The House resumed from December 5 consideration of Bill , as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of Motion No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to join the discussion today on the fall economic statement.
What we wanted to see is a plan for the future of all Canadians, but what we received from the Liberals in this fall economic statement is more reckless spending. We laid out two requests before the statement was delivered. One was no new taxes. The second was that if the government brought in more spending, it should find savings in the budget. That was not possible for the reckless Liberal-NDP coalition.
What we see right now is more spending and less money in the pockets of Canadians. We even heard the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Tiff Macklem, say that there is a made-in-Canada inflation problem. That is as a result of the reckless spending by the costly NDP-Liberal coalition.
I will go through a few of the spending items that we see as possibly unnecessary.
For one of them, the could not even answer a question. When asked about the $14.2-billion spend in the economic statement that is unaccounted for, she could not answer what it was earmarked for. As the finance minister of a G7 country, she should really have a better handle on where the money is going.
To add to the idea that the government right now is not in control of its spending, the Auditor General released a report today, and there are some very concerning things in it. A few of the numbers we saw today gave us a second to pause and wonder where the government is taking Canadians. One has to do with “overpayments to ineligible recipients” regarding COVID–19 spending. There was $4.6 billion in overpayments to ineligible recipients that the taxpayers of this country will never get back.
Let us not stop there. There is another one about “payments that should be investigated further” by the Auditor General. This was just released today, and there is $27.4 billion for further programs that we need to look into. One of my questions here, and I hope one of my Liberal counterparts will ask me about it, is whether the Liberals believe this needs to be investigated as well. Are they curious about where that $24.7 billion is that they said was necessary for COVID spending? I ask because we all remember the solemn hand-on-heart moment when Canadians were told by the that he has their backs.
Do members remember one of the last fall economic statements delivered by the current and the government? There was a famous line that will go down as one of my favourite quotes from the . He said the Liberals were going to take on debt so Canadians did not have to. How is that working for the government now?
I think Canadians across the country are wondering when exactly that is going to happen, because they have seen the government take on massive debt, more debt than all other governments combined. What I am seeing and hearing from Canadians across the country is they feel that this debt is now being passed on to them. That is how they feel. Where is this solemn pledge by the that the government is going to take on debt so Canadians do not have to? That is not a thing and Canadians are falling further and further behind.
I have a few examples of some of the discussions I have had.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with the Association of Canadian Custom Harvesters in Saskatoon. People from all over the country do custom harvesting. By the way, in question period, the , who is from Alberta, keeps saying that there have been massive crop failures across the country, yet I did not hear that from the people who actually harvest crops. That is another one of the fabricated stories the Liberals continue to tell to make sure they have a compelling narrative to keep shovelling out dollars.
At this conference in Saskatoon, it was great to hear about some of the innovations and new technologies these custom harvesters are using to lower emissions. There were questions they kept coming back to ask me: How much is enough? For the carbon tax, what level will make the government happy? I was dumbfounded. I did not know how to answer that because I do not think it will ever be enough.
One of the custom harvesters actually does work across the border in Montana and the Midwestern states, and then comes back up. I asked him what the difference in his fuel bill is when he is harvesting down south across the border compared to when he is harvesting in Canada. He said it is between $15,000 and $20,000 a week. Could members imagine doing business in a different jurisdiction where it costs an extra $15,000 to $20,000 a week on something they have no control over? They have to fuel their vehicles. They have to fuel their harvesters and trucks. I asked him how it makes sense to keep going back and forth across the border. He said it does not. Then and there it just hit me that this is why we are becoming so uncompetitive. That is why the jobs are going south. It is because the current government is taxing businesses out of existence.
Then I remembered a quote I heard from one of the Liberal backbenchers, the member for . It all made sense when he stood in his spot and said to Canadians that they will have to go through pain. Can members imagine a government member standing up and saying that it is going to get worse? Can members imagine him saying he is not sure it is ever going to get better, but that Canadians can be sure that, as long as the Liberals are in government, it is going to continue to get worse for them, with more pain and suffering? I say “kudos” to that member because that is probably one of the first honest statements I have heard from a member of the Liberal Party in being honest with Canadians and saying that under the Liberals it will continue to get worse.
We see that situation across the country. One of the biggest things that hits me when I look at some of the statistics here is that 1.5 million Canadians are using a food bank every month in our country when we are supposed to be the breadbasket of the world. We have the food, fuel and fertilizer the world needs and we cannot feed our own people.
I opened the mail the other day when I was at home and my wife brought a letter to me. We are both U of R alumni. It was from the University of Regina. Usually people get these fundraising letters when it is for a capital project or some kind of infrastructure project. My wife said, “You will never believe this is coming from the University of Regina.” I read the fundraising letter and it was literally to feed students. It was an anonymous letter from one of the students saying that they go to bed hungry almost every night. There are 58.6% of university students at the U of R who are going to bed hungry. This is in our country now and it is shameful. From where we were to where we are now as a country, the food bank usages are up. Students are living in hostels and going to bed hungry, and they were looking for a vision from this economic statement. The government cannot spend itself out of inflation.
We are getting to another point where, if there are two more interest rate rises in this country, we are going to see a rash of bankruptcies. What is the Liberals' plan for that? Times are getting tough. I know people on variable mortgages whose mortgages have gone up $600 or $700 a month. Now it has come out that grocery bills are going to go up $1,000 to $1,500 per month. Eventually, there is nothing left.
