House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was food.

Topics

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, to the New Democrat who asked if they have some of those, yes, there are some NDP entrepreneurs out there. All were given contracts, because there is a process in place.

The Conservatives name an organization, and then they put the word “scandal” behind it. That assumes it is an official scandal if all they have to do is to put the word “scandal” behind it. The most natural scandal is the word “Conservative” followed by the word “scandal”. Having said that, they cite the WE charity as if to say, wow, this is it. This is the gold mine of all scandals. However, WE has contracts with the Manitoba government, a Conservative government. It is hard to believe. WE has contracts with the Saskatchewan government, another Conservative government.

The bottom line is that when we needed to be able to work with industries, entrepreneurs and Canadians in general, there was a need and a process. To identify a Liberal entrepreneur and say that it is corrupt because a Liberal entrepreneur won a contract does a disservice to all of us. That is really a sad aspect of this. At the end of the day, Canadians expected the government to work at delivering, and that is what we did.

We worked with other levels of government and the many different stakeholders I made mention of, and it helped. Around nine million Canadians received CERB, even though we are now being criticized for providing that program for the many people who received those benefits. At the time, we were criticized when we were not moving fast enough, and we were told we should be more generous. Tens of thousands of jobs were saved because of the wage subsidy program.

We can talk about the ArriveCAN app. It is being suggested that the Auditor General look into it. That seems to be supported by the New Democrats, the Bloc and the Conservatives today. It is being looked at in the standing committee. CBSA is also doing a full review of the issue. The government is not running or hiding from anything here, but the Conservatives want to attach the word “scandal” to it and attach numbers without giving any details. That is what they want to debate.

They want to give the false impression that there is scandal after scandal. I was here when Stephen Harper was prime minister. If we want to talk about scandals, there was the riding of Muskoka and the minister, Mr. Clement, or we could look at the Senate issue. However, it is not about scandals. I would suggest it is about providing the supports that were absolutely necessary at the time to protect Canadians. That is what the ministers were charged to do. ArriveCAN was a part of that.

I suspect that over the days, weeks and months ahead, we will continue to look at the manner in which public dollars were being spent. There needs to be a sense of accountability. We do not need to be reminded of that. After all, I remember when the Prime Minister first became the leader of the Liberal Party. One of the first actions we did was to call for proactive disclosure from MPs on how they were spending money. We requested unanimous leave in order to enact it, and the Conservatives said no to that.

We are not trying to hide anything. We, like all members, would like to show that the tax dollar, which is very important to all of us, is being appropriately spent. We have systems in place to ensure there is a high level of accountability.

The leader of the Conservative Party, in his speech, emphasized the issue of inflation. It is truly amazing how the Conservatives seem to be completely out of touch with what is happening around the world. They seem to think Canada needs to do more. I am concerned about the price of groceries and the price of widgets at our local stores. That concerns me, as it concerns all Liberal members of Parliament.

That is why we are bringing forward things like Bill C-31, the dental plan and rental plan. It was to support Canadians. The Conservatives voted against that. They talk about inflation and doing things, but when it comes to standing up for Canadians, they stand up to say no.

There are things we can do, and we should not settle, even though Canada's inflation rate is lower than that in the U.S., England or most of the European countries. We can still do more on the issue, and we will continue to look at ways to make things easier for Canadians.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, here is how standards have fallen under the Liberal government.

Back when the Conservatives were in office, the chamber was seized with a glass of orange juice purchased in London that cost $16. Today, it is a hotel bill that cost $6,000, and the government will not even come clean about who stayed there. We know it was the Prime Minister, but that is how the government has lost its way. It will not even be honest with Canadians.

My question for the member is straightforward. If the contractors identified by the government were never paid, and this $1.2 million is one example but I am sure there are others, what companies had access to this data through the contracts they received? If the Liberals do not want to make it about money, let us talk about privacy. Which companies have access to the private information of Canadians through these contracts that the government is not willing to reveal to Canadians?

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I guess I have more faith in the procurement process and our public servants, which the Conservatives do not have. It is one of the things with which we should all be somewhat concerned. We saw that with respect to the independent offices.

