House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentences.

Topics

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great care to the speech by the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia because I am trying to understand the Bloc's position on this bill. She very eloquently laid out the arguments against mandatory minimums and talked about how they in fact do not accomplish what people think they do.

Then she said the timing was awkward. I cannot imagine why there would be bad timing for anything that would take away one of the main measures that results in more indigenous people, Black people and people living poverty ending up in prison, so I am confused. Why is that an objection to the bill?

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would say to my colleague that it is fairly simple. We support abolishing certain mandatory minimum sentences. However, there are shootings practically every week in Quebec and Canada.

We have asked the ministers and the government to take a first step to show that they are serious about this issue and that they can tighten gun control. However, the government's first step was to introduce Bill C-5, which will eliminate certain mandatory minimums for firearms offences. That sends a peculiar message.

I understand that there is never a right time to introduce any legislation, but we have to move forward with this type of bill. The proposal to split the bill would make it possible to take the time to better study each element.

We should remember that the situation in Montreal is difficult right now. We are asking the government to take action to control gun trafficking, but Bill C‑5 does not seem to be the appropriate response.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me start with this. Someone who is battling an addiction does not need a jail cell: they need treatment. They should not be judged. They should be helped. I think there is universal acceptance of that statement. There is not a Canadian or a member in the House who does not know, by a degree of separation, somebody who has been impacted by battling addiction.

Here is the sad part of where we cannot agree. Violent criminals, drug dealers and traffickers should be held accountable with mandatory jail time for preying on vulnerable people. I had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-5 in the last Parliament, and in my opinion it is a terrible bill that protects drug dealers and people who are trying to profit from and prey on those battling addictions as opposed to protecting the victims of crimes.

Here is what Canadians are not being told by the government in this legislation. There is not mandatory jail time for simple drug possession. That does not exist. Sadly today, what also do not exist are anywhere near enough treatment beds to get people who are battling addiction the help they truly deserve.

The government called an unnecessary election a couple of months ago. It took 62 days for the House to come back, and one of the government's first bills here does not give more beds or a program to create more beds across this country to help those battling addiction. Rather, on page 10 in the Speech from the Throne, there is a simple line that says, “there is more work to be done on mental health and addiction treatment”. That is it. There is no plan or strategy, but rather eliminating mandatory jail time for very serious crimes.

The Minister of Justice said earlier in question period, and I heard my colleague from the NDP say a little while ago, that there are still serious consequences for serious crimes. I think they have a very warped definition of what a serious crime is in this country.

Let me specifically say that Bill C-5 would eliminate a number of mandatory jail time provisions relating to gun crimes: robbery with a firearm, extortion with a firearm, discharging a firearm with intent, and using a firearm in commission of offences. There is also the expansion of conditional sentencing, where the bill would allow greater use of conditional sentencing orders such as house arrest.

Some of the new eligible offences in the bill would include arson for fraudulent purposes. Somebody who commits arson by burning somebody's home or property down may be eligible for house arrest in their own home. The height of irony of that knows no bounds.

The bill does not help people in this country who are battling addiction to opioids or other drugs, whatever they may be. What we know is that police officers already have the ability to use their discretion when determining whether to lay charges. One of the most profound and impactful opportunities I have had in my two-and-a-bit years as a member of Parliament has been to do ride-alongs with the Ontario Provincial Police and the Cornwall Police Service in my community of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.

I saw first-hand, late on a Friday night and early into the morning, the amazing work that our front-line police officers do. I also saw, thankfully and confidentially, their ability to use that discretion on the front line. I saw that discretion was being used. What was not there was the availability and ease of getting treatment for somebody who clearly had an addiction issue, so they could get past their problem. Over and over again, we talk to law enforcement about tackling this issue and getting better service for treatment. Getting people the help that they deserve needs to be top priority, not letting off drug traffickers for gun crimes or violent criminals with the opportunity for more lenient sentences after they have been convicted.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada has previously issued a directive to prosecutors to avoid prosecuting simple drug possession cases unless there are major public safety concerns.

That is clear. This bill would do nothing to change all of that rightful practice that is in place. Instead it would give breaks and the opportunity to provide breaks to people who are trying to destroy the lives of people battling addictions and profiting off it.

In my riding, there have been several news stories of how the opioid and addiction battles, not just in eastern Ontario but across this country, have unfortunately only gotten worse during the pandemic. I look at a news release that came from the Cornwall police service and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, warning about increases in drug-related overdoses in Cornwall and area from April of this year.

Inspector of field operations for the Cornwall police services, Chad Maxwell, says, “Opioids are endangering the lives of vulnerable members of our community and we are dependent on everyone to take this messaging seriously.”

I look at the headline in the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder, “A hidden pandemic in the Cornwall region—opioid overdoses and deaths”; or the headline in the Morrisburg Leader, “Opioid overdose numbers rise during pandemic in EOHU region.” The Seaway News shared the same news back on April 9.

As we wrap up Parliament in the next few days for the year, having been back for a few weeks, when I go back home, I have the opportunity to liaise, as I mentioned, with the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP, the Cornwall police service and the Akwesasne Mohawk Police. I also have the tough job of having to hear the stories of parents who have lost a child or sibling to addiction. I go back to them this week to tell them that there is no more money for residential treatment beds for people battling addictions, that there is no plan to address it or to fill that massive gap we all heard about in the recent election and that we know exists. However, I will have to tell them that there is a bill on the table that would lower the bar for convicted violent criminals.