In our country, under the current Liberal government, taxes now exceed take-home pay for people who are going to work every day. This is unsustainable in our country. We need a vision and we need a plan. We need to start making paycheques pay again. We need to make it so that people who are going to work have the ability to support their families and do not have to put water in their milk so they can make it go further for the kids. Parents are literally now scared to take their kids to the grocery store. I have constituents who have sent pictures to me of what $100 in groceries is buying for their family now, and it is sad. It is a couple of loaves of bread, maybe a jug of milk, some pasta and some pasta sauce. That is not good enough.
I will leave members with a quote. It is something Premier Wall always said when we were in government. He said that the best thing a government can and should do is leave things better than it found them. The current government has failed on that miserably.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today in the House to speak to the fall economic statement. I appreciated the accolades from my colleague across the way, the member of Parliament for . He gave me a shout-out for being authentic and real with Canadians, and I appreciate that. Although I disagree with most of the sentiments he shared, I appreciate the accolades from him. It is great when we can stand and be honest and authentic in this place.
In terms of the vision the member opposite claimed our government does not have, I would say the Conservative Party today seems to bring nothing to the table but angst and austerity, fear and division, and empty rhetoric and catchphrases. There are no solutions and no plan. I will argue in my speech today that we do have a vision, there is a plan and it is represented in the fall economic statement.
We know the challenges all too well that this country is facing and we have to understand those challenges in context. Coming out of the global pandemic, we have averted a sort of second coming of the Great Depression. It has been the worst public health crisis in 100 years. That is the context in which we need to understand our recovery and the fall economic statement. Canada has fared much better than almost any other country in the world. There have been fewer deaths per capita, higher vaccination rates and a stronger economic recovery than pretty much every peer country we could compare ourselves to.
Our real GDP recovery from the pandemic is strong and Canada is leading G7 countries. Our labour market is strong and has come back stronger than ever. Just yesterday there was a report saying that Canada has improved and has one of the highest participation rates among women in the economy at this point, due to some of the measures our government put in place. We have also seen what we call a V-shaped recovery, documented in the fall economic statement, which shows that our economy dipped drastically during the pandemic and then recovered quite quickly, which is exactly what the government had said multiple times would be the optimum scenario.
As another member pointed out recently in his question, we have the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, we are forecasted to have the lowest deficit as a percentage of GDP and we have also maintained a AAA credit rating. That sounds pretty good to me. I do not know if other members in the House really pay attention to those fact-based details, but it certainly seems to me like that is a strong recovery.
Now we have global inflation that is the top issue Canadians care about today, although I will note that health care is trending and really overtaking inflation as the top issue. We know inflation is the direct result of pandemic-related supply chain disruptions, extreme weather due to climate change and geopolitical instability due to Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine. We all know these, as we have heard them many times in the House.
Coming out of the pandemic, demand for many goods and services has exceeded supply, and that has led to global inflation of course. There are inflationary pressures, and we know that. Even when we look at inflation in comparable countries, Canada has lower consumer price inflation compared to other economies. If we compare Canada to Italy, Sweden, Germany, the U.K., Europe, the G20 average, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, the list goes on, we have lower consumer price inflation in Canada.
Global supply chain pressures have started to subside after their pandemic peak, and commodity price fluctuations are still quite volatile, which we have seen, so tackling inflation is obviously one of the key challenges. A key measure that the Bank of Canada and all central banks around the world are taking is raising interest rates, with Canada doing so quite aggressively, to cool down and slow down the economy until supply starts to catch up to demand.
The postpandemic economic growth will slow as a result and Canadians are feeling the pinch. We all know this. It is tricky to get this right. Of course we have to have debates and be really thoughtful about how we approach this because there are lots of unknowns.
Global financial markets are not something within the federal government's control. We have to remain agile. We have to be careful not to add fuel to the fire. I think we have all heard these things. They are quite clearly outlined in the fall economic statement.
We must do what we can to alleviate the inflationary pressures, while we work toward preparing the conditions for growth. In my view, and in our government's view, it is to build an economy that works for all Canadians. What does that mean? It is an economy that is more equitable, fair, just and sustainable; that is more resilient; that addresses long-standing inequities that we experienced during the pandemic; that continues to fight climate change; and that we do not let up from the fight against climate change just because some of the members opposite do not agree that climate change is real.
We on this side of the House understand that climate change is real. There is ample evidence to suggest that we all need to be concerned about global warming and that Canada experiences even more than many other places in the world.
We have also provided immediate targeted supports for those who need it the most. We can think of the doubling of the GST tax credit, the rental top-up support of $500 and dental care as well for lower-income families and kids.
If I were to summarize all of this, we have a pretty good track record. We have had a strong recovery and we have dealt with the pandemic quite well. Now we are moving into a period of global inflation. The fall economic statement outlines three main areas we are addressing.
We have supply chains. We are strengthening the resiliency of our supply chains. That is very clearly laid out. That means those supply chains can withstand shocks in the future. There is the national trade corridors fund, which launched in 2017. There are $4.6 billion, $2.8 million allocated to over 130 projects, including the Oshawa port authority, right next door to my riding, which will be making major updates to the port so its infrastructure can accommodate more shipments coming in and out. The national supply chain task force is another initiative, which has already achieved some great recommendations that are being implemented.
People and their talents, skills and labour is another major theme in the fall economic statement. We are investing in the skills for a net-zero economy. There is the sustainable jobs training centre, a new sustainable jobs stream under the union training and innovation program, and a sustainable jobs secretariat. All of these are designed to help retrain people to take on the jobs in a net-zero economy.
