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View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2020-02-25 17:31 [p.1539]
Madam Speaker, I am glad to be joining the debate on the NDP motion. I again thank my constituents for sending me here to represent them in this cathedral of our democracy and to speak to the motion.
When I was looking over both the text of the motion and listening to the debate so far, I like the first part, but I have a problems with the second part. The first part reads:
That the House call on the government to change its proposed tax cuts by targeting benefits to those who earn less than $90,000 per year, and use those savings to invest in priorities that give real help to Canadians...
The first part is a rich mouthful. There is a lot there for Conservatives to agree with. We want to see more tax savings for Canadians with more reasonable means, people who are working class or trying to get into the middle class, a term that the government cannot define although it has a minister responsible for it.
It is the second part I have a problem with. It says, “including dental coverage for uninsured families making less than $90,000 per year.”
That gives me a heavy groan. That is a Yiddish proverb, “A rich mouthful, a heavy groan”. The motion is exactly that.
I could get completely behind the first part. It is rich in a lot of things I would like to see done for Canadians earning less than $90,000.
However, it gives me a heavy groan when I see after the comma what is basically an intervention into a provincial jurisdiction. I am sure every Bloc member will appreciate this, because it is a provincial jurisdiction. It is up to our provinces to provide this. The Alberta government provides 21 different public service plans in health care, including drug plans and mental health plans that are created for our residents.
Let us talk numbers. My colleague who spoke before me talked about numbers. We have a $26.6 billion deficit. We are accumulating debt for future generations to pay off.
If we go back to budget 2015, it expected $263.2 billion worth of spending. Budget 2019 said that by the 2022-23 fiscal year, we would be spending $358.4 billion. That is an incredible increase in financial resources that the Government of Canada is expending. We do not have a surplus in any of those years. It is all debt and deficit spending.
This is where I start having problems. When I look at these numbers, in budgets 2015, 2019 and 2020, we would be spending about $302.6 billion. Budget 2019 actually showed that we were spending $329.4 billion. We have a structural deficit in the country. The government is spending more money on programs than it is bringing in.
I want tax cuts, especially for lower-income Canadians. It is targeted at the right place. The NDP has it right at the beginning of the motion and then completely loses the story on the back end when we look at the numbers and what is going on with public finances.
I have looked at the main estimates and old age security payments for 2019-20 are $42.7 billion. It is one of the biggest programs in government right now. Guaranteed income supplement payments are $12.8 billion. Looking at these numbers, what strikes me the most is that in the past two years old age security has gone up by $4.5 billion in spending. That curve does not go down; it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
This is usually targeted toward low-income seniors who are receiving these payments. Obviously, we want to do right by our seniors who helped build this great country and set us on the right path to build an even greater country. Whatever we can do to make Canada better is something for which we should be striving. The problem is that we need to bring in enough revenue to pay for all these things.
The government in the last little while has announced $41.3 billion of new spending over five years, unbudgeted in any way. It is absolutely ridiculous. How can we make right by people?
The previous member from Saskatchewan mentioned Roy Romanow. He was on a West of Centre podcast. He talked about fiscal responsibility, ensuring savings and thrift in government. These are all things with which I agree. Those Prairie NDPers are cut from a different cloth. It is a cloth that I sometimes agree with, not always but sometimes, especially at the provincial level. On the podcast, he said that when he took over the Saskatchewan government, it had $14 billion in debt. He talked about the reality.
He said that if we do not get out of debt when we have a deficit and are accumulating more debt, decisions will be made by those who lend out money: bankers. They will make the decisions for us. Bondholders will be making public-policy decisions for us, because as credit ratings begin to downgrade, as the Moody's of the world, financial investors and speculators start making judgment calls on whether we are running our finances correctly, they will constrain our ability to make the right decisions for the residents in our provinces.
I will give the House an example from my province of Alberta.
In 1990, when Premier Ralph Klein took over government, there was a terrible situation: a massive deficit, a large volume of debt. At that time, he tasked Stockwell Day and Jim Dinning, successive treasurers, to get him back on track. It required the closure of entire government departments. They were not doing this because they had some great love for putting civil servants out of work. They did so because those who were lending them money told them they would not lend out one more penny. They hit the debt wall.
What happens when we hit the debt wall? We are incapable of borrowing and of paying debt interest. When debt interest becomes the second largest line item in our budget, we have a spending problem and we have to stop. Those who suffer the most when those decisions have to be made are those who earn less than $90,000. They are lucky if they have an income. Usually they are losing their jobs at that moment.
There came an oil and gas boom on the royalty side, specifically for natural gas, that helped Alberta get itself out of debt. By 2002-03, Alberta had paid its debt in full. There was a great sign that Ralph Klein used to hold. He was proud of it. That is an important image to remember. It has happened to provinces before, and there is no reason why it cannot happen to the federal government.
One of my constituents sent me an email about the unconstitutional carbon tax. The Court of the Queen's Bench in Alberta has decided to call it a constitutional Trojan horse. We all knew this from the start. It was just an attempt to get more revenue into government coffers.
I remember this discussion at finance committee and asking a question about it, the same question that Leon in my riding asked: When are Albertans going to get a complete refund of every single dollar they have spent on this unconstitutional carbon tax in their province? I am not talking about the rebate. I am talking about 100% of the cost that was imposed, basically illegally, on Albertans, in my home province. That is what I want to know from the government. I want to hear the Liberals answer this question.
Difficult decisions were made by Roy Romanow, who was mentioned by the previous member. Premier Romanow had to close 52 rural hospitals. He said this on the podcast and I had to look it up afterward. I am guessing that did not make him a very popular premier, which he readily admitted afterwards, but service delivery had obviously changed in health care and those were difficult decisions to make. Those are not decisions I want to see a future government constrained by because bondholders, bankers and speculators are betting on whether Canada can pay off its debt and betting on whether Canada will ever get into a position where the deficit has been reduced to zero and we are on track to returning some of the money.
There is no great recession going on right now worldwide. There is no reason we cannot return to a surplus budget. There is only one political reason for it: The Liberal government is incapable of stopping its spending.
To return to my Yiddish proverb, “a rich mouthful”, the motion gets this right. People earning under $90,000 a year deserve greater attention from the government to lighten their tax burden. Working-class families, single-income families and single-parent families do not need to pay more in taxes. They should be paying less. The problem is that establishing a new government program now, after $41.3 billion of more spending, is the wrong way to go.
I hope other members in the House will reflect upon these numbers. We are in a bad fiscal situation. Eventually, the big companies that do the ratings will take away our AAA credit rating. I do not want to be here when a government has to announce large budgetary cutbacks.
Just to repeat, this is provincial jurisdiction. It is up to a province to decide how it wishes to spend its money. It is not for the federal government to intervene in what should otherwise be completely up to the provinces to determine.
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