Madam Speaker, first of all, I will be splitting my time on this speech with the member for Kildonan—St. Paul.
If I had to choose a heading for this year's Speech from the Throne, I would choose the Prime Minister's byline, “not the time for austerity”.
I like it for so many reasons, particularly in relation to what is happening in our world. I like to get to the root of things, so I went to the source and found the applicable definition of “austerity” as it relates to the economy. It is this: enforced or extreme economy especially on a national scale.
Given what our nation is facing, I could not agree more with that course of action. Canadians need to be sure that the government will address the real problem that is facing this country immediately, and that is a worldwide pandemic that is costing millions of lives around the world.
For all of us who serve Canadians at this unique time in history, it is our duty to ensure that we do our utmost to provide the environment that minimizes the toll the virus takes on the lives of Canadians.
First, the instruments of government are there for us to mitigate the adverse health outcomes, and we must use all of these resources and fund them to the level required to address the Canadian health system's response to this pandemic.
Second, we need to mitigate any long-term damage that would occur as Canadians feel the effects of the shutdown of parts of our economy necessitated by a response to the virus. Parts of Canada's economy have responded well after the initial shutdown. Sadly, parts of our economy will take years to recover to the same level they were at prior to March of this year. It is our job to ensure that we remove the structural impediments to the survival of these industries, so that the cost of insolvency and restart are minimized, because that affects us all.
In addition, the people in those industries, those who have trained to excel in their chosen field, need to have clarity as to how we emerge from this pandemic even though the when is still not clear. Forgoing a life of effort and investment, both personal and financial, is not the chosen outcome. Addressing these two objectives austerely would be the wrong approach.
Then I look at the government's response to the pandemic and the economic turmoil our country has experienced thus far this year: government programs that have expended twice as much as was lost in income, hastily designed response programs that throw Canadian taxpayers' money at the wall to see what sticks, several failed responses that have missed the target for helping those we need to help, and covering up incompetence on program execution and design with the taxpayers' wallet, resulting in the highest unemployment rate in the G7 group of advanced countries and the most spending per capita in this group of Canada's peers.
Call it what we want, eventually results matter, and the report card on the government's performance is dismal. We all recognize that mistakes have been made in our response to the pandemic and its economic outcomes, and we accept that mistakes happen when governments need to move very quickly to address an urgent situation. However, it is incumbent upon us to take what we have learned thus far and not continue with the same mistakes going forward.
That is not austerity; that is common sense. I do not know why the government confuses the two.
Let me move to how the Speech from the Throne fails. This was deemed so necessary that a make-believe Parliament, barely sitting, had to prorogue in the middle of the summer.
Failure one is its misleading Canadians on fiscal sustainability. Here are the incoherent statements on financial stability contained in the Speech from the Throne. The first quote is “With interest rates so low, central banks can only do so much to help.” The second is “This Government will preserve Canada’s fiscal advantage and continue to be guided by values of sustainability and prudence.” The third is “Government can do so while also locking in the low cost of borrowing for decades to come.”
Considering that this country's central bank, the Bank of Canada, has increased its balance sheet almost fivefold in the past six months to over $500 billion, keeping interest rates low only works because the only buyer of our country's bonds is the Crown corporation we own. Our debt is being mispriced and Canadians are bearing not just that balance sheet but also that excessive risk.
What happens when this independent central bank says that it will no longer buy the debt being issued by the Government of Canada? By the way, it is something it was not doing at scale until this year. Is the Government of Canada now subject to the whims of the Governor of the Bank of Canada? An independent central bank has suddenly become a very powerful central bank.
Then there is this statement in the Speech from the Throne: “maintaining a commitment to fiscal sustainability and economic growth as the foundation of a strong and vibrant society.” We have been spending beyond our means for every year of the government's mandate, and now we have been unprepared for an unusual event. The government's latest response is to abandon anything resembling a fiscal anchor and replace the finance minister. At least someone got fired for all this financial nonsense. As much as I agree that someone had to be accountable for the fiscal mess the government has created for this country, I sense strongly that the person pulling the trigger in that action is the real problem.
Failure number two is that “build back better” is an overreach at this critical time in our nation's history. First of all, recycling American gimmickry is political sloganeering that should require royalty payment to the producers. This statement is beyond trite. Canada has always built upon our strengths, and our Canadian resource industries lead the world in environmental standards. This overreach, costed by many to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, provides no accountability for a tangible environmental outcome, and its scale is only being considered because of the pandemic, that is, why let a good crisis go to waste? It talks of millions of jobs and echoes the same nonsense put forth in the green energy strategy of the late Ontario Liberal government. It is no surprise that the plan has the same architects. Who are the main beneficiaries of an industry that will pay half the Canadian corporate tax rate? Once again, accountability, please.
Where in Ontario are the hundreds of thousands of jobs, these new clean-energy jobs that were promised as part of the increase in power costs in Ontario that has done its fair part to move jobs out of Canada? This part of the throne speech needs to be called out for what it is: a job selection and subsidization mechanism. The government is saying that it likes transferring taxpayer funds from productive parts of Canada's economy to parts of the economy that have more influence with the government. It is insider influence at its worst, and the government has shown it is a master practitioner. The government's friends win; Canadian taxpayers lose. What is left out is the Canadian resource industry.
Let me again quote from the Speech from the Throne. “Canada cannot reach net zero without the know-how of the energy sector...including people in places like British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador.” Are these far-flung places? The writer of this part of the Speech from the Throne should be sent to the hinterlands to find that we are all Canadians with the same desires to build a great country while contributing to our businesses, our families and our communities.
I will quote the speech a final time. “The Government will: Support manufacturing, natural resource, and energy sectors as they work to transform to meet a net zero future, creating good-paying and long-lasting jobs”.
If there is one consistently oxymoronic thought pattern I hear in Ottawa from members of the government, it is this notion that we have to retrain our country's best scientists, engineers and technicians, all while saying we need to follow the science. Our industries are adjusting to a low-carbon world. The government is the only inconsistent factor in getting to a viable outcome, and I caution the government on its actions in this regard. Tempers are rising. People do not believe the Liberals are acting with integrity or common sense. The government has no representation in two of Canada's most productive provinces.
Be careful what you are doing to this country. I can tell you very clearly there is more strain—