Whether it be in Morrisburg, or Cornwall or Crysler, addiction impacts every community in the country. I would encourage members from the Liberal and NDP side, who are strongly promoting this bill, to ask their constituents if they want an increased number of residential treatment beds as a priority for this Parliament or if they want the list that I exhausted earlier of all the mandatory jail times where leniency can be given upon conviction for these serious crimes.

I will wrap up today by quoting something that was in our Conservative platform earlier this year, “Canada’s Conservatives will treat the opioid epidemic as the urgent health issue that it is.” The last thing those suffering from addiction should have to worry about is being arrested. Any interaction the government has with them should be focused on keeping them safe and helping them recover. We believe that law enforcement should focus on dealers and traffickers.

We need more residential treatments. We need a better plan at the federal level and in every part of our country to get people the help they need and deserve. Bill C-5 would not go after dealers and traffickers appropriately. It would lower the bar and open the door. That is wrong. Our opposition will stand every step of the way against this terrible, misguided bill.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague might not be aware that for the first time in Canadian history, there is a cabinet minister whose primary objective and role is for mental health and addiction. It would be a far stretch to suggest that this government does not take mental health and addiction extremely seriously.

The problem is that the member is trying to conflate two issues as though they are exclusively together. He talked about police officers having discretion. Police officers have discretion on whether to charge or not to charge. They do not have discretion as to what the outcome, or rehabilitation or various measures might be if charged and found guilty.

Could the member please explain why he thinks the discretion is okay with a police officer, but not with a judge?

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Kingston and the Islands does like to pack a lot into the question.

Appointing a minister to say that the government is going to do something is not a result. We hear this time and again. There are so many examples of the government saying that it is spending x number of dollars on this or that they have appointed so and so to study this. Nothing happens in terms of changes on the issues. Again, a minister has been appointed, but there is no plan before us to tackle the very issues I addressed in my comments.

When we talk about discretion, there is a difference between the discretion for simple possession and supporting and having a universal process and agreement on it. Even further, on some challenges, there should be mandatory jail times for robbery with a firearm, prison breach, sexual assault, kidnapping, motor vehicle theft, theft over $5,000. When it comes to that, there is a difference between simple possession and all these things that are included in Bill C-5.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for delineating between what should continue to have mandatory minimum sentencing and what should not. I would like to hear an explanation on why it is important that we tackle and address the mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offences.

In my community of Edmonton Griesbach, for example, we know how far that kind of policy would go to help marginalized people, particularly indigenous and Black community members in my riding, in getting the access to rehabilitation services that are so desperately needed. Would the member elaborate on how that kind of process would be beneficial for his community as well?

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, we talk about delineating things in the bill. The government is talking about help for opioids and addiction and is lumping everything into this bill that would not address that. There is a massive difference between a simple drug possession of a minor nature and somebody committing robbery, arson, kidnapping of a child and so forth. There need to be serious consequences. The government says that its definition is serious. I am not even sure what that is defined as now.

What is not in the bill and what continues to be ignored is a real, tangible plan that we get more residential treatment beds, that the focus be on recovery and on assistance to get people with addictions out of a bad cycle, on the right path and given the supports they need. There is nothing in the bill and there has been no news from the government on that key part of addressing Canada's addiction battles.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

That is all the time we have for now. The hon. member will have one minute of questions coming to him when we come back. We will have to work that in.

It being 4 p.m., pursuant to order made Monday, December 6, I now invite the hon. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to make a statement.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table a notice of a ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update tabled in Parliament on December 14, and other measures.

Pursuant to Standing Order 83(2), I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

I also have the honour to table a notice of ways and means motion to introduce an act to implement a digital services tax. I am also asking that an order of the day be designated for consideration of this motion.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 4:05 p.m.

University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, colleagues in the House and Canadians, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the economic and fiscal update 2021.

Twenty-one months ago, a global pandemic reached our shores. Few of us had any idea how long it would last or the toll it would take and, today, we are facing omicron, an even more virulent variant of this virus. However, we can be confident we will get through this, because our government did understand from the very outset that to save lives our economy would have to be locked down, so we put in place unprecedented measures to meet this unprecedented challenge.

We supported municipalities and we supported provinces and territories. We supported our health care system and we supported schools. We provided free vaccines, PPE, rapid tests and therapeutic medicines.

Our focus was on people and jobs. We helped millions of Canadians with income supports. We delivered direct payments to seniors and families.

We kept businesses going, particularly small businesses, and helped workers stay connected to their jobs, with the wage and rent subsidies and loans for small businesses. We did this because it was the right thing to do. We also did it because we knew it was an investment in our economy that would pay off.

Our goal was to prevent economic scarring. We wanted to emerge from this with our economic muscle intact, ready, as a country, to come roaring back. Keeping the Canadian economy on life support as we went into COVID-19 hibernation was expensive, but we knew that keeping Canadian families and businesses solvent would help our economy rebound.

