. I think it was Winston Churchill who said that he thought of all these things too, but somebody else got there before him and said it first.
As well, part of sustainable policy is not painting ourselves into a corner, not making decisions that limit our options and restrict our ability to move forward in a way that we would see as constructive and making a difference in the way we would like them to.
If we look at the record of the government with respect to sustainability, we see it failing on every front. The Prime Minister has failed to deliver effective, sustainable policy, and unfortunately, those failures are imposing major costs on Canadians.
Canadians realize that they are paying for the failures of the Prime Minister. He is failing to deliver sustainable policy, and the result of this failure is going to have negative impacts on the present and the future. There are going to be future tax increases. The government's failure to budget and plan for the challenges of the future will necessarily mean, as night follows day, higher taxes and higher costs in the future, especially if the government is re-elected. Canadians cannot afford the tax increases the government is planning on so many different fronts.
The government is failing us on the issue of environmental sustainability. It is failing on energy sustainability. It is failing on fiscal sustainability. It is failing to take the steps necessary to develop a sustainable economy. It is failing to put in place strong policies for the sustainability and strength of our immigration system. It is failing to develop a foreign policy that reflects the values of sustainability and strength I talked about. It is failing to treat our democratic institutions in a way that preserves them in good health for the future. It is failing to approach the treatment of social institutions in civil society in a way that effectively supports their sustainability.
I believe that this is one of the most, if not the most, capricious governments we have ever seen in the country. It is characterized by reckless experiment, by a lack of a plan and no regard for the future. Canadians are seeing the effects of that series of failures. They are seeing the ways in which the failures of the government impose real, concrete costs on them. The government's failures are costing all of us money and are leading to higher taxes.
Let us talk about some of the particular ways the government has failed to support the development of sustainable policy across a series of different domains. The first area is environmental sustainability. I spoke to this bill previously. I identified a series of environmental accomplishments by the previous Conservative government. From 2006, the previous government invested over $17 billion to support the environment. There were many different initiatives, and I read them before, so I will not go through all of them. Suffice it to say, we know that there were various polices, such as the green infrastructure fund, the eco-energy retrofit, clean air regulations and significant work in the area of tax relief for green energy generation. There was supporting conservation, supporting national parks, expanding snowmobile and recreation trails to improve access to the environment across the country, encouraging donations of ecologically sensitive lands, supporting family-oriented conservation by providing $3 million to allow the Earth Rangers foundation to expand its ongoing work and investing almost $2 billion in the federal contaminated sites action plan. These are just a brief sampling of the many contributions made in the area of the environment.
However, so often when we talk about the environment, we focus on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. I am proud to note that under the previous Conservative government, greenhouse gas emissions went down. I wish the Liberals were applauding. They are not. Maybe they wish it were not true. My friend from Spadina—Fort York clearly has not learned anything, because he has said that it was only because of the recession. The reality is that emissions went down while the economy grew in Canada. Meanwhile, compared to the rest of the world, other parts of the world were more severely hit by the recession, yet global emissions went up during the same period. Therefore, it is hard to use the recession to explain the reduction in emissions when in fact what was happening in Canada was that emissions were going down while the economy was growing.
The member for Spadina—Fort York and other Liberals seem to think the only way we can reduce emissions is by having a recession. It follows that they, through their carbon tax, are trying to engineer a situation in which they think emissions will go down, and they are hurting the economy in the process.
Conservatives believe that we can actually have economic growth and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Why do we believe that? It is because we have looked at our own record in this country. We have seen how it happens.
Another thing my friend from Spadina—Fort York likes to do when we have these conversations is to say that it was only because of the wisdom and foresight of Gerald Butts and Kathleen Wynne in the Ontario provincial government, but the reality is, first of all, that those policies of the Kathleen Wynne government were not that popular, as we saw in the last provincial election. Particularly when it comes to environmental policy, we see that in Canada over the period of the previous Conservative government, emissions went down, or they went up by less, in every single jurisdiction. Meanwhile, we had economic growth. It is hard to say that it was only because of the policies of provincial governments if we saw improvement with respect to greenhouse gas emissions in every single jurisdiction. These are facts that make members of the government uncomfortable, but they are facts that are easily verifiable nonetheless.
We have seen the accomplishments of the approach we took. How did we achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions? We chose not to take the punitive approach of the Liberal government, its failed punitive approach, which is to use the environment as an excuse to impose new taxes on Canadians as a way of raising revenue for the government. That was not the road we went down. Instead, we went down a road that we thought was more effective and more sustainable, which was to provide incentives and opportunities along with the appropriate mix of regulations, which were not designed to bring about more revenue for government or engorge the size of the state. Rather, they gave people the opportunity to make environmental improvements. It was a positive, constructive approach, not a punitive approach. It was an approach genuinely focused on the environment and sustainability, not an approach like that of the government, which is to use the environment as an excuse to do what it has really wanted to do all along, which is to raise taxes.
When it comes this area, it is very clear that the Liberals intend to raise taxes further. They have been unwilling to rule out significant increases in carbon taxes after the next election. It is very telling that they do not want to talk about that now, yet they have created a big fiscal hole in the budget. They have positioned themselves for substantial increases in the carbon tax to come.
Canadians are already paying for the failures of the government when it comes to environmental and fiscal policies, but we know that they will pay substantially more. If the Liberals are re-elected, they will significantly increase the carbon tax and other taxes to pay for their failures when it comes to our fiscal policy, but also, they will use their environmental failures as an excuse. When a carbon tax fails to reduce emissions, because we know the carbon tax will not succeed in reducing emissions, they will simply say that they will have to raise the carbon tax further, and that will be their excuse.
On this side of the House, we say no. We say look at the past. Look at other countries that have removed their carbon tax. We can achieve real, concrete progress on the environment in a way that is environmentally and economically sustainable. We can do what we have done in the past, which is reduce emissions, and we can reduce them further in a way that does not use this issue as an excuse to impose punitive taxes on Canadians who are getting by. We want Canadians to not just get by. We want Canadians to be able to get ahead, and to do that, it is important to be reducing their taxes and giving them opportunities to make environmental improvements with things like we had in the past, such as eco-energy home retrofits, not the punitive approach of the government.
We can achieve technological progress. We can do it in a sustainable way instead of in a way that cuts off growth. The Liberals will tell us that the way to improve in terms of the environment is to hold back growth. We think that growth and environmental improvements can happen at the same time.
