Evidence of meeting #66 for Finance in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was going.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Carine Grand-Jean
Pierre Leblanc  Director General, Personal Income Tax Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Lindsay Gwyer  Director General, Legislation, Tax Legislation Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Mark Maxson  Director, Employment and Education, Personal Income Tax Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance

November 14th, 2022 / 4:45 p.m.


Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you so much, Chair.

It's an honour to be here having this discussion with you.

I have to say that I'm coming at this today from the perspective of the long view, of how we focused on our speeches in the House today around extending hours, and then also of the concerns around committee. In serving on the Veterans Affairs standing committee, I can tell you that I'm very concerned about the time we have available to us, knowing the very serious topics that we're discussing as well.

I would like to say that I have a concern around this because, again, it is a change in procedure at a time when there's apprehension about how much time many committees are going to have to study the issues before them before we break for Christmas and then, of course, in coming into the new year, as the member has said.

I want to approach this from two perspectives.

First, as a member of Parliament, I represent Saskatchewan, and I'm very proud of that fact. I have to say what I feel and hear from my constituents. Being from a province with a million plus one hundred thousand people, you get a really good sense of what the whole province is thinking, and there's a great deal of concern around this fall economic statement. They don't have confidence in this government because of the way that things tend to get done. There's apprehension, especially around the fact that things get introduced in the House in a non-timely way and quite often end up on the back burner until all of a sudden they become a crisis situation, which, to me, is poor management.

There isn't a business.... I hear this all the time from my small and medium-sized businesses, as well as the larger corporations that are the undergirding of so many communities in the west. They say, “We would not be able to function like that and we're not allowed to function that way.”

I have to say that what I hear is concern around the fact that, yes, this is a crisis situation, but why is it a crisis situation? Think outside that box of the desperation of the moment and think of why we are in the desperation of the moment. The concern is around the fact that you can spend only so much and you can borrow only so much and, at some point, you can print only so much money. That's where the apprehension is with this particular fall economic statement and with the concern that it have its due time in the House and the opportunity for Canadians to listen within the House and hear members speak to it and then move it to the committee level.

I know that while it's important to have research and to have people who are the experts, who are the professionals, there's a third pillar that should always be there, and that is the lived experience of Canadians. That lived experience seems to be ignored to a huge extent.

You may say, “Well, we're doing all of these things to help Canadians at this moment.” I think that's the part they struggle with. It's at this moment and it's a great deal of money, and yet, when you spread it out, and in light of the fact that the housing support.... It's not even enough to give them a couple of weeks' sleep. People are staying awake at night. It's causing all kinds of issues within my riding, I know, in terms of people not being able to afford the things they need to for the very basic needs to meet their family's concerns, even in feeding them.

I have elderly people who heat their home with oil and who have now been told not only that the price of that is going up, but that their container is a decade old and therefore they must replace it. They said that this has come about federally. I'm going to check into that, because it's $5,000, and they're not in a place to do that right now in light of everything. That's why we have tried so hard to convince this government that Canadians are saying, “Enough already.” We need a pause. We need a break.

I will speak here not so much as a member of Parliament, but as an individual Canadian, in that when I heard “the worst inflation in 40 years”, that sent a shudder through my being. I was there and experienced with my husband what it was like to suddenly go from a profitable business in its fifth year of existence to being decimated, basically decimated, by interest rates that reached 22%, with a house that we could not afford and could not sell and a family of three small children.

All of these dynamics are what people are beginning to experience again now, so I really feel it's important that we step back here and get the committee to do the proper study.

What I hear all the time from Canadians in my riding is, “These announcements are made, and even with the COVID program, it was out on the website, but then there was no meat to it yet.” Why are we bringing this forward if there are...?

I don't have confidence that the government has said they're going to do this and then looked at the dynamics of what that will mean beyond the moment and into the longer picture. Already before COVID hit, we were in a situation where investment in our country was leaking all over the place.

I come from a province that is incredibly capable, that has all kinds of wonderful industries that are environmentally aware and conscious and doing good things. There isn't a part of our province that isn't making a difference in this country.

Of course, it's crucial that we recognize the capabilities of our country to do what government can't do, and that is to build an economy the way it needs to be built. It's doing what we need to do to assist, especially, as one member said, in regard to providing social assistance and our national defence. These are all things that are federal, but to be interfering in the way that has been done with the economic strength of our country....

I was able to sit on the industry committee the other day as they discussed a private member's bill coming forward called greening the Prairies.

I would like to invite you all to come to my province and say those words in front of anyone who works in our industries and our agriculture, because there is not a place in this nation that is more conscientious and doing more all the time to green the Prairies. These are kinds of disconnections that I am experiencing and hearing.

