Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House again to continue to respond to the 2021 budget that was tabled by the federal government yesterday.
As so many parliamentarians, members of the media, stakeholders and even some ordinary Canadians have done, I too have spent hours poring over the contents and the backgrounders, the annexes and other finer details of this budget. Since this is the first budget we have seen in over two years, to be true, a dubious record for Canada, and given the unprecedented health and economic circumstances we are in, I was very eager to receive and review the budget to determine what it would mean for Canadians in the short, medium and long term.
Before I get into the details, let me once again congratulate my colleague the Minister of Finance for making history yesterday as the first female finance minister to table a budget in this House. As I said yesterday, this consequential achievement is long overdue. My four daughters will undoubtedly take inspiration from her.
That said, they certainly will not take inspiration from the budget that the minister has laid before us. This is by far the biggest-spending budget in the history of our nation. It has delivered an avalanche of spending the likes of which our country has never seen before, and yet for many this budget will be a major letdown.
With well over two years since the last budget, the government has had ample time to get this right. For way too long, Canadians have been left without a comprehensive plan for our economy to guide us through what has now become the stormiest season of our lifetime. One would have expected that, with so much time to prepare, the government would have offered Canadians renewed hope and confidence that a secure future would still be theirs. One would have expected a revised and hopefully more effective plan to get Canadians vaccinated in short order. One would have expected a clear plan to safely reopen our economy and get Canadians back to work again. One would have also expected a bold strategy to help struggling small businesses back on their feet again. Finally, one would have expected a responsible government to come forward with a credible plan to manage the massive financial consequences of this COVID pandemic, consequences that future generations of Canadians will be saddled with and have to pay for.
Those who were hoping to see these things in the budget will surely be disappointed. This not a budget that has been developed to fight the pandemic; this budget was developed to help Liberals fight an election. Of that, there can be no doubt.
To be sure, there are a number of positive measures in this budget, some of which we will undoubtedly support and promote, especially those that continue to help Canadians through this very difficult time and also those investments that secure our long-term prosperity. They should expect our support for those.
For example, we are pleased to see that the government listened to us and to the many business organizations across Canada and extended the Canada emergency wage and rent subsidies. We are supportive of a number of important small business measures, such as the new hiring incentive program, the promise of lower credit card processing fees, and supports to help businesses move online in a digital economy.
Sadly, what is completely missing from this budget is emergency support for new businesses, which have somehow fallen through the cracks because in early 2020 they did not yet have the established revenues to qualify for the government's emergency support measures. They are still falling through the cracks.
We also support the introduction of a policy that would allow companies to expense the full value of qualified capital investments in the same fiscal year in order to encourage companies to reinject their corporate savings back into our economy on an expedited basis. We welcome the extension of the student loan interest waiver and the making of additional investments in broadband to improve connectivity within Canada.
Similarly, we welcome additional steps to eliminate the interprovincial trade barriers that measurably undermine our economic growth. We also support the decision to extend sick leave for seriously ill Canadians to 26 weeks. This is precisely the type of spending we are inclined to endorse.
We Conservatives have consistently supported the government in its efforts to help Canadians through the health and economic crisis of our lifetime, and members can be sure we will continue to do so, but there is more to a federal budget than just borrowing and spending. Budgets are about promoting economic growth, including the setting of priorities. They are about exercising fiscal prudence and probity and delivering to future generations a bright and economically sustainable future, and that is what is missing in this budget.
In the lead-up to budget day, we provided both the Prime Minister and his finance minister with a list of must-haves for this budget for the government to win our support. These were measures that we believed were absolutely essential to safely reopen our economy, get Canadians back to work again and provide future generations with the hope and confidence that they can still live out their Canadian dream. As I mentioned, a number of these measures have made their way into the budget. It is amazing what happens when the official opposition does its job by prodding and poking the government from time to time, so I commend the minister for acting upon at least some of our asks.
However, instead of creating a sustainable road map for economic recovery, and I emphasize the word “sustainable”, this budget appears to represent a wasted opportunity to do right by future generations of Canadians. It does not deliver a comprehensive plan to position our economy for long-term success. Spending a loan is not an economic plan. The budget fails to sufficiently address the most important structural weaknesses in our economy, including our declining productivity. Nowhere does it meaningfully address the dramatic flight of foreign capital from our country, nor does it commit to comprehensive regulatory and tax reform.
This budget is notable for its marked pivot away from our natural resource sector, another vote of non-confidence in a sector whose contributions to our national prosperity have been immense over the years. There is no mention of our world-leading and ethical oil and gas sector. There is no critical minerals strategy, just half-hearted measures about consultations, research and a centre of excellence. The government's failure to meaningfully address the skyrocketing cost of housing means that millions of Canadians will see their dream of owning a home slip through their fingers. This is another failure.
Some two billion dollars' worth of trade crosses our common border with the U.S. every day, yet the budget scarcely touches on border security and trade facilitation, and it makes no mention whatsoever of what steps are being taken to plan for an eventual safe reopening of our border. The budget also fails to measurably address the state of Canada's health care and, most importantly, the mental health wall that our country faces. Fortunately, our Conservative leader has identified this significant vulnerability and has committed to addressing this challenge in a future Conservative government.
