Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with my colleague, the member for Battle River—Crowfoot. I thank all the members who are in the House today to debate the motion before us, which is on an important subject.
I am disappointed to see that my government colleagues and my New Democrat colleagues are planning on voting against this simple motion, which thanks public servants for their independence and expertise in conducting a financial analysis of government data.
We commend their expertise, because last November, they confirmed that for the period from April 1 to November 30, we left a $1-billion surplus to the current government.
I was disappointed to hear the Minister of Finance say earlier that it was, in fact, a deficit. Facts are facts and truth is truth: at the beginning of November 2015, the government inherited a $1-billion surplus from the previous government.
What did the Minister of Finance do with that surplus? He claims to have done an economic update, and with some economic growth projections, he will end up with a deficit at the end of this fiscal year.
What we are telling the Minister of Finance is that he has the power and all the freedom he needs to balance the budget by March 31 because the government does not have a revenue problem—it has a spending problem.
The minister is in charge of spending. When the economic update came out in November, the government could have made decisions to ensure that the surplus it inherited from the previous government would still be a surplus on March 31. It could have made the tough decisions that needed to be made instead of putting future generations in debt.
During the election campaign four years ago, we told Canadians that we would balance the books by 2015. We had to make tough choices and major decisions to do that. We also told Canadians that we would not balance the books on the backs of the provinces by cutting transfers. We also told Canadians that we would not balance the books by raising their taxes. We did not raise Canadians' taxes; we actually reduced them.
We also told Canadians that we would look in our own backyard and continue to control our spending in order to balance the budget. As the former minister of small business and tourism, I had to make some tough decisions and, yes, make cuts in my department. All of my cabinet colleagues had to do the same thing, in order to ensure that we would not leave structural deficits for future generations.
We did our job, and I am proud to have reduced the small business and tourism budget by 20%. On a percentage basis, that was the largest cut made by the government of the day, although, certainly, that department's budget is quite small. Nevertheless, it was still 20%. That was money that the Canadian Tourism Commission used to promote Canada abroad and bring visitors to Canada. Despite that 20% cut, the commission was efficient. It maintained its promotion programs abroad and changed its way of doing things. It did as we asked; it was very thrifty and found ways to save money.
The people at the Canadian Tourism Commission, now known as Destination Canada, did a good job, and the statistics are there to prove it. The numbers for 2015 show that there was a 10% increase in international visitors as compared to 2014. The commission continued to hold targeted advertising campaigns in various countries, including the United States, India, and European countries. Tourism increased even though the commission's budget was smaller. The commission was able to make that happen within its budget. There was also an 8.4% increase in international visitors as a result of the investment that the commission made. I trusted the managers at the Canadian Tourism Commission to make the right cuts and to use the money they had to promote Canada in order to continue to attract international visitors. That is what they did.
All my colleagues from other departments did the same thing. We kept our promise to Canadians and we can be proud of the $1-billion surplus that we delivered last November.
I am very disappointed to see that this government plans to stimulate the economy by spending money that we do not have. Canadian families know that, when they are strapped for cash, they should not start spending more and living beyond their means. They know that, in times like that, they have to make tough choices, cut back on their spending, and save for a rainy day. They are responsible people.
What does the government do when times are tough and economic growth is at only 2%, 3%, or 4%? It says that it is going to spend to stimulate the economy, when its credit card is already maxed out.
A maxed-out credit card means that it is time to start repaying debts. That is what the government should be doing. It should be leaving money in the pockets of Canadians to stimulate the economy. That will help them spend more and allow entrepreneurs to invest. Instead, the government is taxing Canadians, and future generations will have to pay off that debt.
Today, while the interest rate is quite low, 10¢ out of every dollar that Canadians pay in taxes to the Government of Canada is used to pay the interest on the debt. However, everyone knows that the interest rate will go up in a few years because it is at a historic low. It cannot remain artificially low. When it increases, the cost of the interest on the debt will be even greater to the government. The cost could increase to 12¢ or 15¢ out of every tax dollar.
Today, the interest the government pays annually on the debt represents the entire budget for the Department of National Defence. That is a lot of money. That is why the government needs to manage this responsibly, continue to have a balanced budget, avoid burdening future generations with debt, and certainly lower taxes. Parliamentarians are not the ones who create wealth. Canadian business people create wealth.
Let us help entrepreneurs to be productive by lowering their taxes, signing free trade deals to help them export their products to other countries without tariffs and quotas, and by cutting red tape. There is still quite a bit of inefficient federal red tape. Entrepreneurs end up spending more time filling out government forms than doing what they do best, and that is working for themselves and creating wealth and jobs.
Let us not forget that since people who create wealth have to pay taxes, this also helps the Government of Canada. Government spending is not going to stimulate the economy, but fiscal responsibility and lower taxes will.
As I only have two minutes remaining, I will close by saying that the current Minister of Finance's approach has failed around the world. Consider Greece, which failed to stimulate the economy by spending. Today it is bankrupt. We do not want structural deficits, but that is where the government is headed. This year's deficit will exceed the estimated $10 billion, and a deficit will be posted next year and the year after that. We will have to live with structural deficits, which will hurt the Canadian economy.
I encourage the minister and the government to vote in favour of the motion and to adopt a responsible economic policy.