Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, I am pleased to rise to speak to our amendment, but also to the entirety of Bill C-63, the Liberal government's budget implementation bill.
We proposed one amendment, but we could have proposed dozens given the great many things that are omitted, incomplete, or wrong-headed in Bill C-63.
The oddest thing about this bill is that it authorizes the Minister of Finance to inject $480 million in the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The budget announced $256 million, and Bill C-63 increases that amount to $480 million. During committee hearings of the Standing Committee on Finance, we asked departmental representatives questions about the goals of this Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
During the last election campaign, the Liberals said that we had an infrastructure deficit and that we had to invest in water and wastewater systems, bridges, and roads. People voted for infrastructure investment here, in Quebec, Ontario, or British Columbia. We never really discussed building infrastructure in Asia. I agree that Asian countries need infrastructure; that is quite all right.
However, when we asked whether these investments would be used to privatize infrastructure, we were told that we would be investing in public-private partnerships, or PPPs. At least now we have a general idea.
Will this investment yield a return or dividends fairly quickly? No, it is a long-term investment. The goal is to create a market that is receptive to Canadian private investment in Asia. That is why we are going to invest there. It will pave the way for our companies to invest in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China.
Did the Liberal Party tell voters about this in the 2015 election? No.
We do not believe this to be the most judicious use of $480 million, especially given that this was never mentioned before and that the goal is not even to get a return on the invested public funds.
We will be minor participants in a major Asian infrastructure bank. Our money will be sent over there and we have no idea when we will get it back. That investment will be made over there without any return on investment. We will get our investment back if we ever decide to sell our shares, and assuming that other countries want to purchase them. That is a strange investment. We do not quite understand what the objective is here.
Worst of all is the fact that the $480 million of Canadian and Quebec taxpayers' money that will be put into an infrastructure bank, one that will be controlled by China, I might add, will be reported as foreign aid. It will count as foreign aid so that we can raise our level of international aid, which is currently an abysmal 0.27%, closer to the objective of 0.7% set by the United Nations. It is appalling.
The government plans to engage in some sort of dubious investment scheme that will not yield any returns and count it as international aid in the budget.
It is misleading. The government thinks that Canadians do not see what it is really up to. That is why we tabled this amendment. We want to take away the finance minister's ability to write a cheque for $480 million on which we will not see any return on investment and which will be used to privatize infrastructure. The government would have Canadians believe that the money is going to foreign aid, but that is not what I would call foreign aid.
The government is helping foreign companies and countries do some of their work, without generating any returns for Canada. The government is doing this to look good abroad in the hopes that Canadians companies will be afforded business opportunities down the road. That is the shell game the Liberals are playing with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
We do not think that this is a good investment. Canada also has an infrastructure bank that the NDP calls the infrastructure privatization bank, which was planned, designed, and practically led by BlackRock, one of the largest investment companies in the world. That company held countless meetings with the Minister of Finance to concoct this infrastructure privatization bank.
It is funny because, during the election campaign, the Liberals told us that it would run a small deficit and build a lot of infrastructure. After two years under the Liberals, we now have a large deficit and no infrastructure. The Liberals keep saying that it is coming, but we have not seen anything yet. The board of directors of the infrastructure privatization bank will be set up this year, and its members will be appointed. The board will then ask for money from private corporations and investment funds to build infrastructure in our communities.
During the campaign, they said that interest rates were low and that it was a good time to borrow money to invest in our communities, in creating wealth, and in infrastructure. That logic is sound, but what they never told us was that three-quarters of the investment would come from the private sector, and that that money would be used to pay for projects. What kind of return did the government promise the private companies involved in the infrastructure investment bank? Was it 7%, 8%, or 9%?
The state is supposed to invest in our communities to make sure we have infrastructure that meets people's needs. Private investors invest to make a profit. Sometimes those two objectives are aligned, but not always. Because of the new infrastructure privatization bank, Canadians and Quebeckers, the people who use the highways and bridges, who go to the skating rinks and swimming pools, are the ones who will have to pay for all that. That is the only way it will be worthwhile for private investors. The infrastructure has to make money. Will infrastructure projects be selected based on what people need or on how potentially profitable they are?
This is where our vision is diametrically opposed to that of the Liberals. On this file, they are really adopting a neo-liberal approach, meaning that the government is there to help private companies make a profit, not to work for the common good or the public interest. If the Liberals really wanted to be consistent and logical, they would have borrowed money in the international markets in order to raise the funds to invest in our infrastructure, their famous social infrastructure. However, that is not what they are doing. They are going to create a kind of super PPP, or public-private partnership, whose primary purpose will be to guarantee a return on private investment. We think that this is a shame and that people will be appalled.
The Liberals are always saying they are working for the middle class and those working hard to join it, but these are the very people who will be paying for the new infrastructure to be created by the Liberal government. On top of taking money out of Canadians' pockets, Bill C-63 contains no measures to fight tax evasion, aggressive tax avoidance, or tax havens. According to Statistics Canada, tax havens cost us at least $8 billion a year. We are losing $8 billion a year in uncollected taxes because of our agreements with the Cayman Islands, Barbados, and the Cook Islands, like the one the Liberals signed last year. The amount we lose every year is enough to pay for two Champlain Bridges or to build 21 Videotron Centres in Quebec City. I should note that there is another problem in Quebec City, namely the fact that we have a $400-million arena but no hockey team to play in it.
Bill C-63 does not meet the needs of Quebeckers and Canadians. There is the Asian infrastructure bank that the government is putting money into that is obscure and misleading. There is the infrastructure privatization bank here, which is going to force Canadians to pay more for public services and access to certain services, whether at the provincial or municipal level. There is a lack of real action and political will to recover the money that is owed to us.
Tax evasion is theft, and the Liberals are letting it happen. It is shameful.