Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin debate on the budget presented to the House yesterday.
We, the Conservative opposition, listened with one question in mind yesterday: what has this Liberal government really accomplished? I think it is important to stay focused on facts and figures when evaluating this government's economic performance.
As we know, the members of the current government like to talk a lot, but now more than half their mandate is behind them, so it is no longer sufficient to talk about what was promised in the 2015 election. Now it is time to talk about what they have actually accomplished. It is time to measure the rhetoric against the achievements.
When Conservatives heard this budget yesterday, we had one thought going through our minds: never before has a politician spent so much and achieved so little.
The government will have lots of talking points. We saw yesterday that it trotted out its argument that the Canadian government experienced growth thanks to the extra spending it put into the economy. That is patently false. Any economic improvement that has occurred in Canada is not happening because of the Liberal government; it is happening despite the Liberal government.
It was also a wasted opportunity. Yesterday could have been a moment for the government to start delivering on its promises to Canadians, but for the Prime Minister, yesterday's budget was mostly useful for deflecting criticism for his ethical failures and the outrage over his plan to raise taxes on local businesses.
Let us spare a moment for our hard-working entrepreneurs and small business owners for what they have had to go through for the past seven months under the Liberal government. Members will remember, in the summer, the much-vaunted plan of the Liberal government, of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. Members will remember the rhetoric they used, insulting all those hard-working people who create jobs and opportunities in our society. They called them tax cheats. They said that the new measures were aimed at making sure that those who were using fancy accounting schemes would pay their fair share.
The amount of anxiety the government has caused, not just for the 1.8 million small business owners in this country but for the millions more who work for those businesses, was a completely irresponsible act.
I got my start in a small business. I did not inherit a family fortune. I had to work my way through university. My parents were very generous. They let me stay at home for free, and every month, they bought me my bus pass. I would go off to work at a restaurant, where I waited tables to pay my tuition.
That is the type of hard work and experience that the vast majority of Canadians have to go through to get their start in life. Most of us do not get it handed to us for nothing.
I learned in that experience. Many times when I would walk out the back door of that restaurant, I would pass by that owner. I would hear him on the phone sometimes negotiating with a supplier, trying to get an extra couple of weeks of credit, trying to get a discount on the supplies for the weeks ahead, because it is not always a good week, and it is not always a good month. Every time he was stressed about his business, I was stressed about my job. That is why Conservatives are so passionate about defending the interests of small businesses across this country.
The Liberals have completely flip-flopped on this. Three or four times throughout the past few weeks they have completely changed direction on this whole issue. They have walked back much of what they were intent on doing. Let us remember that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance would do these press conferences. When the finance minister was allowed to speak, he would say things like, “There is no way we are backing off this.” Despite the backlash, despite the outrage, they were going to proceed with these tax hikes.
What we see in yesterday's budget is that the Liberals have completely flip-flopped once again. Why then, Conservatives ask, did they have to put all those hard-working people through all that anxiety in the first place?
The Prime Minister claims that the Canadian economy's strong performance is a result of his spending. One thing is certain: he is spending a lot of money. He promised during the election campaign to increase spending, but things have not happened exactly as planned. He said he would borrow no more than $10 billion a year and that he would balance the budget by 2019. He said he would spend that money on infrastructure, which contributes to long-term growth. I put my faith in numbers, and I judge by results, not intentions. After three years, we have the numbers to determine whether he has done what he promised.
The deficit announced in Tuesday's budget is $18 billion. That is three times higher than what was promised. That is the first broken promise.
Since growth was higher than expected in 2017, tax revenues were higher. Canadians need to understand that these deficits are the result of a decision made by the Liberal government, not economic conditions.
According to the government's own numbers, the budget will not be balanced again until 2045. That is 27 more years of borrowing, adding over $450 billion to our national debt. My son Thomas is about to turn 13. He will be 40 before the budget will be balanced. The vast majority of his working life will see his tax dollars going to pay off debt racked up by the Liberal government to be spent today. None of us would do that to our own kids and our own households. None of us would rack up spending and leave them with the bill.
That is a common value shared by all Canadians, whether our families have been here for multiple generations or whether we are from a family that has arrived in Canada more recently to take advantage of all the opportunities that our country has to offer. One thing that we can all share in common is the principle that those of us today work hard so that the next generation has better opportunities.
How many of us know the story of someone who has lived above a restaurant or lived behind a store? These people scrimp and save and put money away for education. They go without for themselves so that their kids will have opportunities that they did not have, maybe it is extra tutoring, maybe it is extracurricular activities. There is a look of pride on their faces when that child graduates from post-secondary education, knowing that all that sacrifice paid off, that their kids will have a better quality of life than they themselves had. That is the tradition that the Liberal government is breaking with these massive deficits for the next 27 years.
That is why Conservatives get so passionate about balanced budgets. We do not believe in balanced budgets just because we like to see black ink on the ledger. We do not advocate for a reduction of deficits just to get a good bond rating from an international credit organization. We do it because we know there is a real human cost to these deficits. We know that future generations of Canadians will have to work harder because the present Prime Minister cannot get his spending under control. That is why we fight so passionately for this issue.
In their first three years in power, the Prime Minister and his Liberals have increased government spending by 20%. That is very troubling, but the thing that should worry us even more is that that money is not being spent how the Prime Minister promised. Three-quarters was used to support program spending. There is nothing new, nothing that constitutes an investment in our future prosperity, and nothing that corresponds to the lofty promises the Prime Minister made to Canadians. Only 2% of the additional spending was used to pay for real projects. He actually reduced infrastructure spending.
These are all facts that we must remember when we hear the Liberals try to take credit for Canada's recent economic performance or when they talk about giving Canadians a break.
