House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was housing.


Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.


Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have answered a question from the member for Elmwood—Transcona since the death of his father, who served honourably here, so I want to start by paying tribute to him. He was a very important person for Canadians, for his constituents and for progressive causes in Canada.

I believe this fall economic statement will make a difference in the lives of Canadians. It will make a difference in the lives of the Canadians who need help the most.

One of the themes in this fall economic statement is support for hard-working Canadians. We see that in the Canada workers benefit. We are moving this to an advance payment, because people who work really hard for really low pay cannot wait until the fiscal year is over to get a top-up; they need it while they are working. I think they deserve it. We should be rewarding them for doing those hard jobs and should be encouraging them.

This is an important measure and I am really glad it is here. I want to say how much I thank all of those hard-working people who get the Canada workers benefit and how much I respect them.

There is another element in this fall economic statement that is directly about supporting hard-working Canadians and making sure there are great jobs for them. It is our green tax credits. In the hydrogen credit and the clean-tech tax credit, we have included provisions for good, high-wage jobs and apprenticeships. It is the first time we have done that and it will make a big difference.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Carleton Ontario


Pierre Poilievre ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, when we learned that the costly coalition would be introducing this economic update today, we had two demands: no new taxes on workers and seniors and no new spending unless matched by equal savings. Today, this inflationary scheme triples the tax on home heating, gas and groceries, and adds $20 billion of inflationary spending that will drive up the cost of living.

The Conservatives will stand up for Canadians, their paycheques, their homes and their savings, and we will vote against this inflationary scheme.

How did we get here? Well, the cost of government is driving up the cost of living. Half a trillion dollars of inflationary deficits have bid up the cost of the goods we buy and the interest we pay. Inflationary taxes have increased the costs for businesses, farmers and workers to produce those very same goods.

The Liberals will pretend that they had no choice but to double the debt. The Prime Minister will claim that it is not his fault that he added more debt than all previous prime ministers combined.

Let us start with the fact that he added $100 billion of debt before the very first COVID case was ever discovered here in Canada. He cannot blame COVID for that. In fact, he blew through his promise that the deficit would never exceed $10 billion. It was already $100 billion in total before the first case of COVID.

Then when COVID came, 40% of all the new spending measures had nothing to do with COVID, according to the Prime Minister's own named Parliamentary Budget Officer. There was $200 billion of spending unrelated to COVID, and even among the COVID spending, there was an “all you can eat” buffet of waste and mismanagement.

The Liberals sent CERB cheques to prisoners. They sent them to public servants who were simultaneously drawing public salaries. They gave wage subsidies to wealthy corporations that were rich enough to pay out dividends and bonuses to their executives, even after I warned that they should ban that hideous practice. They tried to give half a billion dollars to the WE Charity, an organization that had given half a million dollars to the Prime Minister's own family.

The Liberals then spent $54 million on app we did not need, that did not work and that could have been designed in a weekend for $250,000. The previous Conservative government had successfully delivered apps that were necessary, useful and of a similar complexity for $200,000 to $300,000, but somehow this one went up to $54 million.

Many of the recipients of the money admit they did not do any work. They just hired other people to do work. The Liberals gave the money to people who did not do anything other than delegate the work to someone else. Do we not have public servants getting paid within the government to deliver that type of contracting? The government will not even tell us the identities of all the recipients of that money.

Do not tell me the government had to double the size of the national debt. Do not tell me that every dollar of inflationary spending was necessary. The Liberals were irresponsible and unnecessarily profligate with the dollars of Canadians, and now people are paying the price.

The Prime Minister will now say that Russia caused the inflation in Canada. Of course, we do less than 0.3% of our trade with Russia and Ukraine combined, beyond which the stuff they make is the stuff we have here already. They have energy and food. We have energy and food. If only the Prime Minister would get out of the way of our farmers and energy workers and let them produce those things.

Beyond that, under the previous Conservative government, there were wars. There was a massive war in Afghanistan, and there were others in Iraq and Syria, but we never had inflation anywhere over 4%. In fact, we were able to successfully contribute to defeating terrorists and tyrants in those conflicts while keeping the inflation level low here in Canada. We were able to get our spending under control and our budget back into balance.

By contrast, the government's spending today is 30% higher than in the pre-COVID year 2019. Why? The Liberals said all the deficits were the result of COVID. COVID is now behind us and spending is still 30% higher because we know it is not COVID that has caused the costs to rise. It is a costly coalition and an irresponsible Prime Minister who put these burdens on Canadians' shoulders.

