For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be the measure of our nation.
Madam Speaker, as I was listening to the fall economic statement, I thought of the words of President John F. Kennedy in his message to Congress in February 1962. I thought it was important to measure this fall economic statement against whether it has in fact improved the lives of Canadians. It is important to think about the layers of hype and peel all that back over the last seven years of the government to see what the results are.
Has the government been good value for money for the Canadians who pay for it? We know that seven years ago the Prime Minister promised annual deficits, but said they would be very small, not too big, and not to worry about it. Of course we know that did not really work.
COVID-19 came along, and the Prime Minister promised to have Canadians' backs. All of us in the House came together and we had Canadians' backs. We had to borrow money to do it, but the $200 billion extra that the government borrowed was not necessary. That was not having Canadians' backs. Thanks to the words of the former Bank of Canada governor, Mark Carney, we now know that this extra borrowing, this extra abuse of the national credit card, is exacerbating inflation and making things more expensive. It is in fact quite the opposite of having Canadians' backs. It is taking the shirts right off Canadians' backs. It is causing inflation to get worse.
On top of that we have the Liberal government promising that its carbon tax would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and that most Canadians would get more money back than they pay in carbon taxes. Now we know from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that the carbon tax will in fact cost Canadians more than they get back, and the carbon tax has done almost nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
However, people should not worry. The Liberals are coming to the rescue. For those who are struggling to heat their homes and feed their families, the Liberal government is going to save them by now tripling the carbon tax. Members can just imagine what it will cost people to heat their homes and buy food once the government triples the carbon tax.
For some Canadians, the Liberals plan to send them $500 for things that now cost thousands more. The price of food is up 11%, and food bank visits are at record highs in Canada. The price to heat our homes has doubled, particularly in eastern Canada and northern Ontario, where too many Canadians are facing energy poverty. Are they getting value for money? I do not think so.
Nowhere has the Liberal failure been more horrifying than on the topic of housing. We know that in 2017 the Prime Minister launched to great fanfare his national housing strategy. He was in Toronto, standing right in front of the mayor of the city. He was going to have this first-ever national plan. He promised $40 billion, and then he upped it to $70 billion. He called it a once-in-a-generation vision that would protect current affordable housing stock, build four times as many units as in the decade past, repair three times as many units as were repaired in the decade past, and reduce chronic homelessness by 50%.
The Prime Minister called it a robust, comprehensive, life-changing plan that would help Canadians get into homes and stay there. How has that worked? Have Canadians received value for the money they have paid the government on housing?
Let us look at the facts. The headline number was $70 billion. We know that in fact it was not really $70 billion. When we pull away from that the existing federal spending commitment and then pull away from that the matching provincial dollars that were required, which they were already spending as well, and then take out the loans and other tools that were being used, the number was actually $6.8 billion over 10 years.
That is fine: $6.8 billion is still $6.8 billion. That is great stuff; am I right? Maybe. That money was supposed to be spent through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, through five main programs: the rental construction financing initiative, the national housing co-investment fund, the rapid housing initiative, the affordable housing innovation fund and the federal lands initiative. How have they done since 2017?
The Parliamentary Budget Officer reported in 2021 that despite the overall increase in spending to help particularly low-income Canadians, it is up to $192 million a year, or a 9% increase. Because of the Liberals' inflationary spending, that actually represents a 15% decrease in the power of those dollars to buy goods. The CMHC programs that were designed to contribute to the cost of construction to address homelessness included the national housing co-investment fund, which spent 50% of its allocated budget. The rental construction financing initiative spent 53%. With respect to Employment and Social Development Canada funds to address homelessness, they have increased that budget dramatically from $118 million a year on average to $357 million per year. That is a 203% increase.
It is amazing; am I right? Not so fast. The Auditor General now reports that the CMHC and Employment and Social Development Canada have no idea if their programs are even helping. They do not know whether they have made a difference or not. What a plan it is. They spend half the money that was committed, do nothing to monitor the grandiose commitments of the Prime Minister and tell Canadians that everything will be fine. However, we know. We know the proof is in the suffering. House prices have doubled since the Prime Minister announced sunny ways in 2015.
A report by the C.D. Howe Institute, named after a fellow who knew how to get things done in this country, cited the burden of government cost as one of the big reasons for our lack of housing supply. In some major cities like Kelowna, Regina, Toronto and Ottawa, homebuyers had to pay an average of $230,000 extra for a home because of the municipal costs. In Vancouver, that number is $644,000. Big, expensive government is getting in the way of new construction. It is getting in the way of retrofits and renovations. It is getting in the way of new rental units. It is getting in the way of accessible and affordable units. It is getting in the way of a person's ever owning a home.
This is all while the government asks people to pay more, earn less and pay higher taxes to cover its ballooning debts. The PBO reported in September that the housing affordability gap, which is the gap between the average price of a house in Canada and the ability of the average family to borrow money, is a whopping 67% now. For the record, in January 2015, just months before the current government took office, that gap was 2%.
It is all made worse by a government that, when it is not bent on its misguided ideological entrenchment, just does not seem to get the job done. The Liberals talk a big game. The Prime Minister peers into the camera with empathetic eyes and says he really cares, but then he does not get the job done.
It seems like a cruel joke, but to the people in this country, those most vulnerable, who are paying the highest price, it is far from a joke. There are seniors on fixed incomes who cannot afford to heat their homes and eat healthy food. Tent cities are growing in communities large and small, all across our country. The current government has failed Canadians. Never has so much been promised and spent and borrowed to deliver so little. The economic statement that we have heard here is more of the same.
The Leader of the Opposition has been warning about excessive government borrowing and that it would lead to inflation that would make everything we try to buy more expensive, and now we know he was right. Even the Minister of Finance knows he was right. In a road to Damascus moment, she actually started to speak about fiscal restraint. However, she only talked about it, because immediately thereafter, she added another $20 billion of debt to her $1.2-trillion debt. Next year, payments on the national debt will be more than we spend on health care transfers.
Canada cannot afford to throw money in the air anymore and just hope it sticks. If we are really interested in supporting the next generation and making sure their life is better than ours, by that measure this economic statement is a failure and the government is a failure. Frankly, we should be voting against this economic statement. Conservatives will vote against it, and every single member of this House should do the same.