Let us talk then about why the carbon tax, in particular, will not work. There are a few fairly obvious reasons for this. One of them is elasticity. The theory of the carbon tax is that if a tax is imposed on a particular thing, people who are making economic decisions at the margins will choose less of it. However, that is highly dependent on the elasticity of the particular good we are talking about, or, in other words, how responsive people are to the price of it.
Something like a vacation on a private Caribbean island might be considered a highly elastic good. People tend to be responsive to a price signal, because they can always take a different vacation. They have a choice among different options, so it is a highly elastic good. Of course, a vacation on a private island is only an elastic good if people are paying for it themselves. If people are not paying for it themselves, they are not going to be responsive to a price signal with respect to that. This is just a hypothetical example of something that we might consider to be an elastic good.
An example of an inelastic good would be home heating. People who could afford it would never say that they would not heat their homes anymore, although maybe people in very dire situations would say that, because of the cost of home heating fuel. The only people who would make that decision would be people who could not afford to heat their homes. However, people who could afford it, regardless of the cost, would see it as necessary to heat their homes in the wintertime. People do not stop eating because the price of food has gone up.
When the government imposes a tax, as the government is doing through its carbon tax, on inelastic goods, on things that are necessities of life, the effect is not a reduction in their use. The effect is simply greater cost and greater pain for the taxpayer. The failure of the Prime Minister to see this means not a change in terms of the environment. Rather, it means the imposition of higher costs on Canadians.
What is the alternative? The alternative is trying to improve the productivity and effectiveness of the tools we are using through support for renovations, improvements in productivity, policies that encourage research and development in this area and appropriate targeted regulations.
For example, one can still drive to the grocery store but be able to do it in a more fuel-efficient way. One can have renovations to one's house so that there is less leakage. One can still heat one's home but do it in a way that is costing less and benefiting one's own pocketbook as well as the environment. We can get there, but only if people have the ability to make these renovations and if these technological improvements are happening.
The approach of the government, though, is not to facilitate the kinds of transitions that can actually bring about a change. Rather, it is to impose a punitive tax. That approach ignores the fact that without the change in technology or supports for renovations and other changes, such as the kinds of policies pursued by the former Conservative government, for many people this is simply a tax imposed on something inelastic, something they need and have to pay for regardless.
If the member for Spadina—Fort York wants to heckle, I encourage him to come a little closer so that I can hear what he is saying and respond.
Another issue with the carbon tax that we should think about is the regulatory complexity involved. The advocates of a carbon tax initially talked about it as an opportunity to reduce the regulatory burden. In fact, what we see with the government is the piling on of new regulations, in addition to the carbon tax. It is not proceeding with the tax in a way that even those who support the concept would recommend. The government is imposing a variety of other additional taxes and costs in the process.
I wanted to make another comment, when it comes to the carbon tax, about the whole area of a punitive approach. There is an interesting study that was done. It is classically called the Haifa daycare example. I have referred to it in the House before. This is an experiment that was done. Basically, a daycare centre was frustrated that parents were coming a bit late to pick up their kids.
The daycare decided to do what a traditional first year microeconomics student would recommend, and that was to impose a small fine or a tax on those who came late. What the daycare found was interesting, and that was that the rate of truancy increased after it imposed the fee. Why was that the case? When a punitive approach is imposed, people may sometimes be frustrated by it, but they also may not have a choice in a particular situation. People said that, if they were already late, they might as well be later. This shows the effect of failing to work collaboratively with people in response to a situation and preserve the kind of social incentives around changing behaviour. When a punitive tax is imposed, it reduces one's ability to build a co-operative consent.
The government has really so little credibility on this issue that people are not responding well to it. That is why voters in provincial elections across this country, in New Brunswick, in Ontario and soon in Alberta, are rejecting the carbon tax and calling instead for a more genuinely sustainable, genuinely effective policy.
What is particularly galling about the government's imposition of the carbon tax and why so many everyday Canadians in my constituency are frustrated by it is that it is not applying the carbon tax in nearly the same way or to the same degree to many of Canada's largest emitters. The Liberals do not say they want to have a tax on carbon, but they have other ways of saying it that do not involve the word tax. However, Canadians know the government is imposing a tax on everything that involves the use of carbon emissions—the food we eat, driving, home heating fuel and those sorts of things.
However, at the same time the Liberals are telling Canada's largest emitters that they do not want to impose this tax on them because they realize that having the tax imposed on them will have a negative impact on their bottom line and might hurt their ability to grow and create jobs here in Canada.
If the Liberals recognize that the carbon tax will have a negative impact on their friends, the largest emitters, the people who can afford to hire lobbyists, how is that they fail to recognize the negative impact that the carbon tax has on everybody else? I am speaking of those families in my constituency and other constituencies who are just getting by, who are struggling to get ahead, who want to have more opportunities, who want to have more money at the end of the month left over for themselves and their kids.
If the Liberals understand that the carbon tax is not helping Canada's largest emitters and therefore they want to give them a break, why do they not understand the same thing about those families who are trying to get ahead? Why do they not give those families the same break that they have given to the largest emitters?
We in this caucus want to give all of those people a complete break. We want to make sure that those families who are struggling do have that greater amount that they are looking for left over at the end of the month, so that they can use it for whatever they want, whatever their dreams and aspirations are for their families—to put a little more in the kids' education fund, to be able to take that extra vacation, not necessarily to a private island but maybe just a road trip to visit some members of the family.
If Canadians did not have to pay the carbon tax, they would be so much better off and we could achieve those environmental objectives at the same time. The government perversely understands the negative impact that the carbon tax has on some people, but it is unwilling to do what is right and necessary to help those families who would like to have a bit more in their pockets at the end of the year.
I want to read a number of quotes that highlight the problems with the carbon tax.
The first is from Massimo Bergamini, president of the National Airlines Council of Canada. He said, “A carbon tax is probably the worst tool that you can envisage for aviation if you want to reduce emissions.”
Philip Cross, a Munk senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said our society's shift to new energy sources “will be enabled by radical technological innovations not government tinkering with the tax system. Thinking otherwise reflects a refusal to learn the lessons of how foundational change occurs in our society.”
This is such an important point. The change requires technological change, and it requires the capacity for businesses to innovate. However, we have a government that calls our small businesses tax cheats and imposes punitive taxes on those who are struggling to get ahead, and at the same time gives a holiday to the largest emitters. This is not what is going to bring about a truly sustainable economy.