This is a Prime Minister who has no control and no respect for Canadians' money. Canadians are the ones paying the bills here in Canada. The more the government spends, the more Canadians pay. That is why we have the highest inflation rate in 40 years. It is “justinflation”.

The Prime Minister also loves to blame all the cost of living rises on other people. Why is it, then, that house prices in this country are the second most inflated anywhere on planet earth? Why is it that land costs have gone through the roof? Land is not imported from Ukraine or Russia; land is right beneath our feet. We have the second biggest supply of it anywhere on earth, yet Vancouver is the third most overpriced housing market on planet earth and Toronto is the 10th.

Can members imagine that? Two of our biggest cities have more inflated housing prices than New York City; London, England; and countless other big metropolises that have more people, more money and less land. In fact, Vancouver's house prices are more inflated than Singapore's. Singapore is an island. It is out of land. Canada has more land where there is no one than it has land where there is anyone, so why is it that we cannot find a place to house everyone?

The first reason is that local government gatekeepers prevent housing construction by piling on massive delays that drive up costs and drive down the supply of housing. The Prime Minister has had seven years to stand up to the municipal and provincial gatekeepers who stand in the way of housing construction, but he would never do that because he does not want to confront the Liberal and NDP radical left in city halls across the country that has made this problem worse. What he has done instead is continue to shovel money into their local bureaucracies to reward them for blocking the poor, our immigrants and our working-class kids from ever owning a home.

When I am prime minister, we will impose conditions so that if cities want more federal infrastructure money, they will have to remove the gatekeepers. We will connect their infrastructure dollars to the number of houses that actually get built so that young people can find a place to live. We will also sell off 15% of the 37,000 federal buildings we have so they can be converted into housing and our young people can have affordable homes.

The second reason we have such expensive housing and such expensive everything is the Prime Minister has engaged in a massive orgy of money printing over the last two years. He said money printing would not cause inflation, even though that is exactly what it has done every single time it has been tried over the last roughly 3,000 years.

Here is how it worked. The Prime Minister wanted to be able to claim that he was borrowing all this money on the cheap. He loved to stand in the House and say his debt was not costing any money, because interest rates were so low.

The only reason he could borrow for next to nothing was that his central bank was creating the cash out of thin air. If it had been a real lender, it would have demanded a real rate of return on the loans. What happened was that they created something called “quantitative easing”. Whenever they invent new, incomprehensible terminology, we can be sure that there is something sinister behind it.

Here is how it works. It is very simple. The government sells bonds to lenders. The Bank of Canada buys back those bonds at a higher price. The lenders love it. That is why the banks thoroughly endorse this strategy, because they made the money on the difference. It is simple arbitrage. The government sells them something on a Monday and buys it back from them at a higher price on a Wednesday. Who would not go for that deal?

Unfortunately, only about 100 financial institutions are eligible to participate in it. The rest of the ordinary, hard-working Canadians who pay for it are not, but the banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions profited off of this transaction.

The Bank of Canada pays for those bonds by depositing money in the accounts of those large financial institutions held on reserve at the Bank of Canada. Those reserves skyrocketed over the last two years as the bank bought up to $400 billion of new debt.

What happened? That exploded the money supply, and more dollars chasing fewer goods caused higher prices. Much of the money then funnelled into the financial system and was lent out in mortgages to wealthy investors, who saw a massive expansion in the number of real estate holdings they could accumulate. Thus, housing prices went up 50% in two years, creating the biggest housing bubble in Canadian history.

Now that the central bank is forced to raise interest rates, it risks bursting that bubble. All of the people who got on the balloon when it was on the ground floor and went up into the sky now risk coming crashing down as that balloon is bursting.

Worse than that, the Bank of Canada now has hundreds of billions of dollars of deposits that it made into the accounts of those large financial institutions that it has on its reserves. What has happened to those deposits? They now bear more interest, because interest rates have gone up. The wealthy bankers who participated in this arbitrage transaction at the beginning and were paid for it by having more money deposited into their accounts at the Bank of Canada now collect 3.75%, because that is the policy rate that the bank pays.

What does that mean? It means that the central bank is now losing money for the first time in its history and Canadian taxpayers are forced to bail them out to a tune of $4 billion every year. This entire wretched scheme, of which I warned two years ago, will, maybe in the end, amount to the single biggest wealth transfer from working-class people to ultrawealthy insiders, from the have-nots to the have-yachts, at any time in our history.