I think it's important, as I said, that we do things in the proper way, and that is get the discussion in the House. I'd welcome you all to come to the Prairies and find out where the wealth of this nation is.

I jest in saying sometimes that yes, the weight of a riding should be based on population, and on what they contribute to the GDP. Of course, that's never going to happen. However, we all know that if this country doesn't have what it needs to create the budgets that this government truly needs rather than to be doing band-aid solutions, which are important....

I know of people in my riding. You could compare it to the difference between making a loaf of bread themselves or having a sandwich that they have and then someone saying, “Would you like a crust as well?” Of course, you're going to take it.

Those are the circumstances, with a lot of what is in this fall economic statement, that I feel are not going to help in the long term. I want to see what we're going to do to make a difference, and I think I know what that is. I've certainly heard a couple of great speeches from my side of the floor, from a certain leader who I think is really encouraging Canadians and giving them hope.

That's all I have to say at this time. Thank you.

4:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you, MP Wagantall.

I have MP Lawrence next.

4:55 p.m.


Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I do want to discuss further the challenges with this piece of legislation.

Before I do, I do just want to go over a bit of process. Yes, certainly a government can't amend it at second...but they can pull the legislation, which has happened numerous times since Confederation. A government pulls their legislation and reintroduces it prior to a vote. That's happened numerous times.

My apologies for any loose language there. I am fully aware of how Parliament works.

However, I would also point to the fact that it was because Parliament didn't review it as in depth as they should have that the deferred prosecution for SNC-Lavalin got through. That was a failure of Parliament.

While I certainly understand and believe that everyone has the best interests of Canadians at heart, I won't back down for one second, no matter who it irritates or angers, from doing what I believe is right for my people of Northumberland—Peterborough South. That is to review this legislation.

Talking is part of democracy. In fact, “parliament" is literally a translation of “talking house”. That's what it means. What differentiates us from many other countries in the world is that we have the ability at committee in Parliament to share that. In fact, numerous times when former prime minister Harper was in charge, the NDP railed against time allocation as the greatest offence to democracy that man had ever known.

Members of this very committee have done that. I'd love to grab their speeches and go over them. I could read them word for word because they apply exactly today.

On a day when Motion No. 22 was brought forward, which is no doubt, in a way, to circumvent democracy, I will proudly stand up here and talk for as long as I have to, to stop this government's reckless spending. It's been proven over and over again that when a government taxes itself, taxes Canadians and taxes people of the world, it eventually leads to an equality—an equality of poverty. Everyone is poorer. The workers and the people who go to work every day are the economic engine.

This is meant as no slight whatsoever to our bureaucracy. We have many great women and men working every day, but ultimately it is the farmers in Saskatchewan, the miners in northern Ontario and the fishers on the east coast and west coast of this country who are driving our economy.

When we take money from those people, we take it from the productive engine and bring it to Ottawa and undermine economic growth. Economic growth is that magic elixir that fixes nearly every economic problem. You have inflation—economic growth. You have debt or deficit—economic growth. You have unemployment—economic growth. It is the answer to nearly every economic problem.

Ms. Dzerowicz talked about productivity and innovation and I agree with her. We are terrible at that. I think that's the only word I can use. We are terrible. We are near the bottom of the OECD and near the bottom of the G7 when it comes to innovation. This fall economic statement, other than repackaging one program, doesn't have any really strong, powerful things that could move us forward.

If it did, that might be a different ballpark. We might be able to have a discussion if we were serious about productivity.

We looked at countries like Ireland and Switzerland that have been serious about it. They've had full economic plans that involve policies from the left and the right and targeted tax cuts to encourage economic growth in targeted areas. There are certain areas where we can pretty much say that it is going to be a big part of our economic growth going forward.

Why don't we provide a series of technical benefits for artificial intelligence? Our SR and ED system is terribly out of date. It doesn't work like it's supposed to.

Why not take the opportunity and say, “Do you know what? We're going to have a slowdown.” We know that Canada's productivity, which is measured in GDP per hour, is worse than the United States' and Ireland's. Switzerland has nearly double ours, and it doesn't have the advantages we have, in terms of tremendous natural resources—just the sheer size of our country. Why would we not tackle that and go, “Okay...”?

By the way, there's all this talk about the subsidies that oil and gas get, which I'm not going to get into today. Do you know what? The average Canadian contributes $50 GDP per hour. Do you know what it is for oil and gas? It's $600. Their productivity.... It's the single thing the Canadian economy is struggling with most, and we are going to kneecap that industry.

