Madam Speaker, it is a great opportunity to stand up and speak in the House today.
If members will indulge me for a moment, I want to briefly mention two people who are very important in my life, my mother and father, Alvin and Irene Redekopp. They have been there for my whole life, a great life growing up, and are probably the most ardent watchers of the House out of all of us. They watch question period, they watch, of course, when I speak, and they probably watch random debates just for fun. They have been married 63 years, and it is my privilege and honour to still have a great relationship with them even though they are a few years older than me. I thank my mom and dad for all they have done.
One month ago, we listened to the budget in this place, and here we are now a month later. I think I would summarize the budget with the word “underwhelming”. There was a Global News story the following day in which Pamela George, a financial literacy counsellor who works with women, said that the 2023 spending plan was subpar. She said:
It’s nothing to write home about. I’m not shouting and celebrating anything...When I hear things like, “we’re going to do this,” or “we’re looking into this,” I just feel it’s stalling....
I think that summarizes my thoughts on the budget; it really was quite underwhelming. So, of course, the questions from the residents of Saskatoon West are: How does this budget affect me? What is going to change because of this budget? How is it is going to impact my life?
Of course, they are struggling, like all Canadians are, with pressures on meeting their monthly costs, whether it is to put groceries on the table, fuelling their cars, heating their homes or even their cost to own a home. Saskatoon is one of the cheaper places in the country to own a home, yet it is still very difficult. Many people in my riding struggle with paying their rent and paying their mortgage payments, especially as mortgage payments increase. So, many of them were looking for solutions.
It is fair to say that there were no long-term solutions in this budget at all. There were some band-aids, yes, but there were really no long-term solutions. Getting a few hundred dollars extra on a GST rebate might help in the very short term, but it does not help in the long term. We have heard the proverb, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” I think that is what we are seeing here with a few hundred dollars to a family. Okay, fine, they can buy groceries for a week, maybe two, but then the problem is there again.
We need permanent, long-term solutions that actually solve the problems that are out there, and I acknowledge that this is a hard thing. A master's level skill is required to achieve this. Unfortunately, what we have seen in so many things, and this budget is a good example of it, is a master's level of incompetence. We just cannot get the competence that we require out of this government. Of course, right now, we are in the middle of this strike and, as has been mentioned many times, this government has managed to spend 50% more on its workforce and still have the workforce go on strike. That takes a master's level of incompetence.
Conservatives had some very positive suggestions for this budget, and I just want to review those very quickly.
The first one was that we had suggested the government pursue an area of lower taxes for workers. People need to keep more of their paycheques so that they can spend the money they need to survive. The second thing we suggested was that the government end inflationary deficits that are driving up the cost of goods. This is fairly straightforward and was a very good suggestion that should not have been very difficult for this government. The third was to remove gatekeepers to increase home building for Canadians. This is something we hear of constantly in our ridings and across the country on the availability of affordable housing.
Did the government take us up on our constructive advice? Well, let us talk about taxes.
Several days after the budget was released, what happened to taxes? They went up. Why is that? It is because of the carbon tax. This is part of the plan to increase the carbon tax over the next months to ultimately triple it to where it is going to cost 40¢ a litre for fuel, for gasoline, and, of course, it adds a cost to everything else, whether it is fuel for homes, which, by the way, there is GST on top of the carbon tax, or whether it is for groceries. Basically, anything that moves on a truck is impacted by this. Of course, food is greatly impacted by this, because farmers end up bearing a huge cost of GST on their farms. So, did taxes go down? No, they went up.
What about the inflationary deficits? Did they go down? No, actually.
I would like to read a quote, which says, “Our deficits must continue to be reduced. The pandemic debt we incurred to keep Canadians safe and solvent must...be paid down. This is our fiscal anchor. ...a line we shall not cross.” Who said that? Of course, it was the illustrious finance minister, and it was said less than a year ago. Here we are, just months after making that statement, and what do we see in this budget? We see deficits forever. The idea of deficits being reduced and eliminated is just not there. The crazy thing is that in 2026, it would just take a 3% reduction to achieve a balanced budget, yet that is not something that this master's level of incompetence government was able to achieve, which I think is quite simple.
What about the third thing: home building? What I see in the budget are some things that are going to increase the supply. Let me take a moment and talk about supply and demand, because that is the most basic principle of everything that affects money in our country. When there is a lot of supply, there are low prices; when there is a lot of demand, prices go up. What we see in this budget are measures that would increase demand. What is the effect of that? It means there are more people chasing fewer things, which means the prices will go up. The master's level of competence approach to this budget would be to increase the supply of houses, and that is not something I see in here. We need to incentivize companies and cities to build houses and require cities to build more houses. They are the gatekeepers that are holding back the supply of houses that could be built in this country.
Another way to look at this is what is missing in this budget. One thing that struck me quite obviously was foreign credential recognition. As I have spoken with newcomers to Canada all across the country, this comes up inevitably as one of the first or second things they mention. They will say things like they are doctors and not able to work in this country or they are lawyers, engineers or in a certain profession and they cannot work in this country because it is too difficult for them to be licensed to practise in this country.
Health care is a huge problem. Canadians will say that in surveys, but yet, after eight years of the Liberal government, only 41% of foreign-trained doctors are able to work as doctors in our country. Only 37% of nurses are able to work as nurses in our country, and there countless others. That leaves us with the typical doctor driving a taxi. I am sure many of us in this room have been driven in taxis by doctors, and the reason is because they are unable to be licensed and work as doctors. This is a huge issue for our country because we need doctors.
That is why I introduced my private member's bill, Bill C-286, to help address this issue and allow foreign-trained professionals to have their credentials recognized more easily, and that is why the Conservative leader has introduced his system, which is the Blue Seal system. The Blue Seal is modelled after the Red Seal program. The Red Seal program is for professions like electricians and plumbers. It has been adopted for 50 years and is used in all of the provinces. The idea is that we would have a similar system where doctors or nurses could make sure they qualify by showing they have the knowledge through passing a national competence exam. They would then be given a Blue Seal and be able to work in the country, in provinces that choose to join the program. Why would they join the program? Because it would allow access to more staff, and that is what we need to do.
One other thing that surprised me that was not in this bill was the student direct stream. Bangladesh has been asking for the student direct stream for a long time. This allows students from other countries, which are part of the program, an easier and quicker way to come to Canada to get their post-secondary education in the country. It is good for our country because our post-secondary institutions benefit from having them. They are a great asset to our country in terms of their knowledge and skills. They create businesses and increase trade between the countries. Bangladesh has been trying to become part of the program. India and its neighbour Pakistan are part of this program. I have spoken about it many times with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. There are many things we can gain in our country by having this done. We do not have it yet. It is something I wish had been in the budget and I am sad to see it was not. On behalf of Bangladeshi students who are trying to get to Canada, I am sad we did not see that.
We are seeing a budget from a tired and worn out NDP-Liberal coalition, a government that is full of scandals and cover-ups. Conservatives will bring relief. We will lower taxes, we will end inflationary deficits and we will remove the gatekeepers so that we can build more houses in this country.