Mr. Speaker, during this pandemic a great divide has been perpetrated on the nation by the Liberal government, a schism of enormous proportions. Over the last seven months, we have seen certain kinds of good, hard-working Canadians be dealt blow after blow, while other kinds of Canadians were handed cheques and assistance at every turn. No injustice was too much for one bunch and no perk was too generous for the other.
As the government began to impose lockdowns and restrictions across the country, it treated Canadians like two different classes of people: the good and the bad, the honest and the cheat, the employee and the employer.
This distinction is no new thing for the government. For years the Prime Minister has been going after small businesses calling them tax cheats, suggesting they are all hiding their ill-gotten gains by taking advantage of loopholes in the system, buying equipment as a tax writeoff or hoarding money and calling it a rainy day fund. I will tax that, said Mr. Morneau. If people have a family business and want to sell the farm to their son, the government plans to make them pay over 80% of the sale price in taxes if they want to pass it on to the next generation, because everyone knows that, for the current Liberal government, passing a farm from father to son is clearly a tax dodge if ever there was one.
What happens in a pandemic when a government sees small business as the enemy of the proletariat and itself as the saviour? We see financial support programs that discourage going back to work while punishing the big bad barber, brew pub or banquet hall around the corner. Let us take the restaurant and hospitality industry as an example.
In my riding there are hundreds of unique and exciting establishments gathered in every neighbourhood. Shiraz Grill on a one-way street in Langley serves up Persian and Italian food. It is delicious. Right across the street is Viva Mexico where one can have a truly authentic Mexican experience. A little closer to the Willowbrook mall, people can experience the taste of Thailand at the Naka Bistro. Further down the Fraser Highway is the ever-popular Dublin Crossing, where people can eat their fill of bangers and mash while tapping their toes to a live band of Irish rovers.
Every one of those restaurants I just mentioned is owned and operated by a hard-working entrepreneur, the majority of whom are new Canadians who have brought the colour of their culture to our communities, along with jobs and economic prosperity for us all. They took on great risks and responsibilities in their quest to create a new and better life for themselves in Canada. Little did they know that their new country now has a government that punishes risk-takers and job creators like themselves.
When their doors were closed in early March, they just buckled down and pivoted to takeout. Owners and their families worked long hours to get food to our homes in a safe way. While their wait and kitchen staff stayed home on CERB, they called their nieces and nephews, their aunts and uncles to please help with the cooking and cleaning or owners would lose their dream.
Seven months in, the entire sector teeters on the brink of extinction. After the restaurant industry invested $750 million of its own money to train staff, enforce social distancing, implement health checks and adapt for contactless delivery and curbside pickup, they continue to live under the constant threat of lockdowns and further restrictions. The government has offered them almost no help besides a wage subsidy that disproportionately helps some businesses while being useless to others, or rent subsidies that were impossible to access until our current motion forced the government to improve it.
Now the Liberals have instructed CRA to start aggressively auditing any business that applied for the wage subsidy. If people made a mistake in their calculations, they will be charged a penalty of 275% of the amount they claimed. If the Prime Minister had been charged a 275% penalty for his illegal quarter-million dollar trip to the Aga Khan's island, he would owe almost three quarters of a million dollars. What did he actually pay in fines and penalties? He paid a measly $500.
The Liberal government has declared war on our small businesses, the backbone of our economy. Mom and Pop shops across this country are the target of sustained attacks that do not appear to be ending any time soon. The government has exhausted all credible excuses to explain away its continued failure to answer the call of Canada's small business owners. For months my opposition colleagues and business leaders across Canada have identified serious problems with the COVID-19 relief programs, which have allowed too many small businesses to fall through the cracks.
The government keeps claiming that it creates jobs in this country. The government does not create jobs. Canadian entrepreneurs do. If this Liberal government does not begin to understand that concept, our economy is going to be decimated. One can only rob Peter to pay Paul for so long. For every small business forced into receivership, we lose the jobs and revenues those businesses create.
Canadians were told that a prorogued Parliament would give time for a quality restart plan to be corrected, and they believed that. However, what did the Liberals come back with after six weeks of a shuttered Parliament? Nothing, nada, bubkes. The government promised to come back to this session with a plan. Where is the plan? How do I tell the businesses in my riding that the support they need is going to lapse without new legislation? Where is the plan to improve the programs that have not worked for so many businesses? Where is the sector-specific support for airlines, travel and tourism, agriculture, energy, any of it?
We constantly hear how hard this government has been working for Canadians, but from where I am sitting, Canadian businessmen are getting a lump of coal in their stockings for Christmas.
Honestly, we need to get to actual work here. The finance committee should be conducting pre-budget consultations right now. We should be hearing from Canada's business leaders about what they need during this economic crisis. Instead, the Prime Minister sends his MPs to filibuster the committee, talking out the clock to avoid releasing WE scandal documents. Machiavelli, Aristotle, Plato, all the philosophers are dragged by their hair into our meeting to justify the Liberal cover-up.
There is a very serious crisis happening in our country. Many small business owners are not sleeping at night. They are absolutely desperate, and no one is listening. They are begging and pleading for this government to make a plan, an actual plan, not just a band-aid solution. I have met with them face to face. I have seen the anxiety and agony in the eyes of men and women who have poured their whole heart and soul into a dance studio, coffee shop, travel agency, hair salon, chiropractic clinic, pharmacy, restaurant or clothing boutique. The list is endless. They are under extreme stress, and it comes out in the form of migraine headaches, rashes all over their bodies and even heart attacks. Their stress comes from a government that does not have a plan, so they cannot make a plan either. Entrepreneurs will find solutions. They just need to know where they stand. Give them clarity and they will figure out the rest.
The scorecard shows that our country has spent the most of all G7 countries, yet has the worst economic performance. There is no one else to blame for this disaster except the Liberals. They keep throwing money at programs that are nothing more than band-aid solutions. We need to get our economy moving again, but since the government seems incapable of stopping the bleeding, let us at least make sure that whatever band-aid solutions we apply actually work. The government is working hard to turn Canada into a benefit-based economy with no end in sight, while making it more and more impossible for businesses to find workers.
We need to show leadership here and give businesses clarity and equitable treatment. Right now, every level of government is knocking on the federal government's door demanding compliance to rules that have not even been written. With workers' compensation, Health Canada, bylaw officers and police, there is a never-ending stream of busybody bureaucrats that are making things up as they go. Health officials are even encouraging Canadians to report on their neighbours for perceived infractions.
Have we lost our minds? Do we really want a police state? I recognize that these bureaucracies are not the federal jurisdiction, but it is this government's lack of leadership and transparency that is causing so much confusion.
At first, we were told masks do not work. Now we are told something completely different: Wear one. In the beginning, the virus did not spread from person to person, and now we cannot even have our own children over for coffee. The message has been godawful. Half of Canadians are scared to death and do not believe a word the government is saying. Why are rapid at-home tests not in the hands of Canadians? Why is this government not doing that and making it a top priority?
Let us strategically target our efforts on protecting the vulnerable while allowing the healthy to safely get back to business. Why, after seven months, is our tracking and tracing failing so miserably? We need to focus on getting things back up and running, and not on scaring our country to death.