Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to stand in the House and debate the issues that governments and Canadians face, and that Canadians have to deal with.
There was great anticipation about the budget around the country. People were looking forward to a second fiscal strategy put forward by a government that failed, most people would say, with the first one. When we look at the growth rate, the job numbers, and all those, certainly there was failure. There was a hope: I think an expectancy among Canadians that they would see something in the budget that would give them a degree of optimism and hope.
We know some of the problems Canadians are facing. They are facing high household debt. Their hope was that perhaps there would be something in the budget that would help in that regard. We know they are facing skills and training deficiencies, and perhaps there would be something in that regard. We know that Canadians are not saving to the degree they should be, and perhaps there would be something in the budget that would help them. The day after the presentation of the budget, I think all of us would agree there is great disappointment out there. For Canadians, there is no increased hope, no increased optimism, and no increased drive because of things they find in the budget.
What do we know about the budget? We know there is a $23 billion deficit from last year. It was originally projected to be higher, but because the Liberals were unable to get much of their money out of the door, it is a little lower. We know the budget is again written in red ink. It takes Canadians deeper and deeper into national debt. It will increase our debt service charges. It will increase revenues that will go only to service debt, which the government continues to pile up.
Being involved somewhat in former budgets, I can say that we put in place strategies to bring us back to balanced budgets. When the world went into a global recession, Canada was the last to enter into that recession and we were the first to leave it. Why was that? It was because we had a strategy to come back to balanced budget. We understood the importance of keeping our economic house in order, of taking fiscal responsibility for our country. We understood that Canadians expected that of us.
It seems that, even with this budget, Liberals do not seem to care if the federal books are balanced anytime soon. They have gone beyond “budgets will balance themselves”, a quote our Prime Minister gave Canadians, to a frame of mind that is not even concerned about the debts that are being amassed and left to our children and grandchildren to pay off.
I want to be clear. In our 10 years in government, in the first two years we paid down national debt. We took surpluses and paid down just under $40 billion to our national debt. When the entire world went into the worst downturn and recession since the Great Depression, many countries were in massive trouble. We saw that their currency was failing, that their banks were failing, and that their whole plans were failing. We know about Greece and many of those countries, like Iceland and others. There were massive problems. However, Canadians knew they had people at the rudder who understood economies and knew what they had to do.
Although we were opposed to debt and deficit spending, we realized that in the worst recession since the Great Depression we would invest to kick-start the economy, and we did, as every G7 country did. We make no apologies for that. The largest infrastructure spending, the largest infrastructure program in Canadian history, was brought forward by a Conservative government to kick-start the economy. Therefore, the question should be asked, and it is fair to ask because we will ask it of the Liberals. Did that strategy work? The answer is obviously an unequivocal yes. It did work.
We saw that Canada was the first to leave that recession. Out of all the G7 countries, Canada was the very first to leave that recession and come back to growth. We saw that those investments were in long-term infrastructure that would be around for decades, that would help grow economies, and it worked. We know that we came back to our surplus and balanced budget, as we had promised. In fact, some would say it was a year earlier than we had promised. We paid down that $40 billion and went on to watch our economy grow.
I listen to questions being posed by Liberals here, and many of them are new, as the Liberals had 30 seats before and they have 160 now. The Liberals have a majority government, but many of them are first-time MPs. They say we ran up a big deficit; we ran up debt. The answer is yes, we did, but we had the plan to come back.
The Liberals had a plan to come back. They spent, went into deficit and massive debt, but they had a plan to be back to a balanced budget in 2019. However, now our parliamentary budget officer is saying that it is going to be 2030 or 2035. It will be 30 years down the road before we see any kind of plan that can feasibly bring us back to balanced budgets.
We cannot do that. We cannot fall into that trap. We cannot become a country that has that type of massive debt, and we must do what we can. I think in the next election, the very first main plank in coming back to balanced budgets will happen, and I am very optimistic going into that.
