Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the MP for West Nova.
It is almost incomprehensible that it has been more than two years since the last budget and that the Liberals have only seen fit to give Canadians two brief fiscal snapshots during a time of historic economic challenges and unprecedented government spending.
The Prime Minister has added more debt in just seven years than the combined debt of all Canadian prime ministers since 1867. He spent more money per person than any other prime minister in Canadian history. Canadians have a right to ask what all of it has actually achieved and to be worried about the astounding moral failing of passing this burden on to future generations.
In 2019, the projected deficit of $20 billion was already mind-boggling. The Conservatives urged the Liberals to set out a plan to balance the budget, implement fiscal anchors and save money for the future, like Canadians struggle to do every day in their households and businesses. The Liberals' spending was already extraordinary. No government outside of wartimes or major global recessions had ever spent so much but achieved so little.
Now Canadians see the consequences: over $354 billion in deficit, over $154 billion projected for 2021-22 alone in deficits, debt interest payments that will cost Canadians $39 billion through 2026. Every man, woman and child in Canada now owes $33,000 in federal debt.
The numbers show the reality of Liberal mismanagement. The Prime Minister once said, “Canada is back”, but the truth is his plan is making Canada fall back. Now Canada is an outlier globally in all the worst ways.
Global unemployment in 2020 rose to 6.5%; Canada's to 9.5%. Global GDP declined by 4.4%; Canada's by 5.4%. In 2019, the time of the last federal budget, 46% of Canadians were $200 or less away from being unable to pay their bills. Now 53%, more than half, live that unsettling and precarious experience every single day.
The Liberals love rhetoric over substance, announcements over delivery, promises over outcomes, and they seem to make a dozen new ones every day. There is one in a section in the budget that suggests unlocking Canadians' savings is a key to boosting the country's economic recovery. It states, “Over the last year, Canadian households, in particular, have built up significant savings. When the pandemic recedes, the release of pent-up demand could translate into a tangible if temporary boost to economic activity.”
The reality is that rising costs of food, gas, lumber and essentials, to eat, get around and put a roof over one's head and declining productivity, with fewer, good-paying full-time jobs in exchange for precarious lower paying part-time work while unprecedented investment has left Canada, means that for most Canadians their savings are stretched thin and their futures are uncertain, except, of course, for the ultra-rich.
Inflation rose 2.2% in March. Eggs cost Canadians 11.4% more, gasoline prices have jumped 35.3% and natural gas costs have risen 14.1% when compared to March 2020. There is no spending limit, no fiscal anchor, and to top it all off, Canada is now entering the uncertain world of quantitative easing, literally printing money to pay our debts.
I guess at least the finance minister seems to have given everyone a heads-up. She already wanted to dip into the private savings of Canadians months ago, saying, “If people have ideas on how the government can act to help unlock that 'pre-loaded stimulus', I'm very interested.” It is the spending of the government that knows no bounds, not the savings of everyday Canadians.
In this budget, Canadians needed a plan for reopening, a plan to secure the future, assurances for their small businesses. Over 200,000 are at risk of closing forever. That is one in six small businesses, potentially affecting 2.4 million Canadian jobs. This budget needed to include a concrete plan for the private sector and for entrepreneurs to take risks and create new jobs by reducing government-imposed barriers and layers of red tape and costs that stifle innovation and new economic opportunities.
Instead, Canadians received the rude wake-up call that the government would be saddling their grandchildren with more deficits and more debt. Meanwhile, in the most elite and privileged positions, the Prime Minister and finance minister call COVID a so-called opportunity to pursue an ideological great reset of the economy and busy themselves with reimagining, all a bunch of new ways of how to spend Canadians' money.
Speaking of imaginary money, and as the shadow minister for public safety, I did not see any mention of the estimated $3 billion to $5 billion for the Liberal, wrong-headed confiscation program. It is an ever-expanding list of firearms that they will ultimately take or prohibit the use of by millions of law-abiding Canadian sport shooters, hunters, collectors and firearms owners. At least this budget does increase funding for the Canadian Border Services Agency, $312 million over five years, to fight gun smuggling and trafficking, as Conservatives have urged consistently for years.
The Liberals failed again to address a significant issue in the RCMP, which is increasing funding for training new RCMP recruits and replacing its unsafe 25-year-old service pistols. The past year created a backlog in training new recruits. According to the National Police Federation, this “will impact recruiting and training for years to come, jeopardizing public and Member safety.”
With Liberal bills currently being debated that would reduce penalties for serious violent crimes such as gun trafficking, sexual assault and assault with a weapon, while allowing for community service for sexual assault, kidnapping, arson and human trafficking, RCMP recruits will be sorely needed in the coming years.
This budget also relies on a magical boost from American investment, but the Liberals are actively destroying Canada's trading relationship. They are driving jobs, contracts and businesses south of the border with the ongoing mess the public safety minister has either actively created or passively perpetuated. It has gotten so bad that the U.S. just advised not to travel to Canada. Workers who travel to the U.S. for essential work, but do not travel daily or weekly, are constantly subject to inconsistencies and contradictions.
The Liberals should mitigate this major problem by adjusting the order in council's wording to allow essential workers to travel to fulfill contract and business obligations not based on calendar days. I personally believe that all workers and all businesses, every single one, are essential to the Canadian economy, but the least the Liberals can do is fix their own policy so those they have declared to be essential could actually do their jobs.
Another announcement that is far behind is rural broadband. After first announcing it in their 2015 election platform, the Liberals then committed to 100% of houses being connected to broadband by 2030, in both 2019 and 2020. In the government's own strategy in 2017, it said 37% of rural households had access to 50 megabytes per second download speed.
Now, four years later, CRTC's 2020 communications monitoring report shows it has only grown to 45.6%. At that rate, 75% of rural homes will not have access to broadband for another decade. The Liberals have already spent $6.2 billion since 2015, but many rural people in Lakeland and Canadians in rural and remote communities all over the country are still wondering when it will make a difference for them.
Of course, Albertans are very familiar with the Liberals roller coaster of benign neglect and outright hostility. While there is a tax measure for carbon capture and storage, there is still no hint the Liberals will reverse their anti-energy, anti-resource, anti-business policies after failing to deliver timely and accessible sector-specific support, which they promised to Canada's energy industry as it reeled from a confluence of domestic government-inflicted, and external, challenges. I have to confess a sense of bitter irony that their main energy-related budget measure deals with keeping something in the ground, despite my support of the policy and the objective.
Naturally, true to form, this budget plays provincial favourites. Alberta's finance minister sums up Alberta's frustrations that the budget “is light on increasing investment and productivity, increasing market access opportunities...and growing the economy.”
He also said, “We are gravely disappointed that the federal government once again missed an opportunity to fix the fiscal unfairness of the federation by acting on the unanimous request of provinces to retroactively lift the cap on the fiscal stabilization program.”
This means that Albertans, who have paid way more than their fair share, $600 billion more than they have received in return, continue to be penalized during economic crisis and the global pandemic.
Alberta has been a leader in job creation, clean tech, responsible resource development and fiscal contributions to Canada for decades. The province's regulatory expertise and technological achievements is world renowned, but the Liberals cannot get past their ideological objections and partisan calculations to recognize that reality.
This budget does not help the constituents I represent in Lakeland. It inevitably means higher taxes, higher costs, fewer jobs and future generations left to pay the bills.
My constituents understand the concepts of setting a budget, putting needs before wants, not throwing good money after bad and spending within one's means. People there just want to know that if they work hard they can do better, and for government to remember that it does not have its own money. It all comes out of Canadians' pockets.