House of Commons Hansard #16 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deficit.

Topics

Public Service Integrity CommissionerRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I have the honour, pursuant to section 38 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, to lay upon the table the case report of the Public Service Integrity Commissioner in the matter of an investigation into a disclosure of wrongdoing.

This report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Parliamentary Science Officer ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-217, An Act respecting the position and office of the Parliamentary Science Officer and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to re-introduce my private member's bill to establish Canada's first parliamentary science officer.

My bill aims to create an independent science watchdog for Parliament with a mandate to provide MPs with sound information and expert advice on scientific issues facing our country. This office would help to ensure scientific research has a stronger voice in the policy-making process and that decisions made in Ottawa are based on the best available evidence.

A parliamentary science officer would be a major improvement compared to the previous office of the national science advisor, which advised only the prime minister and lacked institutional independence before being eliminated in 2008.

Canada needs a new science advisor that is independent of the government and reports directly to Parliament. Its mandate needs to be comprehensive and protected by law, and that is why I am putting forward this bill today. It complements a motion I put forward on ethics in terms of research.

I hope the bill will receive support from all members of the House.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Railway Noise and Vibration Control ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (railway noise and vibration control).

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, a very hard-working member.

Residents of the Westminster Quay area of New Westminster, South Burnaby, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal are often awakened, when they live next to an urban railway yard, by shunting, which is the crashing of the railway cars against each other; excessive idling; loud diesel engines, sometimes at two or three o'clock in the morning; and other types of excessive noise.

Bill C-218 would eliminate the ability of railway companies to act with impunity. It would force them to work in conjunction with the urban residents who live next to the railway yard.

We have had support from right across the country around this bill. Residents from right across the country want to see the railway companies put in a framework that actually allows them to get a good night's sleep.

I hope that all members of the House will support this bill, because every Canadian deserves a good night's sleep.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-219, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck).

Mr. Speaker, for too long, coastal communities have been given the runaround when an abandoned vessel washes up on their shorelines or enters their harbours.

I worked with a community organization in Galiano that, for 10 years, tried to find a government ministry that would take responsibility. If it is a hazard to navigation, it is one department. If it is an oil spill, it is another. If it is maybe going to sink but is not yet an oil spill, no one will touch it. If it washes on the shoreline, maybe it is the provincial crown. It is frustrating. It is creating environmental problems and great economic uncertainty, especially for beautiful communities in my riding like Nanaimo and Ladysmith that have made significant investments in their waterfront. They now have the interference of unsightly and polluting vessels drifting in their harbour.

I rise with my colleague the member for Salaberry—Suroît to propose once again the bill that former member of Parliament Jean Crowder brought to the House. It was supported by the Liberals but defeated by the Conservatives. We ask Parliament to work together to designate the Coast Guard to be one-stop shopping, so we can eliminate this uncertainty and resolve this problem once and for all for coastal communities.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

February 4th, 2016 / 10:05 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is it agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Milton, ON

moved:

That the House: (a) thank the independent non-partisan officials from the Department of Finance for their hard work and evidence-based analysis; (b) acknowledge their most recent Fiscal Monitor which informed Members and Canadians that, for the period from April to November 2015 of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the previous government posted a budgetary surplus of $1.0 billion; and (c) concur in its conclusions and express its confidence in the Deputy Minister and his team.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time, gladly, with the member for Brantford—Brant.

Over the last eight years, it was an honour to serve the people of Canada, first as minister of natural resources, then as minister of labour, and finally as minister of transport. It was an honour to serve the prime minister, as a member of his cabinet, and the Queen, as a member of the Privy Council. Most important to me—and in my maiden speech in the House this time—it has been a great honour to serve the people of Halton and a privilege I have been afforded in returning to this place to serve the people of Milton. I thank them very much for the opportunity to be here today. I cannot think of a more appropriate motion to rise and deliver in this, my maiden speech of the 42nd Parliament.

We know the last campaign was not really easy for us. It was not easy because governing is not easy. Governing comes with the burden of setting priorities and making tough decisions. Every day in government, we had to make difficult choices. It is true that we were not all things to all people, but it is also true that we did exactly what we said we would do. We made these tough decisions because, for us on this side of the House, promises have value.

The members opposite have inherited the government, and they inherit a burden of making these decisions, but they also inherit a modest surplus, so they can deliver on their promises to Canadians. That is really what the motion is fundamentally about.

