Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to speak in debate on the government’s economic update document. This debate is rapidly morphing into one of the most controversial debates in Canadian history. For all its merits, the economic update presented by the Minister of Finance on November 27 has singularly flushed out the opposition’s pent-up need to wrest power from the government.
I have received many phone calls from my constituents. They are puzzled, disappointed and outraged by the opposition’s unprecedented attempt to form its own government illegitimately.
The three opposition parties are desperate enough to form an unholy alliance that runs counter to the conventional wisdom, and worse, counter to the desire of voters in the recent federal election. I have constituents who believe the leaders of these parties should not only be thwarted in this gluttonous attempt to grab power, but should spend their time in leg irons. Canada is laid low by this coalition, and if power is allowed to change hands on this issue, we stand to become an international black hole at this critical economic juncture.
Let us consider for a moment why the economic update is a credible document that is custom made to plot Canada’s course through an economic storm. The opposition’s antics have unfortunately put the document’s real intent on the back burner.
Let me interject something here: the opposition had decided to seize power in a bloodless coup even before they saw our economic update. They have admitted as much. Even before we brought in a budget, they feared Canadians might really like what we were doing and what we were presenting. The agreement between the NDP and the separatist Bloc had already been made long before this fiasco unfolded. Any scheme, any plan would have been enough to precipitate what they are doing here today.
The naysayers have obscured the fact that the government has reduced the federal debt by $37 billion. That is unprecedented. That is something many predicted would be impossible to do. We have done it. Over 2007-08 and the five years following, we will have reduced taxes by nearly $200 billion. That too will be an unbelievable accomplishment. We will have reduced the tax rate on new business investment to the lowest level in the G7 by 2010.
When people talk about an economic stimulus, we have already done it. We have made unprecedented investments in job-creating infrastructure. We have invested in science and technology. We are investing in education and training. We all know that an intelligent investment provides financial returns to workers, to industry and to government.
The opposition would see that we have already addressed the things they are complaining about, if they would only look at the document. The opposition contends that this government has failed to provide fiscal stimulus for the economy. Perhaps they should get around to reading what we have done and looking at how we compare to the other industrialized nations. Nothing could be further from the truth than their accusations.
No advanced industrialized economy in the world has enacted measures as large as those in Canada. We have done more than any other country. It is notable that the stimulus measures in most countries are temporary, yet the Canadian measures are permanent, and when compared to the permanent measures chosen by some other countries, Canada’s are the highest. Since 2006, the government has announced stimuli equal to 1.4% of GDP. They are incremental in 2008-09 and are almost 2% of GDP in 2009-10. Most countries with permanent stimuli are closer to 0.1% to 0.3%. We are many times higher in this country.
I think the opposition is frustrated by the fact that we are being so successful. This government understands trends. When stimulus measures are temporary, their impact on GDP the following year is negative.
We see some of these things happening in other countries. The stimuli being suggested by the NDP, Liberal and separatist Bloc have been tried in other countries, including the U.S., and they have not worked. It would be irresponsible for us to carry out some of the suggestions the other side is contemplating. It would be blindly putting money into programs that in other areas have already been proven to be ineffectual.
In the year after the measures expire, the government is contributing less to GDP than the year before. It subtracts from year-over-year growth when we put in place ineffective measures to stimulate the economy. Does the opposition want this country to grow or not?
Let us consider the opposition's real motive for cobbling together a power grab that millions of people find unsettling, undemocratic and downright un-Canadian. One has to seriously consider what is not to like about a government that has changed the economic face of an entire country for the better.
I would be pleased to tell the House what is not to like about this document from the opposition's perspective.
The initial draft of this document was going to remove the taxpayer subsidy paid to political parties, one of three subsidies they receive. It was about cutting spending, which would have hurt three opposition parties, because their fundraising tactics are all about entitlements. It is about abject greed. Again, I want to emphasize that we were only removing partial subsidies to politicians.
The opposition's public relations and media relations machines have been cranking out top-notch propaganda ever since November 27. The scale of the opposition's abject greed was something we did not foresee. That was a misjudgment on our part. That is where we went wrong.
