House of Commons Hansard #353 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was balanced.

Topics

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, we will start with the Asian infrastructure bank with at least a half billion dollars to build roads and pipelines in China. I am not sure about the member for Edmonton Strathcona but I think if she asked around her neighbourhood, her constituents would say that pipelines in Canada are probably better than pipelines in China. By the way, we could build them without tax dollars here if we got the government out of the way.

I think we should cancel some of the corporate welfare that has poured into the coffers of businesses that have used the money just to beef up the bonuses of their executives while laying people off, which is exactly what happened at Bombardier when the government gave money to the billionaire Bombardier-Beaudoin family.

I think we could also start growing spending at an affordable rate. Instead of growing spending at 7%, what about growing it at 2% or 3%, which is roughly the rate of economic growth? That would allow us to maintain all the existing programs that we already have, without engaging in a massive spending bonanza that would have to be paid for by future generations.

Those are some practical examples of how we can bring ourselves back in balance.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I was wondering if my colleague for Carleton could comment on this. A young person on the break week compared the Prime Minister to a friend of his who got a credit card and irresponsibly partied, using it for a couple of years. He had a great time and said that everything was going wonderfully, but then hit a point where he had to pay it back and everything went horribly. He was very pessimistic about his future.

Can my colleague comment on this credit card economy that the Liberals are really promoting and what effect is it going to have on our young people with regard to affordability and their ability to get ahead?

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, I think that sounds like a very clever young person whom the hon. member spoke to. Maybe that young man or woman would be a better finance minister than the one we have right now. Probably he or she did not inherit a multi-million dollar trust fund and, therefore, knows what it is like to earn the money that they spend. It would be nice if the government had the same ethic.

That is the ethic that the Conservatives will employ when we are in government. We will govern on behalf of the hard-working people who pay the bills in this country. We will live within our means just like Canadians have to and we will all be better off as a result.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from Carleton for his excellent speech. I very much enjoyed his vision of history, although I still find it a bit creative, when he mentioned the financial crisis in 2008 and how well Canada did.

I must point out that, when former prime minister Stephen Harper was in the opposition, he was all worked up about deregulating Canada’s financial sector. It was Paul Martin, a Liberal prime minister, who refused, which is the reason why the Canadian financial sector did so well in 2008 and why Canada as a whole did better than other countries.

While we are on the topic, I would say that the Conservatives reaped what Liberal governments sowed for 10 or even 12 years, which is sound management of public funds under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

I am willing to concede that they got through the financial crisis of 2008, but since they were in power for 10 years, overall, they had the poorest growth of the previous 69 years. They had the lowest job creation numbers since 1946 and the smallest increase in exports since World War II, at 0.3%. I think that we need to take the opposition’s economic statements not with a grain but a block of salt, because they were clearly unable to do the job for Canada, either when they were in the opposition, with Stephen Harper’s suggestions around financial regulations, or when they were in power for 10 years.

That brings me to my speech today. In 2015, Canadians had to choose between the Conservatives’ austerity measures and budget cuts, some of which were made to the cultural sector. We saw major cuts to the CBC, as well as veterans services, with the closure of nine offices. While the Conservatives were in power, several hundred employees who provided direct services to veterans were terminated. Similarly, payroll specialist jobs were cut, all to achieve an artificial surplus just in time for the general election. That is about as cynical as you can get. We are still paying for these ill-advised cuts, which did not stimulate growth or provide Canadians with the services to which they are entitled.

We took a different approach when we came to power. We determined that we should invest in our communities when interest rates are low.

I am pointing this out, because you cannot talk about the motion put forward by the hon. member for Carleton without talking about the progress we have made since 2015. Since November 2015, more than half a million full-time jobs have been created in Canada. Unemployment is now at its lowest rate in 40 years. Salaries are on the rise and, if the trend continues, they may rise more quickly in 2018 than they have in almost 10 years. In 2017, Canada’s growth outstripped that of every one of the other G7 countries, and we are still growing. Economists expect that Canada will have one of the largest economic growth rates among G7 countries in 2018 and 2019.

This is not the result of good luck. It is the result of Canadians’ hard work and our government’s wise choices. In the past three years, we have invested in Canadians and in what is most important to them. We decided to focus on strengthening the middle class and not on austerity measures and budget cuts.

To truly understand the motion put forward by the hon. member across the aisle, we need to look at all of the investments the government has made in the past three years, and we are indeed talking about investments. The first measure implemented by our government was a tax cut for the middle class, which the Conservatives opposed. This tax cut means more money in the pockets of some nine million Canadians. This is money that makes it possible to save, invest and grow the economy.

