House of Commons Hansard #315 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pricing.

Topics

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member to help me understand something. On the opposite side of the House, we have a so-called feminist Prime Minister. He has self-reported that he proclaims the empowerment and economic advantage of women.

In the budget, the finance minister and the Prime Minister, two wealthy, white, upper-class men, take the time to outline exactly what it looks like to empower a woman economically. They tell her that she should not be working part time; she should be working full time. They tell her she should not be spending time in the home, if that is her choice; she needs to be contributing to the economy. They tell her that it is not enough to leave the choice up to her in which way she will contribute to the economy; they will actually tell her the way. They go on in the budget to outline that women should be contributing through STEM, the skilled trades, technology, engineering, and these sorts of things. They are not only telling women that it is up to them to decide whether they should work part time or full time, but they are going so far as to tell women exactly the fields they should be entering.

Why is it okay for the Prime Minister to dictate to Canadian women what they should be, what they should do, and how they should spend their time?

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to disagree. Canadian women do not need to be told anything. They are empowered.

We, as a feminist government, have the first-ever gender parity in a cabinet. We have a feminist foreign policy. We are investing in women's education in Canada and across the world.

I can tell the member that at the grassroots level, women appreciate the lifting of these systemic barriers that inhibit them. If they choose to pursue a career, they can go ahead and follow the path they are so passionate about to contribute in the way they see fit. It is not about anything other than to provide equality of opportunity for all those who wish to take that opportunity.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is late in the season, and we are all tired, but for goodness' sake, how many more times are we going to hear a speech like that about feminism and lifting women up? It is embarrassing. The goodwill of the government, the words of the government, and the words of the speech, yes, of course, but it is two and a half years later. It was 42 years ago that the previous prime minister Trudeau said the government was going to implement pay equity. It was 42 years ago, and it still has not happened. There are zero dollars in this budget to implement pay equity. My colleague across the way can say until she is blue in the face how important it is. Why does her government not do it? The Liberals have a majority, they have the mandate, and they have the words, but they have no concomitant action.

They say now they are putting in this great new parental leave benefit. Six in 10 workers in Canada do not qualify for employment insurance, so fix EI and do something with the power you have and fund it in the budget.

This is all rhetoric. It is all flowery words, and I so wish you would just get on with it in the year and a half you have in your mandate and put some action in place for feminism.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I just want to remind the hon. members to speak through the Speaker, not directly to the other side. I am sure the hon. member did not want me to get on with anything. That is not my position, as a perfectly neutral Speaker.

The hon. member for Mississauga—Erin Mills.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really thank the member across the way for all her advocacy on this very important file.

As I mentioned in my speech, I initiated a Women's Council, with 12 very dynamic women in my riding, one of whom is over 70 years of age. She said to me one day, as we were having a meeting about these very same issues, that she could not believe that we were still having to talk about all of this, that we were still, in her words, “burning bras” to really further the cause of feminism.

With this government, this is the most significant step we have taken to acknowledge and to push forward the feminist agenda. We are educating women and girls across the world. We are empowering them through our entrepreneurship initiatives and through lowering small-business taxes, ensuring that we are working toward getting pay equity. I encourage the member across the way to keep up her advocacy. I know that our government and our Prime Minister will continue to advocate for all of these.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in the House with the ability to speak to whatever the topic may be, but today's topic is particularly germane and pertinent to our role as members of Parliament. Our role here is manifold, but prime among our role as members of Parliament and representatives of our constituents, of Canadians is to oversee the expenditures of the government.

This has been a key characteristic of the Westminster model since its inception. I do not have to give you, Mr. Speaker, this historical lesson, but others in the House may benefit from it.

There is no role I take more seriously or spend more time on than reviewing the proposed expenditures of the government. Not only do I have the honour and privilege to speak tonight to this topic, I also have the honour to serve on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. Every member of that committee takes his or her role seriously, feels honoured to have it, and knows the important work we do for Canadians and for the budgetary process.

That is why this year I was absolutely thrilled to be part of a groundbreaking process, a game changing process, almost an earth-shattering process in which we had the estimates presented before the budget. Imagine something as bold as that in the Parliament of Canada. We have corrected the errors of the past.