In regard to the shots that the Conservatives continue to use, and they cited the issue of London earlier today, I asked a very simple question of one of the member's Conservative colleagues about why Stephen Harper spent $1 million to fly a car from Canada to India so he had something to drive in. Why $1 million to fly a car to India? The member opposite would have been here and would have been very much aware of this issue.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

René Villemure Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Winnipeg North for his passionate speech.

If the Bloc feels that the awarding process is flawed, it may be because things are not clear or because that is a habit with the Liberals. In this case, we should not confuse slander, which is an untrue accusation, and the truth.

My question for the member for Winnipeg North is this: How can he defend the indefensible?

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I can easily explain that we have in place a procedure through Procurement Canada and that things are put in place to protect the public interest when it comes to spending public dollars. I have faith in that. It does not mean it is an absolute total blind faith. I do believe there is a need for accountability. That is one of the reasons why I am a strong advocate for our standing committees. I think standing committees have a very important role. In fact, the very issue we are debating today is before the OGGO standing committee.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I used to sit on the Forest Appeals Commission in British Columbia. At appeal hearings, we would hear forest companies blame their contractors for some misdemeanour and the contractors would blame their subcontractors, and the subcontractors would blame their sub-subcontractors.

I wonder if the member could comment on the practice of hiring teams to assemble teams to assemble teams that not only balloons the cost of a project like the ArriveCAN app but shields it from any sort of transparency.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, for me, it is all about how we best get the job done that needs to be done.

When we think of the ArriveCAN application, we have to put it in the context of the pandemic, the concerns that Canadians coast to coast to coast had, and what was available at the time with respect to going through the process. Very sensitive data is being collected. I would imagine that if any of that data had been released, some howling would have taken place. We had to take the necessary precautionary measures and have faith in the system. That does not mean it is perfect.

CBSA is doing a review. OGGO is looking into it. We will get to the bottom of what has taken place. I am confident of that.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Hochelaga Québec

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (Housing)

Madam Speaker, it is my turn to rise today and to reiterate several things that have already been heard in the House but are still worth repeating.

Our government understands that many Canadians are struggling with the rising cost of living and continue to face higher prices when they go to the grocery store or pay their rent. For many families, it is increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

Inflation is a global phenomenon and a lingering result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and by disruptions in supply chains. This phenomenon affects people and businesses around the world. Although Canada’s inflation rate is less severe at 6.9% than that of many of our peers, such the United States, where inflation is now at 8.2%, the United Kingdom, at 10%, and Germany, at 10%, we know that many Canadians are struggling and that we are not out of the woods yet.

Many Canadians will continue facing tough times. Our friends, our families and the people around us will continue to struggle to pay the bills at the end of the month. Every day, we see the cost of groceries rise dramatically. Our economy will slow down, as will economies around the world, while central banks act to fight inflation. There will be people whose mortgage payments will increase, companies or entrepreneurs whose businesses will not do as well as they have since the end of the lockdown. It is quite likely that our unemployment rate will no longer be at its lowest level.

Canadians are worried, and that is why we are moving ahead with measures to support those who need it the most, when they need it the most. Our plan is to make life more affordable, with measures totalling $12.1 billion to help Canadians make ends meet and provide for their families.

Our plan includes an enhanced Canada workers benefit, which will put up to $2,400 more in the pockets of low-income families; an average reduction of 50% in child care costs by the end of the year; a 10% increase to old age security for people 75 or older, which has already been in place for four months; dental care for Canadians with a family income under $90,000 per year, starting with children under the age of 12; an additional one-time payment of $500, coming this year, to help tenants who have trouble paying the cost of housing; doubling the GST credit for six months, which will give additional targeted help to about 11 million individuals and families. Of course, we cannot forget our main support programs, including the Canada child benefit and the GST credit, which will be increasing, as they are already indexed to inflation.

The measures we are putting forward in our affordability plan do not add fuel to the inflation fire. They simply provide targeted and fiscally responsible help to those who need it the most.

Unfortunately, we obviously cannot support every Canadian as we did during COVID-19. We implemented exceptional emergency measures that ensured the safety and solvency of people at the height of the pandemic. We cannot fully compensate every Canadian for the inflation they are now facing, inflation that is, again, fuelled by the global pandemic and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Canadians fully understand that doing so would only aggravate and prolong inflation, and that is clearly not what we want. That would also force the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates even higher.