A fair tax system is the basis for a stronger middle class and a growing economy. Fairness inspires confidence and helps create possibilities for all Canadians. The tax cut for the middle class contributed significantly to the Canadian economy, but we did not stop there. To help families cover the costs of raising children, our government implemented the Canada child benefit, and began indexing it two years earlier than announced. The Canada child benefit is simpler, more generous and better targeted than the former system of federal child benefits which, if you remember, sent out cheques regardless of family income, some to millionaire families. Thanks to our Canada child benefit, nine out of 10 Canadian families with children receive more money every month than they did before. This benefit contributed to lifting 521,000 people, including almost 300,000 children, out of poverty.

Measures such as the middle-class tax cut and the Canada child benefit are making a real difference in the lives of Canadians. As a result, by this time next year a typical middle-class family of four will receive, on average, about $2,000 more each year. This is real money to buy good things like healthy food, new winter boots or skating lessons for their children. This is real money that makes it easier for hard-working Canadians to make ends meet.

However, we did not stop there either. Our government understands that we as a country need the hard work and creativity of all Canadians because more people participating in the economy means a stronger economy. Making sure that every person has an equal chance to contribute to and share in the success of Canada is a no-brainer. We all benefit from this. For example, we all benefit from gender equality. Over the last 40 years, the increasing participation of women in the workforce has accounted for about one-third of Canada's per capita economic growth. Canadian women are among the most educated in the world, yet they still are facing barriers to achieving their full potential. They often earn less than men and are more likely to work part time. Our government would like to see a world where women's participation and earnings match those of men.

Our government is committed to helping women and girls overcome the barriers they face. Advancing gender equality promotes economic growth and increases incomes for Canadian families.

The good news is that progress has been made. Now more than ever in Canada, more women are employed and are contributing to our shared economic success.

The percentage of Canadian women who have jobs has risen steadily since 2015, after years of relatively weak growth. However, more work needs to be done.

Wage gains for Canadian women are still 31% lower on average than men's gains. The government has already shared its plan to adopt pay equity legislation, which will help bridge that gap. The legislation would require federally regulated employers with 10 or more employees to establish and maintain a proactive pay equity program.

Pay equity means equal pay for work of equal value. This measure will apply to 1.2 million people, including federal public servants, employees at Crown corporations and employees at federally regulated private sector businesses. This will include banks, airlines, cable companies and radio broadcasters.

The government will also create a pay equity commissioner position to ensure that the law is obeyed. The commissioner will provide annual reports to Parliament to ensure that our goals are being met.

That being said, equal pay is not always sufficient to achieve equal opportunity. For example, child care duties still fall disproportionately to women. To further promote gender equality, the government announced in this year's budget that a new employment insurance parental sharing benefit, a use it or lose it top-up to parental benefits, would be available starting in 2019. It will provide parents with access to an additional five weeks of parental benefits if they agree to share parental leave, or an additional eight weeks if they choose the extended option. The intent is to encourage all parents, including fathers, to take some leave when welcoming a new child and to share more equally in the work of raising their children. This policy will be available to same-sex couples and adoptive parents as well. It is a policy that has worked very well in Quebec and in many countries in Europe. I am very proud that our government has made this a federal policy.

Growing our workforce is key to growing our economy and another of the government's initiatives, the Canada workers benefit, or CWB, will play a major role to achieve this. This will not only raise around 7,000 Canadians out of poverty, but it will also encourage more people to join the workforce, further strengthening the Canadian economy. In addition, the government is making it easier for people to access the benefit they have earned by making changes that will allow the Canada Revenue Agency to calculate the CWB for any tax filer who has not claimed it. That means everyone who can benefit from the CWB will receive it when they file their taxes.

The government is also committed to helping today's seniors and those who will be seniors one day, which means everyone. Therefore, these past two years the government has worked to ensure that Canadians can have the secure retirement they deserve, free of financial worries. We increased the guaranteed income supplement payments by up to $947 per year for single recipients, helping nearly 900,000 vulnerable low-income seniors. We restored the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65, which will greatly benefit tomorrow's seniors. We also reached a historic agreement with provinces to enhance the Canada pension plan, meaning more money for Canadians when they retire and less worry about their savings.

Thanks to Quebec’s similar measure to enhance the Quebec pension plan, workers across Canada can expect a safer and more secure retirement. All Canadians are entitled to reach retirement age with peace of mind.

That is not all. We also adopted the very first national housing strategy in Canada, since nothing is more important than a home. The national strategy is a 10-year, $40-billion plan that will meet the housing needs of 530,000 households and reduce chronic homelessness by 50%.

