Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time tonight with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
In 2019, my pitch to voters in northern Saskatchewan was that I would take my experience as an accountant, a multi-term mayor and a Crown corporation chair to Ottawa and represent the people of northern Saskatchewan to the best of my ability. In my relatively short time of service I have said to many of those around me that if I had run my business like the current government governs, I would have been bankrupt a long time ago. If I had shown the same contempt for my elected council as the Liberal government has for the elected members of this House, I would have had a mutiny and would definitely not have survived multiple terms as mayor.
Over the past several months the Liberals have shown a pattern of leaving things until the midnight hour and then essentially holding Parliament hostage to get their legislation passed. We have seen four examples of this: one in March, two in April and one in July. When I wrote this, little did I know how true the midnight hour comment would be as we see this literally playing out tonight.
Here we are on September 29 and the government is looking for approval for over $50 billion in spending with very limited time to either scrutinize it or for us to offer suggestions for ways to improve it. Each time this happened the line always was, “We must do this quickly or else.” Each time it meant there was no time for scrutiny and we should just trust the Liberals as they know what is best for Canadians and they do not need feedback from Canada's elected representatives in this House because they have got this.
Announcing these proposed measures the day after shutting down Parliament and then waiting until after the CERB ended to introduce the legislation seems a little suspicious to me. We definitely do not need any committee work on this; after all, committees are a bit of a thorn in the side of the Prime Minister, are they not? I do not know if members see a pattern here, but I do.
There is a second pattern here that is not just about this but about timing as well. There is a pattern where a lack of oversight and transparency is desired by the government, and it goes back further than the pandemic. In my very first experience as an MP, I was asked to participate in a committee of the whole proceeding on December 9, 2019, when we were asked to scrutinize over $4.9 million in a mere four hours. My first reaction was, “Seriously?” In my role as the mayor of my little city, we spent many hours and even days scrutinizing spending and I can assure members we were not dealing with numbers of this magnitude.
Let me fast forward a bit. I will never forget at the beginning of the pandemic when the government attempted to give itself unfettered powers to December 31, 2021, by slipping these powers into the very first emergency legislation. Members can call me naive if they would like, but I could not believe that any elected official would have the nerve to try and pull off something like this. I asked myself over and over in the days following who was crass enough to think that this was somehow a good idea and that it would fly.
The Liberals clearly have an issue with any kind of openness and transparency. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. May I be so bold as to suggest that a bit more scrutiny may have actually prevented some of the scandals we are seeing. May I be so bold as to suggest that a little more consultation up front and a better parliamentary process might have led to, for example, indigenous businesses being included in the original business supports, like CEWS and CEBA, instead of being added only as an afterthought when they were left out of the original legislation. This is the relationship the Prime Minister likes to repeatedly say is the most important one to his government. If that is in fact so, why did it take weeks of pressure and lobbying to have indigenous-owned limited partnerships included in CEWS? Why did it take months for indigenous businesses to have access to a version of CEBA when a little consultation would have clearly identified that the original version would not work for them as they do not utilize traditional banks.
The same point could be made about many small businesses and farmers as well. A little consultation would have easily determined that there was going to be a significant problem preventing many of them from accessing CEBA. This literally took months to resolve, leaving many fearing for their ability to survive.
Yesterday, my colleague, the member for Thornhill, shared some very wise words in his speech. I think they are worth repeating, so I will quote one paragraph. He said:
The COVID crisis is not just a health crisis. COVID has taken a terrible toll on our Canadian economy, as it has on economies around the world. Canada today has the highest unemployment rate in the G7, despite having almost the highest spending in the G7. With the amendment to Bill...[C-4], now before us today, Canada's deficit and debt would soar to historic record new levels.
Yesterday, I asked the people of my riding a question on social media. I asked what I should say to the government when I had an opportunity to speak today. Their number one answer was, “What is the plan for all the spending?” They then added that when someone takes out a loan, the lender wants to know how it will be paid back, along with other criteria. It is an interesting concept, that of a plan. What a novel concept. The answer I am giving my constituents is that I do not believe there is a plan. There is no plan to ever balance the budget, let alone repay any of the debt incurred.
Former Saskatchewan NDP finance minister Janice MacKinnon co-chairs the C.D. Howe Institute's Fiscal and Tax Working Group with former Liberal finance minister John Manley. In a recent report, they urged the federal government to set limits on spending and ensure that when spending is approved, it is truly necessary and contributes to Canada's longer-term productivity. That sounds like a plan.
In a recent Globe and Mail article, economics reporter David Parkinson shared some very interesting thoughts with us. He talked about the misery that was the second quarter of 2020. He talked about the lost quarter. He then referenced an 11.5% plunge in gross domestic product, which is the worst quarter-to-quarter decline ever.
Millions of Canadians are out of work, more than double the pre-pandemic unemployment rate. However, in the midst of all this, Canadians' incomes actually grew. Details contained in the last quarterly gross domestic product report revealed that household disposable income in Canada surged by 11% in the second quarter. That obviously led to the question of where this surprising income explosion came from. It certainly was not wages, because they tumbled by almost 9%. The answer is that federal government crisis income supports more than filled that income hole.
The employment compensation in our country was reduced by $21 billion, but disposable income went up by $54 billion in government transfers. That is astounding. This tells us that the government response has gone way beyond the goal of simply replacing lost income.
Let me be really clear: Some will take my comments to mean that I do not believe that some of the extraordinary emergency funding was needed, and continues to be needed to support Canadians in their time of need. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any compassionate and just society has a moral obligation to help people in a time of need.
However, I am a little bit dismayed by the lack of transparency and accountability displayed by the government. I am dismayed by the unacceptable snub of Parliament, and by the time lost during the unnecessary shutdown for all to consider debate and more reasonably determine some outcomes. I am dismayed by the constant rush to ram legislation through the House when in fact the rush is simply one of partisan, self-serving survival.
Finally, I am dismayed by the lack of a plan. What is the plan for our future that I can take back and share with the residents of Northern Saskatchewan?