While we are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and we support those who are hardest hit by inflation, we continue to pursue a tight fiscal policy. Indeed, this year, the International Monetary fund, the IMF, expects Canada to have the lowest deficit, as well as the lowest net-debt burden, of all governments among G7 countries as a percentage of GDP. This is a track that our country is forecasted to maintain over the coming years.

While many Canadian families have to tighten their belts and make difficult decisions because of inflation, our government is doing the same thing to ensure we do not make the situation worse. We are acting responsibly.

Our government believes that everyone should have a safe, decent and affordable place to live.

That goal was seen as a given for generations, but it is increasingly unattainable for many Canadians. Rents continue to rise across the country, pushing people further and further away from the places where they work and live. There has even been an increase in both visible and invisible homelessness.

That is why Bill C-31 proposes a one-time top-up to the Canada housing benefit that would consist of a tax-free payment of $500 to provide direct support to low-income renters.

That payment would provide direct help to the people most exposed to inflation and those experiencing housing affordability challenges. It is estimated that 1.8 million low-income renters, including students who are struggling with the cost of housing, would be eligible for this new support.

This one-time top-up is part of a broader suite of initiatives introduced in budget 2022, which will invest over $9 billion to make housing more affordable, including by addressing supply shortages, one of the main factors making housing more expensive.

With many families grappling with the rising cost of living, our government understands that it can be hard for them to pay for the dental care they need. Unfortunately, a third of Canadians currently do not have dental insurance, and the 2018 Canadian Community Health Survey suggested that Canadians without insurance were about three times as likely as those with insurance to avoid seeing a dental professional because of cost.

That is why, with Bill C‑31, which is moving through the legislative process, we are proposing to help uninsured families with children under the age of 12 get the dental care they need.

The Canada dental benefit would provide parents with children under the age of 12 who do not have access to dental insurance with direct payments of up to $650 per year, for a total of $1,300 per child over the next two years for dental care beginning this year. It is estimated that 500,000 Canadian children would benefit from this targeted investment of $938 million.

Our government knows that these are tough times for everyone, for all Canadians and all Quebeckers. That is why we are implementing our plan to make life affordable for the most vulnerable.

On Thursday, our colleague, the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, will be presenting the fall economic statement, which will outline our government's plan to continue building an economy that works for everyone.

Canadians can count on us to continue managing our finances responsibly, while supporting those who need it the most, when they need it the most.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

She spoke about Bill C-31 and the housing assistance set out in that bill. Unfortunately, there is a severe housing crisis going on. A few weeks ago, I spoke with an economist from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. He told me that in Quebec alone, 600,000 new units would need to be built over the next 10 years to deal with the crisis.

Bill C‑31 does not provide for the construction of a single unit. This year, $500 is being sent out, but more money will need to be sent out next year. In addition, 85,000 Quebeckers who live in social housing are being left out. That is a fundamental issue.

Does my colleague not think that Bill C‑31 could have built units to address the shortage, instead of sending out one-time cheques this year?

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada Liberal Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

Like me, he knows that we invested an additional $14 billion in housing in the last budget. We reinvested to extend the rapid housing initiative for a third round. If there is one place that has benefited from the rapid housing initiative in many ways, it is Quebec.

The benefit will support people in need. Fortunately, in Quebec, a lot of people are already in subsidized housing. Part of what allows those units to be subsidized is federal funding, and my colleague knows that very well.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tako Van Popta Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague talked about housing affordability. My riding, which is part of metro Vancouver, has a real housing affordability crisis. I was talking to a young family that had just been told its mortgage payments were going up $700 a month, which makes the government's $500 rental assistance plan really pale in significance.

I wonder if the member could comment on the government understanding the fundamentals of an economy that drives inflation and interest rates? That is the real solution.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada Liberal Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to remind my colleague that his party voted against the measures in the budget, including measures that sought to help families in need with respect to housing.

I would also like to note that we are committed to banning foreign investment, imposing a 1% tax on non-Canadian property owners to curb market speculation and, of course, working on programs that I hope will help most Canadians buy their first home from coast to coast to coast.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, Canadians are worried about privatization, whether that is in the public health care system, which is being privatized now, or when it comes to public services like the ones we are talking about today with the ArriveCAN app.

