moved that Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Bank of Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Madam Speaker, it is truly an honour to rise today and speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-253, the Bank of Canada accountability act.
Members may know that the Auditor General is empowered, under the Auditor General Act, to perform audits on government agencies and departments. However, there is a special carve-out, an exemption, in the Financial Administration Act that specifically excludes the Bank of Canada from the oversight that the Auditor General provides.
We are all familiar with Auditor General's reports. It is always a big day on Parliament Hill when the Auditor General tables a report after an investigation on behalf of Canadians into various departments, agencies and programs. Of course, it was the Auditor General's report many years ago that first brought to light the excessive expenses of the long gun registry. It was thanks to her work, at the time, that Canadians got to know the billion-dollar price tag of that useless and ineffective program. We can all think to times when the Auditor General has identified massive problems with the government's handling of everything from immigration protocols to transportation, and that is what this bill is all about: Bringing the Bank of Canada into line with other departments and agencies to provide that oversight so that the Auditor General is empowered to do the same types of audits that he or she does on all other agencies and departments.
Many in the Liberal establishment are opposed to this bill. The Prime Minister once said that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”, and then he ran around pulling the shades down on all the windows to keep things hidden. He is afraid of accountability and transparency now. In fact, he is so allergic to it that he has made a deal with the NDP to help cover things up at committees and in the House. It is not a surprise that Liberal parliamentarians and Liberal politicians are opposed to this bill, but Canadians are demanding this type of accountability and oversight. They are demanding it, because we are seeing unprecedented action by the Bank of Canada and unprecedented decision-making that is directly affecting the value of the money they have worked so hard to earn.
Many of the arguments against this bill that I have already heard through corporate, taxpayer-subsidized and government-subsidized media and Liberal politicians are all bogus. First of all, one of the critiques is that the bank is already audited. That is true. The bank is already audited by private-sector firms in Canada, but those are not the same types of audits that the Auditor General does. The Auditor General does not simply do a balance-sheet audit. It is not like the Auditor General goes in and tallies up everything on the left side of the ledger and makes sure it balances with everything on the right side of the ledger. No one is assuming that someone is leaving the Bank of Canada with bags of cash over their shoulder. In addition to balance-sheet audits, the Auditor General does performance audits, and that really is the whole point of this bill.
The Bank of Canada has made many decisions that have had a profound negative impact on Canadians. It decided, for example, to buy corporate bonds. It had a corporate bond purchasing program. Now, if we go to its website, it spells out some of the general criteria of what minimum thresholds companies would have to meet in order to have their bonds purchased by the bank. I should point out that it is a huge advantage to a company to have its bonds purchased by the central bank.
A bond is basically an IOU. It is debt. It is a company saying, “We don't have the money today, but loan it to us now and we will pay you back later.” Corporations have to pay for that. They have to pay interest on those bonds. When fewer people are willing to buy the bonds, those corporations have to raise their interest rates to sweeten the deal to attract more potential buyers, and that costs the corporations more money. When the Bank of Canada comes along and says, “We'll buy some of those bonds”, that is a huge benefit to the corporation that is selling the bonds.
Which bonds did the Bank of Canada buy? Why did it buy a bond from company A and not company B? Those are the types of things that we do not know. We do not know all the criteria that led to the decision-making. It could very well be that in very competitive marketplaces, say the airline industry, one airline's bonds were purchased by the bank and another's were not.
It is the same thing in the telecommunications sector. Perhaps one company's bonds were bought and another's were not. Let us be clear. It is not buying these bonds with its own money. The Bank of Canada creates money. When it buys these corporate bonds, it is creating new money right out of thin air, which has an impact on the purchasing power of the money Canadians have worked so hard to earn. In fact, it dilutes that every time new money is created.
In addition to the corporate bonds, it has been buying government bonds, and boy has it ever. It has been on a buying spree for almost two years. From the beginning of the pandemic, when the Prime Minister ran out of other people's money to borrow, he had to turn to the Bank of Canada, and the Bank of Canada was only too happy to oblige.
The Bank of Canada, since about April of 2020, has been bankrolling the Prime Minister's deficit spending to the tune of about $400 billion. That is $400 billion of new money created right out of thin air. That is what is causing the inflation today, and that is why Canadians have a right to know what the bank was doing and what criteria it was following, and report back to Parliament and ultimately to Canadians.
We have never seen this type of intervention in our monetary policy in our nation's history. Back in the great global recession of 2008, the previous Conservative government held the line on monetary policy. It was a difficult time. Many of my colleagues were in the House at that time. A lot of difficult decisions had to be made, but the previous Conservative government understood that if money starts to be printed out of thin air it makes an already difficult situation even worse.
That is what we are seeing today as we are coming out of the pandemic, after two years of hardship and the emotional toll it took on Canadians individually. People had to go long periods of time without seeing their loved ones. Many small business owners were watching their entire life's work evaporate as restrictions prevented them from opening their doors and serving their customers.