The motion speaks to trust. It speaks to trust in our government, in those whom Canadians elect, and in those whom Canadians trust to operate government. I am proud of the legacy we have left for Canada and for this government. I am looking forward, throughout today, to hearing from former cabinet ministers of the previous Conservative government to tell the House exactly what we did, what we have accomplished, and what we have done to ensure the current government has a surplus to fulfill its promises to Canadians.

The former minister of finance, Minister Flaherty, introduced his budget on January 27, 2009. Here we are in February and there is still no budget from the government. What he said was:

To finance Canada's economic action plan, our government is making a deliberate choice to run a substantial short-term deficit.

This temporary deficit is an investment which is necessary to stimulate our economy. It allows us to meet our short-term needs while serving our long-term goals.

He noted:

...Canada has the freedom to respond effectively to the current crisis, without putting our long-term prosperity at risk. In fact, the situation provides an opportunity to speed up investments that are necessary for our future growth and quality of life.

He said Canadians could be proud of this.

He also noted:

...we made the right choices when times were good. Now, when times are difficult, together we can continue moving forward with confidence.

He also noted, most importantly, that as the economy recovered he fully expected to emerge from deficit and return to surplus within five years. He noted that Canadians regretted the need to run a deficit in order to invest in our economy, and I do believe that to be the case. Our government shared our regret at the time, but it was necessary to choose this course because we knew it was temporary. We chose it because we knew it was what Canadian families and businesses needed.

You will hear from former cabinet ministers from the previous government talk about their individual portfolios and how we worked together to make sure the economy grew and worked together to get to that balanced budget in which Canadians could have confidence.

Minister Flaherty's final budget speech was February 11, 2014. Again, it was an early budget. It is interesting how the government still cannot seem to get its budget out the door. He noted and quoted many of his favourite politicians who came before him. He started by quoting Thomas D'Arcy McGee, who was his favourite Father of Confederation:

...who once said, “We are in the rapids and must go on”. Even as the times get better again, we will stay the course that has worked so well.

He noted Sir John A. Macdonald, who could have been talking about the 2014 economic action plan when he said, “The Government are merely trustees for the public.”

Jim noted that this was why we were so committed to balancing the budget and returning Canada to a position of fiscal strength. This is what is incredibly important and absolutely germane to what we believe in as Conservatives.

He said, “When governments run prolonged deficits, they are spending money that belongs to future generations.” He went on to say that it is deficit spending that actually puts in danger those social programs that benefit our children, the ones that they will depend upon.

He also noted that balanced budgets are important to the long-term prosperity of the country, because they inspire confidence in investors and consumers, and they are the ones who grow the economy and create the jobs.

“Canadians have trusted us with the economy”, Jim said, “and we have delivered.”

Today we have delivered to this new government a surplus, and it cannot be denied.

He concluded that part of his speech by saying, “By doing [the things that we do], we will not only balance the budget in 2015, we will achieve a surplus.”

I would very much like for the members on the opposite bench, the government, to note carefully these words from a very seasoned minister, who was once voted the world's best finance minister, when he said: “let me be clear: A return to surplus is not a licence to spend recklessly.”

We promised a balance budget, and we delivered on the promise. We promised Canadians that they could trust not only our own promises in the last campaign but the promises of all of the parties, knowing that they would inherit from us a clean slate to implement their mandate. Now it is up to them.

Numbers do not lie, facts are facts, and proof is proof, it would appear. The report from the “Fiscal Monitor”, produced by Finance Canada, proves that the Liberals inherited a surplus from our Conservative government.

I hope the members of the current government will reflect on what I have said, and on the words of Jim Flaherty, and think twice the next time they rise in their seats and intentionally mislead the House on facts.

This motion speaks to trust. It speaks to the trust of those who manage the nation's business, in this case the nation's finances. By voting against this motion, the government would be signalling that it has no confidence in the employees of Finance Canada at the highest levels. If it does not trust its own officials, how can it expect them to prepare the budget or manage our finances during these low-growth times?

We know what our legacy was, and we know what we have left. I would encourage the members opposite to think about what their legacy will be, because at the end of the day, regardless of where we sit in the House, those of us who were here before and those of us who have joined our Conservative caucus can be proud to know that we still value the facts, we still value the truth, and we still cherish the value of a promise.