I mentioned the investments our government made for families, but we should not forget those made for Canadian businesses, which contribute to Canada’s vitality and economic prosperity, which we on this side of the House want to be inclusive. For example, the government took important steps to support the competitiveness of Canadian businesses. In January of this year, the tax rate for small businesses decreased from 10.5% to 10%, the lowest rate in any of the G7 countries. We intend to do better still. As of January 2019, in just a few weeks, the rate will drop again, this time to 9%. For businesses, this tax cut represents up to $7,500 in federal tax savings a year. That is money that can be reinvested in new equipment, business growth and the creation of more jobs for Canadians.

The government also reached new free trade agreements with our neighbours to the south, the United States and Mexico, with our partners across the Atlantic, the European Union, and Asia, with whom we share access to the Pacific Ocean. Today, Canada is the only G7 nation to have trade agreements with all the other G7 nations. That is a considerable advantage. In all, we have 14 free trade agreements with 51 countries, representing privileged access for Canadian businesses to 1.5 billion consumers worldwide.

Our government has also invested in the next generation of Canadian researchers. On this side of the House, we believe in science. The 2018 budget is an example of our commitment. It includes unprecedented investments of more than $4 billion to support scientists and their research and to purchase the equipment Canadian researchers need. That means that they will be able to continue to innovate and develop new technologies, for example, technologies that will allow us to diagnose diseases more quickly or to develop new drugs for treating patients.

Let us also not forget our historic investments in infrastructure. For example, we allotted new money for public transit to shorten commuting time and give families more time together. Thanks to the federal government's ambitious plan, my region, Quebec City, has a visionary project. I think that Quebec City has a lot of potential, and the project would not have been possible without such involvement from the federal government, without the desire to invest massively in public transit. For us, protecting the environment is an obvious necessity, but not everyone in the House shares this view.

Our government also made important investments to advance reconciliation between Canada and indigenous peoples. We invested in priority areas identified by first nations, Inuit and Métis nation partners. This is helping to close the gap between the living conditions of indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples, facilitating self-determination and advancing recognition of rights.

I could go on and on. Together with Canadians we have made a lot of progress. The government knows there is more work to be done, and I will leave this topic to the Minister of Finance as he tables the fall economic statement in the House later this week.

In the meantime, there is one thing of which I would like to remind the member for Carleton. Our government made the investments I mentioned and then some while keeping its fiscal house in order. The federal debt-to-GDP ratio remains firmly on a downward track and could soon reach its lowest level in over 40 years. Canada's total government net debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest among the G7 countries. In fact, the deficit-to-GDP ratio is projected to reach a low of 0.5% in 2022-23.

What we need to balance first and foremost is the need to make smart investments to support economic growth and the need to preserve Canada's strong fiscal situation for current and future generations.

In a few days, the government will unveil the next step in its plan to strengthen the middle class, ensure economic growth and give more people a real and equal opportunity to succeed.

I must admit that I very much look forward to the finance minister's economic update on Wednesday. I am pleased to see that the member for Carleton shares my eagerness and enthusiasm. For sure, the economy is in better shape than it was three years ago. Job creation is strong and the unemployment rate has reached a 40-year low.

More and more Canadians benefit from the strength of the Canadian economy. I can assure all hon. members that the government will keep stepping up its efforts to make Canada a more egalitarian, competitive, sustainable and equitable country.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, I heard the hon. parliamentary secretary talk a lot about his and the government's view of the economy and fiscal issues. However, one thing I did not hear was the year in which the budget will be balanced. He, along with the Prime Minister, ran on an election platform that the budget would be balanced in the year 2019. As the Prime Minister might have put it, “The budget will balance itself.” They have stopped talking about that promise and we are only about 42 sleeps until 2019 arrives. We are holding them to their promise that the budget will balance itself in 2019.

I think anybody would agree that in a fall economic statement the year that a budget will be balanced would be a basic piece of information to share. Will he indicate now that on Wednesday the finance minister will tell us the date on which the budget will be balanced, yes or no?

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Carleton for asking his question, for raising this issue and for his enthusiasm about the fall economic statement. I am also excited about that.

It is important to remember that Canada's fiscal position is the best among G7 countries, that our debt is the lowest in relation to the size of our economy and that the debt-to-GDP ratio is steadily declining. Growth resumed in Canada after our government was elected in 2015.

That year, we were debating whether Canada was in recession or about to be, as Conservatives desperately kept implementing policies which in my view undermine Canada's growth potential. At the beginning of my speech, I mentioned the appalling figures of the Harper government, which my colleague from Carleton was a part of. He was on the cabinet which presided over the worst growth statistics of the past 69 years.

Export growth was at its lowest since World War II. It then picked up again in 2015 and has continued to rise in the three following years. Last year, it was the strongest growth of all G7 countries. Half a million jobs were created while our fiscal position remained enviable.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Louis-Hébert. I often say that I believe him to be a politician with great intentions. However, the question the Conservatives are asking today is quite legitimate. I expect to get a frank and honest answer to the many questions that will be asked.