This is a process that needs to be developed. It is not the end of the line; it is the first step. Improvements need to be made, and we all agree with that. I find it very odd that we have the most open and transparent process of budgets and estimates since Confederation, and we are here, probably spending the most time voting on the process. I find it almost ironic, and it would be funny and humorous, that we are all here voting on these items instead of spending time in our ridings and with our loved ones. It is almost like we have to examine everything because how could this possibly be fair? How could this possibly be just? Because it is open and transparent.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has agreed. We now know what money will be spent before it is spent. We do not get the dollar signs after the budget is approved. Each of dollar of the $7 billion has been itemized. At the government operations committee, 12 departments and their officials were asked about the the expenses. With respect, I asked more questions about the expenses than the members from the party opposite. They wanted to play games and somehow pretend that this was an affront to democracy, an affront to the role of parliamentarians. How could they possibly approve money when they did not know what every dollar would do?

Every year each member of Parliament gets a budget for his or her office. We are not asked where every dollar goes. We get an amount of dollars for the year and next year account for what we have spent. Why is that okay for every member opposite, but not okay for the government at large?

Where was the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan when he received his office budget? Did he say he could not possibly hire any staff or pay any rent because the numbers were not itemized, that he would not take the money? No, he did not and he used every staff member to research every point of history to give his eloquent speeches. Every week he gives a speech. He is not doing the research himself. His staff members are being paid to do that. We do not know how much they are being paid until the year is done. Does he say he does not want their services anymore, or does not want to speak in the House anymore?

Does he say he wants to sit quietly, that he does not want to give the colleague from Winnipeg a run for his money on the number of words spoken? He proudly says, “all my staff work on researching my speeches”. They are not working for free. He has the audacity to pretend that he is here, above the rest of us, and that he will not take any money unless he knows what every dime is spent on.

My points may have been exaggerated, but it proves, in my submission, the folly of their argument. That folly is that there is no merit to the argument whatsoever. It is partisan grandstanding. It is end of session games. It is let us see who can think of the best things to do to ensure the session drags on as long as possible.

I take my role very seriously, as every member here knows. Every member here also takes their roles—

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order, please. I am sure the hon. member would not have to speak so loud if the opposition would keep it down. I would ask everyone to stop heckling and let the hon. member give his speech.

The hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, the point is that we have done our best. We have a marked improvement in the estimates and budgetary process. It is, in fact, the best it has ever been in Canada. There are countries that do it better. Australia, we all know, is the gold standard. However, like many convicts from Great Britain centuries ago, we cannot get to Australia in one try. Therefore, we have to keep working toward the ultimate goal.

I am glad to be a small player in the process that has become getting to the goal of parliamentarians and, by extension, Canadians, knowing where taxpayer dollars are going. It certainly is the fundamental role of parliamentarians, and we have a lot of work to do.

Some have complained about the fact that items in budget 2018 do not appear in the departmental plans for this year. However, that is no different from previous years. The budget items appeared in the supplementary estimates a few months after the departmental plans were released. Consequently, the budget initiatives were not in the departmental plans until the following year.

Likewise, this year, the budget initiatives do not appear in the departmental plans, but they will be incorporated into the plans for the following year, so there is no loss of transparency here.

That is the point, and I will return to my mother tongue for the moment to ensure everybody understands what I am saying.

Vote 40, in my estimation, in fact in any objective person's estimation, is a clear and direct step toward transparency. It is a clear and direct step toward openness. It is a fundamental step toward the ultimate goal which we all share. I hope we can all agree to make Canadians aware of where their taxpayers are going. This is important not only for that process. I am sure my friends on either side of the aisle would agree that once Canadians know where their taxpayer dollars are going, they will share my conclusion that they are getting value for their dollars, and that this Canadian government serves all Canadians well.

We will do so during the estimates process, during the budget process, and throughout the year. I urge everyone to support vote 40.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to allow my colleague opposite an additional 10 minutes.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:20 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am afraid we do not have consent. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke about how I and other members might use their office budgets. I think after that speech, we are certainly very interested in an itemized listing of how that member uses his hospitality budgets. We will look forward to that in due course. Maybe we already have some idea.

However, I want to ask the member for his views on the carbon tax. Canadians across the country, and in my riding in particular, want to know how much the carbon tax will cost the average family, how much they will have to pay for it. We have a government that is proceeding in a very secretive way.

