Mr. Speaker, Bill C-63, as a budget implementation bill, reflects the general fiscal policy and spending announcements in last spring's budget, so it will come as no surprise to any members here in the House, or to those listening at home, that I am opposed to this bill, just as my colleagues were opposed to the budget itself.
This bill and the budget that proceeded it contain a litany of misplaced priorities, broken promises, and hypocrisy and a preponderance of the type of style without substance that has characterized the Liberal government from the start.
Having dispensed with the question of where I stand on the bill, I want to point out that this bill is actually more than just a budget implementation bill. It is an omnibus bill that contains a significant new spending commitment that was not included in the budget: a new commitment to fund the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, surely a misplaced priority. This budget implementation bill would enact the Liberals' decision to jump at the opportunity, as they call it, to invest half a billion dollars in an Asian infrastructure bank.
Let us be clear about what this so-called investment would really mean. An actual investment in shares of an enterprise consists of a decision to place money at risk in the hope of receiving either profits paid to the shareholder in the form of dividends, or an eventual gain from the profitable sale of the shares. This bank's shares cannot be resold for gain, and it pays no dividends.
The so-called investment would be a spending commitment, not included in the budget, that would go to capitalizing a Chinese government-controlled bank, a bank that experts at the finance committee said does not meet international standards for governance and transparency. It makes loans that are below investment grade and that have been given no grade from international rating agencies. Canada will have no representation on its board and will not have any control over its operations.
This is not an investment. It is a decision to export taxes paid by Canadians to Asia for the benefit of foreign corporations and lenders and bankers, who will get the profits of contractors, and of foreign citizens, who will get to use the infrastructure.
This is especially problematic given that our tax dollars are going to an Asian infrastructure bank that will fund pipelines, not pipelines here in Canada, where we could take Alberta's oil and gas to Kitimat or Saint John, but pipelines that are going to take energy products from Kazakhstan to China.
That brings us to the point about hypocrisy. This infrastructure bank had no business being in the budget. It ought to have been debated separately, from the start, as a new, unbudgeted policy proposed by the government. For a government that complained about omnibus legislation in opposition during the campaign, and indeed during its first year in office, it seems to have no problem now tabling omnibus bills. This bill is, by definition, a broken promise.
Having stated my opposition to the bank and the public policy decision to fund it, I still have plenty of objections to this bill. The bill contains a measure that would further cause harm to the broader Canadian economy, but particular harm to Alberta, especially the city of Calgary and my constituents. This bill aims to curb the use of flow-through shares for exploration expenses for oil and gas projects. The changes proposed in this budget would reduce competition in the industry, diminish the incentive to drill new wells, slow development of Alberta's natural resources, favour large producers over smaller ones, and accelerate capital flight as companies left the province for more business-friendly jurisdictions.
Calgary is now three years into a downturn, triggered at first by the collapse in commodity prices but severely aggravated by the actions of both the Liberal government and its allies in the provincial NDP in Alberta. Changes to exploration expense credits through flow-through shares would be another attack on the energy sector by a government wilfully blind to practical reality.
The people of my riding cannot understand why the government hates the energy business so much. They know that for years, energy exports have generated prosperity for Canadians in all provinces. The taxes from the industry have funded public services through the income tax it pays to the crown and the spread of wealth throughout Canada through equalization payments.
My constituents cannot understand why the Liberal government just cannot thank the industry for its many contributions and get out of the way. They cannot understand why the Liberals will seek any opportunity to create another tax or another regulation to kill off a few more jobs in the energy sector. They want to know why the government just cannot stop making things worse.
Raising taxes on energy investors is not the way to foster growth and innovation. It is not the way to help create well-paying, middle-class jobs. Indeed, it will help drive more jobs overseas and contribute to the brain drain that is well under way in Calgary. However, it does fit with the government's unrealistic and idealistic approach to energy and with its conceit that it always knows better.
This brings me to how the government always allows style to trump substance. For example, the Liberals spent over $200,000 on the cover art for budget 2017. I have to admit, I have been waiting weeks to weigh in on this subject, but it has been tough because of all the unbelievable things the government has said, done, or been caught doing since this past summer. The opposition topics have been overwhelming, but today let us talk about it.
The finance minister's disclosure problem, even while he wags his finger at every other private corporation owner, and the revenue minister desperately trying to raise revenue on the backs of everyone from type 1 diabetics to minimum-wage-earning restaurant workers, has made it tough to weigh in on the budget cover, but I will do so.
It caught my attention when it was first printed, and I commented on it in my speech in the spring. At that time, I thought that maybe it was a bit Freudian how the Liberals had these illusionary doodles on the cover that were imaginary, things like infrastructure actually being built, or solar-powered fishing boats, which we now know were actually supposed to be icebreakers in the Arctic, but I digress. The cover art was absurd and worthy of ridicule, even before Canadians found out that the Liberals paid an advertising agency over $200,000 to produce it and then wasted a bunch of finance department staff time putting focus groups together and dithering over photos of models who were being paid public money to try to look like ordinary Canadians. I could not make this stuff up. It would be funny if it were not so ominous.
We know of the shameful history of the Liberal Party and advertising agencies. When we talk about Liberals paying advertising agencies, those who remember the last Liberal government know how it ends. People have still been going to jail in the current Parliament for the last time we talked about Liberals paying big money to advertising agencies.
I want to remind Canadians how this budget and the last were chock full of broken promises and draw attention to how the bill, the fall economic update, and the recent PBO report all confirm that the government has betrayed the Canadians who voted for it on the promises it made in the 2015 election. Indeed, analysts have confirmed that the current Liberal government has run the largest per capita expansion of the federal government outside wartime or a recession.
Middle-class Canadians are now paying more income tax than they did under the previous government. The Liberals promised a maximum deficit of $10 billion, which would be used to fund infrastructure, and to then return to balance. However, the bill and the budget it would implement perpetuate deficits as far as the eye can see. According to the PBO's economic fiscal outlook “it is unlikely that the budget will be balanced, or in a surplus position, over the medium term.”
The minister was asked seven times at the finance committee when the budget would be balanced, and each time he was asked, he blathered aimlessly about how proud he was of his approach, which would suggest that he is perhaps proud of the fact that he has broken, and continues to break, his party's promises, all while he remains under the cloud of a conflict of interest investigation.
In his fall economic update, the finance minister boasted about a smaller than anticipated deficit. The PBO report revealed the reason for this: the Liberals have actually failed to deliver on the infrastructure spending promise. The one thing that convinced voters to tolerate a return to deficit, the one thing Liberals promised that would actually improve the economy and the day-to-day lives of Canadians, is the one thing this tax-and-spend government cannot effectively spend.
Given that this BIA is riddled with broken promises and hypocrisy and directly threatens jobs in my riding, I will not be supporting it.