I have a simple question for my colleague. It is easy to draw parallels between the country's budget and that of the average family in Canada. Unfortunately, statistics can lead us astray. It seems that roughly half of all families in Canada are living paycheque to paycheque. The level of debt is quite high and clearly the government is leading the way on that.

Does my colleague not find it shameful on the government's part to not know when the budget will be balanced again? It is a problem. Maybe they do not want to say because there is an election coming up in a year. Is that not pathetic?

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert for his kind words. I feel the same about him. He is a politician with great intentions.

In response to his question about household debt, I want to say that, from the beginning, our government's policies have been designed to make our tax system fairer and give families more breathing room.

In one year, Canadian families will have $2,000 more, on average, than they did under the former government. We have lowered taxes on the middle class, and the Canada child benefit is making a difference for hundreds of thousands of families across the country.

These are not just talking points. This is the truth. I can see it in my riding, and I am sure that the member sees it in his own riding. This was our government's plan, while the previous government was sending cheques to millionaire families.

The member for Carleton loved sending cheques so much that he would pose for pictures just before the election in his nice Conservative blue polo while his government was printing cheques that were poorly distributed and were not progressive enough. We took a vastly different approach, which is helping the maximum number of Canadian families make ends meet, through much more progressive measures, like the Canada child benefit, the working income tax benefit and so on.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry Diotte Conservative Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, in 2015, my team and I knocked on 25,000 doors in Edmonton Griesbach. Obviously it worked because they liked the Conservative message about balanced budgets, etc.

Oftentimes we would run into somebody who would say that we should get off the doorstep because he or she did not trust any politicians because they would say one thing before they would get elected and as soon as they were elected, they do whatever they wanted, making promises and not keeping them.

We know the Liberals promised small deficits and a balanced budget by 2019. What does my Liberal colleague across the way say to his constituents who say they are cynical about politicians who do not keep their promises?

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, we were clearly elected on a commitment to make smart investments, not to follow the path set by the Conservatives, and agreed to by the NDP, of austerity and cuts. Nine offices for veterans were closed under the Conservative government. Close to 1,000 employees who were offering services to veterans were laid off. There were cuts to culture and to the CBC. That was the path in which the Conservatives engaged. There were cuts to pay specialists that led to the Phoenix situation we are facing, 700 pay specialists. GM shares were sold, at a loss, right before the election to pretend the government had a surplus. This is the kind of attitude and policies that fuel cynicism in the country.

We have taken a different approach, which is to make smart investments in infrastructure and to have a more progressive Canada child benefit, lifting hundreds of thousands of kids out of poverty. The approach we have taken is clearly working. We had the fastest growth in the G7 last year. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is steadily declining, because we have growth.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 19th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I held a budget event recently with Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer. He certainly held the previous government to account.

I put this question to him about the budget practices of the Liberal government. He pointed to the anemic growth in 2015 and the importance of spending. We know the stimulative impact of the Canada child benefit as one example. We also know important promises are being kept with respect to our indigenous communities and our veterans. That takes significant billions of dollars.

I wonder if my colleague could speak to the current Parliamentary Budget Officer's job as a watchdog on federal spending and what he has to say about the current government's trajectory of spending and whether it is sustainable or not.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Beaches—East York for his question.

In 2015, when interest rates were low and growth was anemic, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and a number of international experts, including the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, recommended that the Government of Canada and governments in other countries make wise investments. That anemic growth was due in large part to the former government's policies.

We know that Canada's small, medium-sized and large communities have urgent infrastructure needs. Various groups, such as veterans and indigenous peoples, also have social needs, as my colleague noted. Investing on those fronts was crucial. Our government promised to make those investments and kept its promises. Thanks to those investments, our economy and our society are fairer and more equitable, and our growth is more inclusive.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, it is interesting that in 2015 a great promise was made. The member talked about the complexity. I am assuming the complexity is that the promises made in 2015 are no different than the promises made now.

The former Conservative government paid down $37 billion in debt.

When the economy is good and there is no money to pay down the debt, how is the government going to pay it down when a crisis comes? Could you give us a date for when you will balance the budget?

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I will not be able to answer that question for the member. I would ask him to address his questions and comments to the Chair.

The hon. parliamentary secretary has a minute to answer.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, as I said, investing was the smart thing for our government to do, and that was a very clear promise we made to Canadians.

The Conservatives gave Canadians 10 years of austerity and budget cuts at the expense of veterans, first nations and culture, yet they still managed to add $150 billion to the national debt.