Coming out of that, now Canadians are being faced with punitive rates of inflation. Things that had cost $10 or $12 are now going for $18 or $20. One almost needs to get a pre-approval on a new loan to go grocery shopping these days as we see the prices escalating. Tools, lumber and all types of everyday purchases Canadians make are going up and up. The government would have us believe this is just something that happens and that it is like the weather: “We are going through an unexpected cloudy period, and inflation is up a little this quarter.” That is nonsense. Inflation does not just happen. It is a direct result of the monetary policy of the Bank of Canada working hand in hand with the government of the day. That is why this proposed act is so necessary. We need to restore the independence of the Bank of Canada.
The Bank of Canada's independence has been undermined by the government's decisions to bankroll its deficit spending with all that new money creation. That is why prices are going up today. It is actually rather simple. If we have the same number of goods but dramatically increase the number of dollars going around, prices will go up. It is not rocket science. In fact, these are basic laws of economics. More dollars chasing fewer goods equals inflation. That is precisely what we are seeing today.
The government will try to have us believe inflation is happening because of external factors. Do members remember when it tried to blame the war on Ukraine? It tried to blame inflation on Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine. Guess what? Inflation was happening long before the invasion of Ukraine. The previous summer, on the eve of the election, inflation was already ticking up to record levels.
We all remember the famous quote the Prime Minister said in the middle of an election when inflation was only at about 4%. Do members remember those days, when inflation was only as bad as 4%? Our party started to challenge the Prime Minister and the Liberals on this and highlighted to Canadians it was their economic policy causing the inflation. What did the Prime Minister come back with? He said, “you'll forgive me if I don't think about monetary policy.” Well, we do not forgive him. He should think about monetary policy. I guess he does not understand it, otherwise he would know that he is to blame for all that inflation.
Liberals try to say that it cannot be the Prime Minister's fault, that, yes, there is inflation in Canada, but there is inflation in other countries, too. That is true. Other countries that made the same foolish decisions to run the printing presses during a time of economic contraction are also experiencing record levels of inflation. Some countries did not do that. There are several countries around the world that preserved the value of their currency and are not experiencing the same punitive levels of inflation that Canadians are having to pay.
The government's argument is a little like if someone told me I was putting on a bit of weight and I might want to look at my eating habits, and I said that obesity is a North American problem, that obesity rates in North America are the real challenge and that it cannot be anything I do because I live in a continent where it is a challenge for a lot of people. No, of course not. It is because of the decisions of each individual, just like it is the decisions of each individual country that are causing the inflation we are seeing today.
At the end of the day, the dollars that we carry around with us, the ones and zeros in our bank accounts, have no intrinsic value. We cannot do much with a 20-dollar bill or a 100-dollar bill. The only reason why other people accept it as payment is that there is a level of trust. There is a level of trust that someone else will accept it as payment and give the same value that was received. When the Bank of Canada undermines that trust by creating all that money washing through our system, it devalues the value of the money that people work so hard for. It is a form of fraud.
If people agree to provide labour to an employer for a given salary and then at the end of the quarter or the end of the year the money they receive for the work they have done is worth less, they have been defrauded of what they agreed to. They cannot go back and take away 6% to 10% of their labour. They cannot go back and tell the employer that the dollars they were paid with are now worth less, so they would like some of their time and energy back. They cannot do that. They have already given that to their employer, and the money they receive is now worth less than what they agreed to. That is why inflation is the worst form of tax.
Of course, governments love inflation, because it makes the debt they have accumulated easier to pay off. Inflation is great for people who have the ability to borrow, and that is what we saw during the pandemic. As the Bank of Canada washed all that money through the system, the people who got the money first got to buy things before prices went up. These large financial institutions and investors who had access to that early money first were able to accumulate all the assets. By the time the rest of us get the money, through wage increases and other phenomena, the prices have already gone up and those wealthy investors get to sell at record profits. That is why there have been such big winners during the last two years. Members should look at the stock market and check what bank shares have done in the last two years. Bank shares have gone up dramatically since the start of the pandemic.
When we look at the Bank of Canada's balance sheet and the money supply charts, factoring in all the money in Canada, everything from the ones and zeros in our bank accounts and the digital money that we all have in our chequing and savings accounts to the cash and all the various credit products that exist out there, the rate of increase in the money supply tracks almost identically with the balance sheet at the Bank of Canada.
That is what this bill is all about. It is about providing the first steps toward accountability and transparency so that Canadians can have their confidence in the Bank of Canada restored. The independence of the Bank of Canada has been undermined by the political decisions of the Prime Minister. If we want to get our finances under control, if we want to get the value of the money that we have worked so hard to earn stable, we need this first step toward accountability so we can understand what the decision-making process was and what the costs were to Canadians.
I have one final point. We are going to hear arguments from the opposite benches about why this bill will undermine the Bank of Canada's independence. In fact, it is quite the contrary. The Bank of England is subject to parliamentary oversight through its equivalent of the Auditor General. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has the same types of audit provisions that I am proposing today. The European Central Bank has similar types of provisions, with its version of the Auditor General. In fact, Canada is a bit of an outlier in the fact that it is allowing its central bank, which has such enormous power over our economy, to be excluded from this oversight.
This bill is long overdue and I hope all members of the House will support it.