Dennis Darby, the CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, says, “Canada already has a significant problem attracting investment from both foreign and domestic sources”. The carbon tax “weakens our investment position”.
Jeff Carr, who I am not sure is a relative of the minister of the same name, although probably not, is the environment minister in New Brunswick, and he says the Liberals are bullying New Brunswick over the carbon tax.
We see this kind of effort to impose federal policy on provinces in so many different areas. Make no mistake: the federal government is trying to raise revenue from this. It claims otherwise and yet refuses to take the GST off the carbon tax, so with any provincial carbon tax that is imposed, whether willingly or not, the federal government will be collecting more on top of that. The least the Liberals could have done, if they wanted to help families who are struggling to get ahead, was not impose the GST on top of the carbon tax. Instead, this is a tax on tax for struggling families.
We know why the government is doing this. It is because of its out-of-control deficits. We are already paying in so many different ways for the mistakes of the Prime Minister, and this will continue.
I want to read a quote from Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph. “[T]he federal plan involves adding even more regulations to the mix”. I talked about this before. The promise of a carbon tax allegedly was about removing regulations at the same time. The Liberals are imposing new regulations while increasing the carbon tax, with plans after the next election, as we know, for further dramatic increases to the carbon tax to plug their deficit hole. The quote reads:
[T]he federal plan involves adding even more regulations to the mix—then sticking a carbon tax on top. This looks nothing like what economists have recommended.
In fact the economics literature provides no evidence this would be an efficient approach, and some evidence it would be worse than regulations alone.
There are many other different quotes I could read. I want to read from this article that I found, which I think is quite revealing. It is by Michael Binnion, who is the president of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association. The article is called “I believe in global warming—and even I think carbon taxes are idiotic”. “Idiotic” is a quotation. It says:
Let me preface by saying that I believe the greenhouse effect is real. Therefore, I am for sensible policies that reduce global emissions. Sadly, carbon taxes aren’t sensible if our goal is to reduce global emissions. They cost too much and do too little. So how did we go so wrong on carbon taxes?
Carbon taxation was originally based on a right-wing, free-market theory. The simple idea, to paraphrase Milton Friedman, is that if you tax something, you get less of it. It could elegantly allow the markets to find the most efficient ways to reduce carbon without the need for government regulations. Many respectable conservative-minded people bought into this theory. Let’s look at the reality in practice.
Theoretically, carbon prices are supposed to reduce regulation. However, in every jurisdiction where carbon pricing has been implemented, it doesn’t reduce regulation—it increases it. Carbon-pricing schemes in Europe, California and Canada are all very complicated. The Canadian government just recently introduced 500 new pages of legislation and regulation. Another example, the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan, has a carbon-tax-credit program, but acknowledges the cost of regulatory compliance is likely too high for all but the largest companies.
Let me say parenthetically that this is an area in which we see the failures of this government, which should be sensitive to the needs of small business.
With respect to the Alberta plan imposed by the NDP government there as well, when we talk about a credit program, we see that if the costs of compliance are too high for all but the biggest companies, then we are negatively impacting small business and creating a particular disadvantage and burden for those small businesses. It is not surprising, when we have a government that has called small business owners tax cheats, that when it tried to increase taxes on small business, until it was caught, it had to pull back to some extent from that, although we still saw many policies that had a negative impact on small business through that whole situation.
The article continues:
Another problem is carbon leakage, which occurs when production and investment simply move to jurisdictions without a carbon tax. In this case, emissions are simply displaced in whole or in part.
Carbon leakage is worse than you think, as it can actually increase global emissions. Take the case of Canadian aluminum, which produces only two tonnes of carbon per tonne, versus American aluminum at 11 tonnes of carbon per tonne. In practice, no one should have to explain to an aluminum worker that they lost their job because “after all, we all need to do our part,” only to have global emissions increase 550 per cent as a result. (To generalize this example, Canada’s economy is 70 per cent reliant on trade, and 80 per cent of our trade is with the United States, which has not imposed a carbon tax.)
To try and mitigate carbon leakage, every carbon-pricing scheme uses output-based allocations (OBAs). Industries that are energy intensive and trade exposed (EITE) are given free permits to emit or a carbon-tax rebate to allow them to compete. For example, we would give the aluminum industry a tax exemption for carbon taxes based on its output.
However, as carbon-tax enthusiasts like to point out, people like to avoid taxes, so everyone will lobby for a tax rebate based on complicated formulas and models. Since government determines who will receive these massive subsidies, and how much they will receive, the process is inevitably politicized.
Here is one more point in the article: “The other problem we find in practice: Demand for hydrocarbons is very inelastic.” I did not just make that up.
People will pay what it takes to heat their homes and get to work. The Conference Board of Canada found that even a $200/tonne carbon tax would only reduce 12 megatonnes of Canadian emissions before carbon leakage. Global carbon would likely only be reduced by 70 per cent of this amount. Meanwhile, just one large LNG plant could achieve more than that by replacing coal in China with natural gas.
Canada has a global comparative advantage in carbon in many industries because of our high environmental standards. A global approach to capitalizing on Canada’s environmental advantage would yield a double dividend of a stronger economy and a cleaner global environment. Carbon pricing, on the other hand, may create a green paradox—policies meant to reduce emissions that not only eliminate some people’s jobs, but [actually] increase global emissions.
The article concludes:
So why do our left-wing friends love carbon taxes, when they say reducing emissions is their concern? The answer is the epitome of Reagan’s description of government, all wrapped up in one simple, marketable policy: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And, if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
I think the article lays out the arguments very well that, because of the inelasticity of many of the goods that would be implicated in a carbon tax, we can see the government is still not going to get there. However, it is setting the stage for being able to significantly increase the carbon tax. Canadians do not want to see that happen. They do not want the government to impose a carbon tax at all. They do not want to see the big increases in the carbon tax that the government is planning. It is not economically sustainable. It does not move us toward environmental sustainability.
The article talks about new production in areas like LNG displacing the less clean energy production happening in other countries. This would present a great opportunity for reducing global emissions. If we can expand our energy sector in Canada in a way that is clean and involves respecting the human rights of workers—something that happens here in Canada and does not happen in other oil-producing jurisdictions around the world—then we will have done a great deal for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
That is what a sustainable environmental policy would look like. Let us think about building things that are sustainable, about building and growing for sustainability, not cutting our economy off at the knees, not taking a punitive approach and not imposing new taxes on those who cannot afford it while giving breaks to those who have high-priced lobbyists and connections, those who, like the Prime Minister, do not have to worry about money too much.
