Was it 1993? I thought you were there.
It's a great honour for me to see you back, Wayne.
What we have before us today is a way of looking at the analysis of the recent budget, which, in our view, does not get to the bottom of things enough.
Mr. Chair, I would like to draw your attention right away to point 7 of the motion before us. Let me take the time to read it:
7. the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and that officials appear from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., if necessary;
This is an important point, but in our opinion it is not mindful of the tremendous burden on the Minister of Finance. That is why we want to extend the hours, and I will table an amendment to that effect a little later.
The Minister of Finance has an incredible burden. This person manages the finances of a G7 country. This person is at the helm of a department and must manage Canada's $330 billion or so in a budget that serves 37 million Canadians. This person must see to every detail of the proposed measures and options suggested to Canadians. Trying to limit the golden opportunity to get to the bottom of things, to ask relevant questions and, most importantly, to have answers to those questions, in our opinion, does not respect the parliamentary system, since everyone has the right to express themselves. It is above all a lack of respect for the Minister of Finance.
This is no small matter, though. When the government tables such thick documents and measures that have a direct impact on the lives of thousands of Canadians, the least we can do is to provide the time for him to explain them and answer the relevant questions. When we limit the minister's testimony to just 90 minutes, minus the 15 or 20 minutes he will take to give his presentation, unfortunately, not much time is left to discuss in detail the commitments made and the impact they can have on the lives of Canadians, on our entrepreneurs, our businesses, our families, our institutions and our partners, whether at the municipal or federal level.
In short, it is a missed opportunity to get to the bottom of things. That is basically why we are here in the House of Commons. We have the extraordinary and signal privilege of sitting on behalf of the 100,000 constituents, in general, who live in our ridings, whether they voted for us or not. We represent all Canadians in our ridings.
The appearance of the Minister of Finance before the Standing Committee on Finance is, in our view, a key moment of transparency, a key moment of accountability, a key moment in parliamentary work and a key moment also for the person who has the extraordinary privilege—deserved, let us not forget—of being at the helm of the Department of Finance. When I say “deserved,” it is simply to remind everyone that, if we have the privilege of sitting in the House, we also have related obligations, including the obligation to respect and honour the mandate entrusted to us all.
We cannot be democrats on a sliding scale, that is, we cannot be happy when victory smiles on us and not happy when we face defeat. Democracy being what it is, we respect the will of the people. Every member in the House deserves to be here.
The government party governs, and the responsibility of the leader of the Canadian government is to choose the people he considers to be best suited for ministerial roles, for the executive. I do not want to favour one over another, but everyone knows that the Department of Finance is one of the largest departments, if not the largest, in any government.
Anyone who has the opportunity, the good fortune and the great honour to sit around the executive table, whether a so-called junior minister or a so-called senior minister, enjoys an invaluable privilege that must be fully appreciated. Around the table, everyone is equal. That is, of course, what we want.
To limit the Minister of Finance's testimony to just 90 minutes is unfortunately to deny him privileged access to speak directly to Canadians, to say exactly what drives him in this budget presentation, what his policy objectives are, and also to report on his achievements.
This is the fourth budget tabled by the Minister of Finance. This minister has been in charge of the Canadian government's public finances for three and a half years, and the time has come for a review, especially since there will be a general election in just over six months. The public will then be able to make a judgment on the current government's economic record and its management of public funds. Views may differ, but the fact remains that, after four budgets and three and a half years of government management, the time has come to take stock.
That is why this presentation to the parliamentary committee gives the minister a unique opportunity to brag, which I say in a positive way. He has a unique opportunity to highlight what he considers to be his successes and to respond to any specific or even rough attack or question from opposition members.
There's nothing personal about this. Indeed, we are here because we are the official opposition, because we are Her Majesty's—in the person of the Minister of Finance in this case—loyal opposition. Let's give the minister an opportunity to respond to attacks or relevant questions from the official opposition and other opposition parties. This is a golden opportunity. I don't see why the minister, given his high responsibilities, would not have this exceptional opportunity to answer questions directly. Certainly, he may not like some of the comments, but we are giving him the opportunity to answer them.
That is the mandate of a parliamentary committee. The minister has the privilege, but above all the duty, to answer the committee's questions.
It is also important to remember that questions will come from both sides. As we just saw in the vote a few moments ago, members of the government party hold the majority around this table and they too can ask witnesses questions. In this case, the Minister of Finance is their ally and their questions should not be expected to be particularly brutal, harsh or painful. Rather, it is an opportunity for the minister to justify his or her various policies. As they say in hockey, the minister will be able to receive passes right on his stick. However, it will be up to him to decide how to handle the puck that will end up there.
We therefore believe it is important for the Minister of Finance to appear before a parliamentary committee to have an opportunity to take stock and to answer members' questions directly about his achievements and what we consider to be measures that have not contributed to economic growth.
That is why I propose the following amendment, which makes a change to the second line of point 7 of the motion. I will therefore read point 7 in its entirety with the amendment I'm proposing:
7. the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.;