Mr. Speaker, I am actually sad to rise today on Bill C-97, because this is really a symbol of what the last four years have been like under the Liberal government.
The subtitle of this budget implementation bill is the budget of broken promises, and that is very apt. For four years, we have seen Liberals break promise after promise, commitment after commitment. I remember back in 2015 when the Prime Minister and the Liberals were campaigning. They promised a vast number of things.
The Liberals promised they would actually take care of the middle class. They promised they would bring new dignity to Parliament, that they would stop the systematic bulldozing of legislation through Parliament and that they would listen to opposition members of Parliament. Among many other broken promises, and we could reference pharmacare and democratic reform, they also promised never to bring in omnibus legislation.
The parliamentary secretary talks about ominous legislation, and he is quite right. Omnibus legislation does a profound disservice to the country and it does a profound disservice to Canadians. We only have to look at last year's omnibus bill, which the Liberals rammed through provisions designed to undermine what should be a principle of Canadian law, that if people broke the law, whether it was bribery or any other criminal act, they would be subject to consequences. However, what the Liberals slipped into the omnibus legislation, which they promptly bulldozed through Parliament, were provisions that would allow for companies like SNC-Lavalin to get off scot-free if there was not an attorney general willing to stand up to the Prime Minister and his people.
We have seen this whole sad SNC-Lavalin scandal play out as a result of that Liberal attempt to usurp parliamentary oversight. We raised questions about those provisions, but because the Liberals, with their majority government, bulldozed the budget implementation bill through last year, Canadians were not given the opportunity to really voice their displeasure about setting up what was a dual system in law. Rich corporations can break the law and do not have to worry, because the Prime Minister will let them off the hook.
What happens in this budget implementation bill? First, of course, the promise about not bringing in omnibus legislation is broken yet again. It is something the Liberals have broken four years in a row now. It is 364 pages. In the provisions of this budget implementation bill, we see the poison pills, legislation no Canadian would support the passage of if it were to stand on its own.
I will reference what my colleague from Vancouver East raised yesterday in a point of order about the provisions to undermine the ability of people fleeing persecution and extreme violence to apply for refugee status in Canada. What the Liberals have done, and extreme white nationalists are now complimenting the Liberals on the provisions that are deeply hidden in the budget implementation bill, is basically take away the right of refugees to cross the border because of what has happened under the Trump administration in the United States, that persecution of minorities we are seeing. The sad persecution undertaken by Mr. Trump and his allies in Washington is something Canadians reject, however, the Liberals have adopted and embraced it.
Instead of eliminating the safe third country agreement that allow refugees to apply when they are being forced out of the United States or forced back to situations of extreme peril, the Liberals have basically closed off the ability of those refugees to come to the border and apply for refugee status.
I think all of us, as human beings, understand what these refugees are escaping: profound violence and war, systematic sexual violence, a whole range of indignities and appalling situations that, fortunately, some people are able to escape.
They come to North America. They also come to the United States, which used to be a beacon of freedom. In fact, years ago, my grandfather arrived at Ellis Island, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, to apply to enter the United States. He stayed in the United States and worked for a number of years, and then went back to Europe to get his family and came to Canada.
The United States used to be a beacon of welcome and freedom, typified by the Statue of Liberty. However, under the Trump administration, those doors have now been shut down and closed to those escaping persecution and violence.
Canada could have been that beacon of freedom by simply removing the safe third country agreement. Instead, by hiding items in the provisions of the budget implementation act, the Liberals have taken the kind of action that finds approval only from white nationalists, those with hatred in their hearts. This is appalling, and it is just one of the symptoms of how far the Liberal government has fallen.
The reality is that for the vast majority of Canadians, it has been four very difficult years. They were hoping that after the years of Harper cutbacks and massive handouts to the business sector and large, profitable corporations, the Liberals would keep their commitments and respond to people's needs. However, the budget implementation act is, again, a symbol of how far they have fallen from that goal, which Canadians elected them to achieve.
What have we seen over the last few years? It has been massive corporate handouts, symbolized by the $12 million given to Loblaws, one of Canada's richest corporations. My colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie just asked about this, with no response from the Liberals, as usual. However, that $12 million pales in comparison to the tens of billions of dollars that this Liberal government has shovelled out the door and given to some of the most profitable and wealthy corporations in the country.
One example is Kinder Morgan. Not only did the Liberals buy its pipeline, but they gave out a bonus of billions of dollars, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. They bought a piece of infrastructure and gave a bonus to Kinder Morgan executives. This is billions of dollars that could have gone to housing, pharmacare or helping the appalling situations in indigenous communities.
The Liberals did not bat an eye as billions of dollars went out the door. About $14 billion was given out last fall in the fall economic update as a gift to corporate executives on Bay Street. The Liberals pushed $14 billion out the door with no thought about whether doing so was in the public interest.
This does not even touch for a moment the intricate system of tax havens and tax loopholes that Liberals and Conservatives have put in place over the years. Canadians are left with an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion going offshore each year.