There is more we can do when it comes to improving our environment. Our leader just made an announcement about how a Conservative government under his leadership would work to end the practice of raw sewage being dumped into Canadian waterways. That seems, intuitively, like a pretty obvious thing we should be working toward. I know it is deeply frustrating to people in my province who believe in the environment and sustainability to see the government allow its friends at the local level to dump raw sewage, with all its associated negative impacts on the environment.
It was quite striking how the environment minister allowed former Liberal MP, former mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, while he was the mayor, to dump raw sewage into the St. Lawrence Seaway. At the same time the mayor was saying all kinds of terrible things about Alberta's energy sector. He was concerned that if there was a pipeline it might involve some accidental leakage of products of our energy resources. Meanwhile, he was petitioning the government to allow him to intentionally dump raw sewage. We are not talking about an accidental leak. We are talking about the intentional pouring of raw sewage from Montreal into the St. Lawrence Seaway.
That is something a Conservative government, led by our leader, would confront. That is real environmental policy. That is an effective way of moving us toward sustainability. It is so galling when people see the hypocrisy that somehow a single mom driving her kids to soccer or buying groceries has to pay more because it is apparently her part for the environment, whereas Liberal politicians dumping raw sewage into our waterways is totally fine.
Canadians object to that hypocrisy. We need a proper understanding of sustainability, of sustainable policy, and that is what we will deliver, not an excuse for raising taxes. We see how the government is failing when it comes to developing environmentally sustainable policies. It is using this area as an excuse to simply raise taxes.
Having spoken about environmental sustainability, I would like to talk a bit about building a sustainable energy system for our country.
As the member of Parliament for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta but also as a grandson of an engineer who worked for Syncrude in the oil and gas sector, I am very proud of Alberta's and Canada's energy sector. There are some politicians who seem embarrassed about it. They should not be. They should be proud of the technological, environmental and human accomplishments of that sector. I am proud of the legacy of my grandfather, of my province and of the country.
This is not just something that matters for Albertans. Our energy sector matters for all Canadians. All Canadians benefit from it. Albertans are happy to pay their fair share of taxes and see that money go toward helping encourage economic development and opportunity across the country.
Many Canadians who may not even know it benefit from the energy sector. People are working building pallets in Ontario, pallets that are then used to move material in our energy sector. Then there are the many people who commute. Think about the young man from Montreal who earned enough money to start a business back home, who worked in Alberta, came home and used the money to start a business employing people in Montreal. Think about the young woman from the Maritimes who was the first in her family to get an education, who had the financial security to do so because she was able to spend a few years working in the oil and gas sector. These are people from across the country who benefited from our energy sector, who were then able to build on that to create more jobs and opportunities in their regions of the country.
This is exactly what Canadians could and should be proud of, yet we have a Prime Minister who talks negatively about the impact of male construction workers who are working hard to provide for their families. Canadians found the Prime Minister's comments about male construction workers offensive. After all, these are not guys who get to sit in a heated building all day, getting paid to give their opinions. These are people who work outside in the cold, day in and day out, who are building this country. They are men and women, but in the particular example the Prime Minister used he was talking derisively about male construction workers.
The contributions to our economy and our communities that are made by working men and women should not be dismissed by a Prime Minister who had the benefit of a trust fund. These are people whose economic reality is totally different from his. The Prime Minister does not worry about their economic well-being because he never had to worry about his own, but these are people who understand what it means to pay the price for their government's failure. When new and higher taxes are imposed on them, they understand.
People in Alberta are seeing the impact of bad policies at the provincial and federal levels, but especially at the federal level, that impose new taxes on them and seek to hold them back. At every turn, the government seems embarrassed about our national success when it comes to our energy sector.
We need a Prime Minister who is not embarrassed about our energy sector. We need a Prime Minister who believes in promoting the energy sector, recognizing and promoting its successes, and who understands that a strong and sustainable energy sector is good for Canada, good for every region of Canada, good for the economy and good for the environment. The technology we develop in the oil sands can be employed around the world and the greatest possible engine for a reduction in emissions is the technological change that comes through the innovation that is happening and will continue to happen.
Unfortunately, we have a government that in many respects has a colonial mentality toward Alberta. Liberals do not take the concerns of Alberta seriously and feel they can simply govern Alberta without considering the priorities and needs of the people in my province. Our province deserves recognition and respect. Unfortunately, we have seen so little from members of the government caucus who come from Alberta. Bizarrely, we see them voting with the government against pipeline projects.
There was an opposition day supporting a major pipeline project and every single member of the government caucus, including members from Alberta, voted against that. These are people who told their constituents that they would come to Ottawa and stand up for Alberta, but they have done the exact opposite. Instead, they happily parrot the government lines with respect to our energy sector and they do not stand up for their province.
Again, it is not just Alberta that benefits from a strong energy sector. There are opportunities that spread to all regions of this country that come from having a strong energy sector. There is the benefit of people working in Alberta and bringing resources, know-how and experience back home. There are the people who work in manufacturing and value-added processes and who produce components for the energy sector or work in the area of value-added that happens afterwards.
It is interesting how the government talks about my province. It says it can give a little money here and a little money there, and very often its efforts of so-called financial support are paltry in terms of the sums. I think it was maybe budget 2017 that gave $30 million to Alberta, which is about as much as the executives at Bombardier were paid in bonuses at the same time they received a massive subsidy from the Liberal government. The sums are a pretty clear demonstration of the lack of priority that the energy sector receives from the government.
The other issue is that Albertans and people in the energy sector across the country are not looking for a little extra cash. They are looking for the opportunity to work in the energy sector. They are looking for the kinds of policies that allow the private sector-driven energy development that we have benefited from for so long to continue.
A lot of the discussion of how we build and strengthen our energy sector has recently come around the issue of pipelines. Let us review the record, often misstated in the House, when it comes to pipelines. Under the previous Conservative government, four pipelines were approved and built, and a fifth was approved with conditions but not yet built. The four pipelines built were Enbridge's Alberta Clipper, Kinder Morgan's Anchor Loop, Enbridge's Line 9 reversal and TransCanada's Keystone pipeline, which is different from Keystone XL. Northern gateway was approved, and Keystone XL was pushed hard but rejected by the American administration throughout that period.