Now we see the painful consequences. It is not just about numbers on a ledger. It is about 1.5 million people forced to go to a food bank in a single month. It is about one in five people skipping meals or cutting portions because they cannot afford their food. It is about the forthcoming winter, of which the minister spoke in metaphorical terms. People are now not going to be able to heat their homes, as the cost of home heating is expected to double or even more for those people who are on home heating oil.

It is about the 35-year-old living in his parents' basement, despite the fact that he did everything we asked him to do. He got a job. He got an education. He worked hard every day, and now he cannot afford a home, which means he cannot build up collateral, cannot build a credit history, cannot build savings for his future and, therefore, cannot start a family. In Canada, a country with among the most abundant supply of land on earth, we cannot find places for people to live.

These are the real-world consequences of irresponsible decisions. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister sits and smirks at the fact that he took a $6,000-a-night vacation to sleep in the fanciest hotel on planet Earth, staying up in opulent hotel lobbies and jazzing it up with his friends while people back home cannot pay the rent. Canadians are out of money and the Prime Minister is out of touch.

We are going to inherit this mess, all of us, and we are going to have to fix the problem. We have a big job ahead of us; do we not? We have a very big job ahead of us. He will leave a big mess just like his dad left. He will be off on a beach somewhere surfing, and the rest of us will be busy working to clean up the mess he left behind. The sooner that happens, the better it is. Only then he will have to pay for his own hotels. We will not be paying for them anymore. He will have to pay his own way like Canadians are today.

How are we going to clean up this mess? For one, we are going to bring in a pay-as-you-go law so that every time we bring in a new dollar of spending, we will find the savings to pay for it. Do members know who does that? Everybody in the real world.

That is how single mothers pay their bills. When they want to send their children on vacation, they find a way to save money in other areas. The same goes for small businesses. When they want to increase their advertising spending, they find ways to save money in other areas of the business. It is normal. It is the reality of every person living in the real world.

In fact, scarcity is the condition that faces every creature in the universe as there is only so much to go around, every one except for the Prime Minister, who just takes everyone else's money to pay for his own wants and desires. In the real world, if a family wants a new deck, they might pass up on their vacation, or find a deal on the vacation and maybe pick up some used lumber at a local construction yard to save some money so that they can do it all within the same budget. Imagine if instead of just piling on new spending all the time, the government actually had to find savings to pay for it. That would force the same real-world trade-offs—

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am going to interrupt the hon. Leader of the Opposition.

I thought everything was going very smoothly and very nicely. We were respecting each other. Let us keep that up, and we will let the hon. Leader of the Opposition continue.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not allowed to mention the presence or absence of the Prime Minister, but I will just say that some people bring happiness wherever they go and others bring happiness whenever they go.

Conservatives are going to cap government spending. We are going to get the Bank of Canada back to its core mandate. For 25 years, the Bank of Canada had a very simple mandate of 2% inflation, brought in by the Mulroney government. It was to stick to 2%. Interest rates and money supply were all governed to that purpose, and it worked. It worked until the current Prime Minister came along and pushed the bank to print cash to pay for his spending. We are going to have no more of that.

Conservatives will fund our programs with real money, rather than printed cash, because we know that there are no freebies in this world and we know that, ultimately, the taxpayer and the consumer pay for everything. We will reinstate that mandate and we will audit the central bank through the Auditor General to make sure that never again is there such a horrendous abuse of our money as we have seen over the last couple of years.

Instead of creating more cash, we are going to create more of what cash buys. We are going to grow more food, build more houses and produce more resources right here in Canada, and here is how we will do it. We will incentivize our municipalities to remove their gatekeepers so that we can build more houses. We will remove the gatekeepers off the backs of our farmers by cancelling the tariffs and taxes on their fertilizers and fuel so they can produce more in this country. We will remove the government gatekeepers that stand in the way of our resource sector.

Do members know that Canada today has the second-slowest time for building permits of any country in the OECD? The only other country that is worse is the Slovak Republic. In Canada, if we take all the types of building permits that exist, everything from a renovation permit on a house all the way up to a full uranium mine, and we average it out, the average permit time is 250 days. In South Korea, it is 28 days.

