Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to budget 2023 on behalf of the great people of Simcoe—Grey. I was hoping to have the opportunity today to congratulate the budget for balancing itself, but alas it appears we all must still wait for that miracle.
Not a day goes by when I am not contacted by a constituent who is at wit's end. Mortgages have gone up by thousands of dollars a year, and groceries, especially the healthiest of foods, cost hundreds more each week. Gas, which most people outside the major cities rely on to get to work, costs hundreds of dollars more per month. Home heating fuel, again, is hundreds more per month this winter.
When one adds it all up, it can cost the average family a thousand or more dollars a month just to live in this country. Many cannot afford that, as they were just getting by before the government took office. For those who can get by still, it means having to spend all of their paycheques just to survive.
RESPs are not being topped up. Retirement savings accounts are left to languish, and family emergency funds are being used to pay for the carbon tax and inflationary spending of the Liberal government. Very few are enjoying life like they used to prior to 2016. Sunny ways have turned to dark days for many in our middle class. We have seen record spending, record deficits and now record debt.
However, the pain sure is not being felt by all the Liberals and their friends. There are $6,000-a-night hotels and governor generals trying to outdo one another with extravagance. While regular Canadians are digging deep in their pockets for an extra buck, Liberal ministers are handing out millions of dollars in contracts to friends and family, just like Santa Claus on Christmas morning. Liberals really have no idea how much pain there is in the country right now, and they think shuffling a few hundred bucks here and there is going to make it all better. Liberals would have us believe we have never had it so good. Their arrogance knows no bounds.
Constituents who contact me with concerns about making ends meet run the gamut of Canada's demographics. These are younger people trying to make it through school; middle-class families struggling with rapidly rising house prices, transportation costs and trying to put a meal on the table; and new immigrants trying to find a rental in my area while working in a service industry job. I hear from them all and listen to the challenges they face, which are directly due to the government's economic mismanagement.
The group I hear the most from are seniors. Seniors feel ignored by the government, and they are hurting. Seniors on fixed incomes are especially feeling the pinch. OAS increases are laughable, as they are just a couple of bucks. That does not help to pay for the increase in home heating or groceries, thanks to the carbon tax. Cancelling the carbon tax and cutting their income tax would be a great way to move forward.
Instead, the Liberals will spend $2.5 billion more to create a gimmicky grocery rebate that does not need to be spent on groceries. It does not matter, because one does not need to show a receipt. It sounds like a good idea, but is it? Not really.
The grocery rebate means $225 in a one-time payment for eligible seniors. If one thinks this cures the affordability crisis facing Canadians, one may also think the budget can balance itself. That is 62¢ a day.
I know the Prime Minister does not do his own grocery shopping, so he may not be aware of how much groceries went up because of the carbon tax, but 62¢ is less than the increase in a loaf of bread. Thanks to the government, an eligible senior who gets groceries once a week will have an extra $4.34 in their pocket to cover the increased cost. That does not come close to helping the seniors who reach out to me and my office.
Members need not take my word for it. Here is what some seniors in my riding have told me.
Mary Glencross says, “Instead of the government giving people $250 to cover groceries, perhaps they could lower all the taxes we pay on natural gas.”
Giovanni Scianni says, “Please support Canadians' call for a halt of tax increases. It's becoming more and more difficult to afford basic necessities to sustain a modest standard of living.”
Eva Johnson says, “Please try to stop all these unnecessary taxes. I am a senior. We don't seem to get a tax break ever.”
Ken Grubbe says, “As a senior citizen living on a fixed income, I find these increases to be both appalling and unconscionable.”
Marie Romanelli says, “I know it's a choice for many whether to go into the grocery store or to heat their house. I am strongly opposed to all these extra taxes that hurt the average Canadian, including myself.”
Bruce Murray says, “Being on a fixed income makes it very difficult when budgeting your finances every month. The Federal Carbon Tax has increased 57% compared to my November 2021 bill and this is utterly ridiculous and must be eliminated, once and for all!”
Brian Rosenkrands says, “The Liberal government keeps insisting they are helping Canadians, but for some seniors the many years of waiting for a decent rise in their OAS payment, and the government's insistence to go ahead with all the increased taxes at this period in time, is putting some in jeopardy.”
Finally, Mark Holmes says, “When is this government going to raise our CPP and OAS payments so we're ALL not living below the poverty line?”
The audacity of anyone on that side talking about making life more affordable is absolutely laughable. In essence, the government is proud that it has created a food stamp program that would not actually help people afford food, but it sure indicates the damage its policies have brought on all Canadians.
When the government was elected, it talked about modest, short-term deficits. We in the opposition were skeptical, and we said so. The deficits continued, with no plan in sight to balance the budget at all.
Then the pandemic hit and people panicked. The government took some action. It was not always successful, and it was deaf to concerns from the opposition about the poor design of many programs. We all remember the rental assistance program, in which the landlord for a business needed to approve their tenant's application so that he or she could get no money. That program lasted for months without being corrected, but overall, most Canadians were prepared to let the government spend some money to help Canadians get by.
Small deficits turned into record deficits pretty quickly with this government in charge. The pandemic is over, and it has been for a while, yet the government keeps spending. In fact, most costs of all new spending in this budget work out to $4,300 for every single Canadian family. This is 10 times what an eligible family of four would get via the new grocery rebate. Put another way, the Liberals are spending 10 times more on their own priorities than what they are putting back in the pockets of working families, and 20 times what they are providing to seniors.
Often when I say that the government needs to eliminate the deficit and start paying down the debt, people will ask me, “What about health care?” The cost of servicing Canada's enormous debt continues to grow and will continue to do so as long as we the Liberal government is in power.
In fact, the Prime Minister has added more debt than the previous 22 prime ministers combined. Canada's federal debt is now expected to be $1.22 trillion this year. That is $81,000 per household here in Canada, and the debt needs to be paid. Debt-servicing costs after seven years of Liberal fiscal management are predicted to be $43.9 billion this year. That is a lot of money going to service a debt that could have been spent on much-needed services, such as health care.
The Liberals recently concluded a health care funding agreement with provinces, which was substantially less than what the provinces needed and what they were asking for. However, listening to the Liberals toot their own horn, one would think the provinces never had it so good, either. In Ontario, Canada's most populous province, additional federal investments in health care will equal $8.4 billion over 10 years.
The Liberal debt-servicing payments are $43.9 billion per year, so the Liberals will be spending five times more per year servicing the debt than they will be providing in new support to Ontarians for health care. That is a lot of hospital beds or nurses that will not be going to Collingwood General and Marine Hospital. That is, perhaps, a brand new wing that will not be built for Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Alliston.
Reckless spending has consequences. Running endless deficits has consequences. Record debt has consequences. The government has its priorities wrong. It keeps spending money to keep various interest groups satisfied, to help maintain its tenuous grip on power and to keep the leader of the fourth party in its pocket. It may work for a little while longer, but the average Canadian is tired of paying the price for the government's reckless spending and inability to get its fiscal house in order.
There are 40 billion reasons to vote against this budget, but I have only one vote. That vote will be against this inflationary budget.