The immigration levels plan has also been increased, which is great news for our labour market constraints.
My favourite portion has to do with sustainable finance. We are launching the innovation and investment agency, $1 billion over five years, modelled after the Business Finland and Israel innovation authority. The objective is to work to help new and established Canadian firms innovate, commercialize, research and create new economic opportunities for workers and businesses in Canada.
We are also launching the Canada growth fund, which is designed to attract substantial private investment in Canadian businesses and projects to help seize the opportunities provided by a net-zero economy. The policy goals are very clearly outlined in the fall economic statement. We will be able to capitalize on an abundance of natural resources and strengthen critical supply chains to secure Canada's economic environmental well-being.
Fifteen billion dollars of public capital will have a three time multiplier effect with respect to leveraging private capital. Think about how much that $60 billion will help build the economy of tomorrow. We saw an example of that just yesterday at the GM Ingersoll plant, which is producing Canada's first-ever electric cargo vans. This is great news for our country.
There have been substantive investments through the net-zero accelerator and some of the other government initiatives. We want to build that even stronger, so that in clean hydrogen and clean technology, Canada can be a world leader. Using the new financial tools, while using the government's leverage to basically de-risk some of those investments, is a key strategy in how we can move forward.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals' fall economic statement outlines an agenda on how to support Canadians struggling with the cost of living, where, theoretically, no one is left behind. Guess what. Canadian seniors were left behind.
In a document with almost 40,000 words, seniors were only mentioned 16 times. Statistics Canada indicates that the population of seniors is expanding six times faster than that of children ages zero to 14. The number of Canadians age 85 and older has increased by 100% since 2001, reaching 861,000 in 2021. The number could triple by 2046 according to the current population.
Accordingly to Bill VanGorder, chief policy officer of CARP, Canada's largest advocacy association for seniors, the needs of older Canadians are increasingly relevant and significant as the population ages. Based on the numbers from Statistics Canada I just shared, I whole heartedly agree.
Despite this urgent need for greater attention to seniors, the 2022 fall economic statement does not adequately address the current struggles of seniors. Nor does it implement any of the recommendations put forward by CARP.
The fall economic statement promises that the government will boost old age security by 10%. A 10% increase will amount to $69, which will do little to help the soaring expenses due to tax hikes, inflation, heating and housing costs. With the tripling of the tax on home heating, gas and groceries, how does this help many seniors living on a fixed income? The 10% increase will not cover the cost of heating their homes. In Canada, we love our seasons, but this could be deadly for seniors.
In Atlantic Canada, seniors are worried about having to heat their homes this winter. I would like to share a quote from the Liberal . He said, “I am sick and tired of people talking about the cold winter.” The Liberal Minister of Labour has shown a lack of compassion for our seniors and this quote underscores his denial of the significant debt we owe our seniors. They raised us, provided for us, worked hard for us and now they cannot even enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Sharon Callahan, executive director of Newfoundland and Labrador Public Sector Pensioners' Association and chairperson of the seniors' coalition said recently that seniors were experiencing extreme difficulty with the cost of living. If the price of fuel keeps going up over the winter and continues onto next winter, how will they survive? Ms. Callahan is concerned that many seniors will be forced to make choices between food, medication and heat. Seniors will be forced out of their homes.
In Canada, natural gas is also a form of energy used to heat our homes. Over six million homeowners use natural gas to heat their homes and their water. Using the Ontario Energy Board calculator, for a single detached home, approximately $22.03 would be added to the monthly heating bill due to the federal carbon tax. This is something for which even saving $13.99 on a monthly Disney subscription does not account.
What about gas for their cars so they can buy groceries? Food bank usage is at an all-time high. Food banks reported 1.5 million visits to the food bank in just one month. That is a 35% increase. While food banks are increasing their supplies to accommodate, the spends $6,000 a night in a hotel room. That money could have helped the homeless. That money could have helped our seniors. That money could have gone a long way.
The ArriveCAN app cost Canadians $54 million. What did it accomplish? Nothing. The money could have helped support seniors and all vulnerable adults and children. There are numerous examples of the waste.
The cost of housing is another pressing issue affecting Canadians and seniors that is not properly addressed in the fall economic statement is Canada has the second-most inflated housing bubble in the world. Interest rates are increasing at the fastest rates in a decade. A family that bought a home five years ago will now see, after renewal, their mortgage payments going up $7,000 a year. Canada cannot afford this, and Canadians have had enough.
What about the homeless? The recent report from the Auditor General highlights that, even though five years have gone by since the federal government first launched the national housing strategy to reduce homelessness, no organization in the federal government is taking the lead. Even though about half of the $9 billion has been spent, it is unknown whether this has benefited anyone. Where is the accountability? What happened? Where is the money? Who did it help? We have no answers.
According to CMHC, in 2016, of the 3.4 million senior households, close to 480,000 were in need of affordable housing. The national housing co-investment fund aims to create 7,000 new homes by 2027-28. That is 1.5%. How is this going to solve our housing crisis?
A CBC report on October 8, 2022, told the story of Lynn from Toronto, who never imagined herself being homeless when she retired. About four years ago she found herself living out of her car. She started working at the age of 15 and no longer has a home. She had a condo and had to sell it. At first she tried living with her sister, but that did not help. She slept in her car. She finally got into a shelter. The struggles are still there.
According to Homes First, an organization that helps people get off the streets and into supportive housing, Lynn's story is becoming increasingly common, and Toronto's seniors are struggling. It said, “That's due to the city's aging population, rising inflation and an increasingly expensive housing market”.