The member spoke admiringly of Australians. They used to have a carbon tax and they got rid of it. They tried that, realized it did not work, and they got rid of it. Will he follow the good example of the Australians, about whom he has already spoken? Will he follow the example of previous Canadian governments? Will he oppose the carbon tax, or at the very least tell us how much it costs?

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the banter with my good friend from across the way. We have some good banter in this place, and it is always in good humour, as he knows and appreciates.

The 2009 throne speech actually called for a cap and trade. We all remember that. I do not think we were the government then. I find it interesting when we are talking about climate change, the carbon tax, and different things on that issue. However, I find it completely interesting when we look at the last leadership convention and the Conservative leadership choice. The only leadership candidate who believed in climate change got 9% of the vote and the leadership candidate who wanted to dismantle supply management got 49% of the vote.

We need look no further. If people do not believe in climate change, they will always have trouble with any price on carbon. That is the fact, unfortunately.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech, although it bore a great resemblance to a long string of heckles.

The member talked about $7 billion, which does not have any real purpose in the budget. I happened to sit in in the government operations committee, so I would have to disagree with him. Very serious questions were asked. We asked officials what it really meant if we voted for $7 billion now? The officials said we could ask questions about it later.

That is not the way it is supposed to work in Parliament. We are asked to approve measures. We know what they are and we vote for or against them based on what is going to happen.

The member's analogy with the members' office budgets proves he has not looked very closely at his own budget. Our budgets are itemized. We know what the dollars are are for. We know what we can spend them on.

I would ask the member to think again about this request in the budget for members of Parliament to give a blank cheque of $7 billion to Liberals and only ask about it later.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke did stand in one day on our government operations committee. I used to think we had the best committee on the Hill, but the day he showed up, I realized it could be so much better. He was like a bright light on the committee, and it was awesome.

However, since that time, we have invited 12 departments to committee to ask questions. My friend from Edmonton West moved a motion, and we agreed to it, that brought 12 departments in front of the committee to follow up on the request the member made earlier in the committee. It was an important part of the process, and I agree.

My comment toward the member's office budget is that we get an envelope of dollars for each sort of section and group, and that is exactly what vote 40 does. It gives an envelope to the departments to spend the money. They have to account for it after it is spent. It has to come back to Parliament. Every month, they will be reporting to the House. It is not a blank cheque.

First, my idea of blank cheque is one that does not have a number on it. This one clearly has a number. I do not see where the blank cheque analogy comes from. Every dime has to be accounted for. Departments have to report back to the House. The Treasury Board president, who is doing yeoman's service on this file, has said that they will report back every year. He has done enough that the PBO has agreed that this meets any test of accountability and transparency.

If it is good enough for the Auditor General, if it is good enough for PBO, I do not know why it is not good enough for the opposition.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland.

Today, I have the privilege of talking about the main estimates. To some, this might sound rather boring; to others, they might not even know what the estimates are; and still to others, they know exactly what they are and get really excited about it.

What exactly are the estimates? Essentially, it is a financial plan put out by the government. It shows its priorities for the next year. Specifically, it casts a vision, but the vision is cast in numbers, really big numbers, lots of spending. As the opposition, it is our responsibility to look through these numbers and decide whether the government's spending is actually in the best interest of Canadians. Then we come before this place and we are able to put forward arguments with regard to whether those numbers are in fact in the best interest of Canadians.

Why should Canadians care? Canadians should care because governments do not have their own money. Governments spend Canadians' money. It is called “taxes”. At the end of the day, when we are talking about the estimates, talking about spending, and looking at these massive numbers, we are talking about the money Canadians have worked really hard for.

The Liberal government is spending a lot of it, a ton of money. It is money it does not have, a good portion of it anyway, so it is fair to say that when it is spending this money it is actually driving us further into deficit as a country. Now, there are only two ways a country can make money. One, it can develop the natural resources it has at its disposal. For example, building a pipeline and getting a commodity to market would produce money. The other way that a country can produce money is by taxing people directly through income tax, a gasoline tax, or through other sorts of taxation, a carbon tax, perhaps. We will get to that in just a moment.