The Globe and Mail reported in January that the federal government spent $11.8 billion in the 2021 fiscal year on outsourcing contracts, which is a 41.8% increase since the 2015-16 fiscal year. Additionally, The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada filed over 2,500 grievances where work was outsourced rather than assigned to the existing expertise in the public service. The question Canadians have is, why?

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada Liberal Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I would remind my colleague that, during the pandemic, eight dollars out of every $10 invested to support health care across the country came from the federal government. We made sure to provide the best support possible during the pandemic, from coast to coast to coast.

As for the awarding of contracts and how the public service works, I would like to reiterate what my colleague said earlier: We have faith in our process, our public servants and our departmental employees. Unlike other members of the House, we also believe in the independence of public servants. I hope my colleague believes in that too.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Calgary Midnapore.

I am very pleased to participate in this debate, which centres on one of the main reasons I got involved in politics 14 years ago today, first at the provincial level and then at the federal level. That reason is the sound management of public funds.

Not a single dollar that the government has in its hands has fallen from the sky. Someone has gone to work, produced something and saved that money, and the government has gone and taken that money through taxes so it could manage it responsibly. In this case, however, its management was anything but responsible.

I will get right to the point. We are talking about the infamous ArriveCAN affair, which started out as a typical tale of a government wanting to bring people into its country. People coming to Canada have to pass a test to ensure that there are no issues. That makes sense.

However, the leadership of this Liberal government—which spends lavishly and has never, in the last seven years, shown the slightest interest in reining in its spending, yet boasts about its lofty principles while generating huge debts and deficits that our children, our grandchildren and our unborn great-grandchildren will have to repay—has given rise to the financial disaster that is ArriveCAN.

Let us review the facts. About a year ago, the government began this process to allow people to come to Canada and fill out the questionnaire.

I do not want to get into my life story, but my brother is an engineer and a Canadian citizen, and he now lives in Portugal with his family. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, he had to come to Canada last spring. My brother is an engineer. As a student, he was among the first computer programmers at Laval. The point is, he is pretty comfortable with computer stuff. When he got off the plane, one of the first things we talked about, after personal and family matters, was ArriveCAN. He asked me what was up with that. He said it took forever to fill out, it was complicated, it did not work, there were lots of pages and so on. If my brother, who is an engineer, who studied engineering and knows a lot about this stuff, had problems, let us imagine what it was like for average citizens who were not used to doing that kind of thing but, all of a sudden, had to.

It was fundamentally poorly designed, but when we look at how it was managed, that was even worse. The Canadian government spent $54 million of taxpayers' money, which Canadians saved and set aside, for which they worked and for which companies worked by producing products. The government collects taxes in order to run things properly, but that has definitely not been the case here. This app has been a fiasco from day one, considering that it almost never worked. It was not at all user friendly for people who had to enter their information. It was a fiasco because more than 10,000 people had to quarantine because of it. Worst of all, however, was the financial mismanagement, because it cost $54 million.

As we have heard, a programming expert said he could have made it in his basement over a weekend or a Saturday night for about $250,000. The Liberal Canadian government spent $54 million on this. That is why our motion today states:

...it is more important than ever for the government to respect taxpayer dollars and eliminate wasteful spending...

No one can be against that. Our motion goes on to demand that:

...the House call on the Auditor General of Canada [a neutral and objective entity] to conduct a performance audit, including the payments, contracts and sub-contracts for all aspects of the ArriveCAN app, and to prioritize this investigation.

How can anyone be against transparency? How could anyone even think of voting against this motion, which asks the Auditor General to do her job with respect to a matter that has affected hundreds of thousands of Canadian families?

Many people did not want to travel because of this. Some 10,000 people ended up in quarantine. More than $53 million seems to have been poorly invested, because someone could have done the job for $250,000 rather than $54 million. That is our job here in the House of Commons.

All 338 of us, regardless of political stripe, were elected to see to the sound management of public funds, among other things.