The other thing I want to talk about is the Canada pension survivor benefit for seniors. In the fall economic statement, nothing was mentioned. Why are we punishing spouses who decided to stay home and raise their children while their spouse continued to work? These seniors came here from other countries, like my grandparents and those of many of us here in this room. Most of the time the responsibility of raising the children fell to the mothers. Once the spouse has passed, his pension is gone. The wife has to endure the fact and make some choices, either go back to work or lose her home.
There is a shortage of long-term care facilities right across this country. Due to the lack of staffing, we are going to hit a crisis. We are going to find ourselves with seniors having no choice but to live on the streets. Recently a senior wrote to me about her financial struggles while she was caring for her disabled son. She is working three jobs to support him. This fall economic statement would not help her at all.
We have a major issue in this country, and the Liberal government needs to respect our seniors and understand the cost of inflation. The tripling of the carbon tax will see more and more families struggle to survive. Is this the Canada we want to reside in? Many individuals immigrated to this country in search of opportunities for themselves and their families, but this inflation is out of control. The spending by the government has proven deadly for all of us.
Therefore, when we look at hard-working Canadians, our seniors and the vulnerable in our communities, what is the government going to do to help them? The fall economic statement shows no respect for the people who raised us and nurtured us, and who paid their taxes.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals' spending is out of control. They are completely out of touch and do not have a clue about how the vast majority of people in Canada live.
Unlike their elite friends, whom they so fondly dole out tax dollars to in scandal after scandal, most people in this country work hard for what little money they have. The government is spending billions upon billions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars on frivolous vanity projects, on initiatives that no one other than their seatmate at the World Economic Forum would really care about. All the while the government is raising payroll taxes, tripling the carbon tax and implementing inflationary policies that weaken the dollar, which prices essential goods out of reach.
The callousness on display, the elitist attitude of cancelling one’s Disney+ subscription to save money coming from the people who are not hurting and who do not struggle to keep food on their tables or heat their homes, has to stop.
After seeing another load of spending and learning about Canada’s national debt of over a trillion dollars, one constituent of mine, Chris, wrote in to say, “I’d like to see them in our shoes that is the middle class or low-income households, with our wages. With high inflation for food, gas, heating, rising Bank of Canada interest rates, the soon to be tripling of the carbon tax, pay our bills, our mortgage, our debts, and see if the budget balances itself. I don’t need a handout of my own taxpayer dollars. I need a government that will fix the real issues behind Canada’s problems.”
My message to this resident of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, and to all Canadians who share this view, is that if we want to see change, we need to vote Conservative in the next election.
Our leader, the member for , knows the same simple fact that nearly everyone but our understands, that budgets do not balance themselves and that more spending, like what was announced in this fall economic statement, only adds inflationary fuel to the fire.
This is not the only feedback that I have received about waste and misplaced priorities. Recently, a 12-year-old wrote to me with a message that has more common sense in it than this government has displayed in years. This is from Everett.
Everett says, “I have been thinking about why the Prime Minister wants to further tax our hard-working farmers and their families. This tax will dramatically increase the cost of food to the consumer.
“Here is what I would say in Parliament and to the politicians: 'Mr. Speaker, if the federal government continues to enforce laws that control our farmers, there will be widespread criticism to the Liberal government, which has already spent billions of wasted tax dollars. Canadians have already faced difficulties in the beginning of the decade. Forcing our farmers to pay a tax on livestock methane will only lead to farmers who can barely get enough money to pay the ever-increasing carbon tax! It will lead to more bankruptcies in the country. Canadians are fed up!'
“They had already said it in the beginning of 2022. The government silenced them. With inflation, it will make it harder for Canadians to get past this winter. Canadians will be starving and this government will have caused another famine and caused people to starve.
“When will the federal government end the mandates against Canadian farmers?”
Well said, Everett. I thank him for sending that in. I agree. It is true. The government cannot see the forest through the trees, which is funny because they have committed to planting so many of them. I think it was two million trees, and they have planted zero. Is that not another Liberal commitment that has flown by the wayside, just like their promises for accountability and transparency?
It is no wonder that they have to resort to using Conservative ideas to give their fall economic statement any substance.
What ideas could those be? Well, investing in Canadian-made, clean, green technology. That is something we on this side of the House, Conservatives, have been calling for for years.
In fact, making investments in and growing Canadian capacity to be a global leader in clean green tech is exactly what we put forward in our last two platforms. It is an idea, I should add, that creates jobs and helps the environment, which was opposed by the Liberals before.
After learning that their current war against the Canadian energy sector had cost 170,000 Canadian workers’ jobs without a credible plan to back up their big assumptions and magical thinking, it is about time that they saw the light.
We should also note that the first figure is on top of the 180,000 energy jobs that were already destroyed under the Liberal government. That is 350,000 jobs, and counting, killed to satisfy the Liberal government’s imagination. While these Canadians look for work, the government buys the oil and gas we need from dictators instead.
Canadians need more common-sense initiatives, and it should be obvious that it is Conservatives who will give them that. It is Conservatives who will support our domestic resource industries and make positive changes that benefit all, even if the government tries to hide its mistakes and take credit for our ideas.
Do members know that the average before-tax income of a millennial in Canada is under $50,000? Do they know that the average Canadian family pays $39,000 in taxes? For Canadians aged 25 to 40, that means it is nearly impossible to get ahead. It means they will not be able to afford a home until retirement age, and that is if they get to retire. It means every dollar recklessly wasted by this government to grow inflation only puts them further behind. Tripling the carbon tax and increasing payroll taxes so the government can keep spending taxes does not give them hope.