While a Conservative government believes in giving priority to the development of natural resources, expanding trade, and developing international relationships, the Liberal government has actually chosen to increase taxation and incur a giant deficit while not fostering relationships with other countries, not making sure our commodities are able to get to market, nor ensuring we are attracting investors to Canada. The problem with this way of governing is that it makes life incredibly expensive for everyday Canadians.

This budget, and therefore the estimates, could have been great. It could have cast a really great forecast across the country, a really great vision for our country. We had a lot of potential going for us. When the Liberals came into power, they had a world economy thriving all around them. Interests rates were low. The Canadian dollar was down, which facilitated trade, and entrepreneurs were creating jobs and were invested in our country, at least they were until recently. Now they have decided to pick up and go because there is a carbon tax being implemented. Those things were positive and created potential for us as a country to do incredible things.

With that, a responsible government would take advantage of this economic stature and take the additional money it could generate during this time and put it aside for when the country falls upon hard economic times and it is needed. Instead, the government is choosing to spend an additional $18 billion it does not have, which means it is an $18-billion deficit. There is absolutely no requirement to do this; the government is just doing it.

I have looked through the estimates and the budget, and I have tried to find what is so great about this that the government needed the extra $18 billion. I just cannot find it. The government will try to tell us it needs it in part, a significant part it says, for infrastructure, because infrastructure helps build our economy, helps invest in our nation, and make it a viable place for further investment from other businessmen and women.

The problem with this is that when we look at the numbers in the estimates, what we see is that infrastructure spending has been cut by $2.1 billion here and $35 billion has been given to a foreign investment bank, namely China. We are investing in its infrastructure, but we are not investing in Canada's infrastructure. How will this help Canadians? It will not.

Let us look at some other things. The government is creating a $7-billion slush fund without telling us where that money is going. There is no accountability and no transparency.

The government is also taking $4.5 billion and putting it toward a pipeline. It did not need to put it toward this pipeline. The pipeline was going to go forward based on private money. However, the government ragged the puck. It put incredible regulatory measures in place. It withheld its support from Kinder Morgan, and at the end of the day, it had to swoop in and buy this pipeline. Members might be thinking that $4.5 billion does not seem like that much and is a pretty good deal. It is not, because this pipeline is only worth about $2 billion. Therefore, we are paying $4.5 billion for a pipeline that is worth $2 billion, and we did not even need to spend a dime on it because it would have been built based on private money from Kinder Morgan.

In addition to that, we could talk about the veterans. The Prime Minister was recently at a town hall where he was asked why he was not investing more money into veterans. He had the audacity to say to these wounded veterans that we just do not have the money right now. The government has $7 billion for a slush fund, $35 billion for China, $4.5 billion for a pipeline that the government did not need to purchase because it was going to go into the ground if the government would have just let it, yet it does not have money for veterans.

At a time when the government should be focused on making life more affordable for Canadians by getting out of the way, it is focusing on implementing more regulations and slamming Canadians with more taxes. The current Prime Minister is failing Canadian families over and over again.

Recently, there was an Ipsos Reid poll that came out in December. It said that about half of Canadian families are within $200 a month of not being able to pay their household bills. That is a very slim margin. If their expenses go up by $200, they will no longer be able to pay their bills. That is a big deal. It is especially a big deal when we have a federal government in place that is trying to implement a carbon tax, which will definitely boost the household debt load.

Let us talk about that carbon tax. We are not talking about a little tax. We are talking about a big tax. We are talking about a tax on everything. We are talking about a tax that is going to be imposed on home heating, fuel, and electricity. Anything that requires fossil fuels in order to get it to market or in its production will be taxed. We are talking about clothing, shoes, food, and camping equipment. All of that will have a tax applied to it. Not only that, but the GST will also have a tax applied to it.

Albertans have been paying a carbon tax since January 1, 2017. I thought that I would do a little survey with those in my riding and ask them if the carbon tax has changed their behaviour, because that is the theory, that it will somehow change people's consumption patterns. I asked a few questions in this survey. I asked if people did not need to heat their homes in winter, if they no longer needed to drive to work on a consistent basis, if they stopped buying groceries, if they no longer required corrective lenses in order to see, if their children no longer needed to be driven to sports practices, if they started to walk their household garbage and recycling to their respective places instead of using curbside pickup, and if they started their own cotton farm and sewed their own clothes. I even asked my farmers if they reverted to using a plow. I did not get a single positive response. We are shocked. We would expect the carbon tax to change these behaviours. However, it has not. It is an absolute joke. It is simply a tax that the current government is imposing on every single Canadian. It will do nothing to reduce greenhouse gases, as proven by B.C., and it will do nothing to change our behaviours and our consumption patterns.

