Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to participate in this very important debate.
This issue, which was raised by my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable, goes to the very heart of why we are here in the House, and that is to manage public funds and ensure that Canadians get the transparency they deserve when it comes to the tax dollars that the government collects and manages based on certain decisions and criteria. Our job is about management of public funds, transparency and accountability. That is at the heart of the debate we are having today.
Let us review the facts. The current government brags that it has invested more money in infrastructure than any other government in Canadian history, with a program worth $186 billion over the next 12 years. That is technically true. No government in the history of Canada has invested as much. However, I will come back to the interesting and compelling history a little later.
In reality, this government lacks transparency and accountability when it comes to saying what it is doing with that money, who it is giving the money to and how the money is being managed, and that is unacceptable.
Let's not forget, this program is not small potatoes. It is a $186-billion program. It involves 50 different programs, administered by 30 different departments, agencies and Crown corporations. In short, it is huge. However, the bigger something is, the more the devil is in the details. In this case, I can say that there are plenty of devils, but no details. With 50 programs and 30 departments, agencies and so on, it is enough to make anyone's head spin. Unfortunately, the government is dragging its heels on accountability.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer examined this program several times over the past four years. Those people over there got themselves elected in 2015 by saying that everything would be terrific, but it cannot be said that the past four years have yielded significant results, much less transparent results. In 2017, the Parliamentary Budget Officer stated that half the funding that had been announced was unaccounted for. In 2018, the Parliamentary Budget Officer asked what the Liberal government's plan for infrastructure was, but there was no plan. In 2019, the Parliamentary Budget Officer requested a list of investing in Canada programs and projects, but there was no list.
During this program's first three years, the Parliamentary Budget Officer asked for basic information three times, and the government was not able to provide a proper response. That is why today's motion from my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable calls on the Auditor General to review this program. In the unfortunate event that the government refuses to answer opposition members' questions during question period, and refuses to give relevant information for the Parliamentary Budget Officer's investigations, we want the Auditor General to be able to come in and conduct a full audit of how this massive $186-billion program is being managed over 12 years. Canadians must know what kind of impact the program is having and should at least feel that they are getting their money's worth.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not the first time that a government has invested in infrastructure. Sure, this is a massive and unprecedented amount of money, but this is not completely new. When we were in government, when we were facing the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Conservative government dealt with this crisis by making some major investments and injecting $47 billion into the Canadian economy over the first two or three years of the crisis.
That is why, under the Conservative government, Canada was the first G7 country to emerge from the economic crisis with the best debt-to-GDP ratio, the best growth and the lowest unemployment rate in the G7. That is the Conservative government's legacy. That is why we made good choices.
Let me remind the House that when we finished our mandate in 2015, we tabled a balanced budget. There was zero deficit in 2015. We were the first country in the G7 to have that, and thanks to the Hon. Denis Lebel, who was the minister of infrastructure at that time, we had a very ambitious program for infrastructure.
The Hon. Denis Lebel sat in this House for many years. His last office was not far from here. Under his watch, Canada had the most ambitious plan, which included investments of $120 billion over 10 years and no deficits, unlike what the Liberal government has done. That was good management of public funds and the Conservative government's legacy. That is certainly not the Liberal government's legacy.
Spending money that we do not have and accumulating deficits is the worst thing you can do when the economy is growing, as is currently the case. Let us remember that in 2015 the Liberals came to power by claiming that they would spend a lot of money on infrastructure and only run up small deficits of $10 billion the first year, $10 billion the second year, $6 billion the third year and none in 2019.
The reality is quite different, as they ran up huge deficits for the first three years and an even larger deficit in the last year. That is what happened in the first four years of the Liberal government's tenure. Even though it promised that there would not be a deficit in 2019, it announced a deficit of $19 billion. I will come back to that a little later.
The Liberals did not make the promised investments since less than 60% of every $100 has been invested. They also hid information from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. What is more, they ran colossal deficits and broke their promise of zero deficit.
I want to come back to something more recent. Roughly five weeks ago, the House was sitting and we asked the Minister of Finance when he was planning to table his economic update. He said it was coming. Coincidently, the Minister of Finance tabled that economic update on December 16, a day when the House was not sitting and for good reason. If I were in the Liberals' place, I too would have been embarrassed.
The $19.8-billion deficit that was announced became an actual deficit of $26.6 billion, missing the target by 37%. For the following year, a small deficit of $19.7 billion was projected. However, it is more like $28 billion, missing the target by 43%. The following year, the third year, a $9.8-billion deficit was projected, but it is actually $16.3 billion.
The first time, the target was missed by 37%, the second time by 43%, and the third time by 66%. I understand why the finance minister did not table the update in the House. I understand why he waited for the House to rise. It is shameful, embarrassing and unacceptable to mismanage public finances. Such is the hallmark of the Liberal government and the legacy that will be left by the Minister of Finance. It is such a shame.
Need I remind the Minister of Finance that, when he was a Bay Street baron, he made the family business a jewel of the Canadian economy? There is no shame in that, quite the contrary. While he managed the family business for 20 years, he never ran a deficit. However, he has been managing public finances for four years and he has run four deficits in a row. That is unacceptable, especially since he has no control over what is coming in the next few years.
Let us not forget, a deficit is a bill we send to our children and our grandchildren. Because the economy is going well at the moment, now is the time we should be making the important choices. As the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal's president, Michel Leblanc, said on LCN a month ago:
What businesses are telling us is that they're worried. If the reckoning weighs too heavily on our businesses, taxes will go up, and consumers will stop showing up....
That is what happens when we spend money we do not have and send the bill to our grandchildren. There was even an editorial in Le Devoir that stated the following:
The Canadian economy is doing well.... But that is precisely why it would've been wise to take advantage of the situation and save up for a rainy day.... There's this lingering deficit that doesn't bother anyone when things are going well, but could turn into a huge obstacle in the event of a sharp downturn.
That is why the motion of the member for Mégantic—L'Érable, which we hope will be adopted by the House, will make it possible to shed some light on the current government's irresponsible management of Canadian public funds. The motion will also make it possible to determine whether Canadians are getting good value for their money. Above all, it will remind Canadians and the House that the current government was elected on the promise to run small deficits but is running large ones and that it was re-elected by promising to run deficits but it has completely lost control of the public purse. That is unacceptable for the future of the Canadian economy and especially for the future of our children and the new grandchild of the member for Mégantic—L'Érable who just came into this world.