We wonder why investors are taking their money to places like South Korea, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Ireland. It is because they can actually get things built in those countries. That is what Conservatives are going to do in this country. We are going to compress the timelines and speed up approvals. We are going to challenge all levels of government to meet the goal of Canada being the fastest place to deliver a building permit anywhere in the developed world.

The minister said today she is going to pitch the world on our critical minerals. The problem is that she cannot get them out of the ground. She is going to tell everyone that they exist. Out there in that field there is some lithium, copper and nickel, but companies have to wait seven years for us to give a permit for anyone to dig that mine. She says she is going to give out a bunch of corporate welfare to mining companies, which can fill their bank accounts with taxpayers' cash. If they cannot get a permit to dig the mine, they will not be able to turn it into anything other than big, fat boondoggles for taxpayers.

Conservatives will repeal the anti-energy law, Bill C-69, so that we can build Canadian pipelines with Canadian steel to take Canadian energy to Canadian marketplaces and around the world. We are going to eliminate the anti-investment taxes that pile on the backs of our entrepreneurs so that it is actually rewarding to build things in this country. We are going to axe the carbon tax so that it is possible for our industries to compete and for our people to afford energy in this country.

As for energy, there are two very different approaches. Across the aisle, they believe that we should tackle climate change by making traditional energy that Canadians rely on more expensive. Conservatives believe in tackling climate change by making new alternatives more affordable. We will do that by incentivizing and speeding up permits to mine lithium, copper, cobalt, graphite and other necessary minerals that will eventually go into Canadian-made electric cars and other forms of renewable energy. We will incentivize the production of these energies here in Canada. We will incentivize nuclear energy here on Canadian soil so that we can power our economy emissions-free.

We will also get rid of the red tape to get dams built in Quebec. We know that in Quebec, there will not be enough electricity in the future to charge electric cars and to meet all the needs of a green future.

Their solution is to build dams. However, the Prime Minister wants to prevent or delay the construction of those dams with duplicate processes.

We agree with the Government of Quebec. It is not necessary to add three or four years to the time frame for these projects since the Government of Quebec already has processes in place to protect the environment. Quebeckers are capable of protecting the environment, and we are going to help them by approving the construction of hydroelectric dams.

Finally, we will make this a country where work pays again. It does not pay to work for a lot of people. Let us look at someone on disability who recovers to a point or arrives at a point in their life where they realize they can work 10 or 15 hours and they want to get out into the world and contribute. The clawbacks right now mean many people on disability lose more than a dollar for every extra dollar they earn.

The government published a report showing that if a single mother with three kids who earns $55,000 a year earns another dollar, she loses 80¢ of that dollar. She earns about $25 an hour. She loses in clawbacks of her benefits and taxes on her income 20 of those dollars, so her real wage on that extra hour of work is five dollars an hour. Nobody in Canada should be expected to work for five dollars an hour. That is an outrage. That is why my government will reform the tax and benefit system to ensure that whenever somebody works an extra hour, takes an extra shift, or earns an extra bonus, they are always better off and they always keep more of that dollar.

We will do this to restore the Canadian promise. I look around this chamber and I see many inspiring stories, like my finance critic, who rose today to ask the first question. He is the son of immigrants. He grew up in a tough neighbourhood and had a difficult childhood, but he was able to get a diploma in accounting, which he is putting to very good use in this House. He started a business, built homes and was elected to serve in a G7 Parliament.

I, myself, am the son of a 16-year-old unwed mother who had to put me up for adoption to two school teachers. They always taught me it did not matter where I came from, that it mattered where I was going, and it did not matter who I knew, that it mattered what I could do. That is the country I want my children to inherit, and that is the country we will fight for every single day in this House.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

November 3rd, 2022 / 5:05 p.m.

Burlington Ontario


Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Families

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition was honest with Canadians, the Canadians he is not going to be supporting through this fall economic statement. He told them right away. He told students, for example, that he is not going to support the permanent elimination of interest on student loans. He told the lowest-income workers that he is not going to support the continuation of the Canada workers benefit and making sure they get that in advance. He talked about incentivizing companies to invest in Canada, but actually, in the fall economic statement, there are really important measures that are going to help us build the economy of the future.

This is very consistent with his actions to date. Whether it is the Canada child benefit, the Canada dental benefit, the Canada housing benefit or whether it is supporting low-income workers and those most vulnerable in our country, he has consistently refused to stand up for them and to support them. He talks a big game, but when there is actual action to do, he does not deliver.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the Conservative government created what the Liberal government now changed the name of to the workers benefit. We created that benefit in the first place, because we wanted to allow, along with increasing the personal exemption, more and more Canadians to be off the tax rolls altogether and keep a bigger share of their paycheques.