On jobs, our focus as a government during the recession was how we would hold on to the jobs we had and how we would create new ones. We invested in innovation and skills development. We invested in making sure we had the best labour force in the world.
However, we did something more than that. We said we had to make sure our tax regime was such that we could be competitive around the world, first of all. We need to sell our goods into a global market, and we have to be certain that we could be competitive. There is no use trying to have a job, make a gadget, and try to sell it if it was be so over-priced that nobody would be willing to buy it. Therefore, we made sure that our taxes kept going down. In fact, we lowered our taxes more than 160 times. We had the lowest tax rate among the G7 countries. Bloomberg said that we were the second best place in the world to do business. That is why we came out of the recession early.
We sat down with employers and business and asked what it would take to have them hold the jobs they had or create new ones. They were very clear. They said not to do things like raise payroll taxes or increase their level of taxation. Therefore, with what I thought was agreement of all parties, we said we would lower the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, and we did, and then from 11% to 9% phased in over three or four years. We were committed to that. In fact, all parties were committed to that. However, right after the current Liberal government was elected, it made sure that was one promise it would not keep. The Liberals would say to our small business sector, “Why would we ever lower taxes?”
We consulted with Canadians. We consulted with businesses. We hoped to save jobs and secure economic growth during that difficult time. This is why we incurred budgetary deficits. It is also why we created opportunities for young Canadians and saved jobs during an economic recession.
There was a very fragile economic recovery that followed the recession around the world. Too many nations had a difficult time recovering from the recession. It was painfully slow. However, our government immediately pursued getting back to balanced budgets, showing Canadians and the world confidence in our dollar, showing Canadians and the world that we were getting our fiscal house in order, and our dollar reflected that.
Canadians understood that the difficult economic times were over. By 2015, we had brought forward a surplus in the federal budget. Canada was ready to confront another global crisis.
Governments normally only go into deficit if there is a crisis confronting their nation. Governments with budgetary surpluses or balanced budgets have the ability to combat something new. I really fear that with the level of debt we are seeing the Liberal government piling on Canadians, we would not have the capacity to react effectively if there is another massive crisis or global downturn.
In the last budget, the Liberal government said it would be investing in infrastructure. I think all Canadians know the story. During the election the Liberals promised that there would be an itsy-bitsy deficit of $10 billion. The Prime Minister said, “We can do a lot with $10 billion. It sounds big, but we can do a lot with $10 billion.” Then when he came to power, we found that the $10 billion had grown to nearly $30 billion. That was the concern then.
That money was supposed to raise growth. It was also supposed to get the jobs market and the building sector going. It has been a failure all around. The government has had a hard time getting the money out, and the growth has not been there. In fact, there has been less growth. Growth is happening in the United States and all around the world, but it is certainly not happening very quickly here in Canada, in spite of all the measures that the Liberals took in their 2016 budget.
Why would Canadians have hope in this budget? What is in the budget that they could find some hope in? Well, we can listen to the media. I am not one to encourage people to do that too often, but even the media recognize that the budget is probably one of the weakest budgets ever. I spoke to a former Liberal member of Parliament yesterday; he said that this is the most nondescript budget that he has ever seen. That was coming from the Liberals' own benches.
Where should Canada be? Canada should be in its third year of budgetary surplus. This year the Government of Canada should have a surplus of tax dollars to spend without borrowing. The interest payments on Canada's national debt should be decreasing, but the budget book shows us that the interest Canada will have to pay is increasing. We know that when we service debt to the degree that the Liberals will have to service debt down the road, that money is not going to go anywhere else. That money is not going to social programs. That money is not going back into education or health care. The Liberals seem to feel that they will just print more money or that they will just go deeper into deficit.
There are consequences to the actions we take. I warn the Liberal government that there are massive consequences to not having a plan to come back to balanced budgets. There are consequences to increasing deficits and national debt. This generation may not face those consequences, but for our children and grandchildren it will be difficult.
