Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to speak in the House for the first time since March, however disappointed I am with the circumstance, namely that the debate is on Motion No. 1, which has been accurately characterized as a “guillotine” motion. The motion would provide a mere four and a half hours of debate in respect of a comprehensive, complex piece of legislation, one that not only has many moving parts, but that also comes with a very large price tag. When one looks at the three new temporary COVID benefits, the cost is somewhere in the range of $40 billion. In addition to that, there is myriad additional spending amounting to approximately $17 billion. What we have is four and a half hours of debate in respect of legislation that has a price tag of nearly $60 billion. Let me repeat that: $60 billion.
To put that in some context, one needs only to go back five years, to 2015. In 2015, total federal spending amounted to approximately $250 billion. Now, within the span of four and a half hours, the government seeks to ram through a piece of legislation that equals approximately a quarter of the total federal government spending a mere five years ago. One would think that, in the face of such a consequential piece of legislation, the government would welcome input and provide an opportunity for vigorous and thorough debate in this place.
In order to carry on today, I should note that I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies.
One would think that would have been the case. Instead, what we have is a motion that shuts down debate, shuts down scrutiny, shuts down the ability of all members of Parliament collectively to do our jobs and turns Parliament into nothing more than a rubber stamp.
Members of the government opposite have said they had no choice. Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were governing, as the Prime Minister so famously said, “from the heart outwards.” They were governing with the best of intentions, and they had to do this $60 billion of spending in four and a half hours because they had to get the money out the door into the pockets of Canadians.
In response to that, I say how cynical and disingenuous it is on the part of those Liberals. It need not have been so. The Prime Minister knew full well the CERB and other benefits would expire, as they did two days ago. Indeed, he set the expiration date. He knew there was a need to fill the void arising from the expiration of CERB and other programs, and he knew that would have to be legislated upon.
What did the Prime Minister do in the face of that? Did the Prime Minister consult the opposition parties? No. Did the Prime Minister engage with parliamentarians? No. Instead, the Prime Minister shut down Parliament. Why in the world would the Prime Minister shut down Parliament when all of these substantive matters needed to be addressed that had a profound impact on the livelihoods of millions of Canadians?
The answer to that is very simple and deeply troubling. The Prime Minister was caught in a summer of scandal involving hundreds of millions of dollars that went out the door to the Prime Minister's friends in the WE organization. It was an organization that had personally enriched his family, that had let the former finance minister and his family travel around the world and that had financially benefited the former finance minister.
The government was rocked by hearings in which it became increasingly clear that the Prime Minister had acted corruptly. Just by coincidence, on the eve of 5,000 pages of documents being disclosed in relation to WE, the Prime Minister saw fit to shut Parliament down. This shut down three committees, including the committee I sat on, the finance committee, which was undertaking extensive hearings and had a lot of questions arising from the 5,000 pages of documents and testimony that it had heard, but obviously the Prime Minister wanted to change the channel.
Here we are. He shut down Parliament to cover up his own corruption, rushed legislation immediately after the Speech from the Throne and now says it is a fait accompli. If Canadians are going to get the benefits they need in this time of unprecedented crisis, we are going to have to ram it through in four and a half hours.
We on this side of the House have made every effort to try to work with the government. Even despite the Prime Minister's attempts to shut us down, we tried, when Bill C-2 was introduced, to work over the weekend, but the government rejected our efforts. The government rejected all efforts to provide an opportunity to call witnesses, to ask questions of ministers, to go through a clause-by-clause process. All of that is gone.
I have to say it would be troubling if it was just this one instance, but what we have seen is a troubling pattern on the part of the Prime Minister in terms of shutting down opportunities for accountability and oversight. This is a Prime Minister who brought forward time allocations 63 times in the last Parliament, despite saying in 2015 that his government would never, ever think to bring forward time allocation. This is a Prime Minister who shut down the justice committee that I served on in the last Parliament when it was getting to the bottom of the government's corruption with SNC Lavalin.
This is a Prime Minister who, at a time when the government has been spending hundreds of billions of dollars, has seen fit to shut down Parliament through most of the spring and summer. If ever there was a need for Parliament to sit, it surely would be at the time of this current health and economic crisis.
I have to say it is ironic that, as the government continues to pour out hundreds of billions of dollars with very little oversight and very little accountability, it has seen fit to stop the Auditor General from following the money and has refused to provide the Auditor General with $11 million. There are hundreds of billions of dollars going out the door, but not $11 million—