Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to virtually rise on behalf of the great people of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, who I am very proud to represent in this chamber. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Edmonton Centre, who will, without a doubt, have an even better intervention than my own.
When I first heard the finance minister's speech yesterday and had a chance to go through this budget, I thought I was having a déjà vu moment. The finance minister told us we must build, “a more resilient Canada: better, more fair, more prosperous and more innovative”. I thought to myself, well, wait a minute. Who has been governing this country for the past five years to have made Canada so unresilient, so unfair, so unprosperous and so lacking in innovation? That would be the Liberal government.
After all, this is the Liberal government that announced nearly $1 billion in budget 2017 for superclusters. Do members remember when that was the in buzzword of the 2017 budget? It mentioned jobs, jobs and jobs, and innovation of course, which is what the Liberals promised us all at the time.
The Liberals told us that spending, or pardon me, I meant investing, was supposed to create 50,000 jobs and boost the country's gross domestic product by $50 billion over a decade. In the end, we now know that the PBO found that the Liberal government could only account for roughly 14 jobs for every $1 million of combined federal and private funding. The minister responsible is now gone, and superclusters is a buzzword that is no longer in the current budget. In other words, it was a failure.
Do members remember the promises for the Infrastructure Bank? The Liberal government told us that if we just kick in $35 billion, by the way drawn from money supposed to go to municipalities, we will attract private sector dollars at a ratio of $4 to $5 in private funding for every $1 in federal money. How did that go? It was a massive failure, like so many other Liberal-created budget buzzword programs.
In 2016, the former finance minister Bill Morneau stood before this place and delivered a budget where he promised, “Our plan is reasonable and affordable. By the end of our first mandate, Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio will be lower than it is today.” That term ended long before this pandemic came along, and the Liberal government was not even close to honouring that commitment that it made to Canadians.
Flash forward to the budget today and there is no longer any real fiscal anchor. Instead, we were told that because of today's environment of low interest rates, we can afford this spending. I am going to pause here for a moment to reflect a bit.
Canada has long struggled in dealing with our housing markets. Jim Flaherty as finance minister wrestled with it. We had tightening mortgage rules, which is something the current government specifically did in its first mandate, and increasing the stress test on mortgages. Of course, we all witnessed what occurred in the United States. When people lost their jobs, when their local housing market crashed or when interest rates rose, many homeowners could no longer afford their mortgage payments and went into default, deepening the challenges.
Here, in Canada, we say that someone needs to qualify for their mortgage at a higher rate of interest to ensure they can still make their mortgage payments when interest rates inevitably rise. The current and previous governments said at the time it was because of a larger, bigger interest. Many opposed it. Most said they would agree that it is prudent for a government to hedge against large or systemic risks. However, in the Liberal budget, we see no evidence of a prudent fiscal approach, hedge or otherwise.
The Parliamentary Budget Office has warned us repeatedly that this ongoing level of spending is just not sustainable. The PBO has warned us that we are eliminating our capacity to respond to a future crisis. Does any member of this place doubt what the PBO is saying? Sure, interest rates are low right now, but where is the plan to deal with the rise in interest rates? There is not one. Is it a realistic expectation to build an economy on borrowed government spending? The PBO has warned us, yet the Liberal government ignores that advice.
The reason I have raised programs from the previous iterations of the government, such as superclusters and the Infrastructure Bank, is not just to point out its record of failure, very expensive failures I might add, but to point out that when these programs fail, government does not take the time to audit these programs and determine why they failed. Instead of learning from failure, the government would rather quietly move onto the next buzzwords and announce a program.
The latest is $10-a-day day care, which is a program, I will point out, that the Liberals criticized heavily during the 2015 election campaign of Mr. Mulcair. The problem I see is that to make this happen, we need a serious and credible plan. One of the biggest challenges in child care right now, aside from the cost, is a critical shortage of early childhood educators, or ECEs. Without a serious plan to increase the number of ECEs, it is hard to see this day care announcement achieving what it is purportedly set out to achieve.
Likewise, there is the challenge we face in seniors' care homes. Once again, we have a critical shortage of care aids. It is easy to throw money at the problem, as this budget proposes to do, but we need a serious plan for more long-term care aids. In my home community of Summerland, we have many issues with our local seniors' care home. Fortunately none are related to COVID, but many of the challenges come back to the inability to hire staff. This, of course, brings up another critically important subject, and that is health care.
Health care is the most cherished, but also currently the most stressed, Canadian program. We only need to look at the challenges created by the new burdens because of the pandemic. I do not believe that anyone doubts the cost pressures on health care before COVID or especially now.
Strangely, the Liberal government is ignoring the serious need to increase health care transfer payments. Why? While I believe we all understand the need for affordable child care, how can this budget be totally silent on health care? It is completely irresponsible.
When I first got into political life, a person wiser than me told me that politicians should always remember this in this order: needs first, wants second. She would say, “Whatever you do, Dan, do not put all your eggs in one basket.” This relates to my next point.
When we consider the very first thing this Prime Minister did in response to COVID, for reasons none of us will likely ever understand, was to start making a deal with China-based CanSino for vaccines. When that deal failed, the PM hid the fact from Canadians for two months. Guess what? We are now two months behind many other countries. We have spent the most money, and this budget confirms that.
Obviously, because of the vaccine delays, we have been forced into this situation in many areas, but make no mistake, those delays are costing Canadians dearly. What happened to better being always possible? How did that become waiting for one shot, hopefully by September? We need better, and it is possible.
On a different note, I could not help but notice in this budget that the Liberal government announced billions for a home retrofit program with many more details to come. That sounds familiar. They did the same with a similar program last fall, and told people that it would available for homeowners by December 2020. Well, last night I checked the website, and that program is still not available. Canadians are being told to check back in the coming weeks. That message has been up there for months.
It is a bit rich to announce a new home retrofit program when we have not been able to successfully launch the last one. Maybe this will become an annual tradition, and every year the minister will announce a new home retrofit program, but never actually implement one. I would suggest that the minister make sure that the program that was supposed to open last year is available before launching a new one. This is not unlike the Liberals promise to plant two billion trees. How did that go? We all know where that one went.
Before I close, I would like to leave members in the House with a thought, courtesy of the former finance minister in his first-ever budget speech in 2016. In that speech, former finance minister Bill Morneau stated, “It is no surprise that many Canadians feel they are worse off than their parents were at the same age, and that they feel the next generation will do even worse than their own.”
I will ask members this simple question: When the next generation is left to pay for the bills that this Liberal government has left behind for them, how do members think they are going to feel? For their sake, let us all hope that interest rates stay low. This budget is not a plan for their future, it is a budget to help the political future of this Prime Minister.