This is a prime example of mismanagement of public funds. We have a golden opportunity to get to the bottom of this business and find out exactly why things did not go as planned, so we can avoid making similar mistakes in the future. That is why I do not see how anyone in the House could be against us doing our job and asking the Auditor General to do hers.

Government members are likely to be a bit embarrassed when we start analyzing their management of public funds, and rightly so. Let us not forget that, seven years ago, right after the election, this party, led by the member for Papineau and current Prime Minister, boasted that it would run very small deficits and a zero deficit in 2019 because it wanted to stimulate the economy. The result was anything but. It ran one large deficit after another, missing the target set by the former minister of finance three times. Then, it ended its first term with an accumulated debt of more than $100 billion.

The Liberal Party was elected on a promise of running small deficits and then eliminating the deficit entirely. That is not at all what happened. The government ran four deficits in a row. That was the Liberal government's record even before the pandemic and current economic problems caused concerns.

When the pandemic happened, we all realized that an emergency situation called for emergency measures, which was likely to bring about deficits. When we were in power in 2008, 2009 and 2010, our country, like every other country, grappled with the worst economic crisis since the great recession of 1929. Very reluctantly, our government ran deficits because we had no choice under the circumstances. However, starting in 2015, our government managed to balance the budget. Canada was the first G7 country to get back in the black thanks to sound management of public funds. That is what responsible government looks like.

They Liberal government ran massive deficits during a period of growth. When the pandemic happened, emergency measures were needed and money had to be spent. We knew that would result in deficits, but we did not know the deficits would be this big.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently concluded that $205 billion of the $500‑billion deficit had nothing to do with COVID-19. In other words, over 40% of the debt accumulated under the current government over the last seven years was in no way related to the pandemic. Those folks over there say that these were emergency measures and no one knew for sure what was going on, so it was important to be vigilant.

A few months into the pandemic, when there was a bit of a lull in the summer, I remember very clearly talking to people in my riding, as we probably all did, and when I spoke with entrepreneurs or business leaders, I was always asked why parliamentarians had decided to pay people to stay at home and do nothing. People commented on the fact that CERB, which served a purpose during the emergency, was paying people $2,000 to stay at home, even though activities had resumed in the summer and workers were needed. That was the sad reality. That was the reality, but it was also our responsibility to sound the alarm about it. The government was attacking us and calling us names, but that was the reality.

That is why we now know that the inflation that is hitting people rather hard all started with the current government's mismanagement.

I hear my friends across the way say that the entire planet is experiencing a period of inflation. That is true, of course, but let us not forget that the future leader of the Liberal Party, Mark Carney, said that it was mainly a national issue, and therefore a Canadian issue. The Minister of Finance finally opened her eyes and said that the government may need to tighten its belt a bit and cut down on spending.

I sincerely hope that this government will vote in favour of our motion so that Canadians can learn the truth behind the ArriveCAN financial fiasco.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the member would agree that one has to put things into proper perspective. When we talk about ArriveCAN, for example, it is in fact something that was absolutely necessary in order to protect the interests of Canadians and their health. When we look at the application, there is also more to it. We could talk about the data bank or the security aspect. Imagine the sensitive information that being put into it, today's cybersecurity and so forth.

Could the member provide his thoughts on the fact that it is not as simple as saying that it would only have cost a Conservative government $250,000 to do what has been done through the ArriveCAN app?

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, the best way to answer the question of the member for Winnipeg North question is to say that it is not me. The Auditor General will do her job; she is there for that. She is there to analyze each and every penny that the government spends.

On ArriveCAN, it is normal to have a system to evaluate the details of someone who is returning home, and we understand that, but why was it so difficult for everybody? My brother, who is an engineer, had difficulties with the app, like the hundreds of thousands of people who had to use it. The best person to answer that question is the Auditor General, and I am quite sure the member will support this motion.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague talked about sound management, reckless spending, financial disaster and the fiasco surrounding ArriveCAN and its $54‑million price tag. He is right.

However, there is another even greater fiasco that is part of what I would call the sacred cows of the Conservative Party. First, there is the monarchy, which represents $67 million a year. That said, the fiasco to end all fiascos is the support for the oil and gas sector, which represents roughly $8.5 billion a year. We know that ExxonMobil's profits have surged from $4.7 billion to $17.9 billion, or nearly $18 billion. Our Conservative colleagues are calling on the government to cancel the carbon tax and support the oil and gas sector.