In conclusion, in going through Jim's old speeches, I did note that his final words in the House, in March 2014, had to do with a heckle from the now Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who indicated that I should be wearing a muzzle as the minister of transport. Jim stood in his place on a point of order and asked the member for Wascana for an apology for his misogynistic comments. Today it has come full circle. I am here to defend Jim Flaherty's legacy. I appreciate all the work he did for us. We thank him, with the former minister of finance and the prime minister at the time, for the wonderful surplus we have delivered to the opposite bench, the current government, to ensure that it can have the trust of Canadians and do well for our future generations.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the hon. member's intervention today and her speech. I am fond of her. She is a Nova Scotian from Cape Breton, and Cape Bretoners are often good at telling stories and entertaining us all with those stories.

This morning the member told us her story and her party's current story. However, the real story is that back in 2006, the previous Conservative government inherited the best fiscal situation of any incoming government in the history of Canada, a $13-billion surplus, which it squandered with a reckless spending and tax policy that actually put Canada into deficit even before the global financial crisis in the autumn of 2008, after which it added $150 billion to the national debt.

Last spring, the April 2015 budget was delayed into this fiscal year for one reason, which was to book the one-time asset sales of GM shares to create a notional surplus, on the eve of an election, based on 2.1% growth, which we all knew was unrealistic at the time.

Will the member give up this fantasy that the Conservatives keep trying to perpetuate with Canadians and admit that they left the current government a deficit?

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. While I appreciate the flowery words of confidence from the hon. minister from across the aisle, I can tell that they come with a forked tongue.

The reality is that we left the current government with a surplus, a $1-billion surplus. We did it not by putting it onto the backs of Canadians. We did it not by cutting transfer payments to the provinces. We did it by doing what we do well as Conservatives: we managed the economy. We paid down the debt in 2006 so that we could be ready for what happened in 2009. Jim said, very clearly, that the intention was that once we got to those surpluses, we would again go back and pay down the debt that was accumulated. We did not enter into deficits because we wanted to; we entered into deficits because we had to.

The members of the current government say that they want the government to go into deficit because money is cheap. Shame on them.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I like the member for Milton. She speaks very effectively and eloquently. Unfortunately, her speech does not jibe with the facts.

As members know, under the Conservatives, we had six consecutive deficits. When we look at previous Conservative governments, we see record deficits under former governments as well. If we look at the fiscal period returns over the last 30 years, we see that the Conservatives have only a marginally better record of deficits and debt than the Liberals. Of course, provincial governments across the country that have the best records are the NDP governments. We know that. That is what the fiscal period returns tell us.

I would just like the member to confirm that the Conservatives indeed ran six consecutive deficits, some of them record in nature.

Could the member also confirm this? Though I do not always agree with the President of the Treasury Board, I must agree that when we look at the sale of GM shares, that is at best a fake—

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. We need a bit of time for the hon. member to respond. The hon. member for Milton.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his kind words. Maybe he will not find my words to be as kind. I find it ironic that the member opposite is talking about deficits, because I do not think it worked out well talking about deficits in the last campaign for them either, frankly.

In terms of where we ran deficits, I thought I was very clear in my opening remarks, when I quoted Jim Flaherty, about the difficult choice and the great regret we had when we had to go into deficit. We did it because there was a global economic crisis. There was a reason to do it. It was not because money was cheap, and it was not because we had a huge list of spending promises. We did it because it was necessary, and we felt bad about it. We wanted to get back to surplus. That is why it is so important to note that we did, and I will not let that legacy be besmirched by that government because it wants to score political points.

They cannot reinvent the facts. They are true, they are real, and I am very proud to stand in this House and speak on behalf of them.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to follow my esteemed colleague from Milton and draw everyone's attention to how simple this motion is and to how important it is. It goes to the heart of trust, confidence, and fulfilling promises, as the finance critic has articulated.

There is one thing many of us in business have done over the years, and I am sure the finance minister brings an esteemed business background to the House, and that is deal with the numbers presented by experts in the background of the business environment, namely the accountants and comptrollers. They are the people who actually produce the numbers for accurate decision-making.

What we have witnessed since the start of this Parliament is that the finance minister has had a choice. The Conservatives left a surplus. That is what his department has said to him, and that is what the “Fiscal Monitor” and the PBO have said. In fact, they have said that it is a larger number than what the finance minister said. However, the point is that there was a surplus.