Clean Canadian energy has to be part of the economic solution. It will drive our economy, going forward. As we transition to other fuels, we cannot simply disobey it and say, “We're going to completely eliminate an industry that is a productivity leader for our country.” We cannot abandon the workers across this country in clean, sustainable Canadian energy. When we look at this picture....

We need to enhance our innovation and productivity. I agree with Ms. Dzerowicz. There's nothing in the fall economic statement that will have a substantial impact. I've been saying this in the House since I was elected in 2019: We need to drive productivity, because, if we can make things and innovate more efficiently, effectively and quickly than the rest of the world, we win. We all win. You don't increase the wealth of a country by printing money. No country has ever taxed itself into prosperity. It's never happened—not once.

It's absolutely frustrating to me. We see socialist nightmare after socialist nightmare—Venezuela, Cuba and the Soviet Union. We know where socialism leads. It leads to poverty. We tax and tax and tax and tax. We say to those Canadians working the hardest out there.... It's unfathomable to me that a Canadian starting at $14,000.... This government believes they should start paying tax on that—$14,000. What's the poverty line? Is it three, four or five times that? A simple way to help people is taking less of their money. This fall economic statement has nothing to relieve that Canadian.

I also agree with my colleague Mr. Blaikie when he says some of this money—he can correct me, as I'm sure he will, if I'm incorrect—should go to deficit and debt reduction. If I can tell tales out of school, he's told me that before. Having a strong balance book is important to him. We agree on that point.

If the government said, “We are flush with revenue. Here's what we're going to do. We are going to take that money and dramatically reduce the deficit or debt”.... However, they are not. It looks decent—I'll give them that. The deficit is going down. I hear that. However, that's because of inflation. They're just taking more money from the most vulnerable, enriching themselves, then sending that money back out. That's the reality.

They are spending $6 billion more. If they had followed what the deputy leader of the Liberal Party said, and followed the pay-as-you-go system, where every new dollar of spending was to be met by a dollar of spending reduction.... That's in a different ballpark. That's not what they're doing. There's more and more spending.

Let's look at the track record of this government's balance sheet. It was given a balanced budget by the previous government. They were given that, even after going through the worst economic crisis of a generation. The Harper government still managed to balance the books—bring that balance sheet in line. Then what happened? A hundred billion dollars of pre-COVID deficit spending—$100 billion. You were given the keys to the balance sheet and you drove it right into the ditch—100 billion dollars' worth.

They said, you know, “We're fine. We have strong...”. What was Bill Morneau's comment? I think “fiscal firepower” was the comment of the day. Well, it turned out that he was about $400 billion short of what they needed, so they engaged and embarked in an aggressive quantitative easing program. We can go through the machinations of it back and forth, but it really equates to money printing—$400 billion.

Every time this has been tried—back to the Romans—every time a government thinks, “We have a great idea. This is fantastic. We control the printing presses. We'll never have any deficit or debt problems. We can just print more money”.... It happened in Yugoslavia. It happened in Argentina. It happened in the Weimar Republic. It happened in the 1970s right here in North America where they turned the printing presses on high and, once again, we were faced with inflation.

We had $100 billion of pre-COVID spending. Then, according to this government's Parliamentary Budget Officer, there was another $200 billion in non-COVID-related expenditures. That's $300 billion. That equates to about $20,000 for every Canadian family of four or actually a little bit more than that. That's $20,000 that Canadians received in non-COVID deficit spending.

I talk to my constituents. They're not telling me that they're $20,000 to the good after the last three years of spending. I would not hesitate to say that if that $200 billion plus $100 billion was, instead, were either put to the debt or deficit, as Mr. Blaikie insinuated—he'll correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure—that would have put us in a much better position.

Right now, going forward, according to the fiscal statement, we're looking at debt charges of about $40 billion. I think that's roughly equivalent to the health transfers this federal government pays out every year. We would not have to be paying that if the $300 billion—instead of being spent on things like “ArriveScam” and other reckless Liberal projects, and to Frank Baylis, amongst others, through a series of companies—was left in the pockets of government and we paid down debt or the deficit, where we wouldn't have to pay the $40 billion in interest charges, or even better yet, if it was left in the pockets of Canadians.

What will happen is that if, in fact, we leave more money in the hands of our workers, of our job creators, they will invest that money. Ms. Dzerowicz was absolutely correct; for every dollar that an American company invests in capital investment, Canadians invest 43 cents. That's the statistic. That's what's real.

