Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my colleague, the member for Peace River—Westlock.
I am pleased to rise today to speak to round two of the 2017 budget implementation bill, also known as The Wizard of Oz act, as the government yells, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”, in an effort to distract Canadians from the ethical meltdown the finance minister has been having with his conflict of interest scandals. Unfortunately, for the man behind the curtain, the finance minister, Canadians are paying attention to his actions and the fact he was just fined by the Ethics Commissioner for not bothering to follow our conflict of interest laws.
I cannot help but think of what other Wizard of Oz characters we might be reminded of by the government: someone like the “Tin Man” without a heart, who is raising taxes on Canadians with diabetes and those suffering from mental illnesses; perhaps a “Dorothy” looking for a home, just not in southern France; and, of course, there is the “Scarecrow” who desires nothing else but a brain. This could apply to any number of cabinet ministers, whether it is someone using government resources to help a family member in a municipal election in Calgary or mistakenly claiming the military glory of soldiers, or perhaps starting Phoenix when we all knew it was just not ready, but I digress.
Much like the tornado that swept through Kansas, the ethical storm encompassing the finance minister has cast the Liberals into disarray. After spending the summer attacking small businesses and entrepreneurs, including mom and pop shops, farmers, and doctors, and declaring them to be tax cheats who need to pay more, the Liberals are pouring money out the door, trying to get Canadians to forget.
The Liberals have suddenly reinstated the previous Conservative government's small business tax cut. They make bigger, more grandiose promises, accumulating even more debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren. They are spending like mad and claiming their plan is working. They beg us, “Please, do not look at the man behind the curtain. Everything is fine. I know you want to talk about the ethics issues, but maybe you would like some money instead,” they cry.
The minister has the audacity to argue that massive spending increases were part of the plan all along, that the wizard knows best, but Canadians are not buying this. They know that the Liberals are broke and that the tax hikes just fuel their relentless spending and nothing else.
Here we are, after last week's fall economic update and the Liberals' re-profiling of another $2 billion in infrastructure spending to next year, and their banking of billions in a one-time accounting adjustment, with their finding themselves with a few extra billion to spend this year. That is how they spin the story anyways.
The Liberals forget it is not really extra money, but rather that the deficit that will come in $8 billion above their campaign promise, instead of the $12 billion they originally thought. It is like someone taking $20 from the right pocket, putting it in the left pocket, and then trying to convince themselves they are now $20 richer.
The Liberals say it is okay, because we have record growth, hundreds of thousands of jobs, with the majority of them in the private sector. Unfortunately, the parliamentary budget officer's report crushes this Liberal spin like a house dropping on the wicked witch of the east.
First, there is the claim that the majority of jobs are in the private sector. According to the PBO report that just came out following the fall economic update, just 4% of job growth was in what the PBO classifies as the private sector; 47% was in the public sector; and 49% was in self-employment.
It is ironic that the Liberals spent months attacking self-employed entrepreneurs, trying to hike their taxes, calling them tax dodgers and accusing them of exploiting loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and now they are claiming responsibility for creating these wonderful new jobs.
Note as well that the other half of the job gains is due to public sector hiring. That is not to say that public service work is not valued. Even MPs contribute once in a while, but it is ridiculous to assume that economic growth can be sustained through public sector growth.
As for the drop in the unemployment rate, well, the PBO notes that 0.6 points or 7.5% of it was due to people simply leaving the workforce, having given up on trying to find a job. We know that the employment numbers are not great and are mostly independent of what the Liberals have done.
Maybe economic growth is the high point. Let us look at economic growth.
The growth so far this year was driven by record levels of household debt spending and a rebound in the energy sector from the lows of last year. Canada's real GDP growth is projected to slow to just 1.6% in two years. That is hardly the state of economic nirvana the Prime Minister promised when he took the country's finances deep into the red.
What about that pesky deficit? The Liberals pegged it at $18 billion this year, while the PBO says it is more likely going to be $20 billion. Who is right? I tend to believe the PBO's crystal ball above the Liberal's spin.
The PBO further projects that there is only a 10% chance that the budget will be balanced in 2019. If we remember, that is when the Liberals said they would balance the budget by. Put another way, there is only a 10% chance the Liberals will keep a key campaign promise from the 2015 election. Imagine if Canadians had known the odds of the Liberals keeping their other election promises. They would have known there was a 0% chance the Liberals would keep their promise on electoral reform, a 0% chance the Liberals would keep their promise to reform access to information, a 0% chance the Liberals would keep their promise to act ethically and responsibly with respect to Canadians and our democratic institutions, but a 100% chance the Liberals would break their promise to keep the deficit to just $10 billion a year.
Besides misleading Canadians by making promises they had no intention of keeping, the Liberals are asking us to blindly follow them further down the red-ink brick road. With 1.6% real GDP growth, and deficits ballooning up to $20 billion, it means that in the event of a fiscal shock, such as the Americans pulling out of NAFTA or a housing market meltdown, the Liberals have left no room to manoeuvre.
If only Canada had a previous government on which to draw parallels. If only we could determine what happens if the government spends recklessly, borrows indiscriminately, and casts aside any respect for fiscal responsibility. Right, we do have that. Trudeau senior spent like a drunken sailor, with apologies to drunken sailors for the comparison. The words “fiscal responsibility” at that time apparently did not translate into both official languages. Subsequent governments needed to cut programs mercilessly for health care transfers and other services to make up for the sins of the father. It seems the Prime Minister has not learned, and Canadians are now doomed to pay the price.
What might we get instead from this trip down the red-ink brick road? Let us look at the numbers from the PBO. By 2021, public debt charges will cost about 11% of total federal expenditures, or roughly $37 billion a year in interest payments, which is $13 billion above what it is now.
There is a saying that for every Liberal policy, there is a victim. Let us see what this money spent on interest could have been spent on instead.
Remember when the Liberals promised, and then reneged, on their $3 billion for palliative care? They could have kept that promise 12 times over every year.
They could finally go ahead and purchase the politically motivated sole-sourced Super Hornets and still have money to buy dozens and dozens of F-35s every single year.
According to the numbers provided by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, in 14 months we could solve homelessness in Canada.
With that money, we could provide free tuition for every single student in Canada. We could fund pharmacare for the entire population and have money to spare.
That money would not go as far as it used to, because it would not be enough, unfortunately, to cover the electricity overcharges from the Ontario Liberal Party's green energy scam. A dollar does not go as far as it used to.
The last thing I want to touch on is the PBO's warning on economic downward risks. The PBO says “the most important risk is weaker business investment” and that “increased uncertainty and/or weaker confidence could restrain firms from expanding capacity.”
With the red tape strangulation death of energy east, the total amount of disinvestment from energy companies alone has reached $56 billion. C.D. Howe is saying that business investment in Canada is at its worst level, compared to the U.S., in 25 years. It said to increase investment, we need “faster and more certain regulatory processes, affordable electricity and lower taxes”. What do we get? We get more regulatory red tape and uncertainty, higher prices for electricity because of green schemes, and higher taxes.
In the book Glinda of Oz, which is the final book written in the series by Oz creator Frank Baum, it is revealed that the witches knew all along that the man behind the curtain was a fraud trying to distract us from the truth. We know that this fall economic statement wizard is a fraud as well. There is no progress for the middle class, just higher debt, higher taxes, and a future of slow growth and uncertainty.