Furthermore, on the child benefit, the Liberals wanted to take the money from parents and give it to bureaucrats. We were the ones who put the money directly in parents' pockets. There is something very simple to realize. The government cannot give people anything without taking it away. The government does not have any money. First they try taxing it, which makes people worse off. Then they try borrowing it, which means that future generations are worse off. Then when they ran out of those two options, because they ran out of other people's money, they tried printing the money and now we have 40-year highs in inflation.

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Stop the insanity. Stop the inflation.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.


Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Joliette said, the economic statement mentions a number of problems. It talks about supply chain issues, inflation and the possibility of a looming recession. Unfortunately, it did not take us long to realize that the economic statement lacks tangible measures.

Unlike the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois proposed many progressive measures to help Quebeckers and Canadians in the coming years, which will likely be difficult ones. The government is not only turning a deaf ear to the tangible, constructive measures proposed by the opposition, but it also really seems to be working in silos. Allow me to give two examples.

First, the government has been promising EI reform for months, but unfortunately, we are not seeing anything about that. According to the economic statement, there are no plans to carry out this reform in the next six months. Second, the Minister of Industry has been promising to reform the Competition Bureau, but once again, there is absolutely nothing about that in the economic statement.

The Liberal government seems to be completely out of touch and, more importantly, it does not really seem to be working as a team. Would the member for Carleton care to comment on that?

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, the government is out of touch, but we should not be surprised.

The Prime Minister spent $6,000 of taxpayers' money for each night he spent in London. At a time when Canadians cannot pay their bills and are skipping meals, he forced them to pay for a hotel room that costs $6,000 a night. Yesterday, he admitted that he was the one who stayed in the infamous $6,000-a-night room. He told the truth by accident. It happened by chance. That is the only way to get the truth from the Prime Minister.

It is an important fact, not because a $6,000 expense will bankrupt the Government of Canada, but because it shows that this Prime Minister is completely out of touch with the day-to-day reality of Canadians who work hard but cannot pay their bills.

We, the Conservatives, will stand up for the common people, their paycheques, their savings, their homes and their country.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the brief time that I have, there are two aspects of the Conservative leader's speech that I would like to address.

The first is his comments about home heating and the Conservatives' desire to remove the carbon tax on heating. Of course, he will know that New Democrats are prepared to work with people here across party lines to get things done. He and I, in fact, did that at the finance committee before he was leader in order to ensure that an iteration of the Canada emergency wage subsidy program would not allow for the payment of dividends to companies while they were on the take in respect of the wage subsidy.

We have extended our hand here a number of times in the House to say that while we support carbon pricing, we want to see an elimination of the GST on home heating. We have seen Conservatives refuse NDP amendments to that effect. I wonder if today we might get a commitment from the leader of the official opposition that he will work with New Democrats in order to take the GST off of home heating.

If I have a little bit more time, I would love to get into that second issue which of course is his comments about building permits. Building permits are a municipal issue. I am glad he is taking an interest. I think that is important in order to address the housing issue, but I know that when it comes to workers' rights and the pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause, he is claiming that because it is in another jurisdiction, he will not comment. Seeing as he is willing to comment on other jurisdictional matters today, will he get up and condemn the pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause?

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to offer the hon. member my condolences on the loss of his father, who was indeed a wonderful gentleman.

Second, the member is right. We worked together to try and stop the government from giving tax money to companies so they could spend it on bonuses and dividends for their wealthy executives.

Third, on the issue of building permits, it is not true that building permits are exclusively municipal. We have federal permitting for large-scale resource projects. They require federal permits. In fact, there are far too many projects that require federal permits. One of the reasons we cannot get pipelines and many other resource projects built is the immense delays imposed by the federal government on local projects.

When we were in government, we made a rule during the economic action plan of one project, one approval. Prior to that, oftentimes the same consulting firm was hired to do three separate environmental assessments, delaying the project and driving up the costs, so we said it would be one project, one permit. That is what we are going to do when I am the prime minister. That is why we are going to get more dams built in Quebec. We are going to deliver more Canadian clean, low-carbon, upstream oil and gas projects. We are going to deliver civilian grade uranium and we are going to have more nuclear energy. Other major projects are going to happen quickly and effectively.