I don't understand how you cannot then take that as.... One of the major expenses for any Canadian or any Canadian business is taxes. It's directly controllable by government. If we reduce our share, it only makes sense that companies, that individuals, will have more money to invest in the technology of the future.

If we don't get this right—and I say this in all seriousness—we're going to have serious challenges down the road. We are not investing in capital as much as the United States. We are not innovating. We're not investing in our innovation like many of our OECD partners. In fact, we were last at the OECD in terms of capital investment.

The solution to that is not more taxation. That's the part I don't understand with the 2% tax on share buyback. I don't even know whether that will be meaningful. I suppose economists will contemplate that and will comment on that, and I'm eager to hear their expert testimony. However, at 2%, I suspect it won't even meaningfully impact anyone's behaviour.

Why is it...? There are always two options. There are a carrot and a stick with all of these policies. Why does government always go to the stick? Why could it not give a break to those companies that are doing things right with respect to productivity and innovation? Why could they not, even if they wanted to take a more traditional, left-wing approach, invest in research and education?

I have been studying Ireland's economy. They're moving ahead of us when it comes to innovation and productivity. In fact, they are ahead of us. They've been very nimble on economic policy. They're a unitary state, so granted it's a little bit easier for them. It's both on the left and right-wing sides.

They are investing dramatically and quickly into their education system. They see an opportunity for artificial intelligence, genetics research for the economy of the future. They started paying for education in those fields. They're paying for research and development.

Of course, to fill one of the big gaps that our economy has always had and continues to have, we need some of the brightest minds in the entire world. We attract so many great newcomers to our country, and we need an immigration system that actually welcomes folks. I can't tell you how many individuals come to my constituency office so disappointed and despondent by the treatment they've received from this federal government. Let me be clear, on the record, that we need newcomers. We need the diversity in our country. We need the brainpower that they bring. We need their labour. But we have to make it less arduous for them.

I'll give you one example. We had in our riding a machine that cost tens of millions of dollars. They needed a team from India to help install it. This was not even a long-term immigration issue; they were just coming for a couple of months to help get this machine off to go. It drives jobs and productivity. They had to wait for months and months. Every day the machine sat idle cost thousands of dollars, and employees had to be laid off, because we couldn't get out of our own way.

There are things within the bureaucracy, very left-wing ideas that could help move the ball forward. This government won't even do that. They won't even stay true to their own ideology.

The other thing that Ireland does, very smartly—and many other countries, including the United States and Switzerland do—is targeted tax cuts, tax relief systems, and updated regulatory systems.

Our Income Tax Act is way out of date. We need to have substantive reform there. Like I said, the SR and ED system is broken. Ask any expert and anyone in the technology industry. It's not working. It's not helping to innovate.

Instead of targeting a 2% tax on share buybacks, why not help these companies and provide them with targeted relief that will encourage them? Not relief—as the NDP have rightly pointed out—that will lead to them racking up profits or paying huge dividends while at the same time collecting corporate welfare in the form of wage subsidies or otherwise. We need to have targeted, smart tax relief.

We would not be creating new ground, here. There are all sorts of countries and jurisdictions around the world...even some of our provinces are leading the way with respect to that. I know Ontario has done great things. Alberta has done great things. Why not look to some of the Ontario and Alberta processes to help attract some of these businesses and grow productivity that everyone—it appears, around this table—agrees on?

This fall economic statement just didn't have anything.

My concern—hopefully in the short term—is the affordability crisis. When I look at the affordability crisis, I don't see anything in the fall economic statement on that. As I said earlier, no one in my constituency was calling up and saying, “Philip, what we need is a 2% tax on shareholder buybacks so that public companies can have more capital”. I didn't hear that once. Maybe it's different in some of the other constituencies, but in Northumberland—Peterborough South that was not even brought up.

What I have heard over and over again, is that the cost of living is just getting too expensive. These Liberals are pricing people out of their homes. They're literally pricing people out of their grocery stores and into food banks.

In the long term, the productivity and innovation piece is something I'm very passionate about. I've spoken numerous times in the House about it, but there's nothing really substantive in there.

One of the pieces that's missing, which I think most experts will comment on and talk about, is the fact that we have a gap between the great researchers we have, the great post-secondary education and the final product. It's not the research product part that.... Obviously, we could always use more research, but it's the development piece.

As part of the pre-budget consultations, I get to hear from many different industries and many different institutions about this gap in the Canadian economy. In everything from auto manufacturing to artificial intelligence and cancer research, they all say the same thing. We're not investing in that development piece.

