Mr. Speaker, in spite of your best efforts, there are times in the House where cynicism can drive hon. members to focus on division rather than honest debate. The motion that the opposition has chosen to debate today could be described as clever. At first glance, it seems to present an impossible choice: agree with false assumptions or publicly deny our support and appreciation for an institution dedicated to serving Canadians.
In fact, if we were to take it at face value, one might even begin to suspect that the party opposite had suddenly discovered the virtues of evidence-based policy-making. Sadly, I do not believe that this is the case today. Rather, the motion is nothing more than yet another example of the party opposite's contempt for the very professionals that they now want to appear to so valiantly support.
As much as we would all wish the world be made of simple choices, that is just not how the world works. Pretending that it does is a disservice to the quality of debate in the House. Cherry-picking data to use as a political football devalues the work of our proud public servants.
When considering the choices on how to respond to the motion, it is clear to me what the answer should be. The answer should be the truth. The truth is the government's first economic and fiscal update in November 2015 was about being open and transparent with Canadians about the state of the economy. Canadians deserve nothing less.
The November update was produced by the very same finance department that the opposition and all members of the House hold in such high esteem. This non-partisan analysis confirms that circumstances had changed and the predictions made by the previous government in its budget were off by about $6 billion.
Our November economic and fiscal update took into account such factors as low and volatile crude oil prices and a weak global environment. These risks have not gone away and in fact some of them have become much more pronounced in recent months. The numbers are clear and they are in line with the projected deficit for the 2015-16 fiscal year, a deficit that will be the direct result of the actions and inactions of the previous government. No amount of clever wording or spin can change that fact.
Let us take a closer look at the numbers. We know that the November “Fiscal Monitor” being debated today is simply a snapshot and does not tell the full story. In fact, focusing on it alone is disingenuous. True, revenues for the April to November 2015 period have increased from the same period last year, however, it is important to remember that this revenue increase is mostly the result of one-time factors and timing issues.
Economists at the Department of Finance have said that it is due to a few factors such as the following: the $2.1-billion gain realized on the sale of General Motors common shares in April; higher corporate income tax revenues driven by assessments and reassessments for prior tax years; and higher monthly remittances that continue to lag economic developments, since they are generally based on taxes paid in the previous year before being adjusted near fiscal year-end.
The previous government may have banked on one-offs like the GM share sale to feign sound economic management, but let me caution the now opposition against basing their arguments on the snapshots these manoeuvres were designed to provide. It is no different than checking our bank statement before paying off the bills. It means absolutely nothing. When Conservatives sat down and drafted budget 2015, they got it wrong. The question we should really ask ourselves is: did they get it wrong on purpose? As the Minister of National Defence once said, Canadians are smart enough to call baloney.
The reality is that revenue growth is expected to slow over the remainder of the fiscal year, reflecting economic trends of collapsing commodity prices. It would be short-sighted to believe that these one-time revenue-boosting factors and timing issues can be counted on to bring us into a surplus position in this fiscal year.
Let us make no mistake: the Government of Canada will post a deficit for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
At the G20 meeting, leaders from around the world agreed that this was a challenging time for the global economy. The economists who were counting on emerging economies to help restore global growth were questioning their previous predictions. As a result, the Canadian economy is going through a difficult period in an uncertain global climate.
The Bank of Canada, which we all respect as another institution that provides independent and non-partisan evidence-based analysis, has revised downward its economic forecast twice over the last 12 months and eased the overnight interest rate twice.
Going forward, it is very likely that global economic conditions will remain unfavourable and that subdued commodity prices will persist.
In spite of these difficulties, we are presented with real opportunities to put in place the conditions to create long-term growth. The economy may not be living up to anyone's hopes and expectations, but the good news is that we have been elected on a plan to grow the economy. There has never been a better time to make targeted investments to support economic growth in our country. We are confident that our plan will accomplish this. That is one key reason why I am optimistic about our prospects going forward.
I am also optimistic, after having heard from thousands of Canadians online and when I criss-crossed the country earlier this month as part of my pre-budget consultations. I launched our historic consultations with our parliamentary secretary, the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain. We firmly believe that good planning starts with listening. We are going to continue listening in the coming weeks for great ideas on how to strengthen the middle class and grow our economy.
