Madam Speaker, today I am going to ask Canadians whom they trust. Do they trust the current government and its handling of the pandemic, or do they trust the Conservative Party? I hope we will earn their trust in the future and form a government.
I have gone through the Parliamentary Budget Officer's review of the fall economic statement, including the contents of the fall economic statement the government has proposed, so I think whom they trust is the best question to ask.
I love Yiddish proverbs, and there is a Yiddish proverb that states, “Trust one eye more than two ears.” I have heard the debate so far, from various members, on the statement's contents and on what is going to happen over the next few months regarding this update and what the government expects to do.
Let us admit a few things. The government does not have guardrails. We used to call these “fiscal anchors”, which were the fiscal measures the government was going to test itself against to make sure it was not going to get Canada's public finances off the rails. Then it started calling them “guardrails”. That is the language that appears in the fall economic statement. It also appears in the Parliamentary Budget Officer's review. In that review, the PBO said that between $70 billion and $100 billion of spending had nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, but rather with pet projects of the Liberals. That spending really had nothing to do with addressing a national health emergency.
In that same fall economic statement, when we look at the different figures the government is proposing, $86.8 billion is being proposed in new spending measures including add-ons to programs, new programs entirely and other changes. The biggest difference the PBO found between its analysis of the numbers, its projections and its modelling was that the economic assumptions on how fast the economy will rebound varied greatly. The biggest difference we find, when we look at the numbers, is that the government has very rosy projections on job growth, economic growth and the opportunities Canadians and residents of my riding will have to find a job post-pandemic, once everything returns to normal. That normal keeps being put off because the government has botched the vaccine distribution and has not made it possible for the provinces to get vaccines to the people who want them. A supporter in Lethbridge sent me a picture of a completely empty vaccination facility. It was waiting for vaccines to come from the federal government so it could get them to the people who want them. That is what we are facing in Alberta. We are facing a federal government that either does not care, is not competent enough or cannot be trusted to get it right.
We can look at the PBO's figures for jobs. In July 2020, the CBC reported that we were about two million jobs behind, based on Statistics Canada information that was probably the labour force survey. Two million Canadians had lost their jobs during the pandemic. It started to go down again in the summer months. More people were being employed or returning to the work they had before, but many of those jobs were lost again.
Looking at the employment numbers predicted in the fall economic statement, it will take five years to recover the jobs we lost to get to the same level of employment we had pre-pandemic. That ignores things like population growth. It completely ignores the fact we had a high unemployment rate before, especially in Alberta and among young people. We have an unemployment rate of 9.4% officially, but that hides the fact that a lot of young people and students are underemployed and a lot of people are furloughed. Constituents in my riding are facing this. They have employment but are not being paid or they are only working one day a week. One cannot raise a family on one day a week of work. That is the reality. This is not captured in these employment numbers.
Looking at the employment numbers in the fall economic statement, it will take five years to get back to pre-COVID numbers. That does not account for population growth: the people who will immigrate to Canada to pick up jobs, grow our economy and start small businesses. That is a huge indictment and failure of the government to plan and put forward something people can actually trust. At the end of the day, small businesses, entrepreneurs and larger businesses will make investments based on their confidence in the economy, and in earning a return on the people they hire to manufacture new goods and provide new services to Canadians.
To me, that is an indictment. That is saying they do not trust the government. They do not trust the fall economic statement. They do not trust the numbers. They do not trust the plans. They have no trust in the future, so they are not going to invest large sums.
I am going to mention something the member for Abbotsford mentioned before, because I think he was exactly on point. On February 16, 2021, our leader received a letter from the finance minister, claiming that we were somehow delaying the passage of Bill C-14. I have looked at the Business of the House during this week, and the bill was up for debate once this week. Once.
The government sets the agenda. The government can decide which bills are being debated. If Bill C-14 is a priority, then the members of the Chamber should be given the chance to debate the merits of the bill, present the facts, look at the numbers and provide input from our constituents, instead of claiming that we are delaying something.
We have already seen this during the pandemic. We were pretty reasonable. Our leader has said that we were aggressively reasonable. When it was required, we made sure that the government got emergency legislation passed so that programs could be set up to help Canadians, every single time. We even met on Easter Saturday to pass a bill. We let Bill C-20 pass, despite the fact that we had a lot of questions about how the different reporting periods were going to work. We passed it in July 2020. Then, after the fact, we had to go back and fix the mistakes, or the government would have had to find regulatory means to fix various mistakes in the legislation.
Now we are being told, again, to rush things. Perhaps a member of the government caucus will stand and say that we voted for all the programs, and because we voted for them then we should keep voting for them now. We agreed to set up programs. If the government takes away Canadians' ability to earn a living, the government owes them compensation. It is a regulatory taking. It is a national health emergency, so we should take it seriously. I agree with those ideas and those concepts.
It is important to pass meaningful legislation that would help people who need it. However, the government is claiming that we are somehow delaying it because we simply want to do the role of the opposition, which is to review the bill correctly and provide the voice of our constituents. People are frustrated at home. They have been stuck at home now for almost a year, in many cases. Depending on which province people live in, the restrictions have been deeper and more broad than in other provinces. People are frustrated because they want to see an out. They want to know what the plan is, and what normal will look like once the pandemic is over. It is a legitimate question.
Many members on my side have also pointed out that the unemployment numbers today are higher than at any point, going all the way back to the fiscal fourth quarter of 2015. That is how bad things have become. We are behind G7 countries. We are behind many of the G20 countries, our main competitors for new markets and our main competitors for manufacturing, factory building and services. We are behind.
When it comes down to the issue of trust, a lot of people in my constituency who are energy workers, oil and gas workers, have skill sets that could be used by the marketplace, but they just cannot find employment. I have been going around to businesses in my riding, big and small, to find out what the federal government could do to support them and come alongside them. The business owners do not want subsidies. They just want to be able to earn a living again by providing a service or product that other people want.
Last, on the claim that we are somehow delaying this unnecessarily, we are simply doing due diligence. This is an incredibly important fall economic statement that updates the numbers ahead of the budget that will come down. It is incredibly important, because how we get out of this pandemic will determine whether millions of Canadians will have opportunities to find jobs or not.
The question is, do Canadians trust the Liberal government? I do not.