What that means is.... They do great work at the U of T, at MaRS and at the University of Waterloo, and they come up with amazing ideas. Unfortunately, many times, the people, the ideas or both work their way across the border or to the EU and we, as Canadians, don't necessarily get the benefit of these great ideas as we should.

This is something that we could certainly work on together on a non-partisan basis. I think all parties...I think most experts see this as an issue with respect to the Canadian economy and, quite frankly, I've seen it for decades. This is something that I was hoping to see in the fall economic statement. I was hoping to see a real commitment to increasing the productivity and innovation of our country for the long term of our country.

When we get back to the process of this legislation and why I feel it's important to talk, I don't believe that hearing Mr. Blaikie, Mr. Beech, Mr. Baker or Ms. Chatel talk is ever a waste of time. I believe my colleagues have valuable input. I believe that they were put here, and the taxpayers spend those billions of dollars, so that we can talk out those debates and talk out those discussions.

As in Good to Great, if anyone's read that book by Jim Collins.... It's a fabulous book. I highly recommend it. I see I got a smile. One of the things that he writes in there is that a lot of ideas are bad ideas. If you propose an idea, it's more likely to be bad. Think about it. It's more likely to hurt than help. That's why Parliament is meant to be like this. It's meant to be a vetting process, so that we have those hedgehog ideas that get through and empower Canada to own the next century.

However, part of that is it's important to say no. It can't just be “Yes, yes, yes”, because if you have a hundred priorities, you don't have a priority. When we are going through this, it's our job as His Majesty's loyal opposition to critique this and to be the ones who fearlessly say no, that is not a good idea and, in fact, that is incorrect.

Like I said, as Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great, the chances are that we're right more often than we're not when we say “no”, and sometimes the best thing a government can do is say, “No, let's not do that”.

As Edmund Burke said many years ago, why would we just on a whim throw out the tried and true for something new and unproven? The hours that we spend in Parliament, I think, are incredibly valuable.

I will continue to discuss it unapologetically. Quite frankly, like I said, I don't care who I irritate or who I annoy. I'm here for the people of Northumberland—Peterborough South and for Canadians, and if that means angering or annoying people, that's fine. I do it to my 7-year-old daughter all the time, and I'm happy to do it here in Parliament as well.

There's one element that I want to go back to, because I'm hoping it might actually be a fertile area for future discussion and amendments. I had a PMB with respect to propane and natural gas for farmers and giving them an exemption from the carbon tax. Actually, it's being carried forward by Mr. Ben Lobb, the member for Huron—Bruce. The private member's bill is Bill C-234. I think it will do some great things. I'm looking forward to it receiving royal assent, because some farmers are paying tens of thousands of dollars.

In the discussion on that legislation, the part that I actually found most shocking was the fact that we charge GST on the carbon tax. Like, how does that make sense? If a private corporation did that, the NDP would be absolutely losing their minds. The government is charging a tax on a tax. In what world does that make sense? The most bizarre part about that, though, is that as part of the PMB discussions, we had a member from the finance department come before us. I had some initial ground-setting questions. When I asked if we charged GST on the carbon tax, he said no.

This was the ministry of finance. They didn't know that they charged GST on the carbon tax. Of course, a couple of months later, without apology but just by a way of explanation and in as many words as possible, in as fulsome a word salad as you'd ever hear, he admitted that, yes, they do in fact charge GST on the carbon tax.

Later in my questioning about charging the GST on the carbon tax, as to why they did that...because I know that we have a number of individuals here who are experts on tax policy. They even worked for the federal government to great esteem and to high regard. They would be aware that nowhere in tax policy does it say that it's good policy to charge tax on a tax. There are different schools of thought that say where someone's wealth increases, they should pay their greater share. That makes sense. But your belief that you should be paying more GST because you pay more carbon tax doesn't hold water. It doesn't make sense.

So an easy fix, and I think one that would be relatively consistent with what the NDP are calling for, along with us, would be the removal of GST on home heating. Let's at least reduce the carbon tax by the GST we pay on the carbon tax.

By the by, it also blows up the Liberal narrative that the carbon tax is revenue-neutral, because that GST you don't get back. You don't get that as part of the carbon tax rebate. That GST is just money that goes, through government greed, into the coffers of the government. Through the ever-expanding and insatiable greed of the government, it's getting more and more and more Canadians....

Let's also put this into context here. The single mom starts paying tax at $14,000. That's the personal exemption. However, then there are the trillionaires and the billionaires. Do you know how many people from the Panama papers have paid taxes on those claims? Zero. Do you know how many dollars have been collected from the Panama papers?