Finally, yes, I will attach conditions to federal tax dollars that go to municipal governments. These woke left-wing mayors keep telling us they are out of money for housing, yet they are the ones who are driving up the cost of housing. If they want me to burden taxpayers by sending more money to their municipal governments, they need to get out of the way, remove their gatekeepers and build more homes.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would say to the hon. opposition leader that comic timing is definitely his forte.

He suggested that the Liberals have invented a complicated term called “quantitative easing”. Does he really believe the Liberals invented it? If so, I would urge him to ask Dr. Google about the quantitative easing quotes by Jim Flaherty.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not have to google that, because Jim Flaherty was against quantitative easing. We specifically said we would not do it, and we did not do it, and we proved this nonsense today that the Liberal government had to do quantitative easing because the Americans did it. That is the excuse. The Americans did it in 2008, 2009 and 2010. They printed money like crazy and ballooned income and wealth inequality as a result.

Here in Canada we said no. We banned our Bank of Canada from doing that. As a result, we did not have an inflation crisis. We kept our debts low and we kept income inequality lower than it would have been.

We can have an independent monetary policy. Our mothers taught us that just because all of our friends are jumping off a bridge does not mean we have to.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start off by saying how excited my colleagues and I were this morning to get a look at this important economic statement behind closed doors. As we read through the opening pages, we felt hopeful. We thought the government understood the problems we are dealing with, the global inflationary crisis that is having a real impact on ordinary people. People are having to make do with less because prices are going up. Food, energy and gas prices, not to mention housing prices, have all gone up. People are facing major challenges, and the government says that we are in the middle of an inflationary crisis. A few days ago, even the Minister of Finance said she would be making an economic statement today because we are looking at an inflationary crisis.

It is the same thing with the risk of a recession. Once again, it is a global issue. Most economists and analysts are saying that there is reason for concern and that we could enter a recession in 2023. We know that the Bank of Canada and the central banks decided to fight inflation to bring price increases back into the range of 1% to 3%, thus the 2% target. In order to do that, they are implementing a monetary policy that involves increasing interest rates. Higher interest rates mean an economic slowdown because of softening demand, which is why there is a risk of a global recession. The country's economy is facing a recession in the coming year, and the minister recognizes that in the economic statement. We commend her for that.

The further we read in the document, the more we examine it from every angle, the more we do the math and compare the tables, statistics and figures in this statement with what was in last spring's budget, the more we realize that it is all very slick rhetoric. The document recognizes the economic problems that we face, but when it comes to proposing any solutions, it leaves much to be desired. There are actually very few new measures announced in this economic statement. It reiterates what has been adopted since the beginning of the fall. It reiterates the commitments made in the last budget. It announces that there could be additional measures in 2024, but there is not much new for now.

There is actually some assistance for student loans. My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I, as the member for Joliette, can say that this does not affect us very much, given that the loans and bursaries system is under the purview of Quebec. I guess it is good for students in the rest of Canada, but this measure does not directly affect Quebeckers.

Next the government says it will spend more to hire more public servants to improve service delivery. That is great. We saw what happened with passports in the summer. There are countless examples. There are many problems related to wait times. Nevertheless, this is a fairly minor expenditure. There is nothing major here. The statement also reiterates the funding announced for the people in the Maritimes and eastern Quebec who suffered through hurricane Fiona. We applaud that commitment as well. However, all of this is very minor and very marginal.

The statement uses the word “inflation” over a hundred times, but the solutions it offers are the same ones that were presented in the spring budget, which made hardly any reference to inflation. There is an inflationary crisis going on, but what is being done about it? The government uses the word “inflation”, then rehashes the same proposals it served up in the spring, when it was not talking about inflation.

One of Quebec's national dishes is shepherd's pie. People generally say that it tastes better when it is reheated. The same cannot be said of the measures we have here. What we are being served in this update, in this economic statement, is reheated leftovers. Most of the measures in the update are reheated leftovers.

The significance of the current inflationary crisis and the risks of recession should not be minimized.

The Bloc Québécois called on the government to take that into account and propose concrete solutions. For example, if workers lose their jobs because of the recession, we will need an employment insurance system that works. Everyone, including the government, knows that the EI system is broken. It is so badly broken that for every 10 people who lose their job, barely four have access to EI.

