Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-44, budget 2017, better known by its working title: the “how to stick it to the next generation, offloading $120 billion in debt on them to pay off in the future, oh, and at the same time pay off or look after the tsunami of seniors coming down the road, but hey, the Prime Minister has cool socks so don't worry about it” bill.
This bill is a train wreck, both for today's working people and for our children. The current government's own projection for this historic spending spree is a mere 1.7% annual growth in GDP.
Those listening on CPAC at home should find something else to watch, because there is better news than this, but they did hear it right: it is 1.7% GDP growth per year. That is all they get for $120 billion of debt. There is all this historic infrastructure spending, this historic investment in superclusters and in innovation, and we get a less than historic 1.7% growth. I am just waiting to hear the government boast about how it is helping superclusters and those clusters working hard to join the superclusters.
We all know about the current government's broken promises. Liberals kill off promises quicker than George R. R. Martin kills off characters in Game of Thrones. Will they balance by the end of the mandate? Sure; as long as we do not have another election until 2052, that might just work out. Of course, with the Liberals' open disdain for Parliament and their fondness for changing the rules without unanimous consent, maybe that is their plan, so they can say in 2052, “We accomplished that.”
The Liberals promised just small deficits of $10 billion a year for three years. We are now looking at about $80 billion. The promise of the tax cut for the so-called middle class and those working hard to join it was going to be revenue neutral through the tax on the wealthy. Oops: it turns out that was wrong, and the middle-class tax cut would be paid for by—wait for it—borrowing. It will mean billions of dollars of borrowed money. I cannot wait to see the looks on the faces of the so-called middle class who are getting a full buck or two extra per day right now under the current tax cut. I cannot wait to see the looks on their faces down the road when they realize that it is all going to have to be paid back, either with higher taxes or with cuts in services. Is anyone ever wondering where the oft-promised $3 billion in palliative care funding went? Maybe it went here.
The Liberals have admitted they do not even know how to define the middle class and those working hard to join it, but maybe that is their excuse.
The government has blown past its debt projections and changed the storyline by saying it will just commit to a lower or stable debt-to-GDP ratio. This is starting to sound like the Britney Spears song Oops!...I Did It Again. That excuse died again. I am starting to think Liberal debt promises are the Sean Bean of the financial world, getting killed off each and every time.
The Financial Post said:
Less than two years into the government’s mandate, it’s increasingly worrying the number of times it has discarded its fiscal anchor when the discipline it is meant to impose becomes inconvenient. With the unceremonious discarding of...promise [after promise, and maybe Sean Bean] it’s clear that federal fiscal policy is being set without any fiscal anchor at all.
Ths budget betrays the young, it betrays the middle class and those working hard to join it, and it betrays Alberta. We hear again and again that the current government consulted this group and that group in historic numbers of consultations across Canada with Canadians from coast to coast to coast. I would like to hear who from Alberta said, “Things are tough right now, and yeah, unemployment is skyrocketing to the highest level since Pierre Trudeau was in power, but now that you ask, we could really use a higher tax on oil and gas exploration.”
I would also like to hear what our four Alberta Liberal MPs were doing when the government wrote into the budget how it would use the tax system to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases, targeting the oil sector. I would invite these four Alberta MPs to stand here and tell us why they sat idly by and allowed this to happen, but at the same time happily agreed to a taxpayer bailout of the Liberal-connected super-rich owners of Bombardier. There are hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for energy-guzzling, greenhouse-gas-belching planes, and tens of millions in bonuses for wealthy Liberal Bombardier insiders, but does Alberta get? We get a tax system geared toward attacking energy jobs.
Great. Let us fail the oil industry and funnel taxpayer dollars into industries that make planes and cars that run on gas. At the same time, we are going to give subsidies to the Ontario automotive sector.
Sometimes I feel my head is going to explode in trying to understand Liberal logic.
I would like to turn my talk now to one of the more hypocritical and odious parts of this omnibus bill, and that is the attack on one of the most respected institutions here in Ottawa: the parliamentary budget office.
In defending this disaster of a budget earlier this evening, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance expressed her shock and outrage of our opposition to the budget, and to its reforms to the PBO, in particular.
The PBO has done amazing work. I do not think a single person of any party has ever stood in the House and disagreed with that. We have seen the PBO do amazing non-partisan work. We saw it bring to light issues with the F-35. Again, when we were in power, this was brought forward and the PBO was allowed to run with it, even though, argumentatively, it damaged our position. Recently it came out with a study on shipbuilding costs, stating how every month the process is delayed is going to cost an extra $30 million for taxpayers. Just this morning, another report came out that the shipbuilding is being delayed by the government another two months, which is another $60 million wasted.
However, the point is that none of this would have come out without the hard work of the PBO.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said that PBO's reforms were lauded. She must have been listening to those same phantom Albertans who told the government to attack the energy industry, because I have not heard anyone else who has lauded these attacks on the PBO.
The government said it would make the PBO an independent office of Parliament. That is a great idea. It is one that I support, and I am sure my colleagues do. However, let us see what the PBO himself says. He says, “clause 128 [of the BIA] also contains elements that will undermine the independence and non-partisanship of the PBO and that will undercut the PBO’s ability to support Parliament. These are concerning and deserve the Senate and House of Commons’ careful scrutiny.” The PBO also drew particular attention to “the degree of control that the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons will be expected to exercise over the office of the PBO”.
Let us think about it. This eliminates the ability of the PBO to react because under this plan all of the studies have to be approved in advance by the Speakers of both Houses. Some of the best work that has been done has been in response to queries from members of the House, such as the F-35 and the, hopefully, approaching Super Hornet issue. These would not be approved in the future under the Liberal plan.
We have seen committees being blocked by the Liberal majority into studies of shipbuilding and the Super Hornets. This is just one more step down that way to stop the opposition from bringing to light spending issues or other issues.
The PBO continues with his concerns. He comments on “the limits on the PBO's ability to initiate reports and members' ability to request cost estimates of certain proposals” and also “the restriction on the PBO's access to and disclosure of information and the lack of an effective remedy for refusals to provide access to information.”
Just two days ago, when presenting the PBO's report on the shipbuilding, one of the members of the PBO stated that he has more access to information on procurement from our Five Eyes allies than he does from DND here. If we muzzle the PBO, we stop him from investigating spending, out-of-control spending, and other issues. It is ridiculous to muzzle the PBO and allow him less powers than he has going to Australia and investigating their procurement practices.
Has the government addressed these concerns and made subsequent changes to the legislation? No, of course not. I have to ask the government why not. How can the government claim its reforms are broadly supported when the institution that it wants to reform does not like the changes? I have to ask where the legitimacy is with this. I do not think there is any. With what authority is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance claiming that their reforms are broadly supported?
In response to our, the NDP's, the Green's, the PBO's, and the public's concerns about these reforms, the government House leader cheerfully says, “Let's have a conversation and we'll welcome the amendments.”
Why do we have to bring amendments to stop the government from damaging and muzzling the PBO to begin with? It is an attack on the PBO, clear and simple. It is an attack on transparency. It is an attack on our ability to have a functional oversight of government spending. The government has disgracefully brought in Motion No. 6 in the past. It tried to reduce the oversight of committees by changing the estimates process. It tried to change the rules by which we operate in the House just to make things easier for itself.
This blatant attack on the independence of the PBO belongs right up there with those other items in the Liberal government hall of shame. These actions are not good enough for parliamentarians and they are not good enough for Canadians. That is why I will not be supporting the Liberal omnibus bill.