This economic and fiscal update provides Canadians with a transparent report of our nation's finances. It also includes targeted investments that will ensure we have the weapons we need to finish the fight against COVID-19, an effort more urgent now than ever with the surge of omicron.

First, we are protecting children with pediatric vaccines, now available for free for all children five and over. Booster shots are free for all Canadians too, just as first and second doses have been.

Omicron makes boosters more urgently important now than ever. I ask people to please go and get a booster as soon as they are eligible. I have booked mine and I am very glad to have done so. We have enough boosters for everyone, and boosters are an essential defence against the mounting threat of omicron.

We are investing in new antiviral drugs for COVID-19 patients that prevent hospitalizations and will save lives. We are investing in ventilation improvements to prevent outbreaks at schools and workplaces.

To date, our government has delivered nearly 80 million rapid tests to provinces, territories and indigenous communities, free of charge. This fiscal update sets aside a further $1.7 billion, enough to procure more than 180 million additional rapid tests. Rapid tests are a useful tool in the intensifying fight against omicron. We are buying and distributing them, and we encourage Canadians to use them. We are also providing support to provinces and territories for proof of vaccination credentials. As we brace ourselves for the rising wave of omicron, we know that no one wants to endure new lockdowns. That is why vaccines, vaccine mandates, boosters, ventilation and rapid tests are so essential.

Over the past 21 months we have all learned that fast, local action to limit outbreaks is much less costly than waiting and being forced to impose wider and deeper restrictions. In that knowledge, and out of an abundance of caution, we are proposing local lockdown support for workers and businesses. These measures are an insurance policy for our country, and are in place to help local public health officials make the right decisions in the coming months, knowing their communities will have the support they need. We are also moving forward on 10 days of paid sick leave for workers in federally regulated businesses.

We are also provisioning an additional $4.5 billion to pay for possible further costs of fighting omicron and other COVID‑19 surges, including spending on border measures and on income and business supports.

The COVID pandemic triggered the steepest economic contraction in Canada since the Great Depression. At its worst, it cost three million Canadians their jobs, as our GDP shrank by 17%. This was a once-in-a-generation trauma. When it first hit, many predicted it would take years to rebuild. That is why we are so pleased to report that Canada has largely recovered from the economic damage inflicted by COVID‑19 and is poised for robust growth in the months to come. We have now surpassed our target of creating a million jobs. In fact, we have recovered 106% of the jobs lost at the peak of the pandemic, significantly outpacing the United States, where just 83% of lost jobs have been recovered so far.

From the start, we have understood that few things are more central to the economic well-being of Canadians than having a job. That is why our investments have been so singularly focused on employment and why Canada has experienced the second-fastest recovery of lost jobs in the G7.

Our GDP has already returned to near pre-pandemic levels. Our GDP growth of 5.4% in the third quarter outpaced that of the U.S., the U.K., Japan and Australia. OECD projections suggest that by 2023, Canada's recovery will be the second fastest in the G7.

This update shows that the size of the Canadian economy this year will be $2.48 trillion. When we published our economic forecast in the 2018 budget, that is almost exactly the size we expected our economy to grow to by this year, and we made that forecast when none of us had any idea that our economic growth and our lives would be so deeply disrupted by COVID‑19. We are back on track and that is good news for all Canadians.

Canada posted a $25.1-billion surplus in our trading goods in October as our exports rose. Fewer businesses went bankrupt over the past year than in 2019, before the pandemic. There are now an additional 6,000 active businesses in Canada compared with before the pandemic. Household employment income is now 7% above its precrisis level, and Canadians have used this difficult time to pay down their personal debt relative to their income.

Our recovery from the COVID‑19 recession has significantly surpassed Canada's recovery from the 2008 recession. We have already more than recovered lost jobs, a healing that took eight months longer after the much milder 2008 recession. We are on track to recover lost GDP five months more quickly than after the 2008 contraction.

Provincial government balance sheets were sheltered from the pandemic thanks to strong support from the federal government. Provincial and territorial government revenues actually increased in 2020-21 because of substantial federal support, both through direct transfers and through Canada's COVID-19 economic response.

This assistance helped put a floor under provincial and territorial government revenues thereby limiting their deficits and debt. Fully $8 out of every $10 provided to fight COVID-19 and support Canadians through the pandemic came from the federal government. Our government will continue to be agile as we navigate the highly volatile and evolving global economy and health industry.

We need to continue to manage the spread of this sneaky and unpredictable virus. The pain of the families who lost a loved one can never be measured. Our guiding principle will continue to be the conviction that the best economic policy is a strong health policy. Because we have been steadfast in putting saving lives first, this is the approach that has driven our strong economic performance and the second lowest mortality rate in the G7.

As we look ahead, we are mindful of elevated inflation and its impact on the cost of living for Canadians. We know inflation is a global phenomenon driven by the unprecedented challenge of reopening the world’s economy. Turning the world economy back on is a good deal more complicated than turning it off.

During the lockdown, Canadians' incomes remained strong, on average, but opportunities to spend on services were severely restricted. The result was that Canadians spent more on durable goods, without spending on meals in restaurants, personal care or vacations. Canadians spent their disposable income on renovations, new furniture, appliances and cars. It will take some time for supply chains to catch up and for our economy to rebalance itself.