Earlier, the member for Carleton said that Canada recovered relatively easily from the 2008 financial crisis, but that was no thanks to him or Stephen Harper. It was thanks to Paul Martin, who refused to deregulate our financial sector in spite of the frenzied insistence of Stephen Harper and his colleagues that we follow in the Americans' footsteps. That is why Canada recovered so quickly.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with one of my colleagues. I would like to respond to what the parliamentary secretary said in his speech about what Paul Martin did.

Paul Martin did work to limit banking deregulation. He also balanced the budget in the 1990s. However, we must not forget that he did so mainly on the backs of the provinces by making major cuts to health, post-secondary education and social assistance transfers. It is important to point that out for any Canadians who might be watching at home.

The major issue that we should be focusing on right now is whether the Liberals will keep their promise and eliminate their so-called small deficits by 2019. Of course, the Conservatives are opposed to deficits and they are particularly upset about the fact that the deficits in question are bigger than expected. Meanwhile, the Liberals are saying that they ran those deficits as an investment. Both parties are wrong. Here is why.

The Liberals did indeed promise to run small deficits of $3 billion per year. There is no question about that. They also said that they would pay off those deficits by 2019, but they will not be able to do so. The Conservatives are right about that. Where the Conservatives are mistaken is in saying that balancing the budget is the fundamental issue on which Canada's economy completely depends.

I spoke about the work the Liberals did to balance the budget in the 1990s. It came at a great cost, but the price was paid and the budget was balanced. Then, the Conservatives took office and accumulated deficits for seven or eight years before finally eliminating them prior to the 2015 election, so I do not think that the Conservatives are in any position to lecture the Liberals about balancing the budget. When they are in opposition, the Conservatives say that deficits are the worst thing a government can do, but then when they are in office, they say it is completely acceptable to run a deficit as long as there is a good reason for doing so.

This is very similar to what is happening in the U.S. Let us go back to the 1990s when the Democrats were in power under Bill Clinton. What happened? They balanced the budget in a way that made vulnerable people suffer more, which we can debate at length. However, the result was achieved; they balanced the budget.

What happened after that? George Bush was elected. The Republicans dominated the executive in the House for eight years and budget deficits ballooned. At that point, I remember Dick Cheney, who was vice-president, being asked a question about the importance of deficits, and he said that it was not important at all.

Therefore, on both sides of the border, when the Conservatives are in government, they do not care about deficits. They will find any justification to go into deficit. However, when they are in opposition, they blame the government for having deficits. It makes no sense or it makes sense in the political game.

Deficits can be a good thing for the economy if we are able to ensure that we get a good rate of return for these deficits, the same way as a business will contract a loan to invest and grow. That is acceptable.

We wonder what the Liberal government is doing with these deficits. Taking a Keynesian perspective, as governments often do, deficits are accumulated to grow the economy, but only to the extent that the government can eventually balance the budget. We believe that a government should be able to balance the budget over an economic cycle. In other words, if the economy is doing well, the government takes the opportunity to reduce public debt somewhat. If the economy is not doing well, the government will have leeway to invest.

The problem is that that is not what the government is doing. It is accumulating deficits of $10 billion, $15 billion and $20 billion at a time when the economy is doing well. The economy is doing well, but not because of the deficits that have been incurred or investments that have been made. My constituents tell me that they are seeing $15-billion deficits, but no investments for the middle class. Most importantly, they are not seeing investments in infrastructure, because there is not much more being invested than there was five, six or seven years ago.

People can see the difference. The money is going to places that are not that productive.

We can see through what the Liberals are doing. Instead of investing directly in infrastructure the way they used to do, they decided to create the infrastructure bank, where they put some cash and some guarantees and then asked the private sector to invest, which is fine. I like the private sector to invest and I like the government to invest as well.

We were told that the government placed $35 billion in the infrastructure bank, about $15 billion of which are actually money and the rest are guarantees. We have asked the private sector to invest $185 billion. We can be sure that the private sector will want a return on its investment. We can also be sure that the private sector will be calling the shots, not the government.

The Liberal solution is to invest in infrastructure, but we have seen very little of it. Since the bank was developed, since people were put in place, since a bureaucracy was put in place to make those investments, the only thing the government has been able to do so far is to provide a loan to Caisse de dépôt et placement for the light train project in Montreal. That is all.

I would like to get back to the matter at hand and whether the House should demand that the Liberal government tell us when the budget will be balanced. It would be interesting to know what the Liberals have in mind, because they are refusing to answer the question. I have to say I am concerned about that. It would also be nice if the Liberals explained how their investments are growing the Canadian economy. How can they justify investing more while things are going well economically, when they should be taking advantage of this opportunity to prepare for an economic downturn when things will be harder? That would probably be more productive and show greater foresight.