Of course, the Panama papers listed a number of Canadians with respect to tax evasion. These are not small numbers. Maybe the CRA could back off the small business owners trying to make their way. Instead of, in the fall economic statement, asking for thousands more dollars so they can have thousands more auditors, maybe they could focus on the Panama papers. That's now many years back and they have not collected a single penny.

I understand that it might be easier to audit a small business owner who's trying his best to earn money, but what about the billionaires and the trillionaires who are named in the Panama papers and are still not out one dollar? Not one dollar has been collected. Not one individual has gone to jail—not one—and these are serious, serious dollars.

Let's focus our guns where they should be instead of cracking down...as the former finance minister called small business owners when he called them tax cheats. Yet his friends, the folks he vacations with in the millionaire islands, the billionaire islands—they're fine; they're fine.

Let's just let the Panama papers and all the people who are evading taxes to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.... Did we see any update in the fall economic statement about that? I didn't see any.

I know that I've certainly heard Peter Julian from the NDP and many others—and our Leader of the Opposition has always been clear—say that every Canadian should pay their fair share. I'm calling on this government again. Let's get an update. Before we shake down another innocent hard-working Canadian business owner with another needless audit, let's go after the trillionaires. Let's go after the folks who were named in the Panama papers for illegally avoiding Canadian taxation. It's those tax havens that this government should be going after if they're in need of that revenue.

When we have that revenue—right now, we have record revenue because of inflation and because we've taken so much more from hard-working Canadians as a percentage—let's apply that to debt reduction. Well, we have to start with deficit reduction, of course, and maybe one day, miracle of miracles, maybe we'll pull out Adam's sock there and we'll actually get a dollar of debt reduction, which will help all of us. It will help Canadians by reducing—hopefully—the tax burden going forward. It will also help social democrats, as they'd have more money to spend on the projects they would like, but a bigger deficit—a bigger debt—doesn't help anyone.

When we look at the future, we need to have a fall economic statement that I'm hoping.... In fact, I know that underneath a Poilievre government, we won't have a fall economic statement that is just a litany of failure after failure. When the Liberals fail, the good news is that they get to reannounce the same program over and over again, and that's what we saw in there.

After seven years of these Liberals being in charge, we have high interest rates that are driving up the costs for everyone and making it nearly impossible for many Canadians to afford a house. In fact, some are giving up the ability to ever own a home, which is just so sad.

We have continued high inflation, which drives up the costs of everything. Like I said, if you're a millionaire, a billionaire or a trillionaire, you're watching some of your assets continue to increase in value, but if you're a hard-working person, if you're like family members of mine, who are on the line or are working at a steel plant or in a mine or in a field growing crops, that inflation hurts, and it hurts a lot. It's not just a number on a spreadsheet. It's their ability to feed their families. Quite frankly, we've seen the evidence of that. We've seen record food bank usage. Food bank usage has increased by over 20%. In one month, 1.5 million Canadians went to a food bank, 500,000 of whom were children.

We have high interest rates and high inflation and the government says, “Oh, by the way, in order to counteract the inflation we created, which both the current Governor of the Bank of Canada and the future Liberal leader, Mark Carney, said is a Canadian phenomenon”—so we have the self-inflicted wound of inflation—“in order to fix that ailment, we're also going to slow the economy.” Of course, slowing the economy isn't just numbers either. It's not just GDP going down. It's good hard-working Canadians, women and men across this land, who are going to lose their jobs.

This is their document. They produced this document. What they're telling Canadians is that they have high inflation to deal with and high interest rates. There's no doubt that some Canadians will lose their homes, because those who are having to re-up their fixed mortgage or who have a variable, depending on how it's structured, have probably seen an increase in their payments.

Before this, Canadians were within $200 of insolvency, so guess what happens if your interest rate goes up by $200? It continues to increase. On top of that, you now have slowing economic growth. We have economic growth that, according to this projection, is either just on the knife's edge of being a recession or, in their downward projection, is indeed a recession.

We have high interest rates, high inflation and low economic growth. This is a triple economic nightmare that seven years of Liberal government has led to. It's increasingly pricing Canadians out of their own country.

Mr. Chair, who is up next on the speaking order?

5:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

I don't believe we have anybody, so should we call the vote? Is that the end of the discussion?

5:30 p.m.


Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

No, I'm going to keep going. That's all right. I was just curious.

I want to go back to the GST on the carbon tax—a tax on a tax. I have not yet been provided a reason. If any Ministry of Finance individuals are listening to this and they want to send over to my office an individual to explain to me why having GST on the carbon tax was passed at a time when we already have record costs for home heating fuel and other things, I am more than willing to listen. To me, it does not make sense.