To help unsnarl Canada's supply chains, today we are announcing $50 million to launch a call for proposals that will help Canadian ports acquire cargo storage capacity and take other measures to relieve supply chain congestion.

Our government understands that a strong monetary policy framework is the best weapon in our arsenal to keep prices stable so that Canadians can afford the cost of living. That is why yesterday we renewed the Bank of Canada's 2% inflation target to ensure that the current rate of inflation does not become entrenched.

Canada was a pioneer when we established an inflation target to guide our central bank in setting interest rates. In the 30 years since, the Bank of Canada has successfully maintained price stability in our country. Our government has every confidence the bank will continue to deliver on this essential mandate. Canadians should be wholly confident in their central bank.

Many Canadians worry about paying their bills. That is why we are glad we indexed the Canada child benefit to inflation, and are committed to continuing to index old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, the goods and services tax credit, and other benefits for the most vulnerable.

We are committing today to provide guaranteed income supplement or allowance beneficiaries who also received the Canada emergency response benefit with a one-time payment to alleviate the financial hardship they may have faced as a result of an unintended interaction between the two benefits. We are also laying out a plan to provide debt relief to students who need to repay the Canada emergency response benefits they were not eligible for by proposing to offset their debt with the Canada emergency student benefit amount for which they were eligible.

We are establishing the $60‑million Canada performing arts workers resilience fund, which will support initiatives that improve the economic, career, and working conditions of live performance arts workers, including independent contractors.

Early learning and child care costs are like a second mortgage for many young Canadian families. Child care that is too expensive or just not available keeps many mothers from going back to work, which is an unacceptable brake on our economy at a time when we are facing labour force shortages.

We knew that high-quality, $10-a-day child care would make life more affordable for Canadian families and drive economic growth. That is why our $30-billion investment in early learning and child care was the cornerstone of the April budget.

Our plan was widely supported, but many Canadians were skeptical about our ability to get the job done. I understood them. After all, Canadian women have been trying to establish a national system of early learning and child care for more than half a century and, with the exception of Quebec, we had not succeeded.

Today, I have great news for Canada's working mothers and fathers. Less than eight months after we announced our bold project in our budget, we now have child care deals with nine provinces and one territory. Within five years, Canadians will proudly rely on $10-a-day child care just as our universal, publicly accessible health care system has come to define us as a society. This is a historic accomplishment that will transform the lives of every parent in Canada and of every future parent in Canada for generations to come.

Let us give this effort a final push and conclude agreements with Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. We can and we must get this done now.

Immigration is another important driver of economic growth and is a Canadian competitive advantage. Our government is committed to bringing in 411,000 immigrants in 2022. It will be the highest number in Canadian history. To help support this effort and reduce processing time for permanent- and temporary-resident and Canadian citizenship applications, we are investing $85 million in our immigration system.

Housing prices are a real concern, especially for middle-class Canadians hoping to buy their first homes. Housing affordability remains a priority for our government, and we will take further action in the upcoming budget. As we announced in the spring budget on January 1, 2022, our government will apply Canada's first national tax on vacant property owned by non-resident non-Canadians.

As we said we would, the government is also bringing forward legislation to extend the northern residents deduction so Canadians in the north can claim up to $1,200 in eligible travel expenses on their taxes starting next month. The government will also bring forward legislation to extend small businesses' deadline for the repayment of Canada Emergency Business Account loans, and to ensure that seasonal workers who received pandemic benefits can still qualify for the EI seasonal workers pilot project.

Climate change is causing increased volatility in the economy. Recent and tragic floods in British Columbia devastated homes, farms, and critical infrastructure, and further disrupted supply chains. Severe droughts, including across our Prairies, have contributed to increases in food prices. We are taking action to fight climate change.

Canada has a world-leading price on pollution that is helping to lower emissions and grow a cleaner economy. In fact, as many countries in the world look to up their level of ambition they are seeing inspiration in our plan. We are also working to finalize Canada’s first National Adaptation Strategy by the end of next year. The green transition of the global economy is under way. It is one of the great economic opportunities, and one of the great challenges, before us.

Our government is determined that Canadians must emerge from this international transformation even more prosperous than we are today. We will ensure that there are good sustainable jobs for Canadians in every corner of the country, for decades to come.

Above all, we know that our national focus, once we emerge from COVID-19, must be growth and competitiveness. Measures to promote them will figure prominently in the budget. Our government understood from the start of this pandemic that the best way to maintain strong public finances was to keep our economy strong. That is what our emergency spending achieved. This fall, Moody's and S&P both reaffirmed Canada's AAA credit rating.

We know that Canadians work hard to earn a living, and expect us to be careful with their money. We know we have a duty to do the right thing for today and for tomorrow. We understand that our debts must be repaid. We came into this crisis with the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, and in fact we have increased our relative advantage during the pandemic.

We remain committed to the fiscal anchors that we outlined in the spring budget: to reduce the federal debt-to-GDP ratio over the medium term and to unwind COVID-19-related deficits. In October, we pivoted from necessary but costly broad-based support programs to more narrowly targeted, less expensive measures, as we had promised we would. Our government will continue to be a responsible and prudent fiscal manager.

This update reports a deficit of $327.7 billion for the last fiscal year and of $144.5 billion for this fiscal year. This compares favourably with our forecast of $354.2 billion and $154.7 billion, respectively, in the April budget.

