Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I speak to you today because, just 15 minutes ago, the Liberal majority in the House of Commons voted in favour of time allocation on Bill C-44, a major bill to implement the Liberal government's budget. It is, however, much more than that. It is also an omnibus bill that affects a whole range of things. That is why my speech will focus on the omnibus nature of this bill and the problems it causes as well as the fact that the budgetary measures it implements are bad.
First of all, let us talk about the omnibus bill. I remember that the Liberal Party was elected by claiming that it would never present omnibus bills as we had done at other times, it seemed to say, when we formed the government. This again shows that the Liberal Party said one thing during the election campaign and is doing exactly the opposite now that they are in power.
Furthermore, every time the previous administration tabled a bill that might include some distinctive elements, the Liberals would tear their hair out, saying it was the end of the world, that it did not make sense, and that the rights of parliamentarians had been infringed. Well, then, these people are doing exactly the same thing today. This is what makes people cynical, unfortunately.
Let us now look at the fundamental elements that, in our opinion, make this an omnibus bill. First of all, it literally provides for the creation of the Canada infrastructure and investment bank, and even brings major changes to the nature and mandate of the parliamentary budget officer. Let us examine these elements one by one.
The parliamentary budget officer is a fundamental institution of our Parliament. He is the person who ensures that the management of funds is carried out rigorously. However, this government, in the initial version of Bill C-44, is proposing, suggesting and imposing on the parliamentary budget officer a new obligation to report on his game plan for the year, which must be approved by the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons. This makes no sense, and I would even say that it is a denial of democracy.
Why? First of all, the parliamentary budget officer must draw up his plan for the year, and if a particular event occurs during that year, he will not be able to analyze the plan. This is the first mistake. Worse, however, is that he will become a figurehead who can be manipulated by the Speaker of the Senate, someone who is not elected, but rather appointed by the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House of Commons, who is appointed by all political parties.
This is exactly the opposite of what should be taking place. The parliamentary budget officer must be absolutely protected from any political intervention. With Bill C-44, the government will hold the parliamentary budget officer hostage, to some extent, to the decisions of the House of Commons. This is not acceptable.
I would now like to talk about Investment Canada. This is another invention of the Liberal government to attract foreign investment to Canada. Has the member for Papineau and new Prime Minister just invented this? Does he think no foreign investments have ever been made in Canada? Does he think that as a result of Investment Canada, the whole planet is going to discover that Canada exists and they can invest here? I would remind him that snow fell before he was born. If he has any doubt, I would remind him that when he was born, his father was the prime minister of Canada. He should know that Canada has favoured foreign investment for more than 150 years. Some might even say that it was the backbone of the creation of our country 150 years ago, since foreign investment was welcomed at that time.
Why, then, create Investment Canada, when our economic development agencies and our embassies have been doing the same job for decades, if not 150 years? We have institutions in Canada that work to attract foreign investment. Why, then, have another Liberal invention, other than to please some pals and create another administrative structure that will make the apparatus of Canadian government more complex? We do not need it; the job is already being done very well.
The same applies to the infrastructure bank, which is by no means a small matter. We are talking about hundreds of billions of potential dollars that are to be managed by that institution, when this kind of tool already exists: PPP Canada allows for investment of foreign capital and private capital to develop our infrastructure.
What does the Liberal government find fault with in PPP Canada? Does it think it is physically not a good thing and it has to oppose it because it was created by the Conservatives? If that is the case, what a poor approach this government is taking. We must admit that this is surely is the case because that party denounces everything we did, although it is doing exactly the same thing as us today.
In the case of the infrastructure bank, it is no small thing. They want to create a bank that will use $35 billion of taxpayers’ money, $15 billion of which will be used immediately to create the operating fund. That means there will immediately be $15 billion less in the economy, at a time when people need it.
Then they are going to set that money aside to attract foreign investment, but on what terms? First, it will involve only projects of $100 million and over. Already, they are leaving out almost three-quarters of the Canadian population, because few cities can afford the luxury of having $100-million infrastructure projects.
Last Friday, I had the extraordinary privilege and honour of representing my leader at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. I addressed an audience of about 1,000 people. There were municipal politicians, councillors, wardens, mayors, and even reeves, the term I learned that is used for the mayors of rural communities in English Canada. I asked those people whether, in their municipalities, they had ever carried out projects worth over $100 million. Only three people raised their hands, in an audience of about 1,000 people.
That is clear proof that this does not affect Canada’s rural communities, or even Canada’s semi-urban communities. They are part of the backbone of the Canadian economy, but this government is snubbing them by allocating only $2 billion out of the $180 billion to investments.
Need I point out that we Conservatives are in favour of investment in infrastructure? Under the leadership of the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, we put in place the most impressive infrastructure budget, the difference being that we did it while balancing the budget and not by creating compulsive gigantic deficits as the present government is doing.
The infrastructure bank will mean that private and foreign investors will only rake in the profits, leaving Canadian taxpayers to assume all the risks. That is why it should not be. Virtually all observers agree that the clauses of the bill relating to the infrastructure bank should be withdrawn so they can be studied properly. This kind of thing is not something to be created by snapping your fingers. It deserves our attention.
This bill also implements this government’s unfortunate budget measures. First, let us talk about the deficit. The Liberals got elected by saying they would run a small, $10-billion deficit, but they are now at $30 billion. They also said there would be a return to balance by 2019 when, in reality, it will not happen before 2055. I am not the one saying it; the information comes from the none other than the finance department.
Let us also not forget that these people are attacking families and the middle class by inventing new taxes on tobacco, on alcohol, Friday night beer or Saturday night wine, and by eliminating the tax credits for sports and arts activities and school textbooks, which helped families directly.
What is even worse is that this budget, in the form of Bill C-44, eliminates the tax credit for public transit that had been instituted by the Conservative government. Of the 200 or 300 tax credits we have, if someone had told me that the Liberals would eliminate the public transit tax credit, I would never have believed it, because they are always going on and on about their fine, ecological principles. Here they are, however, doing away with the tax credit for Canadian taxpayers who take the bus to work every day.
For these reasons, we vigorously oppose this bill and we hope that the House of Commons will defeat it.