Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-29, the government's fall budget update.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Minister of Finance rose in the House to deliver a fall economic update to reassure Canadians that no matter what issue they faced, it was a Liberal top priority and it would be taken very seriously.
Unfortunately, it is very cold comfort to the tens of thousands of Canadians who have lost their jobs, have seen their wages fall, and their savings depleted. It is funny that the Liberals, who will say just about anything to win an election and have taken promise breaking to new levels in the past year, are once again asking the House and Canadians to simply trust them, that they know what they are doing.
As an adult, I have learned that people will say anything to get what they want, and this seems like more empty rhetoric. The government is asking us to give it more billions, that it will work out and not worry. It is starting to rank right up there with, “Don't worry, the cheque is in the mail”, and “Dad, get us that new dog. We will walk it and we will pick up after it”. “Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame on you”. Fool me thrice, now things are just getting silly.
Our world is filled with uncertainty. We live in a time where we simply cannot predict where we will be in five years. However, when faced with high uncertainty, the solution is not to throw cash at various ideas on the off-chance that maybe, just maybe, it might create a job.
Let us look at where we are right now. Since coming to power, the Liberals have turned a comfortable surplus into a bottomless deficit. They have raised taxes, promised to raise more taxes, and misdirected question about raising other taxes. Projects get announced, then delayed, postponed, ignored, swept under the rug. The money gets promised, trumpets are sounded, press releases are sent in a flurry of self-praise, but the shovel does not hit the ground. So far only one project has actually been started. It is like a press release to project ratio of about 100:1 right now. All the while there has not been a single, net, full-time job created in the past year.
When the Minister of Finance delivered his economic update, I was looking for three basic things: how many jobs would be created; what was the plan to return the budget to surplus and pay down the debt; and what was the Liberal plan to increase economic growth? The Minister of Finance did not provide answers. Rather, he simple told Canadians to relax, trust him, he knew what he was doing.
Perhaps members will forgive me for being a tiny bit uneasy about our country's future, given what the government has and has not done in the time it has held its majority, such as ignoring economic data and experts, manipulating data to fit its failed narrative and refusing to back down when it is shown that its strategy is not working.
We live in the best country in the world, and Canadians put their trust in a government that told them to look forward to sunny ways. We are still waiting for the sun to appear, and the horizon does not look much brighter.
Let us look at what the government presented.
First, the Minister of Finance acknowledged how much his government had spent so far, and then laid out how much more he needed to spend, because the first bout of billions had no return. Therefore, let us spend billions more.
He talked about high-minded ideals such as establishing an infrastructure bank, spending money on public transit, and made honourable mention to getting Canadian products to market. These are nice ideas, but they are not new. The government has had the same talking points since day one, and Canadians have not seen a return for the billions of taxpayers dollars spent.
What we actually get are economic growth forecasts downgraded and downgraded some more. We have seen a drop in full-time employment. We have received yet another promise, and been told, yet again, to wait, trust them, they know what they are doing.
The government says that conditions are out of its control, but is it not a little puzzling that a more competitive Canadian dollar, higher oil prices, and a massive jump in government spending has produced such anemic growth? The first plan is not working, and we can probably guess that more of the same will not have a different outcome.
Next, the government talks about “delivering a more open and transparent government” by, among other things, improving “clarity on government spending”. We approve this in theory, but the plan to increase clarity on government spending so far involves limiting debate on government estimates and making it harder for parliamentarians to adequately scrutinize spending by limiting the amount of time for parliamentary review.
In order to cement this clarity, the government wants to change the long-held rules of our Parliament to accommodate its work load, but we are told it is only for a couple of years then it will be changed back. The most basic purpose of our Westminster parliamentary system is the oversight of spending, and the government wants to change the laws to limit this oversight, then asks us to trust it, that it will be okay.
After a while repeated assurances, promises, and demands for trust wear thin when report after report shows its plan is not working. More and more Canadians are losing that trust. After reading this document, it is for good reason.
The finance minister gave lip service to global economic conditions. He mentioned them, then ignored them and indicated that the government was committed to carrying out policies that flew in the face of these conditions, policies such as its much loved carbon tax, despite the lack of multilateral co-operation with our largest trading partner and major competitor, and the push back of provinces under which it was imposing this scheme.
We as Canadians often fall over ourselves to assert our independence from our American cousins and friends, but the government is planning to go the extra mile.
The best strategy to differentiate two geographically and economically similar countries in order to attract new talent in global investment is not the Liberal strategy of higher taxes, more regulations, and a more overbearing government. That is not the formula for success.
The Liberals are not backing down. They are ignoring global conditions, common sense, and the basic economic principles of competition. No, they are not backing down. It is truly disappointing because no one benefits from this posturing, not the vulnerable, not the seniors, and certainly not the middle class, the Liberals' favourite talking point.
The Liberals love talking about the middle class. They love saying that the middle class is a top priority for their government, speaking like they actually understand the plight of the average Canadian. They patronizingly tell Canadians how to live their lives and control what they save, how much they save, and where they save, all the while pretending they are blazing new trails for the middle class, when neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Finance has ever actually been a member of the middle class.
It is extremely easy for the government to raise taxes by just a small amount, or increase the debt by a small amount, or make things harder for Canadians by just a small amount, because it has never seen the impact these small amounts have on a Canadian family.
When parents hand children a path forward on a silver platter, they are not like the vast majority of taxpayers. Every time the government institutes new taxes or takes on more debt, it further indicates that it does not understand the impact of these policies.
When the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister defend their tax policies by saying that Canadians and small businesses can afford another $1,100 a year in CPP payroll taxes, or another 10¢, 15¢, or 20¢ per litre in new gas taxes to pay for their carbon tax, they are truly disconnected from the rest of the country.
Yesterday, The Globe and Mail published a study suggesting that nearly one-quarter of Canadians were worried about how to pay for groceries. Food banks today reported record increase in usage. Canadians are struggling. Food bank usage across the country is increasing, especially in Alberta, but the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister are not listening.
However, we have been listening. Canadians tell us that they do not want to pay higher taxes, not while they are dealing with such uncertainty; not when they do not know if their job will be there for them in the next five years, two years, or even one year; not when their federal government abandons all reason and common sense to satisfy the desires of its backroom high-minded donor class; and especially not when we receive talking points, promises, and demands for trust, without seeing any meaningful results.
I want to reiterate what I had hoped to see from the economic update. I had hoped the finance minister would acknowledge that times were tough and Canadians could not afford to pay higher taxes. I had hoped he would acknowledge that the time to institute punishing, unilateral carbon taxes was not when we had not created a single full-time job in a year. I had hoped he would acknowledge that deficits in the tens of billions actually had to be paid back. Above all, I had hoped the finance minister would reassure the House and Canadians that his plan was an actual plan.
Plans have targets, objectives, goals, and real tangible methods of achieving those targets. This update is more like a casualty report, another few billion packed on to the deficit, another few billion in new debt each year, no realistic plan to create jobs, no tangible results from the pain already endured.
I am worried about our future, and rightly so. There is enormous uncertainty in the world and we need an actual plan. What do we tell our children in 30 years when they are out of work in a stumbling economy, burdened by billions in debt, deficits, and interest payments, unable to see the path forward? Canadians deserve better.