Our debt-to-GDP ratio in the last fiscal year was 47.5%. It will peak at 48% in this fiscal year and then fall steadily, as will the deficit. This contrasts positively with our prediction in the April budget.

In budget 2021, we forecast that in this fiscal year, 42% of our bond issuance would be long-term debt of 10 years or more. Today, we can forecast that it will be 45%. Members will recall that in 2019, only 15% of our debt was locked in over a long-term horizon. Pushing more of our debt into bonds with a longer maturity ensures that Canada's debt servicing costs are sustainable.

Thanks to an improving fiscal outlook, the amount of money we will need to issue and borrow into this year is $35 billion lower than forecast in budget 2021. Despite a necessary and unprecedented level of spending to support Canadians during COVID-19, our public debt charges as a share of GDP will be the same this year and next year as they were in 2018 and 2019, before the pandemic.

This fiscal update includes a provision to settle the cases on harm to first nations children currently before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and to invest in transforming the services offered to first nations children and their families. We have provisioned $20 billion for compensation and $20 billion to improve the system going forward.

The Government of Canada is working toward an agreement with the parties on this issue. We know that paying our historic debt to indigenous people is paramount, and that we must act to ensure that these injustices do not happen again. We will not and we cannot evade this essential commitment. That is why we are today setting aside the funds to pay for it.

It has been a hard 21 months, but we are succeeding because we are doing what Canadians do in a crisis. We are helping each other, we are working together and we are doing what needs to be done, whether it is as big as the wage subsidies or as small as wearing a mask at the grocery store.

With winter upon us and omicron now among us, we know that there will still be tempests ahead, but we are resilient. Our plan is working and once we finish the fight against COVID-19, we will turn our resolve toward fighting climate change, advancing reconciliation with indigenous people and building an economy that is stronger, fairer, more competitive and more prosperous for all Canadians.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan is rising on a point of order.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am simply rising to say it has long been the practice of the House that when an update is given of this nature, copies are distributed of the documents that are being debated. Today, I am quite frustrated that the government has not supplied nearly enough copies of the document for members of Parliament to be able to look at those documents while the minister is speaking. I ask you to come back to the House and rule on whether this is appropriate.

This is a critical issue. Members should have access to those documents right in front of them in paper form. This has long been the practice of the House. I am not sure why the government is not respecting this practice.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

That question was asked during the speech and we did look around. There were not enough hard copies provided to the opposition lobby to be passed around. My understanding is there is an electronic copy coming their way shortly. Unfortunately, I do not have any control over that. That is something the government provides.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Carleton.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess with all the money-printing deficits, the Liberals did not have enough paper left to print these documents.

I want to thank the minister of inflation for her presentation today. It reveals that inflation is in fact 50% higher than she promised in the budget, and the deflation she said we would have a year ago has definitely not materialized. A half a trillion dollars of inflationary deficits mean more dollars chasing fewer goods and higher prices. The result of course is that housing and gas are up by a third, making it hard for people to get to work or house themselves; food prices will rise $1,000 for the average family next year, not to mention that taxes cost the average family more than food, clothing and shelter combined. The more the government spends, the more Canadians pay.

To add insult to injury, we learned today that the government is collecting a windfall of tax revenue as it gets higher taxes on higher prices. It is called the inflation tax or, as the Liberals would say, “just inflation”. My question is a very specific one. How much in extra tax revenue will the government collect as a result of higher-than-expected inflation on the backs of Canadian consumers?

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, that question was a very general and meandering one, so I am going to offer a general and specific answer.

Let me be very clear. Yes, the government did undertake extraordinary spending to support Canadians during the fight against COVID‑19. In this fiscal update, we are making a provision for further spending in that fight. We are spending on therapeutics. We are spending on rapid tests. We are spending on boosters. We are making a $4.5-billion provision to account for potential additional costs imposed by omicron. I am absolutely confident that the vast majority of Canadians understand that this spending is not only necessary, but also essential to protect health and to protect our economy.

The results speak for themselves. Our economy has already more than recovered all the jobs we lost to the COVID recession. GDP is nearly at pre-pandemic levels, which is a better performance than most of our peer countries around the world.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, for several months now, Quebec and the provinces have been unanimous in calling for an immediate payment of $28 billion to cover health care costs, with a 6% escalator. Why, then, is the minister proposing that the Canada health transfer escalator be maintained at 3%, the legal minimum, until 2027, when that is far below the annual increase in health care costs?

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe that this announcement underscores the extent of the federal government's support for Canadians and for the provinces and territories, including in the health sector.

The government has purchased vaccines, boosters, tests and therapeutic medicines. As I pointed out in the economic statement, $8 out of every $10 spent by all levels of government in Canada came from the federal government.

This government is there for Canadians and Quebeckers when it comes to health. The federal government is there to support businesses and people, and it will do its fair share.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, alongside low-income advocacy groups, seniors advocacy groups and affected seniors themselves, the NDP has been pushing for months now for action on the GIS clawback. We see some indication now of the approach the government intends to take, but it raises some questions.