This situation is surprisingly similar to what Canadian seniors currently face. They have sacrificed to save their money. After years of working hard, they gave it all to grow our nation, to make it successful and a great place to live. However, many are telling me they are feeling left behind and abandoned, forgotten by a government that no longer sees them as useful, a Liberal regime that would rather offer them death than sufficient medical or mental health care. They see no hope coming from spending announcements. They only see their bills piling up, groceries getting more expensive and becoming unaffordable, and a winter ahead of them with not enough money to keep the heat on. This is all thanks to the Liberal government's spending and mismanagement of Canada's finances.
From our millennials to our seniors, Canadians are saddened to see this once-prosperous, thriving country with an incredible reputation on the global stage become what it has become today under the government: a tax-and-spend nation that is driving people into poverty and is quickly becoming the laughing stock of the world.
I can see from the faces of those opposite that they do not believe me, but they should pay attention to this next bit of testimony.
A senior from my riding, from Wallaceburg, wrote that they are on ODSP and their cheque has been cut by $500. It's winter right now, they said, and they need that because of the price of heating oil. The senior said it cost $1,800 to fill the tank, and that is what they now get from ODSP.
This Canadian has nothing to live on and no other options.
What do members think about this heartbreaking story from another young mother? She wrote that she had spent the whole day consoling two brothers aged one and three, sick with a bad virus. If she could have given them Tylenol or Advil, she said, they would have had a bad day but they would have survived. Instead, these two very active boys cried and moaned, threw up and begged to be carried. They slept in her arms and were miserable all day.
Instead of acting quickly to see that Canadian children have the medicine they need, the government waited. Instead of working to make certain Canada never faces a similar shortage, it announces boutique spending policies that help no one.
This economic statement does not address the cost of living crisis that the costly NDP-Liberal coalition government has created. Its reckless spending and mounting national debt is simply not fair to future generations.
I have also been hearing from young people that with inflation and the cost of housing, they will be living in their parents' basements until at least the age of 30 and they have given up on their dream of owning a home for their family to live in.
To afford food, to be warm this winter and to give hope to the next generation of Canadians, Conservatives will always stand strong against the Liberal government's reckless spending and fight for common-sense policies.
Finally, here are some questions from average Canadians that no one has been able to answer yet: Where is this carbon tax going? Who gets it? What is it being spent on? No one believes that it is coming back to them, like the Liberals claim. Since the inception of the carbon tax, many have been asking how paying money to the government stops the global temperature from rising. How does money going from their bank account to a slush fund for the self-glorification clean up the atmosphere, especially when China is the world's biggest polluter by far? How does paying a tax stabilize the weather, when the sun is the biggest influencer of the earth's climate? How does my handing money over to the least transparent, least democratic, most expensive government in our nation's history stop a hurricane from hitting the east coast? It is time to scrap the carbon tax.
Liberal spending is out of control. For the reasons outlined, I cannot support this economic statement.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today.
We are currently in a closure period imposed by the government, with the support and co-operation of the NDP, to limit the debate on the economic update. It is hard to consider this anything but unfortunate. As my Bloc Québécois colleague mentioned earlier, this is the twentieth time that the government has called upon its new NDP friends to stifle debate in the House. This is completely unacceptable and unfortunate and we must denounce it.
We are here to debate the economic update. We Conservatives are always very attentive to the government's reckless spending and mismanagement. Clearly, we have had a lot to say on the subject today, which is unfortunate for Canadian taxpayers.
Just today, the Auditor General released an initial report regarding the management of public funds during COVID‑19. The least that can be said is that it is quite disastrous for people who believe in the sound management of public funds.
The Auditor General “found that Employment and Social Development Canada established performance standards by focusing solely on the speed of payment” and identified at least $32 billion in overpayments and suspicious payments that require a thorough investigation. In short, to paraphrase the Auditor General, it was sloppy. This has been exactly the trademark of this government over the last seven years.
When the government indicated that the would be tabling an economic update, which happened barely a few weeks ago, we made two very simple requests that were motivated not by ideology but by an acknowledgement of reality.
What do we do when we know that there are tough times ahead? Just like a good mother who has a family budget to manage, we need to stop the taxes, and above all, stop spending. If we have to make additional expenditures, it must be with caution and in a very specific and focused manner. Those were the two requests that we made; they were entirely logical and responsible, but sadly, the government did not heed them.
Should we be surprised that the government has continued in its seven-year-long tradition of spending recklessly? To hell with the expenses, as we say around here.
Let us not forget that, in 2015, those people stood for election and had the audacity to say that they were going to be bold, but responsible. They said they were going to run three small deficits in the first few years to stimulate the economy and then achieve a zero deficit in 2019.
That is the truth about that situation. After four years of the government's being in office under the , there were three huge deficits and another huge deficit in 2019. Liberals were elected saying there would be a very small deficit, but the truth is there are huge deficits, while, when the economy was reeling all around the world in 2008 when the Conservatives were in office, we were the first country in the G7 to get out of the crisis because we were serious in our administration.
Unfortunately, in their first term, the Liberals spent recklessly when, by rights, they should have been setting money aside for a rainy day.
Now, they are obviously going to tell us that, when they ran deficits, it was not their fault, it was because of COVID-19.
Well, we will play along. Sometimes, in a crisis, it is necessary to spend more. We recognize that. In 2008, 2009 and 2010, when we were in government, we ran deficits. The difference is that we brought them under control and then paid the money back and returned to a balanced budget.