The concept of open and transparent consultations is something about which the Department of Finance also feels strongly. That is why Finance Canada consults with Canadians on issues large and small, enabling public input on policy options. The department tries to ensure that as many people as possible, whether they represent businesses, groups with special interests, or individual Canadians, get the opportunity to have their say.
I would like to personally thank Canadians for coming out in record numbers to our pre-budget consultations and for participating in Finance Canada-led consultations throughout the year.
I would also like to thank Deputy Minister Paul Rochon and all of the department officials who helped in meeting and engaging with Canadians to a degree that had never before been attempted. While the pre-budget consultations remain open, department officials are already taking their views into account to develop new policies and new approaches.
As we develop our plans for new investments to grow the economy, we will remain mindful of the input we have received from groups such as aboriginal leaders, small business owners, cultural groups, the energy sector, high-tech and telecom experts, and representatives from the financial services industries, among many others.
Let me remind the House that the previous government added $150 billion to our national debt, yet still managed to have the worst economic growth record since the depths of the Great Depression. After 10 years of weak economic growth, this government will grow the economy and create jobs by focusing on the middle class, investing in infrastructure, and helping those who need it most. We will make smart investments that will grow the economy in the short, medium, and long term.
Last fall, we wrapped up a long election campaign at the end of which Canadians voted for real change in Ottawa. They voted for a clear commitment to helping the middle class and investing in our country to grow the economy and create good jobs. Canadians indicated that it was time for a new plan and a new economic direction. They indicated that it was time to invest in people and our communities across the country.
Our government is ready for that challenge. We have already taken meaningful steps to grow our economy, and we will do more.
In December, we introduced a tax cut for middle-class Canadians. On January 1, we made it possible for nine million Canadians to enjoy a significant tax cut every year. This legislative measure is just the first step in our plan for long-term economic growth, job creation and a prosperous middle class in Canada.
The next budget will include the new Canada child tax benefit, another important measure that will provide extra support to the vast majority of families and lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.
Compared to the existing program, the Canada child tax benefit will be simpler, more generous and better targeted toward the families that need it most. It will also be tax free.
We have demonstrated our commitment. Canadians should have a real and fair chance to succeed, and central to that success is a strong and growing middle class.
Informed by the views of Canadians, our 2016 budget will create the conditions required to advance our plan for economic growth. We have plans to support stronger communities and economic growth through historic infrastructure investments in things that bring Canadians together, with commerce and support, a healthy and mobile population.
We have plans for long-term investments in skills and labour strategies to improve productivity and employment. These investments will grow the economy in the short, medium, and long term. Our budget will also create the opportunities needed for communities to grow and build an even more prosperous and inclusive Canada.
However, as I think about our ambitious economic agenda, including all the accomplishments that the government has achieved since November and all we will do in the coming years, it is difficult to think of any of it occurring without the support and dedication of the public service. I often tell the story of the enormous binders I received from my officials on my first day on the job. I think it was their way of welcoming me to the Department of Finance. Their expertise is nothing short of amazing.
I can confidently speak for all of my cabinet colleagues when I say that we are truly thankful for the help and support we have and continue to receive from our officials. From championing climate change in Paris, to facilitating a renewed relationship with indigenous people across the country, to the G20 meetings, APEC meetings and other global summits, to welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who now call Canada home, to the work they have done to implement our tax cut for nine million Canadians. all of these efforts would simply not have been possible without the input and the organization of the public service.
We will continue to call upon the public service as we work to bring real change to Canadian families. More to the point, the government will continue to value and respect the hard work and evidenced-based analysis that Canada's Department of Finance and all public servants provide to us and to Canadians.
I will conclude by saying that I take no lessons from the party opposite on respecting public servants. Respect comes down to more than a simple vote. It is about valuing their contribution day after day. It is about listening to advice, respecting expertise, and working collaboratively toward a better Canada. It is about little things, like saying “thank you” for a job well done.
Those small things, the important things, may not have come easy to members of the party opposite, but they are what really matters. Frankly, public servants deserve better than to see their work being used so blatantly in political manoeuvring in the House.
Therefore, while the hard-working women and men in the Department of Finance and the deputy minister have my full support, this motion does not. Real support, real change means action, not just words.