We rely on fossil fuels to live everyday life. That needs to be acknowledged in this place as a fact. To pretend that it is not so is absolutely ignorant of the government. Therefore, with regard to this carbon tax, I would call upon the government to back off and put measures in place that are supportive of Canadian families instead of harmful. A government's responsibility is to look out for the well-being of its citizens, to provide an environment where they can prosper, where their dreams can be made into reality, where they can thrive. I call upon the government to create that environment, because that is the Canada that every single Canadian from coast to coast deserves.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party's constitution lists, “A belief that the quality of the environment is a vital part of our heritage to be protected by each generation for the next.” That is one of its guiding principles.

Why then is the Conservative Party against taking action to address climate change?

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the hon. member has asked his constituents what impact the carbon tax is having on them, if it has changed their behaviour in any way. Perhaps his results are different from mine.

I have talked to my constituents. I have talked to people in B.C. Let us talk about B.C. for a moment. B.C. has had a carbon tax since 2008, the longest standing carbon tax in Canada. One might be curious to know how much of its greenhouse gas has been reduced, because surely with a carbon tax in place since 2008, it must be significant. B.C. must be seeing incredible gains. At least at the bare minimum, their farmers are reverting to plows, right? Actually, B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions are going up. It has had a carbon tax since 2008 and its greenhouse gas emissions are going up.

Is a carbon tax the best way to defeat climate change?

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her speech.

In good faith and with all due respect, I have a very simple question. What would the Conservative Party propose instead of the carbon tax?

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

That is easy, Mr. Speaker. We are a party that believes in the potential of every single woman and man across this country. We believe in their freedom. We believe that fewer regulations are better and that less taxation is better. We believe in supporting families and helping them thrive. We believe in affordability.

We want Canadian families to be able to make end's meet. We want them to do the things they need to do in order to contribute to Canadian society so we can all benefit. That is the kind of country we want to live in. We want to live in a prosperous country. We want to live in a country with a vibrant future, a country that invests in our next generation and leaves this country better for those to come than what we have experienced.

If that is the country we want, then we need to make sure we take away red tape. We need to make sure that we allow people to work for a dollar and it means a dollar. We need to make sure that we are giving people the opportunity to buy houses and cars because they have the means to do so, to invest in their children's education because they have the means to do so. Forcing people to live in poverty is not an option. That is not a good economic plan and it certainly is not a good environmental plan.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me tell the House a story of the Liberal government. It invites us to lunch, makes us pay for that lunch, and then it takes the receipt and claims the expense.

It seems like the Liberal government has a problem with definitions. It seems like the Liberals have a problem with transparency. Will the hon. member help the government define transparency?

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not allowed to pick up the glass behind me but it does have water in it. It is transparent, which means I can see into it and all that is in the glass.

If the government wishes to be transparent with Canadians, then it should allow Canadians to see the decisions they are making and the impact that those decisions will have on them.

For example, with regard to the carbon tax, we in the official opposition have requested an important document. That document will tell us how much Canadians will pay for this carbon tax that the government is imposing on them. What has the government done? It has withheld that information. It gave us a sheet of paper and made a mockery out of us by blacking it out and saying, “Here is your information.” That is not transparency. That is incredibly disrespectful to every single taxpayer across this country.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in the House of Commons. I have been here for about six months now, and every single day, it is such a privilege and honour to be here with members of all parties. I think we are all here for the right reasons. We want to serve Canadians to the best of our ability and in the best interest of our constituents. Sometimes we have different ideas of what is best for our constituents, but I know that in our hearts, we all want to do what is right.

I rise to speak on the issue of the main estimates and the Liberal government's extraordinary use of vote 40 to circumvent parliamentary oversight and accountability. We are debating this today because of how uncommon the circumstances are surrounding these estimates. For the first time, outside of a major economic crisis, the government is using measures to spend over $7 billion with little parliamentary oversight. The Liberals are claiming that they are doing this to improve accountability and transparency, but outside of their own echo chamber, and outside of the musings of some mandarins, there is little to substantiate those claims.

