Madam Speaker, New Brunswick is large in its mind, and it is large in its geography as well. Thank you for recognizing me and permitting me to address this important piece of legislation. I should remind the House and members here that when we cut right through it, inflation is the price that we and all Canadians pay for the things that the government told us would be free. That really cuts to the core of this debate and why this bill is so important.
Parliamentary oversight and accountability are key pillars of our democracy that we as legislators should be determined to protect and safeguard. Members of Parliament have a great deal of respect for the work done over the decades by Canada's auditors general, along with the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the other independent offices of Parliament. As chairman of the public accounts committee, I have heard from our current Auditor General, Ms. Hogan, and her deputy, Mr. Hayes, on a number of occasions this year. I can say that MPs from both sides of this chamber welcome their analysis on the machinery of government, through audits of federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations.
The Auditor General's office has historically performed a valuable service to Canadian taxpayers. Their work informs us in this House of both the missteps and the achievements that come from fulfilling policies and programs implemented by the Government of Canada. With few exceptions, these policies and programs are tied to mandates given to them by the executive, that is the cabinet. Of course, those mandates come ultimately from Canada's voters. When civil servants do not adhere to these mandates, it is on us, as parliamentarians, to hold them accountable and to make course corrections.
As such, I wholeheartedly support Bill C-253 to bring the Bank of Canada under the purview of the Auditor General by including the central bank under section 85 of the Financial Administration Act. What this bill would do is authorize the Auditor General to include the Bank of Canada in her normal audit cycle, which means the Bank of Canada would be subject to the same types of routine audits that Crown corporations and departments undergo. That is it. At its core, this is about accountability and transparency, and adherence to its mandate and Parliament.
I applaud the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle for introducing this bill, because he, like me, wants accountability from the Bank of Canada to ensure it adheres to its mandate. Some hon. members protest that MPs should not examine or even criticize the Bank of Canada, because it is independent, but this is a view out of step with democratic oversight in the United States, Britain and other countries where lawmakers are today vigorously debating what their central banks got wrong. We can just turn to a couple of headlines, which read, “Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said the central bank erred in waiting to address inflation”, and “The Fed's slow response to inflation was a mistake”.
Another one, from the Financial Times, states, “MPs turn on bank's handling of economy as [British] government feels heat from cost of living crisis”. In fact, even here in Canada, the media are reporting about Bank of Canada officials. In this case, “Carolyn Rogers says the Bank of Canada is learning from its mistakes”, yet some feel that this House has no role in this debate.
Historically, the Bank of Canada has been focused on a stable rate of inflation, and the bank's previous governors successfully kept inflation under control. It was not always easy and it required work, independence and a focus on results. However, in recent years, the bank's references to employment targets has been a consideration. If colleagues look at the bank's website or listen to speeches that officials have made, other considerations are now being added by bank officials in its considerations.
More recently, the bank has also started to indicate that other goals, such as environmental and social objectives, would or could influence policy. Since the pandemic, the Liberal government's deficit spending program has been underwritten almost exclusively through the bank's use of quantitative easing. That is a fancy word for expanding the money supply, which is a polite way of saying “printing money”.
As my hon. colleague just pointed out, when we expand the money supply, we dilute or reduce its value, and that is what has happened today in Canadian wallets. Their paycheques and their savings are worth less than they previously were.
How has all of this worked out? As members of Parliament, we should not be afraid to ask, to probe questions and to seek answers. The bill we are considering would allow the Auditor General to conduct audits of the bank through its normal 10-year cycle. Such audits include performance evaluations, something that is not happening now as it would go beyond the fiscal balance sheet examinations.
This is an important and key addition, particularly since the central bank is implementing monetary policies that are without precedent, and this will have massive implications for things like interest rates, inflation, growth and household incomes going forward. It is necessary that the Bank of Canada be subject to more transparency and accountability by Parliament.
Of course, there is precedent for allowing the Auditor General to have jurisdiction over arm's-length independent financial institutions. The Public Sector Pension Investment Board operates free of political interference but is still subject to the Auditor General's oversight. This bill follows virtually the same model by amending the Financial Administration Act's exemption for the Bank of Canada to match the Public Sector Pension Investment Board. Again, we are calling for the Bank of Canada to be covered in a way that other arm's-length agencies are.
Let us return to mandates and accountability. The Bank of Canada and its governor, Tiff Macklem, wield an extreme amount of power by setting our nation's monetary policy, not economic policy, as one of the members on the government bench said, but monetary policy.
I would argue that the bank's governor is the most powerful unelected civil servant in Canada. At the same time, he is bound by the mandate of his office and therefore subject to accountability, for us to ask how this governor is doing in his job. Unlike other institutions that report to Parliament, the Bank of Canada is audited by external auditors, who are appointed by cabinet on the recommendation of the finance minister. Therein lies the problem. There is not enough oversight or independence.
The bank is responsible for maintaining low and stable inflation, a safe and secure currency, financial stability and the efficient management of government funds and public debt, but at its very core, the governor is responsible for keeping the rate of inflation between 1% and 3%. How is he doing? The rate of inflation, in this country, has hit 6.8%. That is a 30-year high and not a record of success.
Political elites do not want MPs or Canadians to talk about the Bank of Canada's shortcomings. This is to protect the governor from proper and legitimate criticism, yet Governor Macklem has blown Canada's inflation targets and, in doing so, was cozy with the Liberal government.
He should have done his job instead of echoing government talking points about non-existent fiscal anchors. The incestuous relationship between the Liberal government and the Bank of Canada should never have been permitted to develop.
Because the Bank of Canada did not properly perform its job, Canadian households are paying a high price and, I fear, will pay a high price for years to come. Interest rate hikes will be more punishing, and price increases will last longer than had an independent Bank of Canada acted sooner.
Instead of talking about the punishing financial hit on Canadian families and businesses, these gatekeepers, to shield the governor from legitimate public scrutiny, cried, “Respect the bank's independence.” Those cries ring hollow after the governor failed to exercise his own independence from the Liberals. The bank should be held accountable for its errors. This is not interference. This is accountability.
This bill is a modest reform to grant Parliament some oversight, since the Auditor General's audits would be tabled in Parliament and studied by its members. It would bring Canada's Parliament in step with other democracies in probing the Bank of Canada's implementation of its mandate. It would allow MPs to hold the Bank of Canada accountable and to ask and seek answers.
Conservatives do not wish to diminish the Bank of Canada's independence, but we want to ensure it is acting independently while fulfilling its mandate to control inflation. I support this bill, and I urge others to do likewise.