My Conservative friends are demanding that the government say when it will balance the budget. I would like to know how they can justify saying one thing when they are the opposition and the exact opposite when they are the government. For eight years, they kept telling us that having a deficit was fine, that the government had to save the auto industry, that it had to invest to save jobs. Now the Liberals are saying the same thing, but that is not sitting well with the Conservatives.

The issue we are debating today is more political than economic. It is a political issue because we have two sides playing a political game. From an economic standpoint, I think it would be interesting that Conservatives understand the need for deficits, which are not evil as such if the money is well invested.

In a similar way, income tax reductions are not the panacea which will cure everything, including the common cold. It is more a matter of common sense than dogma. That is what we are asking for on this side of the House. When Conservatives are in government, they immediately cut taxes, no matter what the financial situation is.

In fact, a large part of the accumulated deficit even before the recession came from the GST and corporate income tax cuts. We went from a balanced budget to a deficit, which was already quite large before the financial crisis and which was amplified by it. Do these tax cuts really create jobs? Do they really increase productivity? While corporations benefited from a massive reduction in income tax, their assets grew substantially. Their dead money in the bank increased exponentially, at about the same rate as the money was coming in thanks to these tax cuts.

I totally agree that we must debate the economy in this House. I want to have a debate on the economy here, but let us do it in a way that really addresses the concerns of the population. People increasingly have a hard time making ends meet each month. They have a hard time seeing any point to the government or to the programs it is implementing. We must address these concerns before debating zero deficit as if it was a fundamental goal to be reached no matter what, before any other goal.

On that note, I will be happy to answer questions from my colleagues.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member from the NDP for so wonderfully pointing out our Conservative track record when it came to the use of deficit budgets.

We started our term in government with a small surplus. We used deficit budgeting strategically when the world was experiencing a global recession, which insulated us from feeling the effects that the rest of the world and our G7 partners experienced during that recession. We worked towards a balanced budget and left a small surplus to this Liberal government when it came to power. It has since squandered it, and my NDP colleague has so rightly pointed out that they have been spending money in all the wrong places.

Can the member tell us where the Liberals should be spending the money and when they will balance the budget?

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I cannot answer that last question and tell the member when the Liberals will balance the budget, but I will respond to the first part of his comments.

Yes, the Conservative government actually invested at a time when there was a significant economic downturn. My beef is not about that, as I will be the first to admit from this side of the House that we made that request of them. My beef is with the way the Conservatives acted when they sought to return to a balanced budget, when they did so at all costs before the last election. That led to things like selling the shares of GM at a loss to ensure that the government had justification to claim there was a balanced budget. We saw massive cuts in accessibility to EI, massive cuts to other social programs that people relied on, and attempts to modify a series of programs in a way that affected the middle class and working people. Therefore, the problem was not the investment, but the forced return to a balanced budget that was actually hurtful to Canadian families.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, at times I felt the member was agreeing with us on a couple of points, and certainly with respect to his difficulty with the way that Bill Clinton may or may not have balanced the budget in the United States. He said that was done on the backs of people at the lower end of the economic spectrum. However, our programs here are designed to help raise children out of poverty, to focus on a national housing strategy, and to enrich EI benefits and to do a number of other things to help those worst off. Therefore, it sounds like in a way that he is endorsing the way we are engaging in some modest deficit spending in this case.

However, my question concerns the infrastructure bank. On the one hand, the member mentioned that corporations would have too much power because they are investing more than us, but on the other hand he was saying that we were putting too much into it. I was hoping he could clarify the NDP position on that point.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I thought I was very clear on that. It is not a matter of investing too much in the infrastructure bank. It is that the government announced during the election that it would have deficits to allow for infrastructure investments, which is, by the way, what we were also saying in our platform back in 2015. However, the fact is that the Liberals are not investing that much more in infrastructure. They have decided to create this bank, which they never announced during the election, 80% to 90% of which will be funded by the private sector. They will want to claim that it is the government investing in infrastructure when it is not.

It is one thing for the government to actually invest in infrastructure that it will keep control of afterwards, and another thing to have an independent, arm's-length body investing on the condition of giving a rate of return to those private companies from that public infrastructure, such as when building a bridge. If it were a road, it would be a toll road, and that money would go back to pay these companies their rate of return. That is very different from the government, which is funded by Canadians, building infrastructure that will remain in Canadians' hands. There is a massive difference between government investing in infrastructure and the government allowing the private sector to invest in infrastructure with a rate of return and where that sector would be calling the shots.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, representing Nanaimo—Ladysmith, I am proud to stand with my colleagues from the NDP, to speak to the question of both Conservative and Liberal priorities. I am proud that the New Democrats' fiscal record on deficit spending is the best of all political parties that have formed a provincial or federal government in Canada for the past 30 years. While we have been responsible financial managers, I am also proud that we have invested in what Canadians care about, what actually changes the lives of Canadians on the ground. We have pushed for more because we are determined to make lives better.

