Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka.
I rise today to speak to Bill C-2. Specifically, I want to address the government's position when it comes to the growth and recovery of our small businesses. It is disappointing that this is my first opportunity to rise in five months to debate any legislation on economic recovery because of the shutdown of Parliament.
Despite the Prime Minister stating that the election he called this summer was the most important in decades, he took an extended vacation. It is shameful that the Liberals took two months to recall Parliament. Of course, this should not actually surprise Canadians. We cannot forget that it was the same Liberal government that prorogued Parliament just last year to escape scrutiny for its ethical scandals.
When Parliament is shut down, committees cease to exist and all ongoing work in Parliament stops. When would this legislation even be going to a committee to be studied? We have no information from the government as to when committees will be reconstituted.
Prior to the election, I was sitting on the international trade committee, which was undertaking critical studies on clean-technology exports and getting COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries. Unfortunately, reports and recommendations that were going to be made to the government simply will not happen because the election was called. That is what happens when we have a Prime Minister who puts politics before country.
When the Prime Minister called an unnecessary $600-million power-grab snap election, the Okanagan, where I live, had enhanced health measures and was at the height of its wildfire season, with ash falling from the sky in Kelowna—Lake Country. Simply put, in their typical fashion, the Liberals love to be in government but they loathe governing. It is because of this series of political choices that we are continually asked to rush legislation through to make up for the failures of ministers to manage their portfolios and the House's legislative agenda. We saw this with CUSMA and the Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement, and earlier pandemic-relief legislation. Like a bad dream, here we are again.
Deadlines have been missed and we can bet that the Liberals will try their hardest to somehow blame a slowdown of legislation on the Conservatives. However, Canadians are smarter than that. The Liberals can only try to play the same old tricks for so long before everyone gets wise to their tactics. Canadians know that right now it is the job of the Conservatives to hold the Liberals to account.
My Conservative colleagues and I want to ensure that government legislation does not have unintended consequences. We want to ask the tough questions at committees and make solid recommendations to ensure that legislation such as this is right for our constituents and for our country.
We should have been back in the House a month ago. The Conservatives were calling for this back in early October. We wanted to get back to work here. The Liberals wanted to avoid scrutiny. I had thought that this may be because they were taking the time to develop a real plan for Canadian small businesses to recover and grow, a real plan addressing real issues for my constituents, businesses and not for profits in Kelowna—Lake Country. The Conservatives have been writing to ministers and speaking publicly about real measures that will address the challenges facing small businesses across the country.
When budget 2021 was debated, I highlighted how the recovery support programs were not working for many businesses, and this legislation really is much of the same and does not address some of the most important issues facing small businesses, such as labour shortages, inflation, supply chain issues, hindering sales, tax increases and paying off or accessing debt. That is what happens when we have a government that does not listen to people and a government that puts headlines before policy.
Small businesses, especially micro-businesses, in the most devastated sectors are the ones with the least capacity to absorb pandemic-related disruptions and have been the most impacted and need us to focus on these important issues. To make a bad situation worse, businesses that have now started to slowly recover are facing labour shortages, as I mentioned, that could bring their recovery to a screeching halt.
The labour crisis is crippling industries in every sector in every region. According to RBC Economics, one-third of Canadian businesses are grappling with labour shortages and they expect labour shortages to get worse. Small businesses cannot continue to weather the COVID-19 pandemic without the federal government focusing on the real challenges they are facing, such as a slow economic recovery, labour shortages, rising costs and debt.
In the September 2021 report from the Business Development Bank of Canada, it states that out of a survey it conducted, 55% of entrepreneurs are struggling to hire workers they need, causing them to delay or refuse new orders; 64% say the ongoing labour shortages limit their growth; and 44% have delayed or are unable to deliver orders to clients. The government's programs simply are not working.
During the course of the pandemic, it has been reported that small businesses have also taken on nearly 170,000 dollars' worth of new debt on average. I have talked to many small business owners who have personally lent their businesses money in order for their business to survive, and this legislation would do nothing to address this potentially devastating economic issue. If the government's support programs were so successful, why are small businesses forced into higher levels of unmanageable debt?
What has become clear is that the government is failing to focus on warning signs. Its members are forgetting that it is the job of government to ensure that it creates an environment where businesses can thrive, not just survive. Reducing regulatory burdens, tackling the supply chain crisis that started before the pandemic, addressing the labour-shortage crisis through various worker visa extensions, getting people who can work back to work and halting all tax increases for businesses are just a handful of ways to focus on economic recovery. Measures like these need to be taken up urgently.
Just this past Friday, a report in The Globe and Mail said job vacancies have soared beyond one million. Statistics Canada says that nearly a fifth of all vacancies are in the hospitality sector. The government, in this debate, is choosing to boast about its recovery numbers, but members should try asking the average restaurant owner, hotel manager, farmer or construction company in my riding how they are seeing our job market. They cannot remember a time when they have needed to recruit so many workers just to keep the lights on.
The government will no doubt want to lay all these shortages at the feet of the global pandemic. However, the chief economist at the Business Development Bank of Canada recently pointed out that, “Even before the pandemic, employers had difficulties in recruiting.”
Without urgent attention to address this crisis, new and existing businesses will not have the ability to grow their reach, meet their orders or even keep existing employees on their payroll. Shortages mean fewer employees or owners trapped working longer hours, which only adds to our ongoing mental health crisis. According to Statistics Canada's most recent survey of business conditions, more than one in four businesses expects their profitability to decline before year's end. If the government does not take action to get people back into the workforce, there will not be the good-paying jobs out there in the private sector for them to go back to.
After almost two years of pandemic-related disruptions, rapidly rising inflation, serious supply chain issues, skyrocketing and automatically increasing taxes, costs and debt, international trade disputes where Canada continually ends up on the losing end and a labour shortage preventing our economic recovery, not to mention trying to maintain mental health, small businesses, the backbone of our local communities, are on the brink of collapse. For these entrepreneurs and organizations, “help wanted” has never rang more true. It is a cry to keep their entrepreneurial spirit alive. Unfortunately, the government has decided to pursue a course that would do nothing to address these underlying issues.
The Conservatives will continue to stand up for small businesses across this country. We will continue to advocate for real action that delivers concrete results. We are putting policies before headlines. I am fighting for small businesses because I have been a small business owner and know what it is like to have everything on the line.