Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Carleton.
I want to thank the voters of Simcoe North for placing their confidence in me to advocate on their behalf in this special place. I thank all the volunteers who helped out on my campaign.
I want to recognize my fellow candidates and their volunteers for supporting the political process and making our democracy stronger.
I will remember that, standing here, I represent the views of all my constituents and will balance all sides of an issue for the best interests of my community and our country. The recent months of knocking on thousands of doors and talking to constituents has informed my views.
I must also thank Mrs. Downer's grade five class who welcomed me to my new role with letters reminding me of the continued need to work on truth and reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
I have large shoes to fill. Great people from multiple parties have stood in my place before me: Paul Devillers who was an excellent representative for Simcoe North; and, of course, the great Doug Lewis, who guided me through both my nomination and general election campaigns. Most recent, Bruce Stanton, a man of integrity and who has immense respect for this institution, served Simcoe North admirably for almost 16 years.
Many of us would not be here without the love and support of family and friends, so I would thank my parents for providing a supportive environment at every opportunity; my sunny ways gang; and, of course, my amazing spouse, Jane. In fact, I like to say that I am already an expert in bipartisan compromise because if my spouse was in this chamber, she would be sitting across the aisle. There are also many people who took an interest in my professional career development over the years, such as Hugh Moncrieff, for which I am grateful.
My political mentor was the late Jim Flaherty, a man well known in this place for his fierce loyalty, great oratory skill, deft handling of crisis and an unwavering commitment to public service. In a letter, Minister Flaherty once challenged me to not forget the importance of public issues and to seize the opportunity to change the world for the better, sometimes for individuals and other times the public. He taught me the value of fiscal responsibility and public service.
It is with that context that I am proud to take my seat in this 44th Parliament and discuss the Speech from the Throne.
I have the benefit of having been in the Department of Finance during the last major economic crisis, the great recession. During that time, we learned that stimulus spending should be temporary, targeted and timely. With the Liberal government, we are batting about one in three. Even the great musician, Meatloaf, would not be satisfied.
Right now, economic growth is projected to be 5% in 2021 and 5% in 2022. This is hardly the time for additional spending. The Speech from the Throne lays out a $100 billion of new spending, which will be deficit financed. The truth, when it comes to debt, is that we cannot say no and we just cannot help ourselves. All levels of government, persons and corporations have never been more in debt. If debt was a drug, we would be addicts. We should care about this because of what it costs to service the debt and how it impacts our ability to deliver services to Canadians.
If interest rates rise to 2019 levels, the costs to service the federal debt will go up almost 60% or about $13 billion per year. That is before we include any measures in the throne speech. This money has to come from somewhere. It will either be taxed in the economy, services will be cut or we will have to take on additional debt.
This additional spending is creating a significant risk for our economy and for future generations. I have two young children, Davie and Cooper. I worry that the government they inherit will be permanently impaired from dealing with the challenges of their time. Our spending decisions today will impact future generations from paying for their social services on which all Canadians rely: our health care, education, supporting our seniors or even being prepared for the next pandemic or environmental catastrophe.
I would ask my colleagues to imagine for a moment if the government had been in power during the great recession. We would have spent multiples of what was spent and it would have meant we would have had less fiscal capacity to deal with today's pandemic. As it was, the government spent almost $100 billion of money we did not have before the pandemic. It spent that money when unemployment was near record lows and the economy was growing well.
When times are good, it appears the answer is to spend money. When times are bad, the answer is to spend more money. The government spends money with no regard for the consequences for the future. Now some economists are warning the government to take its foot off the pedal, that we do not need to keep spending and that it may only make inflation worse.
Of course, the government needed to step up and help people during the pandemic. The government was right to do so and to support Canadians most affected. However, the spending had its time. It is now time to refocus on growing the economy and expanding the productive capacity of Canadians and businesses.
We could build up rural broadband much faster than the current plan, implement comprehensive tax reform, focus on productivity, economic growth, the labour shortage or even reduce internal trade barriers. All of these are important economic drivers that were absent from the throne speech. It is unfortunate that we are not here debating which programs work and which programs no longer serve their intended purpose. If the government were proposing to trim back in some areas to fund these new priority areas, we would welcome that discussion.
We have to be willing sacrifice and give some things up to focus on our priorities. Spending on everything is an easy way to govern; it is politically expedient.
One would think that with all this money being spent, nobody is being left behind. However, in my riding, there are small business owners, including a bowling alley, that find themselves on the outside looking in. They see other individuals and businesses and, in some cases, reports of even organized criminals taking advantage of the COVID supports, but Andy and Kathy cannot get the help they need to keep their business running.
Another example is independent travel agents. There are about 12,000 independent travel agents in Canada, 85% of whom are women. Throughout this pandemic, they have been on the outside looking in. It does not look like they qualify for the new COVID pandemic supports relief funding, even when the government is encouraging people not to fly. They have been overlooked for supports from the beginning.
We did have money to give billions of dollars to publicly traded companies. We gave hundreds of millions to air carriers. However, we told some of our smallest businesses that they were not important enough. Therefore, when the government does spend, it does not seem to do it all that well. It is important for the government to be measured, focused and effective, but, unfortunately, we do not see much of a plan.
If my colleagues are unpersuaded by what I have to say, I will offer a quote from a well known Globe and Mail columnist who said, “Don't be fooled.” The Speech from the Throne is “many things, but it's devoid of vision for an economic rebuild.”
We need to do everything we can to unleash the economic opportunities for all Canadians and do so in a way that spends within our means. If we provide a coherent economic vision for our country, we will be far less reliant on government spending to support our recovery.
It is through increased economic activity of the private sector, small businesses and innovators that we will find wealth and prosperity for Canadians. We will not find prosperity by relying on excess government spending that will only restrict future generations. Our children's future depends on it. In fact, many times in the chamber we have talked about intergenerational equity with respect to the environment. I would submit that this same passion should be brought when we talk about fiscal responsibility.
I believe all members in the chamber want the same thing. We want to leave our country in a better place for our children and grandchildren. I look forward to working with members from all sides of the House on this shared objective.