Growing up in Canada my whole life, I have watched the bounce between Conservative and Liberal fiscal leadership or ideology federally. It has bounced between spending on the wrong priorities, I would argue, and then rolling back and slashing and burning social programs and front-line social services in an extremely aggressive and destructive way. We saw terrible cuts to the public service in the 1990s, with venerated institutions like the CBC being cut, resulting in true loss of service delivery to people in remote communities. We have seen our environmental safety net eroded. We have seen our social safety net eroded and, at a minimum, not keeping up with the cost of living. Vulnerable people in vulnerable environments have felt the brunt of this pendulum swing of over-spending and then slashing and burning.

The Liberals' cuts in the 1990s were extreme. The Conservatives built deficits way back up. Somehow, they kept the reputation of being conservative fiscal managers, but it was just not true. Now, in criticizing the Liberals, this really does feel like a political game, and it Canada's most vulnerable people who pay the price of this game.

My biggest concern is that we have a government now in place that got a mandate from the people to invest in the people. The Liberals got a huge majority in the House. They had a tremendous amount of goodwill. However, they are not delivering the money to the people who need it the most, who really had hopes that deep investments would be made in social services again. Instead, we have seen strange and unpromised things happen, which I would argue are the opposite of promises made, like the government finding $4.5 billion to buy a leaky old pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline. Whoever would have thought they were voting for that kind of fiscal investment and that kind of good, conservative management, when they checked the box beside the Liberals? I personally thought, as a member of Parliament, the way to beat the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the oil tanker traffic risks posed to the riding I serve was to beat the Harper Conservatives. Who knew that it would be the Liberals who would deepen their investment despite their promise that they would redo the Kinder Morgan pipeline review, which they have not done?

As for the infrastructure bank, we certainly want and need investments in infrastructure. Local governments have been taking the brunt of this for decades. They have the biggest responsibility. They have been subject to tremendous downloads. In British Columbia, we have seen those downloads from the B.C. Liberals, and we have also seen them from the Liberals and Conservatives federally. Local governments do not have the taxation power, but depend on federal government partnership to deliver the federal infrastructure funding to be able to get their water treatment plants, their affordable housing projects, their bike paths and everything else built. The Liberals campaigned that they were going to invest in this way, but just did not get those investments out the door. They are still spending infrastructure money that the Conservatives promised. That is a long time ago now. Unfortunately, a lot of the infrastructure funding is delayed until after the next election.

There have been some good news pieces. I absolutely take those, and I am glad to see them, but we really thought it would be more, faster and deeper. There is only another year for the current government to show that it will deepen its partnership and invest and make up the lost ground that we felt under the former Conservative government.

The infrastructure bank again is a disappointment. As my colleague, the member of Parliament for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, pointed out, there is $35 billion in federal funding but much more, over $100 billion, called for from the corporate side. Therefore, with the corporate power at play in this case and the need for corporations to invest in the infrastructure bank, obviously there is a big profit motive that shareholders require to be met. Again, there has not been the expected delivery on the promises made, but lots of delays. We just have not seen enough on the ground so far.

We have seen the corporate tax cuts in the States. The concern we have with cutting corporate tax rates is that it pools money into what we call “dead money”, unproductive money that is not invested in our local economies and not getting the benefit it could. Selling our GM shares at a loss was again a wrong priority of the Conservative government, and we are now paying the cost of that here. At our constituency offices, people still talk about the cuts the Conservative government made to EI and the damage those did.

As well, there is the failure of the Liberal government over the last three years to truly reform EI. Only six out of 10 workers get access to EI. Women especially, who are more likely to work part-time and to be a precarious part of the workforce, are not getting access to the social safety net that employment insurance offers. If someone is a cashier, a full-time job in that business does not qualify them for EI. No wonder there are women who work their whole lives but just cannot get ahead. If they have a serious illness, get divorced or have something calamitous happen in their lives, it leaves them further behind and they tend to retire in poverty. They also live longer than men. In a country as wealthy as ours, it is just not fair that we are not investing in that area.

An area I have been particularly focused on is domestic violence. It is reported that it costs Canada $12 billion a year not to deal with the domestic violence epidemic, and of course the personal cost is tremendous. In the nineties, the Liberal government cut operational funding and many forms of funding for the front-line workers who were providing shelter, counselling and support for women transitioning out of abusive relationships. There were terrible cuts at that time, and then the dark decade of the Conservatives compounded those terribly.