The solution we were advocating for was to not count pandemic benefits in the eligibility calculation for the guaranteed income supplement. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that would affect about 88,000 seniors and would cost about $434 million. The government is instead proposing a program it says will affect about 200,000 people at a cost of about $742 million, and says it will be a one-time payment. It is unclear if seniors will be paid back for the income they lost. It is unclear if their monthly payments will be restored, so that they continue to have the monthly income they need to pay rent over the next number of years, or whether they are just going to be receiving a cheque.

Could the minister provide some clarity to these seniors? Some of them have lost their homes and have been waiting for an announcement on what their life is going to look like going into the future. How is the government going to determine how much is paid to each individual senior; how is it going to roll out the funds; when is it going to happen; and how is it going to help ensure they have the money they need to get back in an apartment and pay rent for the next 12 months, instead of getting just a one-time “thank you very much and sorry for the inconvenience” from the government?

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Madam Speaker, our government agrees, and I think all Canadians would agree, that seniors have been so hard hit by the pandemic. Seniors who qualify for the GRS are among the most vulnerable people in Canada, and we have to support them. That is why I am really glad that in this update I was able to confirm that we will compensate those seniors who have had their GIS clawed back because they received the CERB.

The most important thing I want to do today is reassure all of those seniors, who I am sure are really worried about paying their bills, that it is going to be fixed and they will be compensated for that clawback. We are going to ensure that the compensation meets the amount of clawback for all the seniors who were affected by this.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is along the lines of where this government has been over the last number of years, in terms of being there to properly support Canadians. We know the government has been there every step of the way, and with the onset of omicron and the potential of what outbreaks could mean in our country, what is the message we want to give to Canadians right now, in terms of properly ensuring they have the resources to protect themselves and to get through and finish the fight against COVID? We know that employment, despite the fact that it initially went down, has bounced right back up, and we want to know if the minister could provide some direction and some comment to Canadians about what they can expect in the weeks and months to come.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three messages for Canadians today.

The first is a bit of a tough one, and that is that COVID is still with us. The omicron variant is serious and we need to take it seriously. That is not a message anyone wants to hear as we head into the holidays, and I know how hard it is for us to really accept that, but it is the reality. One thing we have all learned from this virus, and by the way it is the way Canadians tend to behave anyway, is that it is better to do the right thing now and to take action now to avoid something more serious in the future. That is message one, to be careful.

Message two is that the government is supporting Canadians with all the tools we need: the health care tools and the economic support.

Message three is that we have been doing a great job; our economy has largely recovered from the COVID recession.

Let us keep on going. We are almost there.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Erin O'Toole ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has proven her government has no economic plan for our country. That is how I started my response to last year's economic update and, unfortunately, the exact same thing rings true today.

Today, the Liberal government shared a snapshot of Canada's economic position. The minister is actually hoping to fool Canadians into thinking everything is fine. After shutting down an economy for over a year and spending half a trillion dollars, of course one will see some growth and some employment gains. What the minister neglected to point out is how the government's mismanagement has led our country and Canadian families to the edge of an economic cliff. Inflation, in fact, is helping to fudge the Liberal numbers while hurting families and seniors across this great country. “Just inflation” is good for the Prime Minister's budget but bad for Canadians' budget.

Canadians are living through a cost of living crisis. We hear that all across the country people are living through an inflation crisis that the finance minister predicted a year ago would be deflation; she was wrong on all the fundamental projections upon which the cost of living is based.

Canadians, new families and seniors are struggling with a housing crisis across the country, and the Liberal government is now focused on making life more expensive for Canadians. It plans to tax the sale of homes, including colleagues' homes. On January 1, 2022, it is going to start raising taxes. While the Liberals have no plan for our recovery, they certainly have a high-tax, high-debt agenda, and that is the last thing Canadians can afford right now.

During my response to the Speech from the Throne last month, I spoke about Peter from Nova Scotia, who owns a boat charter and lobster eatery in Peggy's Cove. Small businesses like his are struggling with rising costs. They are struggling to make ends meet, and they are going to be struggling to pay the government's new payroll tax.

I spoke about Clifford from rural Alberta, who felt completely left behind by the Liberal government. Clifford is a senior on a fixed income and he is struggling with rising prices. Gas is up; food is up; home heating is up. Everything is going up except his benefits.

Do the Prime Minister and the Liberal finance minister know about the real struggles these Canadians are facing? Are they listening? Sadly, Canadians like Peter and Clifford, like millions of Canadians across this country, are being left behind by a government that is continually out of touch. That is why the Conservative opposition will be here to be a voice for the millions of Canadians being left behind in the Liberal economy.

Canadians are under increasing pressure. Their paycheques are not keeping pace with the rising cost of living. Average salaries are increasing by about 2%, while inflation is increasing by almost 5%. This means that the average family has had a 3% drop in salary this year alone.

Canadians are getting priced out of their own lives. Merry Christmas from the Liberal government.

To cope with rising home prices and stagnant wages, Canadians have been piling on more and more personal debt in recent years. Now many Canadian families have their finances close to a breaking point. Is the government listening? Twenty-seven percent of Canadians say they are insolvent and cannot pay all monthly bills and debt payments as costs are going up. Half of Canadians say they are $200 or less away from financial insolvency each month. Canadian household budgets are fragile. When we see increases of 20% to 30% for gas, fuel, rent or food, that crisis is out of control. Thirty-five percent of Canadians are concerned that future interest rate increases could drive them toward financial bankruptcy.