Why would we not remove the GST from the carbon tax? I'm not even talking about removing the GST from the actual home heating fuel. GST is charged on the carbon tax, which is charged on the home heating fuel. It does not make any sense whatsoever.

I know my colleagues are very eager to also make some comments here. I will pass the floor. I believe Mr. Chambers is on the list now, Mr. Chair.

5:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

I believe so.

MP Chambers.

5:30 p.m.


Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.

I should have worn different socks today, I guess.

5:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Yes, I know. Where are your socks?

5:30 p.m.


Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

I usually wear those on Mondays.

I think we need a subcommittee meeting. Maybe that's a way to resolve this issue. It seems to me there is probably some kind of path to a resolution here. I think this happens every single time there is a fall economic statement. We usually figure it out. I think there are probably some reasonable options on the table, but there was a wonderful suggestion earlier about suspending and letting some people chat about it. Ms. Dzerowicz made that suggestion.

Like my colleague, Mr. Blaikie, I prefer not to show up on Wednesday without some kind of resolution since we always seem to find a way to make it work.

Mr. Chair, what time do we have resources until this evening?

5:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

I think we still have some time.

5:30 p.m.


Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Okay, this will be very interesting. I guess we can buckle up then.

We somehow always seem to find ourselves in the same spot. There's a low-trust environment. We have some new folks here, and that's okay, but the government is continuing to manage its parliamentary calendar in a way that seems to show it thinks it holds a complete majority. It forces the NDP to vote for some things that I don't think the NDP generally wishes to support, but it also doesn't always leave a lot of room for negotiation. There's the refrain, “We're going to do this and we don't need you”. That's okay, as we can stay here all night. I guess we should get some more speakers on the speaking list.

Phil's back on? Okay, that's good.

I think we owe it to Canadians to do thorough reviews of the legislation. We have agreed to prestudies previously, we agreed to a prestudy of the budget, although we were in a similar position as we are now, but we did agree to a prestudy of the budget. I can't recall what we did last year, but we did make some concessions on getting an audit for the CERB, which is coming in early December.

People should mark their calendars for that, because the Auditor General is going to review the process that CRA used to give out CERB and other payments. It's notable because it's the same process the government is planning to use for the dental benefit. One wonders why the government was so hastily moving the dental benefit through the parliamentary process. I think it's because they wanted to do so before the audit came out, because there are some challenges—as the Parliamentary Budget Officer has noted—with the self-attestation process. The government wanted to make it about, “If you vote against the dental plan, you're voting against kids' healthy smile”—and it's all about process and procedure and not about substance.

You could have taken the same amount of money, and by the way, saved $100 million in administrative costs, and given that money to provinces to increase the eligibility criteria for all of their existing programming using their infrastructure. That was my primary objection to the dental care bill, but I'm looking forward to the Auditor General's report on that front. I think we should also have time as a committee to have the Auditor General come back to talk about that, but we won't get to do that if we're going to continue talking about these kinds of things.

I would encourage some kind of subcommittee meeting, having some kind of calendar until the end of the year to get there. I don't even know when the last subcommittee meeting was. I can't recall it. Now, I'm not invited to those. I would wear my socks to them.

5:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Just on that, MP Chambers, I thought you did have your socks on and I thought the magic was going to happen. I thought we were going to get something done and we would be able to start the study. It doesn't look like that's happening, so members, again, we are going to have to suspend.

[The meeting was suspended at 5:38 p.m., Tuesday, November 14]

[The meeting resumed at 4:33 p.m., Wednesday, November 16]

4:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

I call this meeting back to order.

This is the continuation of meeting number 66 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. The committee is meeting today to discuss future business. Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.

I'd like to make a few comments for the benefit of witnesses and members.

Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike and please mute yourself when you are not speaking.

There is interpretation. Those on Zoom have the choice, at the bottom of their screen, of the floor, English or French”. Those in the room can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.

I remind you that all comments should be addressed through the chair.

For members in the room who wish to speak, please raise your hand. For members on Zoom, please use the “raise hand” function. The clerk and I will manage the speaking order as best we can. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this regard.

We are resuming debate on the motion moved by MP Terry Beech and the friendly amendment moved by MP Yvan Baker.

The last speakers we had.... I believe MP Chambers and MP Lawrence were both on the list.

I have MP Chambers, then MP Morantz after that.

4:30 p.m.


Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Oh, I guess it's all virtual. I hope everybody's comfortable at home.