What is the result? For the corporate sector, it means the lowest effective tax rate in the industrialized world, at 9%. This is the estimated tax rate paid by Canada's wealthiest and most profitable corporations. This is far below any other industrialized country, because we have a porous and profoundly unjust tax system.
For corporate executives, it is the best of times. They are partying big, because they know that all of our resources are coming their way.
The missed opportunity in this budget implementation act and in the budget itself was to take any meaningful action that would actually make a difference in people's lives.
I have raised the names of two individuals a number of times in the House. I have done so because they are symptomatic of so many Canadians living in the same situation. I have often spoken about Jim, who is just off Parliament Hill on the bridge between the Château Laurier and Parliament Hill. Every day Liberal ministers, Liberal MPs and the Prime Minister's limousine go right by Jim. He sits begging in his wheelchair, trying to get enough money to survive for another month by buying the medication his doctor has prescribed to him. He needs it to stay alive. He needs it to be with his children and grandchildren. Because he is on a limited fixed income that barely pays for rent and food, he is obliged to beg for the $580 a month that keeps him in medication and keeps him alive.
What a shameful symbol. It is unbelievable that for four years Liberals have walked past him with hardly a thought about Jim as they walk past him and his sign asking people to please contribute.
Maybe some of them give a few dollars—I do not know, but what I do know is that if Liberals had come in 2015 with the intent to carry out their commitments, Jim would have pharmacare now. His medication would be paid for now. He would not need to beg to get the money to get through the month.
If Liberals had kept their promises, someone like Jim would no longer have to worry about that. He would be able to contribute as he wants to, spend his time volunteering in the community and spend time with his family. His family is low-income too, so he has said very clearly that he has to do this because he does not want to burden his family. What a tragic choice to make for the entire family, and it was imposed on Jim by the Liberal government and the Prime Minister.
I talked in the House before about Heather, who is struggling to find affordable housing and is worried about losing her apartment any month now. As rents skyrocket in the Lower Mainland in the New Westminster—Burnaby area, she shares a one-bedroom apartment with her mother and with her daughter, and they are struggling to get by. She is struggling to keep a roof over her head. She is like so many others in the Lower Mainland, in greater Toronto and right across this country.
In any indigenous community we see the absolutely deplorable state of housing. If Liberals four years ago had come with the intent of actually keeping their promises, they would have done something that the member for Burnaby South and the entire NDP caucus have been proposing, which is to build affordable housing. Do as we did after the Second World War, when we had governments at that time that actually listened to the public.
When hundreds of thousands of men and women in the service were coming back to Canada, the federal government built not one, or 10, or 100, or 1,000, or 10,000 units. Over three years, it built 300,000 affordable homes for those returning men and women in the service, because Canadians knew and still know that there is an important responsibility that comes with power. At that time after the Second World War, that government got it right.
One of those homes is the one my wife and I live in on Glover Avenue in New Westminster, and it is still a very good home today. If Liberals had wanted to keep the commitments that they made in 2015, they would have built hundreds of thousands of units, just as we did after the Second World War, and people like Heather would be safe in affordable housing. They would not be worried about whether they would still have their apartment in a month or two months or three months. If the government had done the right thing, housing would be provided now to every Canadian, and every Canadian would have a roof over their head and would feel safe in their housing.
However, the Liberals did not do any of that. They made a commitment in the budget act to do something eventually if they are re-elected. It is the same with pharmacare. They will fill in some of the holes after they are re-elected. They have a callous disregard for what Canadians are living through.
We have seen the figures. They show that things are getting worse, not better, yet Liberals stand in the House and say everything is great. Excuse me, but when statistics come out, as they did a few weeks ago, showing that 46% of Canadians are $200 away in any given month from not being able to pay their expenses, we have to think about that for a moment. It is half the Canadian population.
It may be $200 for a car repair, or perhaps something they have to contribute at school. It may be a health problem. Goodness knows, they do not have access to pharmacare, and if they have to pay for medication, a $200 margin is all they have before they go even more deeply in debt. Canada now has, after 20 or 30 years of Conservative and Liberal governments, the worst record in the industrialized world for the level of family debt.
All of this splurging on Bay Street, these massive tax handouts that are given left, right and centre, have left a decimated middle class. It is not only the worst family debt crisis in our nation's history; it is the worst family debt crisis in any industrialized nation's history. Canadians are struggling under massive levels of family debt. They are trying to pay for their homes and having to borrow to stay in their homes. They are trying to pay for school or for their children to go to university or college and they are struggling and going further into debt. They are going into debt to pay for their medication. They are going into debt for a wide variety of basic needs that are no longer met by our federal government in any way, shape or form.
What we have with this budget implementation act is a powerful symbol of four years of inaction by the current Liberal government, four years of betrayal and four years of broken promises. I think that on October 21, Canadians will judge the Liberals on those broken promises.