The Bank of Canada recently said that interest rates will go up next year. Some experts expect rates to be increased five times or more next year. In The Globe and Mail, the head of C.D. Howe had a column that warned about this, called “Brace for impact: Rate hikes are coming”. He said, “Investors, homeowners, businesses, and our big-borrowing governments need to get ready,” as interest rate increases are coming. This is at a time when the government is starting the new year by raising taxes on Canadians on January 1. Happy new year.

This is why inflation matters. This is why monetary policy matters. This is why the budget, job creation, our competitiveness, trade with the United States and our economic future matter. By 2023, the Prime Minister will have doubled the national debt, spending more than all previous prime ministers combined. That is astounding, and there is hardly even a notice from a Prime Minister who thinks that budgets balance themselves and might think that Canadians' credit card bills do the same. That is not the case.

We have a government coming out of COVID that spent more per capita than all our allies and has some of the worst results. In today's fall economic statement, cleverly snuck in just before the Christmas break, the Minister of Finance bragged about how Canada's deficit numbers are better than expected, so let us take a look at that. We know the Minister of Finance has already been flagged for a misleading video on Twitter. Maybe we should look at the numbers behind her claim.

Inflation is boosting the Liberals' tax revenues. If they raise the general price level by almost 5%, that boosts GST revenues by 5%. Our deficit numbers are smaller because their inflation is higher. When the shadow minister for finance asked a simple question of the Minister of Finance on this issue, namely how much more revenue the government has collected from driving up inflation, she would not answer the question. Canadians are paying the price. Inflation may look good to pad the Liberals' budget, but it makes it impossible for Canadians to meet their budgets.

Inflation is rising by almost 5%, the highest in 18 years, and the Bank of Canada is warning that it will get even higher in the months ahead and stay that way through parts of next year. For families with tight budgets and seniors on a fixed income, these are alarming numbers. Our country is drowning in the rising waters of debt that is being fuelled by inflation and by ideological policies that are driving away investment and making Canada one of the last places people will come for their economic recovery. Now we are watching the consequences of the government's decisions in real time.

Heating our homes as we head into the Christmas holiday will be more expensive, with natural gas prices up nearly 20%. Filling up a car to go visit grandparents on Christmas Eve will be too, with gas up almost 42%. Even the cost of that big breakfast on Christmas morning will be higher, as eggs are up 7.4%, juice is up 5%, jam is up 8% and bacon is up 20%. We are almost losing our appetite with the rising inflation.

However, the Liberals' lack of action on competitiveness and supporting Canadian workers is the real canary in the coal mine for our economy.

Canada is bleeding capital investment. More investment and production are going to the United States and overseas. This means that we are becoming even more dependent on foreign countries and on foreign supply chains that are not choosing to get supply to Canada but to themselves.

This is a government whose only record achievement beyond debt is record failure in negotiations with the United States. It has failed energy workers, it has failed forestry workers, it has failed farming families, it has failed auto workers and, with buy American, it is failing every supply chain in manufacturing, including steel and aluminum, across this great country. It is failing millions of Canadians. It is no wonder President Biden said that Canada under this Prime Minister is his “easiest” relationship. It is easy for the U.S. to win under this government.

Businesses are grappling with a dire labour shortage. Everyone can see it, except the Liberals.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Does he have a plan and concrete solutions that will solve the labour shortage crisis?

As always, the Prime Minister refuses to listen. It is time for the Liberal government to tackle the labour shortage affecting Quebec and all of Canada. That is why he must make it easier for immigrant workers to enter Canada, invest in specialized training programs and encourage people to embrace the trades. He must also offer incentives to employers and employees, as this will encourage people to return to work.

Time is running out. Business owners are out of patience, and so are we.

Business investment declined by an average of 1% every year from 2016 to 2019, reaching a 25-year low as a percentage of GDP, and that was just before the pandemic. Canadian factories are operating with the lowest levels of capital investment in 35 years, which will lead to lower productivity, fewer jobs and lower wages. Businesses across Canada, but particularly in southern Ontario, are investing and creating jobs, but Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio are moving to a more competitive, less burdensome regulatory environment where they do not see payroll taxes going up the first of the new year and where they see incentive and opportunity as opposed to being held back by ideology.

The saddest part is that we are losing an opportunity to build the future economy. Canada should be booming, firing on all cylinders, investing in new technologies, innovating and providing upward pressure on wages because of growth. We can get back to building prosperity and great jobs for Canadians, but the Liberal government, it is clear, has no plan to make that a reality.

The Conservatives believe in a Canada where everyone has the chance to work hard, everyone has the chance to own a home and everyone has a chance to build this country up and give it to their children for a successful future. However, half of Canadians under 30 are giving up on owning a home. That is a failure of leadership of epic proportions. Nationwide, the average price of a home has jumped by $54,000 in just the last few months, up 30% and worse. According to RE/MAX last week, real estate prices are expected to surge another 9.2% next year.

Do we really want to be the country where young people, a generation of them, are giving up on the idea of owning a home? Do we really want to be increasingly a nation of part-time and contract jobs, and no long-term jobs with growth potential for all Canadians? The government is giving up on the next generation of Canadians.