The Liberal government knows how to break promises with the best of them but when it comes to delivering, when it comes time to make the tough choices, to choose some priorities, the Liberals just cannot deliver. They fail to provide actual results for Canadians.
All of this borrowing and overspending leaves us vulnerable to any sudden downturn or economic instability. The recent gyrations in global markets should remind us all that Canada is not an oasis. We can be affected by international crises, swings in commodity prices, and trade agreements. All of these are problems beyond our control. That is why the government has a responsibility to be ready, particularly in a country like Canada, which has significant vulnerabilities in consumer debt and housing.
The facts very clearly show that periods of growth do not last forever. There are highs and lows. Any government that claims to be a responsible manager of taxpayer money must never forget this fact. Any government that does not understand that periods of growth do not last forever is lying not only to Canadians, but also to itself.
As the government tries to take credit for last year's growth, most forecasters are already pointing out dangerous signals on the horizon. Interest rates are likely to rise, which will not only have an effect on household finances but will make the cost of all this Liberal borrowing that much more expensive for future generations of Canadians. If a downturn were to occur, tax revenues would fall and these government expenses would continue to soar.
In OECD countries, the deficit usually worsens by about 2% of GDP in just a mild recession, or up to 3% to 5% in a severe downturn like we saw in 2009. If we are already running larger deficits today and then have to add to it, the cupboard will be empty before the government is able to respond. This is appallingly irresponsible.
Let us recall the justification for these deficits. During the election, the Prime Minister said that he would spend extra money on infrastructure and that would be the cause of the deficits. However, yesterday's budget shows that infrastructure spending, the very thing the Liberals claimed would stimulate the economy and add to growth, was cut by over $2 billion.
The fact is that all of this borrowed money will have to be repaid in the form of tax hikes. This is why the average family is paying over $800 more in taxes every year.
This increase comes from the elimination of the children's sports and arts tax credits, a decrease in the TFSA contribution limit, an end to income splitting, the carbon tax, and an increase in payroll taxes.
This is in stark contrast to the promises made by this Liberal government.
It even wanted to tax the EI and dental plans, employee discounts, and treatments for diabetics. The government only backtracked because of pressure from the Conservative opposition.
This is why we cannot trust the government when its members talk about helping families or reducing taxes. We just do not believe them. We believe that every time they have tried to impose a new tax or take away a credit, they have pulled back, and it has happened many times. We recall that the Liberals tried to tax employee discounts. They were going to tax medical and dental plans. They even tried to take away tax credits for people with diabetes. Every single time, Conservatives raised our voices, amplified the hard work of Canadians across the country who were going to be affected by these tax hikes, and we were able to get them to back down. In fact, if we look back to the fall, it becomes clear that the most popular Liberal announcement was when the Liberals were announcing that they were abandoning one of their previous announcements.
Canadians need to remember this. Imagine what they would do if they thought they could away with it. Imagine what they would do, emboldened, if they were given a second term. Their hidden agenda on tax hikes and making it harder for small businesses to grow and expand is truly scary, and Conservatives will always point that out to Canadians leading up to the next election.
Members will recall that the Liberals promised to cut taxes for small businesses during the last election, but they refused. In fact, in their first two budgets, they abandoned this place altogether. It was only the Conservative Party that forced them, kicking and screaming, reluctantly, to keep their campaign promise to lower taxes for small businesses. The government is always asking more from Canadians.
Ordinary families are having to forgo their benefits and pay more tax so that the Liberal government has more money to spend on its pet projects, and so that the well-connected can get ahead of those who are simply trying to make ends meet.
With the Liberals, it is always government before people. This is backwards. Conservatives will put people before government.
We have all been fortunate in Canada to enjoy so much opportunity, but it did not come from nowhere. It was the product of the hard work of generations that came before us. We should be thinking of the generations that will follow. What will their opportunities be? Will they have the same ones? Conservatives know that government has to provide an environment that helps create those opportunities, which does not happen when government always takes more with one hand than it gives with the other.
We must ensure that our actions today provide options for our children and grandchildren. This means balancing the budget, so that they are not stuck paying off our debt.
This means keeping taxes low, so that families have money to save and invest in their children's futures. There is more to society than government. This is crucial. There is a better option. The government should take advantage of our economic strength to compensate Canadian families for their hard work and success, instead of asking them to pay even more.
The government needs to get its borrowing and spending under control so that we do not pass our debts on to the next generation of Canadians. This budget was an opportunity to finally deliver something for Canadians and it was one the Liberal government chose not to take. Liberals inherited, as a government, a great fortune. They inherited a balanced budget. They inherited the lowest tax burden on Canadians since the Second World War. They have inherited a situation where commodity prices have doubled since they took power.
There is no excuse for these deficits. The Liberals are blowing their inheritance. Much of what they are doing does not benefit Canadians. Some $500 million will be taken from hard-working Canadians and spent in an Asian infrastructure bank to build projects in other countries. Nobody living in a Canadian city wants to see their tax dollars go to build projects around the world. They want those dollars to be spent making their lives better.
This is the Prime Minister who has no problem seeing deficits go from $6 billion, as promised, to $18 billion and then has the audacity to look a Canadian hero in the eye and tell our veterans that they were asking for more than the government could give. That is shameful.
What will not be a surprise is that Conservatives will be voting against the budget, unless we can convince the Liberals to amend the motion. That is why I move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
the House rejects the government's budget statement because it fails middle class Canadians, women and business operators by raising taxes on over 90% of Canadian middle-class families; announcing new tax hikes on local businesses; borrowing an additional $18 billion; jeopardizing our future generations by choosing not to balance the budget by 2019; spending so much to achieve so little.