The 42nd Parliament should be in a position now to pay down Canada's national debt. Instead, the Liberals are not spending money to create jobs or grow Canada's economy. They are actually adding to the national debt instead of paying it down. They are leaving their debt for future generations.
The Liberal government has even failed to achieve the economic and employment objectives presented in its last year's budget. Budget 2017 needed to include no further tax hikes on Canadian families, businesses, seniors, or students, but instead needed immediate measures to encourage companies to hire young Canadians and to address the youth unemployment crisis. It should have included a credible plan to return to a balanced budget by 2019, as promised to Canadians. This budget has failed Canadians. The Liberals have failed Canadians with their second budget. There are no new job creation incentives. There are only more education opportunities.
Young students I know are coming out universities and colleges hoping for a job, but the government says, “We'll see if we can get you to take more education after that.”
There is no plan to balance the budget.
According to the parliamentary budget officer, budget 2016 did not meet employment targets because infrastructure investments were delayed, and there were many other reasons. The Liberals get an F. They get an A for announcements, always—Liberals are great at that—but when it comes to delivery, they are looking at a D or an F, because Canadians end up paying the costs.
In Alberta, the new Building Canada funding that was promised to municipalities was withheld by the NDP provincial government. Five rural municipalities have been told to wait or have been left behind altogether. I will even give it to the Liberals in that I think when they sent that infrastructure money to the province, they expected the province would send it out to where the priorities were, but the provincial NDP party said, “No, we're putting it into our general revenues, and then we will pick the priorities sometime down the road.” I think even the Liberals would shake their heads at that one.
No wonder there is no growth. No wonder there is no incentive. No wonder there are no kick-starts in Alberta. The province has the latitude to use the large majority of those infrastructure dollars as it sees fit, but the funds did not go where they were expected to go. It is a massive loss of opportunity for those municipalities, and in some cases the rural municipalities seem to be having the majority of the problems in that respect.
The Liberals also failed to grow the economy with their budget. The economy grew by 1.4% in 2016, which is 0.5% lower than what they had anticipated and claimed it would be in their 2016 budget. They believed it would grow by over 1.8%. They would kick all this money into it and see this massive growth. The previous Conservative government had economic growth of 1.8%, so the Liberals thought they could at least count on that with these extra massive spending measures. When we were investing in infrastructure, the Liberals claimed that we were not investing enough, that we were not spending enough money. They spent a lot more and they realized a lot less growth in the economy. They got less bang for the buck. They had less success. They had lower results. That is the record of the Liberal government.
What did the Liberals do with the $30 billion? What did they accomplish? Well, it is not in jobs and it is not in new revenues coming in.
I want to conclude with two things.
First, I want to talk a bit about our neighbours to the south, the United States. I want to talk about our relationship with them. I think the Liberals backed off on a lot of measures and I think they would have put it to Canadians even more than they have with this budget if it were not for the Trump administration and the knowledge that the U.S. is going to very quickly lower its corporate tax rate.
When we came into power, we lowered our corporate tax rate from 22% to 15%. That created jobs. Our business sector said, “We will create jobs”, and it did, coming out of that recession. Now the Americans are talking about taking it down from 35% to 15%.
We need to be very concerned about businesses making the trip back to the United States, businesses settling down again in the United States. We need to have a plan.
When we lowered that tax rate, we saw head offices and companies, especially in manufacturing, coming into Ontario and across Canada. We need to be cautious. The Americans are here and they are going to compete, and we need to be certain that we are competing at an equal level. We cannot compete at an equal level if we continue to raise the tax burden on them. We cannot increase our manufacturing sector and our business sector if we increase EI and CPP and say, “Here are some extra taxes for you to pay.” Then there is the carbon tax and things like that.
The Americans are competitive. We had better be competitive. The Liberal government's budget nickels-and-dimes Canadians, but it really hits business.
Mr. Speaker, I see my time is up. I thank you for the opportunity to speak, and I look forward to some questions.