Significant achievements were made by the Conservatives when it comes to pipelines, yet the Liberal government, bizarrely, tries to talk out of both sides of its mouth on this pipeline issue. It will sometimes oppose pipelines in its communications and other times it will suggest that the Conservatives did not build enough pipelines. Let us be clear, though, that the Conservatives approved pipeline projects that were proposed. Our friends across the way would like us to stop pipeline projects that are proposed while approving pipeline projects that have not been proposed, which I think quite clearly shows a lack of understanding of the process.
What did Liberals do on pipelines? Right out of the gate, they made sure northern gateway could not proceed. They killed northern gateway and then brought forward legislation, Bill C-48, that created a tanker exclusion zone, effectively saying that Canada's energy resources could not be exported from the Alaskan border in the north to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The effect of this exclusion zone would be, as long as it stays in place, to prevent any kind of pipeline project, regardless of who proposes it. New ideas have come forward since for new pipeline projects. For instance, indigenous communities have been actively engaged in saying they want a pipeline and want to be involved in building a pipeline, yet this is something, because of Bill C-48, that until we see a new government could not proceed.
In one letter that I read in the previous sitting of Parliament, these policies were called eco-colonialist by members of a Canadian first nation community. The government is using the environment as an excuse to impose on them policies that they do not want, to prevent them from developing their energy resources and benefiting from the prosperity associated with it.
The Liberal government used Bill C-48 and other tools to shut off the northern gateway pipeline and then imposed many new conditions to try to prevent the progress of any east-west pipeline in this country. However, after all of this, it actually wanted to look like it was playing the other side too.
The government is so disingenuous on pipelines. It is always trying to pretend to be on both sides of the question at the same time. At least with the NDP, people know what they are getting on pipelines. With the Green Party, people know what they are getting on pipelines. With the Liberals, by now, people also know what they are getting on pipelines. However, the government is not prepared to acknowledge that.
The government said that in the case of the Trans Mountain pipeline, it was not going to take the steps to allow the pipeline to proceed, but it was going to buy it. It was going to buy it without building it. People in my constituency would rather that we built it without buying it. That would have been better for the economy and less expensive for the taxpayer.
This is another example of the Prime Minister's failures. There is $4.5 billion going to a Texas-based company, which will use that money to invest in energy infrastructure in other places, not here in Canada, and to create jobs in other places, not here in Canada. Meanwhile, that company is enjoying the benefit of Canadian taxpayer dollars, and our government owns a pipeline that it does not have a plan to build.
Canadians are paying for the Prime Minister's failures. That $4.5 billion was not his money. I know he has a large trust fund, but the pipeline did not come from the trust fund. The purchase of that pipeline came from the increasing taxes that are being paid by Canadians at home who are struggling to get ahead.
The failures of the Prime Minister and the cost those failures impose on Canadians make it harder for people at home who are struggling to get ahead. This failure, in terms of the pipeline purchase with no plan to actually get it built, is yet another example of the clear, ongoing, significant failures of the government when it comes to developing sustainable energy policy.
What would a sustainable energy policy look like for this country? I would say it would look like strong transportation networks that allow us to get our resources to market and allow us to get our resources to market in the most environmentally friendly way. Pipeline transportation, of the available methods for transportation, imposes the lowest greenhouse gas emissions in the process. Why would those who claim to be concerned about emissions not actually support the development of pipelines?
There is also an opportunity in terms of the sustainability of global security when it comes to our energy resource. It was interesting to read the CBC talking about the prospective ambassador to Canada from Japan, noting how there is a real opportunity for Canada to focus more on its relationship with Japan. Hopefully we do not send John McCallum there as an ambassador, but there is an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Japan.
Japan is a country that imports the vast majority of its energy resources, and most of that is coming from the Middle East through the South China Sea. The opportunity is there for an alternative, a greater export of Canadian energy resources to Japan. I think I mentioned that I spent some time over the break in Taiwan; there is a similar opportunity for partnership in Taiwan.
If Canada can be an agent for helping to facilitate greater energy security for our like-minded democratic partners in the Indo-Pacific region, it is a great opportunity for us economically and it is a great opportunity environmentally, given how clean our energy production is, but it is also an opportunity from a global security perspective, so that these countries, these partners of ours, are not potentially vulnerable to intervention in their energy supply, which is something they obviously have to consider when it comes to their security.
One of the things that particularly frustrates my constituents when it comes to our energy resources is this area of foreign interference. The debate around how Canada develops its energy resources, how we transport our energy resources, how we use them and how we preserve the natural environment that we have been given are decisions that should be made by Canadians for Canadians, and we have every ability to make those evaluations in a responsible way. However, we continually see efforts by interest groups and entities outside of Canada to interfere with the development of our energy resources and to inappropriately influence the direction of our debates.
By the way, recognizing the problem of foreign interference in our democratic process is seen other areas. It is something that, strikingly enough, the foreign affairs minister has talked about in the past in recognizing the problem of foreign interference.
We have called for strong legislative action around things like foreign interference in elections, for example, but the government in its election bill, Bill C-76, failed to put in place any effective mechanisms to prevent foreign interference in our elections. While facially trying to block that from happening, the bill would actually allow a Canadian entity to receive money from abroad and then, as long as it receives some money from Canada, to mix that money together and use all of it in the context of a Canadian election.
If there is a hypothetical association in Canada that receives $10 million from an energy competitor and a Canadian donates $5 and that association then uses that $10 million plus $5 to be involved in the Canadian election, that is totally legal under Bill C-76 as long as the money came from abroad before the election period.
It is not hard to see what is going on here. It is not hard to see that the system that was put in place by Bill C-76 allows foreign money to come into this country and oppose the development of our energy resources, against the interests and wishes of most Canadians.
The Liberal government's failure in Bill C-76 to actually address the issue of foreign interference has significant negative impact on our economy. It tilts the discussion in our election debate when millions of dollars coming in from abroad are negatively impacting the discussion. Again, these are decisions that should be made by Canadians for Canadians. We have all of the tools here in Canada to make these decisions.
Another issue to consider in terms of foreign interference is the way in which consultations proceed for the development of our natural resource projects. Consultation is important in the development of any natural resource project. That consultation should hear from those who would be affected by the project, and we should certainly also hear from those who have expertise on the project. The approach that the government is taking with respect to consultation would effectively allow anyone and everyone—foreign interests without any direct expertise—to be able to slow down the process.