However, since COVID-19 and since the Liberals have been in government, there has been a cumulative deficit of $500 billion. The deficit is like a bill we are leaving for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren to pay, because we are living beyond our means. That is the reality.
Some will say it is not their fault that COVID-19 happened, but the Auditor General found that over 40% of this deficit has absolutely nothing to do with COVID-19, so that argument should be taken with a grain of salt.
The confirmation that the Liberals spend recklessly is that they are currently spending 30% more than before the pandemic. That is because they have been unable to control spending.
As for the excessive spending, we know these people have no shame.
About a year ago, the government decided to implement the sadly notorious ArriveCAN app for people arriving in Canada or those travelling abroad and returning to Canada. Travellers had to fill out a very complicated form. It made no sense. Worst of all, it cost taxpayers $54 million, when one IT company said that it was the type of job that would have taken them a weekend at most and cost a quarter of a million dollars. In short, instead of spending $54 million on something that did not work very well, and sometimes did not work at all, the government could have spent $250,000 and gotten the same thing done at a lower cost and more efficiently. Instead, this government overspent.
It was the same during the pandemic. Money was no issue, as they say. A $237‑million contract was awarded to Frank Baylis, a former Liberal MP, to manufacture 10,000 ventilators. Also, need I remind the House that CERB cheques were sent to prisoners and members of organized crime? It is a bit embarrassing, but it is a fact.
It is understandable that, in an emergency, processes are sometimes sped up. However, the Auditor General's assessment was scathing. The government mismanaged $32 billion during the pandemic. It makes no sense in this type of situation.
Also, as the member for , who is now the leader of the official opposition, said in April 2020, government should never punish or limit work.
All my life, I will remember going through the first summer of COVID‑19 as an MP. Every day, I met business owners who were angry and upset.
They were angry, because they were upset to see young people staying at home instead of working. That is the reality of what we faced the first summer, when young women and young men decided to stay at home and pick up the $2,000 from the CERB instead of going back to work.
I will never forget meeting the manager of a restaurant in Val-Bélair. I will not name the restaurant because he may not want me to tell this story. He came to see me and was very angry. He told me that it did not make sense and that it had to stop because it was not right. He said that a 17-year-old young man had come to see him and laughed as he told him that it was great because he would not be working over the summer.
That is not how a government should be run. That is not the right message to send our young people. When people are 16, 17 or 18 and working their first summer job, they are proud to get up in the morning and enthusiastic about working and earning their first three-figure paycheque.
We had the courage to identify the problem, but the Liberals went on as though nothing were wrong. Now we are dealing with inflation, the worst inflation crisis in 40 years. It is hurting everyone, particularly the most fragile and most essential sector of all: food.
As I noted yesterday during question period, the next few years are not looking any better. Four universities conducted a study and found that food inflation will remain above 10% inflation in the coming year. It is not a good sign when food banks report increasing demand and people who were donating to the food bank last year are now knocking on the door of that same food bank for goods and food. I see it in my riding.
That is why we will be voting against Bill C‑32. We believe that the government has not done its job properly in terms of sound management of public funds. It has spent recklessly. It has absolutely no control over its spending, but that has not tempered its ambition and desire to raise taxes.
The Liberals can say what they will, but raising taxes during a period of inflation is the worst-case scenario.
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to join in today's commemoration of the 14 women killed at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989. The first shots were fired at exactly 5:10 p.m. We must remember, but above all, we must say, “Not one more woman”. We can truly make a difference by taking action together. I want to acknowledge all the shelter workers who are helping women flee violence. They can count on our support.
I will be speaking about the economic statement, Bill , even though closure was once again invoked on the economic statement just a few hours ago. That is one time too many, because closure should be the exception in the House. It should only be used in genuine emergencies that require us to stop debate, for democratic reasons, for instance. That is not the case here, and it was not the case for many other bills. With the NDP's complicity, the government has once again missed an opportunity to take the time to make the debate fully relevant. That is what I hope to do with my speech.
The Bloc has already announced that it will be supporting the economic statement. The NDP is going to support it, and the Liberal Party wants to speed up debate. However, I hope the government will listen to our concerns about the economic statement. I hope it will listen and realize that it is never too late to act.
The Bloc Québécois asked for three things in the economic statement and Bill C‑32.
First, we asked the government to support health workers and sick patients by increasing health transfers. The government said no.
Second, we asked the government to provide proper support to our seniors aged 65 and older, most of whom are women. Seniors are being hit hard by the current economic conditions. They need appropriate support, which means ensuring that the increase to old age security starts at age 65. Seniors must not be discriminated against. That request was also denied.
Third, we asked for an urgent reform of EI, which is a federal program, a support program, a social safety net. At least, that was what it was supposed to be when it was created. It is the best economic stabilizer in difficult economic times. Again, we got no response, just radio silence.
The government rejected those proposals. We can only see this as a missed opportunity to help Quebeckers and Canadians cope with the difficult times they are already experiencing or may face in the coming months.
As the said many times in her speech on the economic statement, a crisis is coming and we need to be vigilant. I would say that we need to be bold. As I was saying, EI is the ultimate economic stabilizer during a recession, and a recession may be just around the corner. Times like these may offer the best opportunity to reform the program. Perhaps we should avoid waiting until we are in the midst of a crisis. EI is also a tool for social justice that protects workers from the ups and downs of the market economy.
