Mr. Speaker, I want to start my speech with a single line: Mr. Speaker, I told you so.
I mean no disrespect, but about a month ago, in mid-April, I said that I would not be surprised if Bill C-14 would not go through the other place by the time we got our hands on this 2021-22 budget. Obviously, I was right. To make it even better, Bill C-14 has not been returned to us and it has been a month since I made that prediction. However, I am not here to speak to Bill C-14.
I am here to speak to another bill. It would spend a lot of money. It would massively increase our national debt and it would not do a whole lot to help Canadians. I am going to be speaking to Bill C-30 because, like I said, this budget would spend a lot of money: $154.7 billion. Even if Bill Gates were to liquidate his entire net worth, that still would not be enough to cover the bill for this. I want to talk about all of this money.
If my colleagues here would think back to last year, when this finance minister started her current portfolio, she was very eager to bring Canada's fiscal firepower to bear if September's throne speech is to be believed. However, there is a bit of a problem with that. This is not Hollywood. We can run out of ammo. Our barrels can overheat. We need some way to not burn through all this firepower too fast or, in other terms, we need some sort of fiscal anchor.
Why do we need a fiscal anchor? Fiscal anchors serve as notional ceilings or caps to the levels of public spending, deficits and debt that governments are prepared to reach in their fiscal policy. They serve many purposes: one, retaining the confidence of lenders and global markets, like credit access and favourable rates; two, establishing a positive investment climate for businesses; and, three, providing a measure of fiscal discipline inside government. If the finance minister does not have one, it becomes very difficult for her to put any sort of constraints on her colleagues in cabinet and caucus, and ensure that the government has the ability to respond to future economic shocks and unforeseen crises.
Before COVID-19, the current government's fiscal anchor was to decrease the debt-to-GDP ratio. That anchor has disappeared. Now the budget has one, a vague, pretty useless one. Great, they are committed to reducing the debt, but the fiscal anchor is supposed to be a prudent, specific debt target, not “we will lower it over the medium term”. Fiscal anchors need to be a target that people can use to hold the government to account with no vague statements.
It is clear that this budget does not have a fiscal anchor. It is clear that this is just written in there to hide the Liberals' lack of future planning. What kinds of fiscal anchors could the government have used? I am not talking about that vague, literally, one line that is in the budget.
The first one is the debt-to-GDP ratio. This is what the Liberals would clearly claim they have got right now, but, again, they need targets and accountability, not vague statements and no accountability. A good example would be keeping the debt-to-GDP ratio under 30%. Any of my colleagues here may remember that as Bill Morneau's favourite target. The so-called anchor in the budget says it wants to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio, but it does not provide a goal or a target. Therefore, when debt to GDP is at nearly 50%, a reduction is pretty easy to do, but whether the reduction is effective is another matter.
Another anchor the government could be using is something like the deficit-to-GDP ratio. Again, they have a one-off section about this one, simply saying that the government will reduce COVID spending. Great, but what about other spending? This budget introduces a lot of spending, permanent spending, including stuff like made-in-Ottawa child care programs and made-in-Ottawa pharmacare. This is a lot of new permanent program spending, and these are just small drops in the bucket.
The PBO found that the purported growth spending in the budget would only produce a fraction of the government growth that the government said it would. Therefore, the PBO found that with 1% growth on 74,000 jobs, $100 billion would result in over $1 million per job.
If keeping the deficit-to-GDP ratio down is one of this budget’s fiscal anchors, why would the government spend so much money frivolously? In all honesty, had I asked that in question period, I would have received the government's famous non-answer, which is disappointing.
Since we both know that it will not answer, I will tell the House what the real reason is that the federal government wants to spend this avalanche of cash. It is an election budget. That is why there is a lot of growth funding that would not cause growth. There are no productivity measures, and there is nothing to address Canada’s uncompetitive regulatory regime. It is just a lot of money for programs that look good in a nice, red-covered election platform with a big L on the front of it.
What really, deeply worries me is that the government does not seem to care about what all of this purposeless spending will cause. It is not just from this budget, but all of the previous ones too. The government has spent more than all previous prime ministers in the history of Canada combined. At this point, the government is spending so much that our grandkids, if not our great-grandkids, will still be paying it off. It is like taking out a credit card in their names, maxing it out, and leaving it for them to deal with.
As with actual credit cards, the interest rate is critical to this. I know that the minister would say, “Oh, it’s fine, the interest rate is low so we can borrow easily,” a quote from the minister, but again, our national debt is like a credit card. If there is even a one-percentage-point jump in the interest rate, that is another $10 billion per year in debt-servicing costs. Just like with credit cards, the interest can go up if we do not pay down our debts.
What if another massive crisis comes up, and we end up spending another few hundred billion dollars? Our creditors might start wanting us to pay the money back, and it will be tougher for that future government if it needs to borrow money during that crisis.
We also have to consider inflation. What if inflation goes up in the future? Right now, the Bank of Canada has the inflation rate at 2.2%. I know they like it around 2%, but what if the inflation rate keeps increasing? If we keep injecting all this money into the economy, it could cause inflation to spike.
Consider if inflation rose to 5%. Everything would cost more, which is a normal practice, and the value of our currency would drop by 5% year after year. That might not sound like much, but it would add up if it went on like that for a decade.
I am sure all of us who are old enough to remember the 80s and 90s will remember that it was not pretty stuff. Most of us are only a decade or so out from retirement and we will all get good pensions, but not all Canadians will.
My kids are in their early twenties, and I know a lot of our colleagues have kids who are younger than that. Do we really want to leave this fiscal mess in their laps, or in our grandchildren's laps? I know that I do not.
Our legacy should be having rebuilt Canada with a strong, competitive economy that will be there for decades to come, not spending our money for no purpose other than to help the government win an election. We need to spend within our means, not outside of our means, our kids' means and our grandkids' means.