Let us have these debates here in Canada and let us make sure that we do not have this foreign interference any longer. It is deeply frustrating to my constituents and to many Canadians that our energy debates can be manipulated by foreign interests whose own economic interests are very different from ours, and yet the government is not doing anything to address that very serious problem.
What does it take to build a strong, sustainable energy sector, an energy sector that allows us to pass a strong environment and economy on to the next generation? We need to be proud of our energy sector. We need to build on those successes. We need to facilitate development of the energy sector while taking further steps by creating the right incentives for further improvement.
That does not mean imposing a punitive tax. That does not mean criticizing the energy sector. That does not mean being embarrassed by it. It means standing up for the jobs and the opportunities that are associated with that sector. I am proud to be part of a party that does that, a party that believes that Canadians want to get ahead. That means having opportunities in a variety of different sectors, and one of the key sectors is certainly the energy sector.
The clearest way in which we see the failures of the Liberal government when it comes to sustainable policies is in its failures around fiscal sustainability. This is a very clear-cut issue. We need to have a budget, a budget plan, that is sustainable in the long term, which means recognizing that whatever we spend today, we will have to pay for either today or tomorrow, and if we do not have to pay for it, then our children will have to pay for it.
Fiscal sustainability means recognizing that reality. It means balancing the budget or having a long-term plan that may involve deficits in some years, surpluses in others, but in aggregate is balanced over the medium and long term. Yes, it involves the occasional deficit in cases of severe global recession, perhaps armed conflict or natural disasters, but it does not, as a matter of course, mean just running deficits all the time. That is clearly unsustainable public policy. However, the Liberals do not understand this. They are imposing significant costs on Canadians through their out-of-control deficits, and make no mistake, we will have to pay for these deficits. If we do not pay for them now, we will have to pay for them later.
If the Liberals receive another mandate, we know they will increase taxes. They will increase the carbon tax. They will increase other taxes. They will increase taxes because they have to, as they have no fiscal plan and no capacity—no interest, even—in balancing the budget.
We have to balance the budget. We have to ensure that we have a fiscal sustainability plan.
I will make a few points clear about the government with respect to fiscal sustainability.
First, the Liberals promised during the last election that they would balance the budget this year. We are in the final year of their four-year mandate. They very clearly promised that they would balance the budget. They have no excuse for making one promise before the election and doing the opposite afterward. All the figures were public, all the information was there, and there has not been the sort of global recession that we have seen in the past. In the absence of dramatic, unforeseeable changes in the economy, and recognizing that all of the figures and information were public, they should have known and been able to act according to the plan they made. If they did not think it was good policy or that it was realistic to balance the budget in four years—even though it was already balanced at the time they took office—then they could have said so. However, they promised no more than $10-billion deficits for the first three years and a balanced budget in the fourth year. They failed to deliver on that, and now Canadians realize that since higher deficits lead to higher taxes, people who are struggling to get ahead will have to pay for the failures of the Prime Minister when it comes to delivering on the promises he made in the last election. That was a promise made by the government that it failed to deliver on.
When we do not balance budgets, it means that money that could have been going to social programs to help the vulnerable, to fighting poverty, to increasing opportunity, to cutting taxes for Canadians. Instead, that money has to be used to pay interest on debt that was accumulated previously.
The government talks about investing in Canadians and programs, but we could invest a lot more if we do not have to pay interest on debt. If we did not have the debt in this country, which was begun in a significant way during peacetime under the Prime Minister's father and which has accumulated and grown dramatically under the current government, then we could invest much more in a balanced budget framework. We could invest much more in my preferred tool, tax reduction, and give Canadians more of their money back so that they would have more left over at the end of the month. However, when we run deficits in perpetuity, when we run up massive debt and have to pay interest on it, it means that in the long term we can invest less and cut taxes less. In fact, as we have seen from the government, it means steady tax increases. When we do not have a fiscally sustainable plan and we know that voters do not want taxes increased, what we see from the government is its attempt to stealthily add tax increases everywhere by removing any kind of reasonable deductions and by adding taxes on the things that previously were not taxed.
The government had been exploring imposing taxes on the kinds of benefits employees receive. For example, if someone worked at a restaurant and received a lunch, he or she would have to pay tax on it. If some one was one of the Prime Minister's favourite male construction workers and received some kind of benefit as part of his time on the job, perhaps a meal, he would have to pay tax on it. Maybe those who had parking and had to commute long distances for work would suddenly have to pay tax on the parking spot.
We were able to push-back against the government. However, it is telling that in this area and in so many others it is trying to impose new taxes on Canadians. That is the product of not having fiscal sustainability. When the government has no plan to balance the budget, it desperately tries to increase taxes in ways it hopes people will not notice. Thankfully, we were able to call it out on that.
I asked an Order Paper question around that time about whether the Prime Minister's free nanny services he received from the taxpayers was considered a taxable benefit. Most Canadians do not receive two free nannies from their employer as a benefit of their work. I have never heard of that happening before. The Prime Minister thinks choice in child care means getting to choose which of the two nannies.
The Liberals, though, are always trying to impose new taxes on Canadians, people who are struggling to get ahead, even while not wanting those same taxes to apply to them. We can look at the approach they took to calling small businesses tax cheats and trying to increase taxes on small businesses. We saw that they were protecting their own fortunes through that process. They were not imposing new taxes on inherited trust funds, for example, but were imposing them on small businesses.
As an opposition over the last three years, we have been able to catch the government in the act on a few of these attempts to raise taxes. We have been able to work together with civil society organizations and the public to ensure the public is aware, working to put that pressure on the government. However, the public has not failed to notice how in every case, because of the lack of fiscal sustainability, because the government has no plan to balance the budget, the consequence of that is to try to impose new taxes at every turn. It is particularly instructive what the Liberals did with the small business tax rate.
The Conservatives were reducing the small business tax rate. We had a reduction to 9% booked in. Actually, in the last election, all three of the major parties, Conservatives, Liberal and NDP, agreed. In their platforms, they said that they would go to that 9% small business tax rate. The government reversed course. When it took power, it said that it would not reduce the small business tax rate, given that those plans had been booked in, effectively increasing the tax rate on small businesses.
