Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at this stage of Bill C-29, which seeks to implement key measures from the budget that was tabled, voted on, and passed in the House a few months ago.
First of all, I want to set the record straight for Canadians. I want to tell it like it is and give a clear picture of the situation, ever since Canadians voted for a change in government.
Canada was in an enviable fiscal position. The Conservative administration left a surplus of $2.9 billion. Canada had the best debt-to-GDP ratio among the G7 nations. Canada was the best of the best. Canada also had the best job creation record of all the G7 nations. Canada was the country that fared best. It was also the country that recovered the quickest from the terrible financial crisis that was felt all over the globe in 2008 and 2009. That is the Conservative record. The Conservatives definitely left the house in order, so to speak. Unfortunately, the Liberals are currently destroying our economy. In fact, that is why we strongly oppose Bill C-29, which seeks to implement the measures in the budget. We think it is a very bad budget. Why?
For decades, Canadians made every effort that was required, including under the leadership of the Right Hon. Paul Martin, a distinguished and world-renowned finance minister. He fought mercilessly against the deficit. Now the current government is sending Canada down another unfortunate deficit spiral. The thing is, we are not in an economic crisis, as was the case when the Conservatives were in power and we had to deal with this difficult situation.
What does this mean? It means that we are asking our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren to foot the bill for this deficit. They are the ones who will have to pay for the current government's mismanagement. Worse yet, the party in power got elected barely a year and a half ago by saying that they would run a small deficit of $10 billion, but we would return to a balanced budget during the fourth year of their term.
Nothing could be further from the truth today. The deficit is currently $30 billion. From the economic update we know that the Liberals will continue to spiral badly by inflicting another $32 billion in spending over the next five years. The sad reality that is slapping us in the face is that the government is unable to tell us when we will return to a balanced budget.
There is not one business owner, father, mother, or head of household who manages their budget without the expectation that one day they will keep their head above water. That is exactly the situation that the government is forcing us into. We are drowning in debt, but we have no idea when we are going to come up for air. This is unprecedented and unheard of. It is unacceptable. It is the Liberal way.
If only the Liberals would at least acknowledge that they said some foolish things during the election campaign, like running small deficits, which is not at all true because the deficit is three times the amount forecast. If only they would tell us, for example, not to worry at all because they are going to balance the budget in five years. That would be very wrong, but we would at least have an idea of the situation. However, that is not the case. This short-sighted government has absolutely no idea when it will balance the budget or how it will manage to eliminate the deficit.
I can assure Canadians that the next balanced budget will be a budget tabled by the Conservative government, which will be elected by Canadians in three years. That is a fact.
I would also like to remind members that the Liberals bragged about how, in the budget, there would finally be tax cuts for Canadians and how all Canadians would benefit from them. Well, aren't they generous. The reality is quite the opposite. The measures proposed by the government will have no impact on the taxes that 65% of Canadians have to pay. There will be no tax cuts for 65% of Canadians. Who then will benefit from the announced tax cuts? It is Canadians who earn between $140,000 and $200,000 a year. Is a person who earns $199,999 a year part of the middle class? I have my doubts.
I would like to point out right away that I am in a position of conflict of interest. As an MP, I earn around $170,000 a year, so I am one of the lucky ones who will benefit from these measures. With a salary like that, I do not feel as though I am part of the middle class. The government has been boasting that it is helping the middle class, the least fortunate, and the most vulnerable. Stop right there. In reality, 65% of Canadians will not benefit at all from these measures. Those who will benefit the most are wealthier Canadians who earn between $144,000 and $200,000 a year.
What is more, this budget hinders the creation of jobs and wealth because it does not do much to help our small and medium-sized businesses. For us, the Conservatives, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They create jobs and wealth. We need to do everything we can to help them, not hold them back. Nevertheless, that is what this government is doing with the budget. It is imposing the Liberal carbon tax. It is imposing new fees on employers and employees under the Canada pension plan. It is failing to keep its promise by not lowering the tax rate of SMEs. The government was supposed to lower the tax rate from 10.5% to 9% but failed to do so. These are three measures that work against our business owners, our job creators and our creators of wealth. That is why we are completely against this bill.
I would also like to draw members' attention to a small but very important detail. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and in this case we are talking about consumer protection.
First of all, I would like to recognize the excellent job that was done by the member for Joliette, who really did the kind of work one would expect from an opposition member. He did a great job, and I would like to commend him for that.
What happened? This has to do with the enforcement of the legislation on banks and the management of financial institutions.
Let us recall the events: in 2012, the Conservative government passed legislation to implement, across the entire country, certain measures concerning the management of financial and banking institutions. Part of that law was challenged in court. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled specifically on the issue of the Consumer Protection Act in Quebec. The act was not constitutional, so it had to be changed.
Since we are institutional people and we respect our institutions, we are going to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision. However, in this new bill the government is proposing measures that, unfortunately, do not meet the requirements of the Supreme Court ruling. Along with the members for Joliette, Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques and others, we questioned senior officials in parliamentary committee in order to get specific answers to very specific questions, so that we could find out whether they were complying with the Supreme Court’s ruling or not.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that we were convinced. There are still flaws in the legislative measures proposed in Bill C-29 on the issue of Quebec’s Consumer Protection Act. We are not the only ones with concerns. The National Assembly has passed a motion asking the government to suspend the clauses of Bill C-29 that affect the Consumer Protection Act.
If we want to make a law that complies with the Supreme Court ruling, we have to talk to the lead stakeholders, because it is abundantly clear that if the bill is passed, it is going to be challenged in court on this issue, among others. It is not just us who are saying so, it is the National Assembly.
What is the Quebec National Assembly? Certainly it is the members of the opposition, but it is also the government. The day before yesterday, the Quebec justice minister, who is a member on the other side of the river, not so far from here, said that she was concerned about certain clauses in Bill C-29.
There is still time for the government to seize the opportunity and just do what ought to be done. It should pick up the phone, call the justice minister, and ask her what is not working and what should be drafted to make it work. That is what a government in touch with the reality of its citizens would do, much like us. I recall that we had an interpretation of the matter in 2012. The Supreme Court contradicted that interpretation; we are institutional people and we respect the Supreme Court. We therefore must make every effort to ensure that this is not challenged and it is done the right way.
I do not mean to insult any legal eagles in any way, but we must realize that it is not a humble country lawyer who will be challenging this. It is the Government of Quebec that will be going to court to challenge the provisions affecting the Consumer Protection Act.
On this point, I urge the government to go back and do its homework, and indeed I invite the government to look at the entire bill and really do its homework for the economy as a whole and for all Canadians.