Madam Speaker, I am proud to stand again in the House and represent the great citizens of Edmonton Centre. I am also proud that our leader has given me a new portfolio, which is the shadow minister for innovation, science and industry. I am excited to be part of that and to be part of what will be a future government.
It has been a great honour to serve for the past eight months, particularly to represent small businesses, and advocate for better policies to help those small businesses. I and my colleagues have made numerous recommendations to the Liberals. Some they listened to and some they did not. I do appreciate the ones that the government did listen to, because these small businesses certainly needed our help during these challenging times.
Small businesses are unique, but when the economy was shut down, only essential businesses were allowed to stay open. It is an interesting term, “essential businesses”, because every small business out there feels like it is essential. These people their blood, sweat and tears into their businesses. To tell them that they are not essential is painful. The very least we can do is try to support them and try to ensure they have a fighting chance to succeed.
Unfortunately, the good work that we were doing at committee, particularly at the finance committee, was put to a stop. We started to make some progress on a variety of issues. Then we uncovered that the way the government was sending out some of these programs, like the WE program, was full of issues. Unfortunately, that resulted in Parliament being prorogued, which is really damning.
As a member of Parliament, I understand that we will have to adapt and change and that obstacles will get in our way in doing this job. COVID-19 is, without a doubt, the most significant issue that a generation will see. It is very important that we craft policies to get us through this. Unfortunately, a lot of the policies we have seen may have helped, but in many areas they have not helped.
The government took six weeks, took a little time out to try to craft a new Speech from the Throne. Unfortunately, it is more like recycled messages. There is a lot to unpack from the Liberal Speech from the Throne, after the Liberals took their hiatus, and I want to highlight a few of the topics they covered.
Finally, the Liberals start to talk about health and testing, and rapid testing. We have had six months to get this right and they are still talking about it. Just in the last couple of days, it looks like we might be making some small progress.
There is this wild assertion that somehow when the government takes on debt, it is not the debt of the people. It is an amazing comment to make. That debt belongs to the people. There is only one taxpayer. Also, they say “one million jobs”. Frankly, if the government could just get out of the way, get these businesses back operating, they will produce the jobs. Government does not produce the jobs; the private sector produces them.
However, the expansion of the CEBA really raises my hair. The government is going to expand something that it has not even fixed. We have been asking the government for months and months to fix the program and allow small businesses that use a personal account to have access to the program. Get it fixed and get it right.
Despite all these promises and all the things the Liberals said they were going to do, we would think we would have outstanding performance. Lo and behold, we pretty much have the highest spending among the G7 countries and the highest unemployment. How does that correlate to good programs? That tells me that other countries have got it better than us and we need to adjust. We need to stop the buzzwords, platitudes and get the programs that actually get the job done.
What this speech felt like for me was something like the first speech I heard in this place. I had used the term a “big old nothing burger”. To me, Throne speech two may have improved the recipe a little, maybe added a bit of meat or even a tomato, but, no. What we got was a recycled, stale-bread, list of old promises and the Liberals branded it under “A Stronger and More Resilient Canada”.
There has been a lot of spending, a lot of talk on spending, but very little about how we will create the revenue to get us out of this mess. The throne speech made no mention on how we would increase exports and market share. There was virtually no mention of the energy and resource sector, which has been a driver of economic growth for the country.
Nothing spoke about the western alienation that is currently happening, particularly in my great province. We have yet to see a budget from the government. When I came here, I expected that would be the first thing we would see from the government, a budget and a road map toward recovery, and we have seen neither.
I could ramble on about a whole handful of promises that are made in the throne speech, but I want to focus on a couple of things, particularly something the Liberals have been claiming they have been rapidly accelerating for five years now.
Since 2015, apparently the top Liberal priority has been to connect incredibly patient Canadians with high-speed broadband, both in urban and rural areas. This fever pitch for connectivity has only been exacerbated because of COVID-19. Students, teachers, small business people, all kinds of folks have needed the Internet to carry on in their daily lives.
What do we have? In 2016, we had the $500-million connect to innovate program; the CRTC's $750-million broadband fund; accelerated investment in 2018; and another announcement today. There are a lot of announcements for money, but little in announcements for actual action. In fact, the minister today said that soon people would have better connectivity. We need to get this right.
There is the 5G program and the delay of the spectrum auction. Those things have been held up, and we are not getting the results we need. There are innovative solutions out there. There is the potential for new providers to come into this marketplace and provide some solutions. All they need is for the government to get out of the way, give some approvals and ensure it happens.
What I heard in the Speech from the Throne was not a story about how we can grow again, not a story about how we can get the economy going, not a story about how we are going to create new jobs, not growing Canada and not growing our economy. That is why I will be voting no. There is no vision. It is a bunch of recycled promises.
I do have confidence, though, in the human spirit and the ability of businesses and the private sector to grow. I do have confidence that they can overcome the challenges that we have today. We have great innovators and great businesses. They can do it if we let them do their jobs.
Unfortunately, Canada fell out of the top 10 ranking of the world's most competitive economies and Canada has fallen nearly to the bottom of its peer group on innovation, ranking 13 out of 16 peer countries by The Conference Board of Canada. Global Innovation Index ranks Canada 16th out of 20 countries. This is not acceptable. This is a country that should lead, not follow, and it is unfortunate we have not had the policies to get this done.
Therefore, it is time to get busy. It is time to get off the platitudes. It is time to talk about policies that will unleash the private sector by reducing regulation, encouraging investment and allowing Canada to be competitive again. We have a great country that has incredible potential. We have great people who want to succeed and I want them to succeed, but we need policies that support this. Unfortunately, the government is on a trail that does anything but that.
Let us get busy, let us make our country go again and let us get it right.