Then the Liberals called small businesses tax cheats, attacked them and tried to propose all kinds of new ways to attack them. In response to the overwhelming response from small businesses, these great job creators, entrepreneurs who are driving the economic success of the country, in response to the objections from this community, they said that they would bring back the 9% plan. It is interesting that the government is as indecisive about the small business tax rate as some of its members are about their resignation dates.
This should not hide the general failures of the government when it comes to small business. At every turn, whether on individuals, families, people who use public transit, take their kids to sports or buy groceries, the government is increasing taxes in every way it can, at every opportunity it can, through all the means it can, and will stop at nothing because it has a massive hole in the side of its fiscal plan. We need to give Canadians an alternative to that, one which is actually fiscally sustainable. If we do not get the budget under control, this splurge of tax increases will continue. Canadians are paying for the failure of the government when it comes to the basic fiscal health of the country. Canadians know that higher deficits always mean higher taxes in the long run.
I have one more thing about balancing the budget. The government likes to invoke, directly or indirectly, the economic philosophy of John Maynard Keynes, who talked about stimulative spending in periods of economic challenge. Certainly, there is logic behind the idea of putting money aside during the good years and then stimulating the economy by spending more during challenging times. It ensures that the down periods in the economy are not associated with further cuts to the government. If we are in a healthy fiscal position, then we can have that kind of balance. If we are thinking ahead during the good years, then we are going to have more resources during the challenging years.
However, Canadians and others who advocated that philosophy never said that we could run deficits all the time. No economist thinks that constant never-ending deficits is the way to go. Eventually when we hit hard times, in that scenario, we may be at a point where we just cannot stimulate the economy and in fact we are forced to cut because there is just nowhere else to go.
We cannot run deficits forever. We cannot always spend more than we have. Eventually, we have to pay it back. The longer we leave it, the less we plan, the more we have to pay back in cost and interest at that point. What the government is advancing is not any kind of recognizable doctrine of economic stimulus. It is simply fiscal incontinence and there is a need for actual fiscal control when it comes to this situation. We know what the consequence of this will be. A lack of fiscal control means higher taxes tomorrow. It means Canadians paying for what the government has done.
Often when we have these discussions about debt and deficits, the government will talk about the debt-to-GDP ratio, saying that it is lower than other countries and so we are fine. However, what the government misses in those calculations is looking at the total debt-to-GDP ratio. It generally only looks at the federal debt-to-GDP ratio. Canada, as members know, is a country where many services are delivered at the subnational level. That is different from some other countries where a greater proportion of public services are delivered at the national level.
It is not at all an apples-to-apples comparison when comparing the federal debt-to-GDP ratio in Canada with the federal debt-to-GDP ratio in other jurisdictions. It makes more sense to compare our total government debt-to-GDP ratio to the total government debt-to-GDP ratio in other countries. If we make that comparison, we can see that Canadian debt is a real problem, that we have a total government debt-to-GDP ratio that is higher. It is at a level that is quite concerning. We are in a situation where what goes up must come down. What we pay in must be paid off at some point.
The Prime Minister and the finance minister are not at all what worried about this. They say that it is totally fine. Why is that? The Prime Minister has never had to worry about money himself, so he is not worried about ours. We see that. The Prime Minister is not thinking in a pragmatic, practical way about balancing the budget because that has never been part of his reality.
The people who I talk to in my constituency understand why the government has to balance the budget. Why? Because they have to balance theirs. Sure, they understand that during hard times maybe we will have to run a deficit and pay it off during good times. We save so we are prepared for a rainy day. There is some ebb and flow. This means that during a global financial crisis maybe we run a deficit, but we get back to a balanced budget and we pay off debt. People understand that. They also understand that we cannot just keep running up the credit card bill. We cannot just keep getting more and more credit cards and all will be fine in the end. That is not how it works. Canadians understand because they are already paying for the failures of the government. They understand that we cannot run up the credit card bill in perpetuity.
The Prime Minister does not understand that though. That has never been part of his reality. Therefore, when it comes to his approach to governing the country, there is no limit to what he is prepared to spend, especially on himself, on breaks for insiders and those who are well connected. He does not understand the need for balance. He does not understand the experience, which is real to most of my constituents and to everyday Canadians, which is needing to pay for the things they want and realizing they just cannot spend more than they have.
To summarize this point, we have a government that is pursuing a policy of unsustainable spending, and that will have consequences. The failure of the government to have a sustainable balance sheet will mean more costs and more taxes. It will mean the Prime Minister, if he is re-elected, will try and make life more difficult by imposing those taxes on Canadians, by increasing the carbon tax and other taxes. He will do it in the future because he has done it in the past. Perhaps he will say not to worry, that he will not increase taxes. In the last election, we heard there would be a balanced budget and that did not happen. He refuses even now to rule out significant increases to the carbon tax. This is the consequence of an unsustainable fiscal policy.
On a more broad level, we have seen a failure by the government to pursue an economic policy, a policy for productivity and growth that is sustainable. What are the characteristics of a sustainable economic policy? There are many, but what we would look for is a positive investment climate. We would look for a situation where companies from around the world say that Canada is a place they want to invest. We had that previously. Under the previous Conservative government, Canada had the best economic growth, the lowest business tax rate and the lowest unemployment in the G7. Despite the global financial crisis we saw the success of those policies, making Canada a positive investment climate.
This is not just some abstraction. This has real consequences for those Canadians who are trying to get ahead. When we have a positive investment climate in Canada, it means Canadians can be employed, because companies are bringing money here from abroad, starting businesses and offering jobs to Canadians. People who were previously unemployed are able to work and people who are working are able to get higher paying employment. They are able to have a little more money left at the end of the month. Therefore, a positive investment climate has concrete consequences.
On this side of the House, we want Canadians to get ahead. On the other side of the House, we see policies that are making Canadians pay more and more. A positive investment climate is important for a strong and sustainable economy.
Growing productivity, the growing capacity of workers, through technological improvements and investments, to be able to produce more in the time they spend at work is key for a strong economy. Economic sustainability also invites us to consider how well everyone is doing, not just a few but everyone. That is why we should look at tax reductions, especially targeted tax relief to those who need it the most.
Under the Prime Minister, Canadians are paying more. Canadians in the middle and at the bottom are paying more. They are paying more because of the carbon tax, because of things like the elimination of the transit tax credit and the tax credit on kids' sports. The increases in taxes we are seeing from the government are forcing Canadians to pay more, especially because we see the government willing to give breaks to large emitters, breaks to their friends at the top and subsidies through things like superclusters to those who are well connected. That exacerbates inequality.
