Mr. Speaker, Canadians have waited a long time for the budget. The last one was tabled in March 2019. The absence of a budget in 2020 is a little bizarre, but here we are with budget 2021.
Having a well-planned budget in this pandemic environment is critical because it is like a compass that can help us find our way out of the wilderness. Canadians are distressed by the pandemic. They want a sense of assurance that the government has a plan to help us move forward toward recovery. Families have tragically lost their parents and grandparents to COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes. Social isolation has exacerbated domestic violence and challenged women from being able to reach out for help or leave their abusive partners. Businesses have been crushed. Entire sectors are hanging by a thread. Addictions and suicides have escalated. COVID-19 has stubbornly held our lives, institutions and finances hostage for long enough. The trauma that Canadians have been facing throughout the pandemic has been daunting, and Canadians need hope.
Our country needs a budget that mirrors a plan for recovery, job creation and long-term growth. Canadians are waiting for a practical plan. Unfortunately, budget 2021 seems like a déjà vu of the original COVID-19 emergency benefits that required many hands from opposition parties to fix so that more than just a select number of people would qualify for the announced supports.
While the budget appears benevolent in its parts, as a whole, when examined, it lacks foresight and at times transparency and clarity. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's May 5 report, a good portion of the recovery-plan spending will not actually be used to stimulate the economy, but is presented as such. Furthermore, the government's projections on growth are inflated. About $24.7 billion in spending from the fall economic statement was already in the economy and accounted for in the figures present when the budget was being written, and much of the $101.4 billion in spending proposed by the budget was already accounted for in the private sector growth projections. It would appear the Liberal government wanted to overstate its generosity.
Furthermore, the increase in jobs, according to the PBO, would grow from 39,000 to 74,000 to 94,000 jobs from 2021 to 2024, while according to budget 2021, the employment growth from the recovery plan would evolve from 315,000 to 334,000 to 280,000 jobs in that period. The PBO report captures this discrepancy in the statement, “Finance Canada’s impact assessment of the Recovery Plan overstates the economic impact of stimulus spending in Budget 2021.”
When it comes to balancing the budget, we experienced yet another déjà vu. The PBO states:
...the Government has decided to effectively stabilize the federal debt ratio at a higher level, potentially exhausting its fiscal room over the medium- and long-term. This means that any substantial new permanent spending would either lead to a higher debt-to-GDP ratio or have to be financed through higher revenues and/or spending reductions in other areas.
Therefore, the next time we have a crisis, who or what are we going to sacrifice? We will have very little reserve to work with.
He also says, “Long-term projections presented in the budget also show the federal debt ratio remaining above its pre-pandemic level through 2055.” In other words, the government does not plan on returning our deficits to at least the pre-pandemic levels.
The Liberal government has left no fiscal room to make future investments and it has no intention to get out of debt. Prolonged deficit spending will bring an inflation hike. We are experiencing this already, with increases in the prices of groceries, lumber, housing and gas. What kind of future does this leave for our country, for our children? Budget 2021 needs a reality check into the future.
The unprecedented needs during the pandemic called for spending from the government to sustain individuals, families and businesses in a temporary time of crisis. The pandemic is a temporary crisis. We are still going through it, but it is supposed to be temporary. We do not need to make it permanent with poor planning or no planning. The deficit will not replenish itself.
As parliamentarians, we need to listen, analyze, process and respond to the needs of Canadians with the foresight of visionaries, the thoughtfulness of problem solvers and the focus and integrity of conscientious leaders who have a plan and purpose greater than ourselves. This is what our constituents expect of us and deserve. However, this budget instead looks like a patchwork of short-sighted, reactionary, electorally driven promises that will leave our country with a larger debt, more deficits and more government interference. Again, the budget strangely feels like déjà vu.
Happily for the Liberals, they have gotten away with the way they have been operating for a long time. However, tragically for Canadians, the government's short-sighted haphazard leadership, which is also reflected in this budget, has delayed our country's path to recovery and has allowed greater plight for businesses and the mental health of Canadians.