We had called for the current Liberal government to stop supporting and investing taxpayers' money in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is an institution that delivers no meaningful or measurable benefit to Canadians. With Canada's current bilateral relationship with China in utter disrepair, giving taxpayers' money to this China-led organization is completely futile, indefensible and unacceptable. Did the minister respond to our request? No. For the Liberal government, it is business as usual with the communist regime in Beijing.
We are judging the government's budget not on the quantity but on the quality of its spending. Based on that standard, we have found this budget to be wanting. Notwithstanding the additional benefits that the budget would deliver for Canadians who continue to struggle through this pandemic, measures which we support, it is enormously expensive, as members know, and it would dramatically expand the role of government in the lives of Canadians.
Last year's deficit will be a staggering $354 billion, and the government has no plan whatsoever to eliminate its deficits. Our national debt is expected to reach $1.4 trillion this year, with the government signalling that this debt is likely to hit an eye-popping $1.8 trillion by 2025. That is why the Liberals asked for an increase in the debt ceiling to $1.83 trillion.
Presumably with this in mind, the Prime Minister gave the finance minister a revised mandate letter in which he laid out three clear directives to safeguard our national finances. Those directives were: first, avoid creating new permanent spending; second, review Canada's debt management strategy; and third, present a new fiscal anchor. That is the standard the Prime Minister himself has set, and Canadians should be able to take him at his word. Therefore, we are going to measure this budget against that standard.
How did the Prime Minister and his finance minister do?
Let us look for a moment at permanent spending. Remember that the finance minister was instructed to have no new permanent spending. Instead of complying with the Prime Minister's instructions and mitigating against the immense financial challenge facing our country, the finance minister and her government have triggered a plethora of new permanent spending commitments that will likely hobble the prosperity of generations for years to come and mean massive new taxes under the Liberal government.
Similarly, the minister's half-hearted attempt to present a debt management strategy falls far short of the rigour expected of an accountable and responsive government. Indeed, the budget failed to justify why the minister felt that further economic stimulus in the amount of $100 billion was needed when GDP growth has strongly rebounded. She should be happy about that. Preloaded stimulus is the form of savings is primed for release. American stimulus and infrastructure investments well north of $4 trillion are ready to wash over into our economy.
Then we found out in the budget and from exceedingly frank finance officials that much of the stimulus was not stimulus at all. It was emergency support funding, much of which we support, and it was programming that bore absolutely no relation whatsoever to stimulating the economy. Imagine our surprise when a departmental official opined “Oh well, all government spending is stimulus.” No, it is not. All the minister had to do was be transparent about her $100 billion, as we would likely support a number of the initiatives that this fund would support. However, we know that there is an election around corner, and it is now very clear that this funding of $100 billion is simply intended to stimulate the re-election of the government.
Then there is the Prime Minister's directive to present a new fiscal anchor. It was very clear to the finance minister that she present a new fiscal anchor.
The minister referenced that anchor on page 53 of her budget. That is another fail. The closest this anchor comes to being a true anchor is its vague commitment to “reducing the federal debt as a share of the economy over the medium-term.” That is it. That is not a new anchor. That was the government's own anchor, the debt-to-GDP ratio, except that this one, the so-called new one, does not even have a target and will tempt the government to run up further debt in the years to come.
As the Prime Minister blithely stumbles into the fiscal unknown, Canadians should take little comfort in the government's promises to manage our debt and get our deficit situation under control.
Based on the Prime Minister's own mandate instructions to his minister, this budget must be considered a fail.
I began my speech by saying that I was very eager to review the budget to determine what it would mean for Canadians in the short, medium and long term. In the short term, yes, there are a number of investments and programs that will help Canadians make it through this economic and health crisis. We are supportive of many of those measures. However, in the medium and especially the long term, there is very little to get excited about, just endless debt and deficits with not even a pretense of the Liberal government ever wanting to return to a balanced state, even in the long term.
As a responsible official opposition, we are still carefully reviewing and analyzing the budget and we will discuss it with our caucus tomorrow before casting final judgment on it. Suffice it to say that, so far, I am not encouraged.
One thing Canadians can be confident of, absolutely confident of, is that a Conservative government, led by the member for Durham, will implement a true Canada recovery plan that secures our future by getting Canadians back to work, by helping small businesses recover, by restoring Canada's reputation and competitive advantage and by prudently managing the massive financial burden with which the pandemic has left us. The Conservatives have done this before; they will do it again.
I therefore move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word 'That' and substituting the following:
“given that the budget:
(a) adds over half a trillion dollars in new debt that can only be paid through higher job-killing taxes;
(b) contains over $100 billion for a re-election fund while doing nothing to secure the long-term prosperity of Canadian; and
(c) fails to rule out the introduction of capital gains taxes on the principal residences of Canadians, currently being studied by Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, as a way to pay for the government's spending;
the House demand that the Liberal government's budget be revised in order to focus on accelerating the vaccination plan to end the dangerous third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and policies that will create jobs and stimulate economic growth