For those of you watching at home, I would like to outline the importance of the main estimates and their role in the budget process. Main estimates are a tool used by the government to allocate funds from Treasury Board to various departments based upon the estimated amount of funds needed to achieve the government's policy goals. Sometimes these estimates fall short, and supplementary estimates are used to allocate further funds. This is usually done because of unforseen circumstances, such as a natural disaster or an economic catastrophe, such as the 2008 recession.

Estimates are also an essential tool for parliamentarians to hold government accountable, because they provide the means by which we measure government spending and also hold it to its commitments, should the spending go higher than estimated or should the government fall short of its commitments.

Recently, one of the most important debates regarding the main estimates has been taking place in this chamber and has also been taking place in some committees, although we have seen the government unwilling to engage in debate or even in talks about this matter at committee. I am specifically talking about vote 40.

Vote 40, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, is a novel innovation by the government. A similar measure was used most recently during the 2009 recession as an extraordinary means to get critical funding out the door. At the time, in the face of a rapidly deteriorating economy, government stimulus was needed to protect jobs. The fact that this was such an extraordinary circumstance justified the use of this measure. However, it has not been used for day-to-day purposes until the current government decided to use it. Today the Liberal government, ostensibly in its effort to streamline the budget process, has decided to use this measure, but in reality, it will reduce accountability and transparency.

To get to the crux of the matter, the Liberal government is voting to allocate over $7 billion without telling Canadians or parliamentarians what that money will be spent on. In recent committee testimony, many departments that came before the committee were unable to explain what the monies they were receiving in the vote would be used for. In some cases, individual departments are being allocated hundreds of millions of dollars and cannot even explain what the plans are to spend that money.

This is not chump change. This is hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer resources that could be going toward paying down mortgages, paying for children's education, or saving for retirement.

Canadians expect that when they pay taxes, they can trust that the government will spend on things that are important to taxpayers, and most importantly, that there is transparency regarding what those things are and what the outcomes of those things will be. Canadians do not write blank cheques to the government, and they certainly do not want to give the Treasury Board Secretariat, which is a department that most Canadians know very little about, the authority to spend money without Parliament's oversight.

My constituents in Sturgeon River—Parkland, like most normal Canadians, do not want to spend their time thinking about the nuances of Treasury Board submissions or funding guidelines, but they rightfully expect me, as their member of Parliament, to care about these things on their behalf. They expect me to hold the government accountable, whether my party is in government or in opposition, to ensure that those funds are spent in a way that is measurable, transparent, and fundamentally subject to parliamentary oversight.

We cannot take this issue lightly. The actions of Parliament today set the precedent for Parliament in the future. By going down this route today, the government is opening the floodgates that will erode some of the means by which parliamentarians, and indeed Canadians, can hold their government to account.

In case some back home are wondering if this is not just something that their Conservative member of Parliament is blowing out of proportion, I want to direct them to comments made by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who is a non-partisan official, and whose mandate is to scrutinize the government and its actions. In regard to vote 40, in his own words he says, “With the money requested for TB Vote 40, TBS is effectively requesting that Parliament provide funding in advance of this scrutiny”.

Drawing some historical parallels, in the 17th century, the king of England, King Charles I sought to spend money without parliamentary oversight. He refused to even allow Parliament to convene when they would not give him what he wanted. It led to civil war, and as a consequence of Parliament winning that civil war, we gained the privileges in the Westminster system that we have today. One of those privileges is, chiefly, the right of oversight over government spending decisions.

What the government has labelled as reform may help the government get the money out the door faster, but it is undermining accountability and transparency in its efforts to do so, and that is not a trade-off my constituents are willing to make. It is not a trade-off I am willing to make. In fact, much of the information surrounding this spending will not be available until after the next election, effectively giving the government what many of my colleagues have called a slush fund to spend on whatever it may want before the next election, with little oversight for us as parliamentarians or for Canadians. In effect, it is going to be denying Canadians the evidence they need to render a verdict on the government until after the next election.

How are Canadians to know, especially when we are talking about deficits that were supposed to be $10 billion and are now $20 billion. Going year after year, how are we supposed to get a sense of what the value is for those monies when the government has now been setting a precedent through vote 40 to spend $7 billion without government oversight. How are Canadians supposed to have that accountability?