I have a question for my colleague: Which one is the real fiasco?

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always nice to listen to my colleague.

However, I would like to remind him of the facts. In his riding, and everywhere else in Quebec, people still need traditional energy sources, the so-called fossil fuels. What is happening in Quebec right now? Well, over 45% of the oil we use comes from Texas. I assume that my colleague himself uses some. In any case, if he does not use it, many people in his riding do.

Bloc members are very much against developing the energy sector in Canada because that is not the kind of energy they want to use. That magical thinking is all well and good, but the reality is that 45% of the gas that Quebeckers put in their cars comes from Texas. If these people are proud to support Texas, that is on them. I will always support Canada.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, we need to put this into perspective. During COVID, there was a crisis and we had to get projects approved. We had to get them out the door, but that still required oversight.

For example, the government suddenly announced upward of $912 million to the WE Charity, the Kielburger brothers, and it was the duty of the staff to say that there were a whole series of holes in the plan. What we saw was that former finance minister Bill Morneau, and we can see this in the Ethics Commissioner's report, had a very unhealthy relationship with the people from the WE group. He had them in his office and he was basically working for them, so the oversight that should have been in place was not there.

I want to ask my hon. colleague about the importance, and we sometimes need to get projects off the ground, of having oversight and accountability to ensure we do not end up with these kinds of dumb boondoggles.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, to be brief, I totally agree with my colleague. We have a job to do. The Auditor General has a job to do, and I am sure everybody will ask the Auditor General to do her job.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2022 / 1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Speaker, this motion is about an application that was supposed to cost $80,000, but instead ended up costing $54 million. Furthermore, a group of experts said that they could have created this app for $200,000 in a weekend.

What this app represents is so much more than the app itself. It represents the level of government bloat we have come to see under the costly coalition. It represents the lack of transparency that we have come to expect from this coalition. Most of all, it reflects the serious situation that Canada finds itself in now of inflation, and the cause is inflationary spending.

As we know, the bank rate started this year at 0.25%. It recently jumped to 3.75%. It is true that some external factors have contributed to this rate hike. Of course, there is the oil price spike, which began with the recovery of demand after COVID and was made worse by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. That was one of those external factors. Also, China's hyper-restrictive COVID lockdowns disrupted international supply chains. However, there has been a consensus that the main reason for this inflation is inflationary spending by this costly coalition.

An article was recently published by one of my favourite economists, Jack Mintz. In it he points to a study of the U.S. Federal Reserve last July. It concluded that countries with the largest-spending binges tended to have much higher inflation rates. Therefore, this is not something that is unique to Canada; it is something that has been seen as a trend, but certainly something of which the costly coalition is guilty.

We know that Canada's headline inflation rate has eased to 6.9% from a peak of 8.1%, but food costs are still accelerating and underlying price pressures remain sticky. At the same time, the Bank of Canada has hiked interest rates by 350 basis points in just seven months, one of its sharpest tightening campaigns ever, to try to force inflation back to what was supposed to be a 2% target. Unfortunately, the bank last week signalled its tightening campaign was nearing its peak, but made it clear that it was not done yet as it hiked rates by 50 basis point to a fresh 14-year high.

The average family will spend $3,000 more next year as a result of these inflationary effects. Food inflation is at a 40-year high. Grocery prices have been raised by 11.4%, and interest rates are going up. Energy costs are up 100% to 150%, some even 300%, and winter is coming of course. Mortgage payments, groceries, fuel and consumer goods have all gone up.

We talk about what other nations are doing. Other nations have managed to fair much better than Canada. Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan and Hong Kong have all managed to keep their rates below 3%. Other nations are providing tax relief to their citizens. Fifty-one other national governments have provided some form of tax relief. That includes more than half of G7 and G20 countries, and two-thirds of the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It found that at least 25 countries were choosing to provide tax relief at the pumps. Australia cut its gas tax in half. The United Kingdom announced billions of dollars of fuel tax relief. The Netherlands cut gas tax by 17¢ per litre. South Korea cut its taxes at the pumps by 30%. India cut gas taxes to keep inflation low, thus helping the poor and middle classes.