Of course, politics are an odd space in this bubble here in Ottawa that sometimes distorts what the actual facts are. My comments today are centred on cutting through the rhetoric justifying doing something by blaming someone else and pointing a finger at the previous government.

These were the fundamental choices, I believe, the finance minister had to make upon arriving in Ottawa, because the facts are the facts.

The Liberal government came to power with a promise to Canadians to use evidence-based facts and science, words that were repeated over and over again to Canadians. They said they would be different, because they would use facts. They would use the expert evidence given to them. Liberals were given that evidence by their own officials in their own department. They were also told that they needed to go into more of a deficit than was promised, which was a $10 billion deficit, just a small deficit. That is what the Prime Minister said during the election campaign. It was just a tiny deficit they wanted approval for. Of course, what has happened since then is that they were provided with fact-based evidence.

Take, for example, the middle-class tax cut. This middle-class tax cut that will return $6.43 a week to the average Canadian, less than $1 a day, on average, was predicated on a promise that it would be revenue neutral because the government would tax the 1% who make so much more and would redistribute that to provide the middle-class tax cut.

What has happened since that time? The facts have been put on the table, which is that this was a miscalculation. We first found out that it could approach being a $1-billion miscalculation. The government would fall short by $1 billion, which would mean a $1-billion structural deficit going into place. Then we were told after the fact by some experts, again accountants, people who know how the economy works and what the numbers actually are, that it would be more like $1.4 billion. In fact, the C.D. Howe Institute, which the finance minister used to chair, predicts that it will be somewhere around a $2-billion shortfall.

This new way of taking on the responsibilities of government has fallen short. It has fallen short there, and it continues to fall short when the finance minister and his parliamentary secretary continue to contend that somehow they were left with a deficit, which their own finance department has said is a surplus.

It is sometimes shocking to hear the denial of the people who are providing the evidence-based facts in the matter.

I grew up under a pretty simple tenet: “If you're going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.” What we are hearing is the talk but not the walk. We are hearing that we can exaggerate, we can make it look like we can point the finger at the previous government. This is part of the political playbook that has been played over and over again.

The government presented itself to Canadians as a government ready to do business a new way, yet the finance minister comes to the table, gets the evidence, and decides, no, it is going to go down that road of the playbook for political advantage to try to point the finger and say, “Now that we're here, things are way too different.” He was wrong doing that because his own department came out with the numbers to say they were left with a surplus.

This is a growing trend. It takes away the confidence, not only of the business community and those who wish to make investments, but everyday Canadians who have yet to find out exactly how they should be managing their money based upon what is coming down the line. We know that a lot of pundits and people who are looking to this action going forward are predicting a $30-billion deficit, but we have no idea, at this point, because we have not been given any of the facts on this matter.

I believe the Liberals should just admit that their numbers are not bad. We have asked over and over again where they got the numbers. They have not been forthcoming with any kind of background as to who the experts were who gave them the numbers to say there was a deficit.

In the real world, in a competitive global economy, numbers matter. Investors and businesses here in Canada, and around the world, need to have confidence that the finance minister is basing his projections upon a set of numbers that are facts based upon accurate evidence. I believe that it is better not to broadcast misleading numbers to Canadians and the international community to support his party's political rhetoric. At a time of such economic uncertainty, businesses and investors need to have confidence in the finance minister and the department working behind him.

Today, we have a motion that is based upon independent analysis, hard numbers, and facts, to cut through the political rhetoric.

First, we had the PBO reporting that Canada is on track to post a $1.2 billion surplus for the 2016 fiscal year. Now, the report from the “Fiscal Monitor”, produced by Finance Canada, is telling us that Canada posted a surplus of $1 billion from April to November 2015.

I will wrap up by saying this proves conclusively that the Liberals inherited a surplus from our Conservative government. If the finance minister and the Liberal Party do not trust their own officials, how can they expect them to prepare a budget or manage our finances during these troubling times?

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speeches from both members opposite.

I concur with my colleague, the President of the Treasury Board, that this looks like Alice in Wonderland. Where are they coming up with facts? Suddenly, they are relying upon the Department of Finance. They suddenly have come back to facts and figures when all they did was ignore the department, muzzle the scientists, and muzzle anybody who gave them figures.

Let us see how they created the surplus that they claim.

How about cutting $1 billion to veterans ? How about delaying payments, ensuring that funding lapsed?

This is the type of trickery they have been using. They have not balanced the budget. The PBO says that they have actually created a deficit of $3 billion.