We are unfortunately in the same position we were at. I heard that there's been no real subcommittee meeting since the last meeting. From my perspective, it seems like the committee was asked to slightly adjust its protocol to do a prestudy, which has happened before. Typically, as precedent has been, at least to my understanding, when that happens there's a bit of a negotiation about how we can agree to set some protocol aside to allow a prestudy, which seems reasonable. Many members of the committee, I think, believed there was a reasonable compromise, and yet that doesn't seem to be palatable for the government.

For the benefit of others, we just had an inflation reading today. Inflation is three times the Bank of Canada's target rate of 2%. It's been that way for well over a year. If the committee is going to continue to push forward the government legislation in a reasonable fashion, the committee should also expect that the executive branch be accountable for its decisions and the outcomes, and what's happening in the economy. Quite frankly, it is entirely reasonable, and should even just be as a matter of practice, that on a regular basis, outside any appearances on legislation, both the Bank of Canada governor and the finance minister appear at the committee at least multiple times a year.

In times of inflation, prolonged inflation, I would think it would make a lot of sense for Canadians to feel that their executive branch and those policy-makers are being held accountable for literally the only thing they're supposed to do, which is to keep inflation between 1% and 3%. When it is not within 1% to 3%, I think it would make sense to have the Bank of Canada governor come every time the bank releases a monetary policy report to say, “Here's the target. Here's what we're doing to bring it back to target”, so that we can hold institutions accountable. The bank governor has been willing to come to this committee before, and I thank him for that. I don't think he would be upset with the request to come on a more regular basis. The challenge here is that theMinister of Finance doesn't want to appear before the committee on inflation.

We passed a study on inflation 12 months ago that asked for the minister to come to appear on inflation, and she has yet to appear at the committee on that. But she wants to come when we require her to pass her legislation. She is quite happy to come to the committee when the minister needs something, and was not happy to come when all of the committee members who passed the inflation study requested the presence of the minister.

The compromise, I actually think, is quite reasonable: While inflation is outside the control range, and until it comes back down, every three months this committee, and Canadians, get to hear from and question and hold accountable the Minister of Finance and the Bank of Canada governor on what they are doing to get inflation back down. It is the only job of the Bank of Canada, and it's the Minister of Finance who sets the Bank of Canada's mandate. Don't you think the Minister of Finance would love the opportunity to come in front of Canadians to talk about what the government is doing to help Canadians with inflation? I think it seems rather odd that as we're entering a period of economic uncertainty, the minister is interested in hiding from Canadians. She's not interested in actually standing in front of the committee and answering for the record.

There's all this discussion in the media and among the elite chattering classes about populism and its going after institutions. The way we hold institutions accountable is at committees like this. The way we give the public confidence about our institutions is when we can hold them accountable and when we can hold the members of the executive accountable.

That's how we hold these institutions accountable—in public and by asking questions. Every three months is quite a reasonable ask, actually, in my view. I would think most ministers who are in that position would want the opportunity to tell the story of the government.

4:40 p.m.


Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

On a point of order, Chair, I'd just like to remind us that Mr. Beech put forward a motion, and I put forward an amendment to that motion, and that's the subject matter at hand. I don't think Mr. Chambers is speaking to the amendment. That's what we should be discussing here today so we can get back to work for Canadians.

Thank you.

4:40 p.m.


Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Could the member—

4:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you, MP Baker.

MP Chambers?

4:40 p.m.


Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Thank you. Just for the benefit of the committee, could the member read his amendment into the record? Thank you.

4:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Well, it's already been read into the record. We do have—

4:40 p.m.


Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

I'm sorry. I would be—

4:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

So, we have the motion as amended by MP Baker, but, yes. We were speaking to this motion as amended.

4:40 p.m.


Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Okay, so for the benefit of those at home who may be tuning in for the first time, could we have the gist of the subamendment mentioned here again?

4:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

If we go through the motion as amended, we have:

That the Chair schedule meetings to initiate a pre-study on the Act to implement certain provisions of the fall Economic Statement and that the first meeting take...place on Monday, November 14, 2022, should legislation be presented in the House by that time and, that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance be invited to appear with her officials on the bill; that all evidence gathered as part of the pre-study be considered as evidence in the committee's full study of the bill; and, should the bill be referred to committee by Thursday, November 24, 2022: a. Clause-by-clause study of the bill commence no later than Wednesday, November 30, 2022; b. Amendments to the bill be submitted by 5:00 p.m. EST Thursday, November 24, 2022; c. and that the committee immediately proceed to this study and hear from officials from the Department of Finance.

And that's what we're discussing right now.

4:40 p.m.


Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

What about the subamendment? Is that part of it?

4:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

That is with the friendly subamendment, yes.