We gave the opposition too much credit for being genuinely concerned about preserving Canada's superior economic status. We should have known opposition members would react this way, but we had a modicum of faith that they too would see fit to curtail the handover of Canadians' hard-earned wages to parties that were really doing nothing to earn it.
My own party would have taken the biggest hit of all, but we were convinced that old-fashioned political fundraising would have kept us strong. The other parties were not. All parties should be supported by people who have enough faith in their policies to open their wallets voluntarily and invest in our collective future. That is democracy.
The opposition parties do not see it that way. That is why they pretend to object to the economic update as a whole. My constituents have seen through this, and I suspect Canadians from coast to coast have seen through it as well. That is why the opposition parties have chosen to hide behind each other's skirts rather than to take that issue to the people. Our government would prefer to have another election. It is a cowardly solution for the opposition to smugly threaten to snatch power without an election.
All three parties need the taxpayer subsidy because they do not have grassroots support to carry on their viable political parties. This is a cowardly position and I can only hope Canadians will punish them for it.
I fear for the country. If this coalition is allowed to form a government, I fear that the reaction from western Canadians will be one of intolerance for a kangaroo government that will almost surely neglect their needs. This is a very divisive move on the part of the opposition.
The Bloc Québécois gets up in the morning to rip this country apart, yet it is an integral part of the coalition that can dictate policy to government. How have we arrived at a point where the Liberal Party and the NDP will take the Bloc into their tent? Attempting to bring down the government is a slap in the face to all Canadians, and to none more than those who live in my province.
The coalition is adding insult to injury for the people who grow our food. The Liberals, NDP and separatist Bloc are turning a blind eye to Canada's real risk takers, our farmers, whose livelihoods depend solely on good weather, decent prices and hard work. The coalition parties should not be surprised if there is a wholesale revolt against their power grab by rural people all across Canada. They are, by all indications, extremely angry at the entire parliamentary institution, and all of us in this place bear the blame.
This government is attempting to restore parliamentary equilibrium. We have offered concessions by removing specific controversial issues from our original economic update in an effort to restore calm.
We have offered concessions. We are willing to work together with the opposition parties. We have invited them to submit their proposals. No, they want to simply grab power. They are not interested in restoring calm. The new coalition will have nothing of our offer to have it work together with us. This is clear evidence that the fiscal update was not the issue. It was an excuse for their banana republic-style, bloodless coup. Parliament has plummeted to perhaps the lowest ebb in our nation's history and it is up to us, all of us in this place, to fix it.
Hon. Joseph Volpe: You believe that so intensely that you have to read it over and over and over.
Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I think I have struck a nerve, Mr. Speaker. I think some of them do not like the fact that we have pointed out that the Liberals have joined together with the separatist Bloc. Let me continue.
If we fail in our quest to put the economic well-being of Canadians first, we will surely deserve all the vitriol and derision that comes our way from across the nation, and believe me, it will come. If we do not relent, if the coalition does not stand down, how can we expect anything but cynicism and outrage in return?
It is painfully obvious that the coalition was created to provide it with a quick and easy access to the public purse. That is what it is all about, to get hold of the treasury of Canada. It is all about getting drunk on power that it has not earned.
On October 14, the electorate told each one of those parties that they did not deserve to form a government. That is just six weeks ago. We have not even had time to bring down a budget, and budgets should be the point at which a government lives or dies. That is when confidence motions take place. The opposition was not even willing to wait for that time.
It is incumbent upon the Governor General to remind the coalition parties that the electorate made it clear they were not invited to govern this country.
If I were still a school teacher, I would be tempted to send all three parties to their separate corners to think carefully about what they are threatening to do. Perhaps more appropriately, they should consider what they are about to undo. They can tear this country asunder as they cater to their own self-interests. Punks and street gangs know there is safety in numbers, and these parties are using their collective numbers to bully the country in letting them ascend to power.
Ms. Yasmin Ratansi: Who created that word?
Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Opposition parties point to the results of the last election. They say the Conservatives did not get 50% of the votes, but I would like to point out to the person heckling me across that the separatist coalition that was formed got zero per cent votes in the last election, yet those parties want to grab power.