While a growing number of analysts are concerned about the possibility of a recession as early as 2023, the Canadian government seems to be going back on the comprehensive EI reform it promised in the summer.
On June 6, we asked the Minister of Employment a question here in the House about when we could expect the EI reform to happen. The minister responded as follows, and I quote:
Mr. Speaker, we are working very hard to modernize employment insurance. Quickly, when we got into the pandemic, we recognized that the EI system had not kept up with the way Canadians work. That is exactly why we are working to improve the system in terms of adequacy, in terms of access and in terms of the individuals who pay in and who do not yet have access.
What we do know, however, is that the system, which has not been reformed in 15 years, is so broken that six out of 10 workers who lose their job are not entitled to EI. It is shameful.
The government has been promising to reform the EI system for seven years. It made that promise in its 2015, 2019 and 2021 campaign platforms, but nothing has been done and time is short. We definitely need to avoid a scenario where we are forced to improvise a new CERB to offset the shortcomings of the system if a recession hits. During the pandemic, we saw that improvised programs cost more and are less effective. However, the government's financial forecasts prove that it does not anticipate accepting more workers' claims.
With respect to the 26 weeks of sick leave announced recently, this was a measure included in Bill to update budget 2021, passed 18 months ago. The minister finally announced the measure, which will take effect on December 18 and only for new claimants. That is too little too late. We again decry the government’s lack of ambition. It is happy with a half-measure, and one that should have been in place last July.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 1 in 24 people have been diagnosed with cancer in Canada over the last 25 years. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that claimants with a serious illness need an average of at least 41 weeks of benefits to recover. Therefore, even with an increase to 26 weeks, the government is leaving claimants with a deficit of 15 weeks without income. They will not be able to recover with dignity.
It is insulting, quite frankly, especially since a motion was adopted and two bills have been introduced here in the House in that regard. The Bloc Québécois introduced the Émilie Sansfaçon bill to increase EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks, and the official opposition party introduced a bill to increase sickness benefits to 52 weeks. Although a motion was adopted in the House, some parliamentarians still refuse to listen. The government has deliberately chosen to ignore the very well researched and careful advice of parliamentarians, experts and witnesses we have heard from.
As for EI reform, we are still waiting for the minister to come forward with a proposal for comprehensive reform. The temporary measures that were in place but were abolished in September would have been a good basis for reform. We still do not understand why the government eliminated them, only to go back to the status quo and the outdated system we have now.
This is despite the fact that the minister's mandate letter is quite clear. It says, and I quote:
...by Summer 2022, bring forward and begin implementing a plan to modernize the EI system for the 21st century, building a stronger and more inclusive system that covers all workers, including workers in seasonal employment and persons employed by digital platforms, ensuring the system is simpler and more responsive for workers and employers.
Let us just say we are a long way off. Ever heard of the winter gap?
I see that my time is up.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville for her speech. Members will see that the spirit of my speech is somewhat similar to hers. Perhaps it is because we wear the same colours in the House.
As a human being, as a woman and in good conscience, I cannot help but bring up the three points raised by my colleague. These are the Bloc Québécois's demands. In short, the government has come up with an update that leaves us wanting more. We always expect more from the government, but in this case we were expecting at least a little something. These measures were already announced but not implemented last spring or, as has been said several times, are simply minor legislative adjustments. Basically, this is an update, but it is not something that required vision. It is not something that requires that attention be paid to what is going on around us right now.
We go to our ridings and we know what is happening. People stop us to talk about bread, butter and health. This bill is not really something that will go down in history. It is very unremarkable. The Bloc Québécois will be voting for the bill not because we are particularly enthusiastic about it, but simply because we cannot oppose a bill that does so little. The legislative adjustments needed to be done. That is the first thing I wanted to raise.
I talked about the Bloc Québécois's three priorities, which we mentioned several times recently, just before the update. I am here to represent the Bloc Québécois, but I would also like to talk about my riding. I sometimes feel like the government does not realize that, for residents in my region, the north shore, the issues of health transfers, EI reform and old age security for seniors aged 65 to 75 are intrinsically linked. First, there is the issue of money, and then the issue of health. I represent an ageing population of 100,000 people who live in an area where jobs are precarious, even for seniors. Sometimes, there are very good jobs in the mining industry. However, work in forestry, fishing or tourism is really seasonal. The workers are not seasonal, the industry is. Also, the region is vast. My riding spans two time zones. That says it all.
Residents are struggling with these issues, but the government does not seem to notice. It does not even mention them in its economic statement, even though the opposition keeps raising the issue of inflation and the amount of groceries people can afford keeps shrinking from week to week. In short, these issues went totally unmentioned, yet they are crucial for my constituents. For them, it is a matter of being able to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table. I believe I have said this in the past. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, these are basic needs. People need to be healthy, they need to eat, and they need shelter. That is what we are talking about.
I would also like to come back to the issue of old age security. I talked about conscience at the beginning of my speech. I honestly cannot imagine what the government was thinking when it decided to divide retirees who have the same needs into two groups, seemingly arbitrarily. I think they all need three meals a day, whether they are 62 or 73. The government divided them in two and is doing nothing to change that. It is not doing the right thing. It is not saying that it was in fact a huge mistake, that it did not realize this would be a problem, but it could do that now, which would do it credit.
Instead, the government is leaving things that way out of pride. My constituents cannot live on pride, unfortunately.