Vaccinations were a key part to a swifter path toward recovery, but poor decisions on vaccinations delayed that and caused the third wave of lockdowns. In the business world, this has translated to more losses and fewer reserves to bounce back. Each wave and each lockdown tests the patience of reasonable Canadians, who have been faithfully following COVID-19 regulations for the safety of all.
The CanSino deal between the Liberal government and the Chinese company was blocked by China's communist regime and ended Canada's would-be first procurement of vaccines. This process occurred from May to July last year, when insolvency of businesses was climbing to a peak, and Canadians were gripped with shock and fear. At our most vulnerable stage of crisis, the Prime Minister gambled the health and well-being of our nation on working with a communist regime. I would be curious to know from the Prime Minister's why pursuing this risk took precedence over the lives of Canadians.
Given the Liberals' bad track record when it comes to timely procurement, does the budget reflect a realistic vaccination recovery timeline? Given the extension of the ideal three-week gap between doses that Canadians will receive, the possibility of having to mix vaccines for first-time AstraZeneca recipients and the yet-to-be-confirmed date for the next delivery of Moderna vaccines for second doses, how will the government's abysmal rollout of vaccines impact the effectiveness of the budget?
Our future is uncertain because the government is unpredictable and follows its own convenient electoral clock. How will any efficacy issues outside the government's anticipated success of the vaccinations impact the effectiveness of the budget? Our future is uncertain because the government is unpredictable and follows its own convenient clock.
I would like to speak now on one of the hardest-hit sectors, travel and tourism, which was the first to shut down and will likely require the longest time to reboot. British Columbia's tourism revenue in 2019 was $22.3 billion. The tourism sector provided 149,900 jobs in B.C. The hotels in my riding are dependent on the overflow of the success of tourism in Vancouver at large. Their revenue continues to be tested.
A group of Korean business owners in downtown Vancouver who are also dependent on the tourism sector for their livelihoods reached out to my office to express their struggle. They are primarily owners of small restaurants and convenience stores that are dependent on tourist seasons. They have suffered due to low foot traffic of tourists from international flights and cruise ships.
Because of high commercial rental prices in the downtown corridor, they have been unable to hire employees and are run instead by husband and wife owners. They also have relatively low non-deferrable business expenses that do not meet the $40,000 minimum, therefore they do not qualified for CEBA. They continue to struggle without support. Their recovery will be dependent on the recovery of the travel and tourism sector, which will probably be the last industry to recover.
Where is the support for these small ma-and-pa shops? Will they continue to be left behind? How is the government going to ensure these business owners will make it through?
The President of the United States has told American cruise ships to skip docking in Vancouver because the Prime Minister continues to show no sign of reasonable and safe reopening. The independent travel advisers in Port Moody—Coquitlam and across Canada are concerned and feel left out. They have continued working through cancellations without pay and with clawed back commissions, which are now just starting to get sorted out. Simultaneously, if they were to start booking clients, they would not see commissions for a long time.
Most of them are women, and they are only eligible for CRB. As the travel industry does not anticipate most people will make travel plans until 2022-2023, even though the travel restrictions will be lifted, and their income will be hurt greatly. They need sector-specific help that will support them until the travel and tourism industry operates again. All of this is dependent on the efficacy of vaccinations and safe reopening.
Business owners generally do not want to depend on government assistance in the long term. They want to succeed on the merit of their entrepreneurial excellence and hard work. What they really want to see is for the government to implement a plan to safely reopen. This will let them prosper, and it will create jobs.
They cannot handle one more lockdown. Canadians are moving their businesses from our country to the U.S. because we are so behind in our reopening. A constituent in Port Moody has done just that.
Canadians are waiting for a plan to reopen. Where is it? They are depending on us to give them hope and a pathway to a sustainable future. I hope we will find a way to do just that.