Madam Speaker, before I get into the details of the bill, I want to mention a sentiment, which I think all members of the House will share. I hope the member for Bay of Quinte makes a speedy recovery. I know it has been in the news that he has been hospitalized. I want to express my best wishes to the members of the opposite caucus, and I hope he returns to the House. I am told he is doing quite well, but I am looking forward to seeing him back here.
As I do in many of my speeches, I have a Yiddish proverb I would like to use. I know some members expect it and the table expects it sometimes too. However, “a gentle word can even a bone”, which is a good thing since I do not have any gentle words to share about the budget implementation act, and I have gone through most of it.
Almost a third of the budget document is about the carbon tax. We were always told that the carbon tax would be so simple to implement. However, when we go through this document, it seems like it is a litany of how this will punish Canadian society, how it will punish individual Canadians, and some of the exorbitant and ridiculous reporting standards to which Canadians will have to adhere. There is very little with respect to transparency and reporting standards expected of the government. Those are two things I want to mention.
Another part is that I took the time to go through provincial budget documents. The interesting thing I found, and I will to go through them, is how taken provincial governments are with balancing the budget and demonstrating either an intent and a date, a specific timeline to get there, and the procedure by which they will get there. This is very different from what we see in this budget document. There is no table, no intention, and no words to convey that message to Canadians or to members of the House of Commons that the Liberal caucus or the Liberal government intends to get to a balanced budget.
We know the deficit for this year is $18.1 billion, which is three times larger than what the Liberals promised during the election. That is a broken promise right there. There is not a single fiscal table and there is not a single graph in the budget document, or in the BIA, that demonstrates whether they will return to a balanced budget.
The B.C. budget, at page 139, talks about a projected surplus of $219 million.
There is the Alberta budget document, although there is a question whether we should believe the document and its intention to reach a balance. However, even the Alberta NDP know that it is a culturally Canadian asset to say that it intends to get to a balanced budget and this is how it will do it. On page 12, it indicates that through efficiencies such as controlled spending, eliminating waste, and so on, it will get to a balanced budget by 2023-24.
On page 3 of the Saskatchewan provincial budget, it makes reference to this common cultural context in Canada.
Ever since the 1990s, we have tried to balance our budget on behalf of the hard-working taxpayers of Canada, who will be expected to pay for all this. All of this borrowed money will have to be paid for either by this generation or the next, or the one that comes after it.
The Manitoba budget, on page 3, expressly states, “We are on schedule to reduce the PST during our first term, and deliver a balanced budget during our second term. It is there in white and black. It knows it is important.
In the Ontario budget, and, again, whether we can believe the Premier of Ontario and the promises she makes, on page 166, it makes an attempt. There is a table there and wording as to the fact that the government will try to balance its budget. There is some shifting around of the numbers, but even it knows it is important to say the words and to understand how the mechanics of public budgeting work, and to present it to the public and make a case for it.
The federal Liberal government does not even bother making that case in the budget implementation act or in the budget document itself.
The 2018-19 Quebec budget, section A.3, says, “A budgetary surplus of $850 million is forecast for 2017-2018 and a balanced budget is forecast for subsequent years.”
The New Brunswick budget, at page 7, says, “a return to balance by 2021-2022.”
The Nova Scotia budget is in a surplus. It says, “third consecutive balanced budget for fiscal year 2018–19 with an estimated surplus of $29.4 million (Table 2.1).”
The Newfoundland and Labrador budget and financial plan is not balanced, but it states on the very first page, “Government remains on track to return to surplus in 2022-23.” The government there understands that it has to demonstrate to residents that it is returning to a balanced budget and it has a process by which it will do it. It is on page 1. It knows it is important.
In its budget, Prince Edward Island admits to a deficit of $46 million and that a balanced budget is expected in the foreseeable future. It has a table that demonstrates expenditures and revenues of the government. People can see the graph showing that in the very near future, in 2023-2024, the budget will be balanced. The lines meet, and at some point there will be a surplus. It is there.
Every provincial government in our country has a finance minister who, in his or her budgetary documents, has been able to demonstrate or prove a balanced budget, or an intent and method by which the government will reach it.
The federal government does not. The Minister of Finance cannot seem to bring himself to say those two words and explain how he will get there. He did not do it in the budget document or the budget implementation act, and he has not done so before the finance committee. In fact, when we ask him the question, he resorts to attacks. He cannot even explain it. He does not even understand it.
On the specifics of the budget implementation act, let us admit one thing. It is an omnibus legislation. Subdivision K, Inspections, under “by whom” in regard to carbon tax will allow:
...inspect, audit or examine the records, processes, property or premises of a person that may be relevant in determining the obligations of that or any other person under this Part...
That part is the carbon tax compliance. Does this mean it will be civil servants of the Government of Canada inspecting the premises and properties of Canadians to ensure they are paying the carbon tax they are supposed to be paying? Is that the expectation, through this section of the bill in subdivision K, that Canadians can expect civil servants to come onto their property to ensure they are paying the carbon tax due? It goes on:
...enter any place in which the authorized person reasonably believes the person keeps or should keep records, carries on any activity to which this Part applies or does anything in relation to that activity...
It is a lot of legalese, but I do not see anything about there being a warrant. It just speaks of a person authorized by the minister who may at all reasonable times, for any purpose related to administration or enforcement of this part. This is a lot of compliance measures to ensure every Canadian pays the carbon tax, and how the government can ensure every bit of revenue is extracted from Canadian business and individual Canadians. That is the only reason to have such a section.
At committee, other members of Parliament have attempted to ask the Minister of Environment how much GHG emissions will be reduced, if we pay a carbon tax and how much total revenue will be generated through the carbon tax. It is reasonable to ask the question. The Minister of Environment was unable, or unwilling, to answer the question posed by a Conservative member of Parliament.
I want to draw the attention of the House to part 4, report to Parliament, the annual report expected to be tabled on the carbon tax. That section states:
Starting in the year in which the second anniversary of the day on which this section comes into force falls and each calendar year after that, the Minister of the Environment must prepare a report on the administration of this Act and have a copy of the report tabled in each House of Parliament.
It is reasonable. I like reports to be tabled before Parliament, especially before they appear on some government website under carbon tax administration. However, should we not expect there to be some type of detail? Should Parliament not dictate to the Minister of Environment exactly what he or she will be reporting on? It should be things such as how much money has been collected by the carbon tax across all provinces and territories of Canada, how much residents have paid versus how much corporations have paid. It should also have the statistic that shows how much GHG emissions have been reduced by. That is a reasonable thing for Canadians to expect.
However, we know the Liberals do not know the answer to the question, because they have never bothered to look into it. From the very beginning, when members on this side of the House have asked questions on how the carbon tax will work or how it impact will middle-income Canadians, we have received either redacted documents or non-answers in question period and during debate. Now it continues at committee.
There is no way we can support this budget. All it will be is further punishment to the middle class and Canadians. I am opposed to the budget. I look forward to questions from the other side.