I also wanted to come back to EI reform. My colleague mentioned the winter gap, which makes winters a time of great hardship for seasonal workers. I am referring to the seasonal gap, the period when workers in seasonal industries are left in limbo. This is happening at a time when people, including many of my constituents, are no longer employed in the seasonal industry and live in an area where there are not 28 other jobs available. It is not necessarily consistent over time.
It is not a labour shortage, it is simply that there are no jobs. These people have no income. However, industries and communities need workers, and the workers themselves need to work, of course. These people are not even getting any help.
As an aside, I read an interview recently with the Minister of National Revenue and member for concerning EI. I must say that I was stunned, and my colleague from was probably stunned as well, to read that she wanted EI reform. However, it was not to honour the Liberal government's promise from 2015, but to address the labour shortage.
Right now, six in 10 people are not eligible for EI, and precarious workers and seasonal workers, which include women, students and youth, are struggling to make ends meet at the end of the year. In addition, our villages are experiencing an exodus. Now the Minister of National Revenue and member for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, who is sort of my neighbour on the other side of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, comes along saying that EI will fix the labour shortage.
We have been hearing it for 20 years. There has even been talk of it since 1996 and the Axworthy reform. There are reforms going on. What we are being told is that it will be more generous and fix the holes in the safety net. However, the Minister of National Revenue and member for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine says that the criteria will simply be made even more restrictive, that people will be forced to travel 200 kilometres or 300 kilometres from home, rent an apartment and leave their family in order to work. At least, it seems it will be that way in my riding.
I would love to see the minister visit the fishing villages on the Lower North Shore. Fishers from Newfoundland came to settle in Quebec, and they now live there in communities of 200 or 300 people, where the economy is based on the processing industry in the village, on fishing. I would love to watch her to tell them that they will end up having to go work in Sept-Îles and Baie Comeau, 700 kilometres away, because hotels need workers in the winter.
That is not going to work, and it is frankly ridiculous. More than that, to me, it is an insult to my constituents, to the workers in my riding who contribute to the Quebec economy and the Canadian economy just as much as other workers. I have a lot to say about this topic, because I am deeply concerned about it. I am not even hearing good news. Not only is the government not talking about it, but worse still, we are getting bad news. That is really what the member for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine is saying. She is a bearer of bad news.
Finally, I would like to talk about health transfers. I mentioned how big my riding is. Imagine having to travel four, five or six hours from home for dialysis. Dialysis is not a yearly treatment. It is administered several times a week. That means choices have to be made, choices that are heartbreaking, because services are not available. They are not necessarily available in the cities, either. We have seen what is happening in the hospitals, which are overflowing right now. As we have seen, the Red Cross was called in to help out at CHEO. What is happening right now is very serious.
The provinces want health transfers. This is essential. We have talked about health care, and it is once again beyond me why the government is so determined not to meet people's needs. This is what the premiers of Quebec and the provinces are asking for.
As I have said before, this is about lack of vision and will. I believe I have talked about this in other legislative assemblies, but this trend is worsening. It is becoming increasingly apparent; there is no denying it. The government has no desire to undertake anything and would rather do the bare minimum. It avoids making waves. It takes shortcuts. Then it takes measures nobody is keen on and tries to ram them through.
The Bloc Québécois will reluctantly vote in favour of Bill even though we think it completely lacks substance.
Mr. Speaker, I recognize that when you said you were going to cut me off, a number of Conservatives clapped, so I will try to make the four minutes worth their while.
It is unfortunate that, once again, we are in a situation where the government has had to bring in time allocation on very important legislation to serve Canadians and to bring resources to them, in particular those who are in the most need. I will reflect on the fact that 38 members of the Conservative Party have spoken to the bill. Twenty-six Liberal members, six NDP members, 10 Bloc members and one Green member have also spoken to it. The bill, now back to the House at report stage, has had a number of interventions at the various different times. To somehow suggest that democracy is not in full effect as it relates to the bill would be extremely disingenuous.
We all know what happened to the fall economic statement of 2021. When we tried to act in good faith with the Conservatives to continually bring that bill forward so they could have more and more discussion on it, we never ended getting to vote on it until May or June of 2022. It is entirely fair to assume that the same thing would probably happen again this time, and therefore bringing in time allocation was certainly a requirement.
I want to talk specifically about something I am hearing quite a bit in the House, particularly on this legislation. This is the discussion about inflation. There is no doubt that inflation is real, that it is hurting Canadians and that it is difficult. It is creating a lot of uncertainties in the lives of people and in the marketplace. However, the problem is that Conservatives want to talk about inflation as though this is a problem that is isolated only to Canada. The reality of the situation is that inflation is happening globally right now.
We could try to accredit a number of things to it. We could say that it was the various attempts of G7 or OECD countries to support their constituents during the very difficult times of the pandemic. We could say it is about the war in Ukraine. There are a lot of different contributing factors to it.
However, it is happening throughout the world. In fact, in the G7 countries, Canada has the third-lowest inflation rate. The only two countries lower than Canada are Japan and France. Every other country has a higher inflationary rate. Of course that brings little comfort to those who are trying to deal with inflation, but it is important to reflect on the fact that this is a global issue and something that citizens throughout the world are trying to tackle.
This bill is specifically about that. It is about trying to make life more affordable for Canadians, in particular those who are struggling the most. When we think about things like the Canada housing benefit, or the dental benefit that was previously adopted, or the GST credit or some of the various other measures that the government has brought in specifically to help low-income people, we know those measures will have very little impact on inflation. We know they are right measures to take right now to support constituents throughout Canada.
I look forward to continuing afterward question period, and taking some questions at that time as well.