I also know that the Auditor General is very concerned, in a much more general manner. In a recent document and report he outlined his concerns with the government's spending plans. To paraphrase, he said that with this government the measure of success has become the amount of money spent, rather than approved outcomes. This is a damning assessment from the Auditor General that casts doubt on whether taxpayers' resources are being used in the best manner by the government. Instead, it looks like they are just trying to shovel it out the door as if it is a virtue to spend taxpayers' money, rather than spending it for the best possible result for Canadians.

In committee, my colleague, the member for Edmonton West, has been holding the government's feet to the fire to try to get some transparency over the $7 billion appropriation. The government is playing a game of ping pong with the opposition, telling them to ask departmental officials what the individual funds are allocated for. However, when those departmental officials are asked, they claim it would be preposterous for them to know what the money is going to be used for. This level of stonewalling occurring on this measure is truly astounding, and for the government to so frivolously administer taxpayer funds is truly disturbing.

It is troubling, the Orwellian Newspeak coming out of the government. When Conservatives ask how much the carbon tax will cost Canadians, the Liberals claim the information is out there, but when we ask for the information in an access to information request, they black out the document to hide the true cost to Canadians families.

Day after day we ask, and day after day they refuse to answer. We also see that the government increasingly wants to move its spending off the books, so that Canadians do not get to see how it is spent. They are trying to interfere with the Canada pension plan, our national retirement savings, to bail out the government's disastrous intervention on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, an intervention that would not be necessary at all if the government had just stood up for the energy industry and unequivocally backed the pipeline in the national interest, instead of standing back and letting the project fall apart under its watch.

The Liberals have also created this new infrastructure bank, and they are shifting resources that could have been used for infrastructure in communities to the bank, so that it reduces transparency.

Finally, to what we are talking about today, vote 40, where the Liberals claim they want to improve accountability and transparency, they are actually removing parliamentary oversight and asking taxpayers to trust that the government knows best.

My constituents demand better from the government. They demand transparency and accountability on how the Liberal government is spending their money. I look forward to spending tonight voting to hold the government accountable for its carbon tax cover-up. I look forward to the months to come, where I will continue to fight for my constituents to hold the government accountable.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

June 14th, 2018 / 8:50 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, throughout the day, I have been hearing references to Australia, which is a country I know well as my parents were born there and it is the place where my cousins live. Email is a fantastic thing because I get to ask them in real time about what happened after carbon pricing was removed in Australia.

My cousins in Victoria will tell us that electricity prices tripled the first year it was gone because the price on coal was removed. The price on coal, which is largely exported to China, was being used to subsidize electricity in Australia for clean energy. When the carbon price was removed, it opened up the coal mines, which was not good for the environment but also tripled the price of electricity.

For those who are really concerned about what the cost of gasoline is in Australia, they might want to check what happened with the gasoline prices there. At the point of the carbon tax being in place, gasoline was going for $1 a litre in Australia. Today it is $1.88 a litre. Why? Because the private market dictates the price, not government taxes. It is the market price for fuel that is the issue.

The trouble in Australia is that it is losing port capacity because of erosion, due to massive floods caused by climate change. Climate change has eroded the Australians' capacity to import cheap energy and so energy prices are going up.

If the members opposite really want to follow Australia's example, could they explain why farmers should pay $1.88 for a litre of gasoline? Could they explain why coal in manufacturing is the preferred method of energy generation? Could they please explain why they want to triple the price of electricity?

Concurrence in Vote 1—Northern Pipeline AgencyMain Estimates, 2018-19Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy questions from my hon. colleague across the floor. Only a Liberal would argue that by cutting taxes, they are going to increase costs on Canadians. It is absolutely preposterous.

When we are talking about Australia, we should note that in Australia the vast majority of coal used in there is metallurgical coal, which is used in steelmaking, which is shipped to China. We are not talking about coal from coal-fired power plants.

When the member talks about removing a carbon tax and increasing the cost of fuel for people in Australia, the evidence does not match up.

Australia, unlike Canada, is not a largely oil and gas producing country. It is a completely different economy, and it is captive to the countries from which it needs to import oil and gas. We should be looking at why those reasons are causing its increases, not transporting them to Canada and trying to say that raising taxes on Canadians is going to lower our cost of living.