Instead, the Prime Minister is also choosing to take more money from the pay of Canadians. If people are making $65,000 this year, the federal government is taking nearly $4,500 directly from their pay through the Canada pension plan and employment insurance taxes. Their employers are also coughing up an extra $4,800. This year, the annual payroll tax bill, including employer and employee payments, increased by $818 for each middle-class worker. Over the past decade, seven of which the Liberal government has been in power, it increased by $2,435.

Our peers are choosing to reduce income taxes.

Former U.K. chancellor of the exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng said, “We believe that high taxes reduce incentives to work”, as he announced payroll tax relief.

Down under, the Australian government said that by putting more in their pockets, families would keep more of what they earned, allowing them to spend more on what they needed, as is provided by permanent tax cuts of up to $2,500 for individuals in 2022-23.

Eighteen countries, including Belgium, Germany and Norway, chose to save their citizens money by reducing consumption taxes.

As we can see, many of the nations I have named have made the choice to provide tax relief to Canadians. The costly coalition, the Liberal-NDP coalition, has not chosen that.

The numbers are in. Canada ran a $90.2 billion deficit last year. That deficit is equivalent to almost $2,400 per Canadian and at the rate of $172,000 of new debt for every single minute of the fiscal year. That is not a small amount. It also means that Canada's total debt now stands well north of a trillion dollars. As of March 31, the Government of Canada also had an accumulated deficit of $1.13 trillion.

We wonder where this is coming from. The Auditor General says that there are $500 million in overpayments to civil servants that need to be collected. A new report from Canada's Auditor General said that 28% of civil servants in its sampling had errors in their pay. If a government cannot even handle the payroll, why should it handle our nation's finances or even our country?

Another example of this wasteful spending is the $12 million to Loblaws for new fridges.

Where are Canadians at with this? Forty-seven percent of respondents in a survey of Canadians felt that their finances had worsened over the last year. Fifty-three percent believe that we will be in a recession next year. Even worse, 30% believe that we are in a recession right now.

Canadians have long forgotten the sunny ways of the NDP-Liberal coalition.

The good news is that relief is on the way. Relief is on the way with a Conservative government. We pledge no new taxes. We pledge the “pay-as-you-go” system. For every new dollar of spending, we must find a new dollar of savings.

The motion today is not just about a $54-million application that was supposed to cost $80,000, which experts say could have been made for $200,000; it is about much more than that. It is about how the NDP-Liberal coalition has lost its way and how it needs to stop the taxes and stop the inflationary spending, now.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am looking for a little clarification and perhaps the member could help.

The very first clause in the motion says, “the cost of government is driving up the cost of living.” When I asked the New Democrats about this, they said that this referred to oil subsidies. However, what I heard the Leader of the Opposition and the finance critic say this morning was that more and more government employees were being hired and that was what they were being critical of.

I want to ensure that the NDP knows what it is voting for here. With respect to the first clause in the motion, could the member confirm whether we are talking about oil subsidies or are we talking about the hiring more and more federal employees?

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Speaker, well, it is true. Numbers have come back, and there has been a significant increase in the number of full-time equivalents, without a doubt, and in fact even more than planned originally. The unfortunate thing is that this has been done without an improvement to services for Canadians. Canadians are still waiting for their passports, and there is still an incredible backlog in our immigration system. The Liberal-NDP government is clearly not up to the task of not only reducing spending but spending and getting results for Canadians.

Opposition Motion—ArriveCAN Application Performance AuditBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree with one part of my colleague's speech. I have to say that the part of the motion calling for an investigation to shed light on the astronomical amounts paid for ArriveCAN, an app that received far more complaints than praise, at least from my constituents, is welcome. We received calls condemning this fiasco of an app, which cost a fortune. We have to shed light on this matter.

However, I am a bit concerned, because we are in a period when people need help and a recession is probably imminent. There will be an economic statement on Thursday. There are issues such as assistance for the most vulnerable and for seniors starting at age 65 and the workers who are being abandoned because there is no sign of EI reform. There is a whole set of issues with the Government of Canada's social programs, which should be strengthened to help people.

Are these the types of measures that the Conservatives are prepared to support, yes or no?