For those who already own a home, the Liberals are going to tax the sale of it. They are slowly coming after Canadians' home equity under the guise of a solution to the housing crisis they have presided over in the last five to six years.

This tax targets hard-working Canadians who want to use the sale of their homes to fund their retirement. Simply put, this tax deprives them of their hard-earned savings.

The government's solutions will only make the housing crisis worse and will attack people as they approach retirement. The Conservatives have pressed for concrete actions to address our housing crisis, build more homes and return the dream of home ownership to millions of Canadians. Unlike the Liberal government, we are not giving up on Canadians under 30.

What we see in another hollow economic statement released on the eve of a Christmas break is empty promises, massive debt, higher taxes and no real economic plan. The finance minister is not telling Canadians the real story. Inflation is hurting Canadian families but helping Liberal finances.

The Conservatives will continue to be a voice for the millions of Canadians being left behind by the Liberal government. We are going to fight to build more housing, tackle the cost-of-living crisis and hold the Liberal government to account for giving up on the next generation. We are going to build a plan to restore Canadian prosperity and make Canada an economic powerhouse.

Right now, Canada should be focused on proposing solutions to lift up Canadian families with great jobs and rising wages. We need to build a dynamic economy that benefits people in all sectors of our economy and in all regions of the country. From the resources in the ground to the ideas in our heads, we need Canada to build, discover and strive. We need a generation of Canadians who want to win, not settle for second, third or 10th best.

It is time to simplify the tax system and cut red tape. It is time to make Canada the best place in the world to invest, create, develop, build and start a business.

We will make Canada a country with the most innovative economy in the world, a country with ultra-competitive tax rates, a country with incentives for innovation and an advanced research agency focused on the private sector and the economy of the future.

Let us provide financing and investment capital to small businesses so they can flourish. Let us build world-class infrastructure all across this great country, not fund more bureaucratic programs. Let us also be proud of our resource sector and the millions of direct and indirect jobs from it. It is the only thing really driving our current account balance, and the Prime Minister and his ideological ministers want to end it. Our energy is the most ethical, our critical minerals are the most accessible and our commitment to emission reduction and indigenous participation is the most reliable in the world.

It is time for a new approach, not more empty words and failed promises. It is time to create a dynamic and more prosperous Canada, one that grows, that strives, that wins. It is time to stop being happy with last place. It is time to stop being happy with record debt, higher taxes and more government intervention.

Canada's Conservatives are here to build. We are here to hold up. We are here to win. We are here to fight for our children's future.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, when the world-wide pandemic hit Canada, the Prime Minister and this government stepped up and made it very clear that we were going to be there for Canadians. Over the days, weeks and months that followed, programs flowed to support Canadians in a very real and tangible way. Whether through wage subsidy programs, the CERB program, direct payments to seniors or direct payments to people with disabilities, we were there. The Conservatives, depending on which member is speaking, will talk about the deficit trying to imply that we spent too much. We were there to support Canadians.

We now have Bill C-2 before us. It is a continuation of supporting Canadians. Will the leader of the Conservative Party and the Conservatives ensure that the ongoing support for Canadian workers, businesses and Canadians in general, will be there by supporting Bill C-2 and ensuring it passes before Christmas?

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians who might watch the debates in Parliament know that there is another inflation in the last few months in this Parliament. It is the inflated word count by that member, and the inflated amount of outrage manufactured, fiddling while our economy burns.

Let us talk about who stepped up at the beginning of this crisis. It was the Conservatives who asked for the border to be controlled when the pandemic first broke, two months before the government did. It was myself who, two months before the government acted, spoke about the EI system and said the military had to help our health care system. It was the opposition who said a 10% wage subsidy would not save a single job. It was our shadow minister of finance who said let us save as many jobs as possible and not have people not work.

We will always put the health and well-being of Canadians first, but right now, the cost-of-living crisis, the housing crisis and the inflationary crisis facing our country hardly warrants a mention by the finance minister. I would ask that hon. member to raise his voice tomorrow in caucus and stop neglecting Canadian families in the cost-of-living crisis we are facing.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is unbelievable. Quebec has problems in its health care system. Quebec and the provinces unanimously called for a payment of $28 billion with a 6% escalator to cover up to 35% of total spending. However, there is nothing in today's announcement about that. The Minister of Finance is telling us that the government will work on helping, but the minister is not doing that at all.

The same thing goes for seniors. They are paying 7% more for their groceries. What did they get from the federal government? A single cheque. Meanwhile, Quebec and the provinces are unanimously calling for a recurring increase in old age security. The Bloc Québécois is asking for a recurring increase of $110 per month. However, in addition to offering no recurring increase, the federal government has created two categories of seniors: those age 65 to 75, and those age 75 and over.

The government seems exhausted. The labour shortage needs to be addressed, but we have no measures to address it. On one small street in my riding, four restaurants and a clothing store have closed down.

The Bloc brought forward the Émilie Sansfaçon bill to help sick people, such as those fighting cancer, who get only 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits, while all other claimants get 52 weeks.

These are all critical issues. I do not know about my colleague, the leader of the official opposition, but as far as I am concerned, today's economic statement completely misses the mark. Needs are not being met and it is incredible how exhausted this government is, having just been elected.