Our approach is targeted tax relief to those who need it the most. We lowered the GST, a tax that all Canadians pay. We lowered the lowest marginal tax rate. We raised the base personal exemption. We targeted income and consumption tax reductions to those who needed it the most. We worked hard to ensure that those who were working to get ahead had a little more in their pockets. Under the Liberal government, that cannot happen because those same people have to pay more as a result of the failures of the government.
We need to take steps around economic equality, growing productivity and creating a positive investment climate to build a strong and sustainable economy. A big part of that means rewards for risk-taking. It means facilitating strong small businesses.
When it comes to supporting businesses, the government's approach is to give corporate welfare to well-connected insiders and friends of the government. Our approach was to try to create an environment where anyone, regardless of his or her connections, could start and grow a business, recognizing the power of small business as the engine of growth in this country.
Last summer, we had a very unfortunate situation. I think the tone and the policy from the current government put a real chill on those looking to start investing in this country. During the most focused attack on small business by the government, I talked to business owners in my riding. They were so frustrated. These are people who had given their lives to working in the small business sector. They said they were not encouraging their kids to go down the same road, or they were having a hard time encouraging their kids to go down the same road. They said that, although they love what they are doing, the piling on of new taxes, regulations and all the different tips and tricks by the government is making it harder for them to build and create jobs. The consequence is that they are not sure if they would recommend it to one of their children or to somebody else if asked. That is the effect of the approach of the current government.
When small businesses are not as able to make investments and grow the economy, when they are called tax cheats by the current government, then they choose not to make those investments or perhaps choose to make them elsewhere. That hurts the productivity of our economy. That reduces the jobs and the opportunities that are available. When we are looking for the tools that allow Canadians who are struggling to be able to get ahead, that requires more entrepreneurs creating jobs, more opportunities for employment and more competition among employers for workers.
When the Alberta economy was booming, there was real competition among employers, who were paying workers more and more as a result of how energetic the economy was. That obviously created some challenges for employers, but it created a lot of opportunities for people across the country who wanted to come and work in Alberta. However, when the government is continually making life more difficult for small business, it hurts its ability to get ahead and hurts the ability of its workers to get ahead.
We recognize that the government itself does not create jobs but creates the climate in which job creation could happen or in which job creation cannot happen. Right now, we have a government that, through its failure, is creating a climate in which it is that much harder for small business. That has real consequences for Canadians in terms of what they have to pay.
The government's approach is to support business through corporate welfare. It has superclusters, specials deals and government subsidies. It even gave government money to a company that said it did not really need it but it would be a great boost of confidence and it would love to have it. I am sure a lot of Canadians at home were thinking they would love to have a bit of extra money also. It is money that could have gone to tax reductions for Canadians, not just to boost the pockets of some of these well-connected companies. The top job creators in this country, the largest companies, are not big recipients of corporate welfare, for the most part. However, the current government does not understand that.
I say this. Instead of giving corporate welfare cheques to companies taking jobs and opportunity out of Canada, let us build an investment climate where people want to invest in Canada. We have seen this as well under the current government. We have seen the current government give big corporate welfare cheques to companies. Then we see those companies moving jobs outside of the country. Therefore, instead of giving money to companies that are moving jobs out of the country, let us create a climate in which taxes are low, regulation is streamlined and companies want to make investments in Canada. That has positive consequences for Canadians getting ahead, unlike the failures of the current government, which are imposing greater costs on those Canadians who are trying to get ahead.
On this side of the House, we believe that a sustainable economy is one with strong fundamentals. That, of course, requires the fiscal health of our economy to be strong. Investors can also look at the high deficits being run by the government, and they can see that the government intends to increase their taxes. Any potential international investor knows what all of us should know—even those who do not want to admit it—which is that higher deficits lead to higher taxes.
Investors can see that if they invest in Canada today and the government does not have a plan to balance the budget, inevitably they and all of us will have to bear the impact of eventual tax increases. Our economy simply cannot afford the Prime Minister for much longer. Our economy cannot afford to pay for the mistakes being made by the Prime Minister.
Having spoken about the sustainability of our economy, our fiscal situation, our energy sector and our environment, I would like to discuss the criteria for building a sustainable immigration system, a system that has the confidence of Canadians, that can build, grow and work for a long time into the future.
Historically, we have had a very successful immigration system here in Canada. We have had a system that was orderly, was compassionate and emphasized legal immigration. I am very proud to be part of a party that, while in government, had the highest sustained immigration levels in Canada's history up to that point. I am also proud to be part of a family that has benefited from Canada's immigration system. My wife's parents came to Canada from Pakistan. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, a refugee who ended up in Canada by way of South America.
Many of us, in our families, have benefited from the opportunities that come from Canada's immigration system, whether that be the humanitarian aspect, refugees, or the economic opportunities that are available to those who simply came here seeking a better life economically.
We benefit from a pro-immigration consensus in this country, and Canadians want us to get it right. They want us to get the details right, so that the immigration system works, is sustainable, everybody can benefit, and so that it works for those who are coming and for those who are already here.
We see how Liberals are, frankly, desperate to divide people on this issue, but the fact is that honest debate and discussion about how we get it right, how we ensure our immigration system is sustainable, by being orderly, compassionate and legal, is particularly important.
The government has not appropriately recognized the need to deal with the growing problem under its watch of illegal immigration, of people not going through the channels that are in place for application but are instead coming across the border from the United States, claiming asylum, even though the United States is well established and recognized by the UN to already be a safe country.
How did this happen? It happened, initially, in large part, because the Prime Minister put out a tweet that created misinformation around our immigration system. It implied that anyone and everyone could just show up here, and everything would be fine. Instead, the Prime Minister should be communicating in a clear tone about the importance of going through proper channels.
What we want is a sustainable immigration system that can work and that will work over the long term. A sustainable immigration system is one in which the channels that exist are working and functioning well, and in which people are using those channels. However, people lose confidence in our immigration system when they see people being able to come into the country and not follow the process.
How frustrating it must be for those many Canadians who are hoping to bring a family member from abroad, and that person does not happen to be in the United States and so cannot just walk across the border. People cannot just walk across the border if they are in India or China or the Philippines or anywhere else besides the United States.