Madam Speaker, I am honoured by the opportunity to rise again today and speak to a government bill, Bill C-32, in regard to the fall economic statement. The member for Winnipeg North believes it is a good bill. Unfortunately, I cannot really say the same, and I am going to get into that here with my remarks.
Obviously, it is an important discussion we are having today, with the cost of living crisis that is facing Canadians across the country. We are feeling that in the Kenora riding in northern Ontario, and we know we are seeing it across the country, but unfortunately, the government's economic statement is really just more of the same policies we have seen over the last number of years from the government. It is more of the same policies that have driven up inflation in the first place and have really created and exacerbated this cost of living crisis people are facing.
In the lead-up to the economic statement, Conservatives called for the same things we have been calling for for quite some time. It will probably not surprise members to know what we were calling for; we were calling for no new spending and no new taxes. We know the government's spending has driven up inflation. The PBO has told us that and independent economists have told us that, and that is the real cause and the reason we are here today and Canadians are facing the concerns they are.
Conservatives believe that every new dollar of spending should be matched by a dollar of savings. It is a very simple principle, something that most people would use in their own households and with their own pocketbooks, that if we are going to spend more money on one thing, we should find savings elsewhere. Unfortunately, that is not what we saw from the government, and it has brought forward a plan that is really just going to add more fuel to the inflationary fire.
Of course, the second thing we have called for, as I mentioned earlier, is no new taxes, because Canadians are really feeling the squeeze right now. The cost of everything is going up, and the government's additional taxes and the increases in the taxes, including the tripling of the carbon tax, are not going to make that any better. Canadians are looking for relief, and Conservatives are here fighting for that relief and calling on the government to do the same.
We know half of Canadians are $200 away from insolvency right now, and that is a very stark and striking statistic that shows the real issues and challenges people are facing. I want to share some concerns constituents have brought and sent to me. One comes from a constituent of mine in Pickle Lake, which is the northernmost municipality in Ontario and is in my riding. This constituent says, “Costs are rising at an alarming rate, and living in a remote community makes it even more so. With gas prices and the cost of heating fuel continually on the rise, it makes it hard to make ends meet.” That is just one of the many concerns in letters and emails I know I have been getting and I think all of us in the House have been getting from our own respective communities, highlighting how difficulty it is for people to get by.
Inflation is impacting gas, groceries and home heating, perhaps the most. These are three essential things that Canadians need. In fact, when it comes to gas prices, far too often in northwestern Ontario we see some of the highest gas prices in the country. I want to share a quick excerpt from a Kenora Online news article from September of this year. The headline is “Kenora has the most expensive gas in Ontario, again”.
This is something we see over and over again, that the Kenora district has the highest gas prices in the province of Ontario. Of course, being in a remote northern area, the issues of the added cost of the carbon tax hit us so much more than they would in areas like Toronto, Ottawa and across southern Ontario. This specific article notes that Kenora had the “14th most expensive fuel in Canada, behind [only] 13 communities from British Columbia”. I think that highlights, at the time of writing, just how challenging the fuel prices are.
Gas is essential in the Kenora district. People need it, not only to go to work or get groceries, but often to travel multiple hours to medical appointments. It is really something that is perhaps taken for granted for those in southern Ontario and in the larger urban centres, who have public transit and many more options and services close to home. People need to use fuel to travel long distances in the remote north, and that is something that definitely makes everything more complicated for people in the Kenora riding and across northern Ontario.
I also want to share a couple more letters that I received from constituents about that. Wendy from Red Lake reached out to say that the prices of gas, food and electricity are all making it difficult for seniors to remain in our area as well. Tina from Dryden is a single mother of three. She says that she is forced to work two jobs to support her children, and more often than not it has become easier to eat takeout, which of course is super unhealthy, so she is very concerned about that.
This all goes back to the taxes and the inflationary spending policies of the government. It is not just gas. As I mentioned, it is groceries and home heating that are getting hit as well.
When it comes to groceries, we are seeing record food bank usage across the country. It is at an all-time high. There have been 1.5 million visits in one month to food banks in Canada. I have heard a lot about that as well from constituents.
Another individual, from Sioux Lookout, reached out to me saying that the cost of food has become so unaffordable, especially the healthy, nutritious food that is essential for her children. She is very concerned about how that is going to be impacting her. I have had a couple from Minaki reach out, saying they are both pensioners on a fixed income. They are facing a choice between eating properly or being able to stay warm this winter. That is the crisis they are facing in the Kenora riding.
I just want to share one more, from a constituent who wrote in saying that if we look at the prices in Ear Falls, a carton of milk right now costs $8.39, and a single head of lettuce is $7.99. It has become almost impossible for people to afford to put food on the table, specifically healthy food.
With the coming winter months, with the colder weather, we know home heating is something a lot of people are very concerned about. It is not a luxury in northern Ontario. It is essential. Richard from Kenora has written to me to share that his natural gas has jumped from 11¢ a cubic metre to 30¢ a cubic metre, nearly tripling in price as a result of the government's policies. He is very concerned about how he is going to be able to afford to heat his home.
What is the answer? Luckily, a constituent wrote to me to tell me what the answer is. Faith from Kenora simply says, “Eric, the carbon tax needs to go.” I could not agree more. She is obviously feeling the squeeze as well.
The concern I have, and I know all of us on this side of the House have this concern, is that when the government is faced with this crisis, its only answer is to spend more money and continue with the same inflationary policies that have really gotten us into this mess in the first place. There is no question that the Liberals like to judge their results based on how much money they can spend. If we ask a question about anything in the House, they say they have spent all this money and they are doing a great job.
On this side of the House, we are looking at the results. When we have record food bank usage across the country, when people are struggling to put food on the table and when those in remote northern communities are struggling to get by, it is clear that these policies are not working.
We are simply asking the government to rethink its approach, to stop its inflationary spending and to look at cutting taxes on struggling Canadians who are looking only for relief. That is why, as I mentioned earlier, I will not be supporting the fall economic statement. That is why I am concerned with the economic direction of the government. I look forward to any questions and comments from my colleagues on that.