Now we have a feminist government in the Liberals, a government willing to spend, and yet we are still not having support go to the brave and dedicated women working on the the front lines of the epidemic of gender-based violence. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, which we welcome, the taboo is being lifted from calling out violence and reporting it, and people have more faith now that the justice system will treat women well if they come forward. These front-line organizations are now getting an avalanche of calls for help. Imagine the bravery of a woman saying that she is going to take her children and leave her violent relationship only to be turned away at the shelter, as hundreds of women are every night. When she then says that she would like access to counselling, she gets put on a waiting list for six months. Will that woman return to an abusive relationship? Yes, she will.

As the New Democratic B.C. housing minister Selina Robinson said at the housing conference just yesterday, the number one thing that keeps women in danger in violent relationships is lack of access to affordable housing. Just on Friday, I launched a new campaign calling on the government to fund core operations of feminist organizations doing this front-line work. Applying for one grant at a time is speculative. It wastes the time of staff, competes with other organizations and is not a sustainable funding model. I know that the Minister of Status of Women understands this, but her funding solutions so far are not getting to those in need.

The government has failed to fund affordable pharmacare, failed to spend fully on the affordable housing we desperately need, failed to close the stock option loopholes and failed to go after the big corporate offshore tax cheats. Instead, in my own riding of Nanaimo, we have had front-page headlines about the CRA going after MGM Restaurant in a mean-spirited way. Even when the restaurant won its appeal after 10 years, the government is appealing that decision and going after these small business people. We also hear of people who fell ill, went on EI, were accidentally overpaid $200 and CRA went after them, the most vulnerable people.

These are the wrong priorities and the wrong spending by the current government. We really want to see it live up to the promise it made to the people.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, I have heard repeatedly from the party opposite that they have some belief, that I cannot find in fact, that the housing money that this government has invested has not hit the ground and is not building real housing for real people and providing real subsidies right now.

Victoria is getting to functional zero within two years on homelessness precisely because of the federal housing investments made in our first budget, our second budget, our third budget, and now for the next 10 years following that.

Additionally, we have modular housing being opened in Vancouver. There have been four projects in Vancouver, all with federal dollars, opened in the last six months. Even in the riding that the member comes from, Nanaimo, I was there personally to open 26 units of really innovative passive housing put forth by the friendship centre in her riding.

The dollars are real. The dollars were tripled to the provinces in the first budget. The homelessness dollars doubled in our first budget and are now locked in for the next 10 years.

The party opposite promised to only increase homelessness spending by $10 million. If we take a look at its platform for the last three years of its housing budget on rental housing, it promised zero, zero and zero, and only zero if it got to a balanced budget. Could the party opposite explain how spending zero dollars on housing was going to solve the housing crisis that the member speaks of so eloquently?

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, the truth is, from both Liberal and Conservative decades of underspending, the appetite to spend and the need to fill the gap on affordable housing is tremendous. We are still only just getting through the federal funding that was promised by the Conservatives. The passive housing design with federal and provincial money was built well before this money started to roll out. It is the first multifamily housing that has been built in Nanaimo since the early nineties. That says that both the Conservative and Liberal governments have not been partnering. We are just starting to catch up, but it is three years into a four-year term. The spending that has hit the ground is just not visible in our communities, not in the way that we need, not in the way that was expected. We know that if the money was spent now, not after the next election, employers would be better off and people would have more disposable income to spend in their own communities. It would be the right thing to do socially and morally, as well as good for the economy.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I must say I was a bit surprised by the Conservative motion. I am hoping that my NDP colleague will provide some of her party's insight on what has been a very interesting weekend, that is, with Premier Ford's government slashing back francophone services in an attempt to balance its budget, which is having a fairly profound impact on who we are as Canadians, as a bilingual nation. Many individuals in and outside of the province of Quebec are very much concerned. Now we have the leader of the official opposition who one day is the biggest fan of Premier Ford and another day is the biggest fan of Stephen Harper, and goes back and forth between the two of them. We do not know what the position of the Conservatives is on this, so when they talk about saving money the concern is this. Will a Conservative national government look at making the same sort of cuts to the financing of Canada's heritage, that being our francophone community, our English-speaking community?

We are a bilingual nation. Does the member share the same concerns we have with respect to how someone like Premier Ford has made the decision to try to balance this? Does she believe that the current official opposition might have the same sort of agenda?

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, I would have thought that my Liberal colleagues across the way would share my dismay that the Ontario Liberals, instead of recognizing that they were going to lose this Ontario election, were just as alarmist about the spectre of a New Democrat government. Instead of a Doug Ford government, they could have had Andrea Horwath, who would have carried on much of the Kathleen Wynne legacy, and would certainly not be slashing and burning social programs. The Ontario francophone program, the sex education curriculum and pay equity are all completely on the Ontario Liberals who chose to scare voters, just as if Andrea Horwath and Doug Ford were equivalently scary to them. That is their legacy. It is damage that was done by their party.