The gangs can become unruly mobs when leadership is challenged and the pecking order is disputed. If this gang is allowed to govern our country, I predict we will all bear witness to a sad litany of internal bickering, distrust and mutiny from that side of the House.
Canadians deserve better. Canadians deserve an economic future that is sculpted by a party with compassion, the Conservatives. We must not be hoodwinked by the tub-thumping coalition that bleats long and loud that it is about the people. In its case, it is about the people, the people who are glueing themselves together across the floor into an alliance that is going to systematically decimate Canadian economic policy. It will undo all the responsible planning that this party has taken pains to establish.
We saw the economic mess coming and we were ready for it. To bully us into the cheap seats now will put all we have done at risk, and with it goes the envy of the G7 nations, the stable fiscal policy that has so far averted disaster and kept Canada relatively secure.
I stand here today concerned about the direction the opposition is threatening to take us. I stand here today concerned about where our country might end up if we hand the reins to a coalition that is rife with spendthrifts, opportunists and separatists. No good can come of this ugly act of desperation.
The government removed the segments of the economic update deemed most offensive to the opposition parties, yet the smell of blood still permeates this place. The signing of an unholy alliance on December 1 means that they will not rest until they taste blood. It lies with all of us to stave them off. In the meantime, I would urge the opposition parties to stand down, think hard and cool off.
The government has demonstrated a willingness to alter the economic update to better suit the opposition's needs. We have done what we can to appease and assuage the ire because the stakes are too important, but there is one thing I believe the three leaders in this coalition should share with all of us: How did that handshake really feel? Why do they not reveal the agreement that they made? How much money was promised to come out of the treasury of Canada to appease certain elements in this coalition?
I want to address some of the questions now that I have finished my main remarks. We have heard the separatist coalition say that we are not stimulating the economy enough. We are putting money into infrastructure. We have already started doing that. We will continue to do that. It is complaining that we have not done that. We are doing more and we have a program. We want to continue with that program to improve the infrastructure in Canada, more than was ever done by a previous government, and that will help business. It is being done in a very responsible way, and in a way that will help the country.
It also talked about the fact that we are not stimulating the economy. We have done a phenomenal amount already. The tax measures that will take place on January 1, 2009 and that are being put at risk are the tax-free savings accounts that Canadians will be able to establish. They can put $5,000 every year into an account that will accumulate and be there for anything they would like to use it for in the future, without having to pay any taxes on the interest or any increase in the value of that fund. It could be phenomenal. Young people with a tax-free savings account, where they put in whatever savings they are able to, could have a tremendous amount of money to buy a house, to do whatever, or to retire with a very good and secure pension.
We are increasing the basic personal exemption amount to $10,100 this year. We are reducing the general corporate income tax to 19%. I know some of my opponents opposite will complain about this, but that is a very effective economic stimulus, something the government has done.
I would also like to elaborate on some of the things we have done already: 1.4% of GDP, incremental in 2008-09, and almost 2% of GDP, total in 2009-10 since 2006, has made us the top nation in the G7 when it comes to stimulating the economy. The opposition parties say we are not doing anything. We are the envy of all these other nations. It is a shame that they would make that accusation when it is totally false. They are repeating a lie so many times in the expectation that Canadians might accept it.
Let Canadians look at the facts. We are better poised than any other country to really weather the economic storm. Yes, there will be tough times ahead. We do not deny that. We have asked the House to wait for our budget. However, there is a fear there that when Canadians see what we are doing, we will get more support, and this coalition, this unholy alliance that has been formed, will have to sit in the cheap seats for a long time.
Money will be spent to hold this separatist coalition together. Whether it is effective or not, it will be spending money from the treasury of Canada. I warn Canadians about this. This is upsetting to me. That is why we should be very alarmed. This secret agreement, not available for the public to see, will give politicians things that we do not know about. These parties made agreements that they are not revealing, not on their website, not anywhere. These are secret agreements. This is a power grab by the opposition parties, which is irresponsible, to get their hands on the treasury of Canada.