I do not need any lessons from them.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, such comments are shocking because they are an indication that they do not trust the people in the finance department. They do not trust their own people with the numbers they have published.

We can go back and talk about what happened in previous governments and what happened in certain departments in previous governments, but the facts are the facts are the facts. The fact is the finance department has said there was a surplus of $1 billion left to the government. That cannot be disputed. Those are the facts. Those are from the experts within government.

The member asked where those numbers came from. They came from the economic experts within government. That is where they came from.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is such a pleasure to see my Conservative colleagues supporting public servants through section (c) of this motion.

This certainly was not the case when they were in government. In my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, I know a number of federal public servants who lived in constant fear for their jobs with no faith in the Conservative government to support them in any way.

I have a question for my colleague. Does this motion indicate a clear change in direction for the Conservative opposition where it intends to support our federal public servants in the future?

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, because I cannot resist, I will answer this with the words of a good friend who I got to know very well, the late Hon. Jim Flaherty.

He would always say people want to dig something up and say it is a change, but it is not a change. He would go to the experts across government, the people within his department, and he would bring the top economic people in the country together. He would ask them for their views about economic circumstances. I know that because I was in the building industry as the president of the Ontario group. Mr. Flaherty would then take the median from the forecasters, from the experts in the field, and that is what this is driving at today.

Today, this is driving at the fact that the government made a clear choice. It made a clear choice to ignore those numbers. Those are the numbers. The very institutions in private sector and others have been saying all along that the books were balanced and that the actual surplus was there.

Yes, I will acknowledge these are experts; these are the people within government circles. Also, this is driving at the point of people who should be trusted with the expertise, the experts in the field. It is evidence based and fact based. Today, this is what our motion drives at.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Morneau LiberalMinister of Finance

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.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my eight years as minister, I enjoyed great relationships with all my departments, and indeed my deputy ministers, and I can count them as friends as I go through my life. I know the respect that the previous government had for them, regardless of what the hon. members says across respecting it.

Finance officials will know that they can be proud of the fact that they helped steer us through the great recession. They were the ones who helped us become number one in the G7. They helped to create one million net new jobs. They helped support the best finance minister in the world, which, I would daresay, is a title that we will not be seeing in a long time with respect to the current government.

I have three questions for the minister. If he could answer them, it would be great.

When is the budget? How much is the deficit? How is he going to get back to his surplus?

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the only people who believe the previous Conservative government left a surplus are the Conservatives themselves. Neither one month nor six months of information make a year. We are looking at the entire year.

Make no mistake. For the budget year 2015-16, we will be in a deficit. It is a deficit that will be there because of the actions and inactions of the previous government. It will not be about the choices made by this government.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Previous governments have been known to take money from the workers' fund that was meant to pay for employment insurance. Previous Liberal governments have taken as much as $55 billion. The Conservative government also helped itself.

Can the Minister of Finance assure us today that he will not balance the budget and the books on the backs of workers by taking money out of the EI fund?

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we made a commitment to Canadians that we would exercise caution in all that we do. We made a commitment that we would be open and transparent with Canadians in explaining the state of our finances. That is exactly what we endeavoured to do with our economic and fiscal update in November.

We will continue to do that through the course of our term. We will help Canadians to understand the state of our finances, where the money is coming from and where it is not coming from, and we will ensure that workers and everyone in Canada know exactly where the money is coming from.

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment and thank the Minister of Finance for doing such an outstanding job in bringing things together and presenting it in such a way that people can understand and relate to it.

A great deal of pre-budget consultation was done. Could the Minister of Finance add to what kind of consultations took place? I understand he and his parliamentary secretary have gone to all the regions of Canada. Could he provide a backdrop as to why the department does these pre-budget consultations and highlight some of the places he has gone to?

Opposition Motion—Department of FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, we made a real commitment to being open and transparent. We made a commitment to listening to Canadians. One of our very first initiatives in that regard was ensuring we had a pre-budget consultation process that was as open as possible.

We travelled across the country. We went to cities from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast and right up to the North. We went to rural communities and urban communities to listen to Canadians. So far, more than 150,000 Canadians have engaged with us online and we have more than 3,500 submissions, which is almost triple the number that were received last year.

We feel this enables us to get a good sense of what Canadians understand, to listen to what they believe we should do, and to incorporate their thoughts and views as we create budget 2016.