Since 2015, the government has been telling us to wait. It has been telling us that change is coming, that the system will be reformed. We have been listening to the same broken record for seven years. We expected it to happen last September, as the special measures for the pandemic were ending, but no, back we went to the old Axworthy system that does not work at all.

The government is telling us that we are headed for a recession, so the time has come to take action. It is urgent that we fix the EI system. There has been plenty of consultation. We know exactly what needs to be done to improve the system, but no. This is yet another missed opportunity. According to this economic statement, the EI system will not be fixed. The government is going to leave it broken.

The government is saying that it is presenting an economic statement because we may be headed for a recession, but at the same time, it is saying that it will not fix the EI system. I completely agree with my colleague from Terrebonne when she said that the government seems to be working in silos. Did the minister responsible for EI talk to the Minister of Finance? Do these people talk to each other? This would have been a good opportunity to do so.

We are in the midst of an inflationary crisis. Prices are going up, and the primary victims are obviously those whose incomes are not indexed to inflation. I am talking about seniors. As we know, the government decided to help people aged 75 and up, but not those aged 65 to 75. This government created two classes of seniors.

Today, faced with a significant increase in the price of housing, gas and groceries, low-income seniors aged 65 to 75 do not have enough money to eat properly. They must turn to food banks and make some agonizing and very humiliating choices.

Given that today's statement acknowledged the problem of the current inflationary crisis, now would have been the time to announce measures for these people. The Bloc Québécois believes that the government must not create two classes of seniors and that it must increase old age security for seniors 65 and up to cover inflation and deliver a modicum of social justice. This government willfully refused.

Why is the government refusing to help those aged 65 to 75? I believe it is because the Liberals want these payments to be insufficient for low-income people in the first class of seniors that it created, those aged 65 to 75, so they will no longer have enough public support to make it to the end of the month. That way, those seniors will be forced to return to work.

In 2015, this government was boasting about rescinding the Conservative law that raised the retirement age to 67. However, when we look at what is happening to seniors aged 65 to 75 as a result of inflation, we see a government that is trying to bring in a similar policy through the back door, a government that is ensuring that seniors aged 65 to 75 do not have sufficient income from public pension funds to make ends meet. As a result, they are going to be forced to return to the labour market.

If that is the goal, it is very hypocritical. If that is not the goal, then I do not know what this government's problem is. It could be gross incompetence, but I think it is more likely utter hypocrisy. This is not right. It is unfair. When low-income people retire, they have often worked hard their whole lives. They are often single women. In many cases, they were caregivers. They do not have a pension because they stayed at home to take care of their family. This government claims to be feminist, but it does not recognize their contribution, and it is failing them.

In its statement, the government acknowledged that there is an inflationary crisis, but it is not doing anything for those hit hardest by this crisis. That is deplorable. We expected to see something like that in the statement, but it is not there, and that is deplorable.

There is an inflation crisis, prices are going up, and there might be a recession. Communities in Quebec and the other provinces are also experiencing another major crisis, the health care crisis. People no longer have access to doctors. The health care system is broken. It was strained during the pandemic. Workers and nurses are all exhausted. They are burned out. Plus, the system is underfunded. The fact is, these problems started in the 1990s when the federal government in Ottawa decided to deal with deficit and debt problems by reducing health transfers. That is when things started to go wrong.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, as infection rates begin to fall, we are starting to see how much was put off during that time. We thought that screening, care and surgery could wait a little while, but now we realize that the system is no longer working at all. The provinces and Quebec know what to do, and the specialists and the expertise are there. They know what to do, but they lack resources because Ottawa has been neglecting its role for quite some time now.

The provincial and Quebec governments are telling Ottawa that it is time for the federal level to play its role by providing as much funding for health care as possible. These figures are calculated year after year by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. According to him, health transfers should amount to $28 billion, and there should be a 6% increase every year to cover the rising costs and the existing needs. There is a desperate need.

In response to this public health crisis, the government had the role and the duty to address this issue today in this statement, especially since the government just announced that in a few days it is inviting all the provincial health ministers to a nice meeting with the federal government to discuss health systems and funding. What is the government going to tell those ministers just a few days after saying that it would not invest a penny more in the system when the need is there?

When he was health minister in Quebec City, the very Liberal and very colourful Gaétan Barrette accused this government of practising predatory federalism, because the government was imposing conditions without providing the necessary funding to go with it. It was a Liberal health minister who accused this government of practising predatory federalism. That kind of infighting among the Liberals sends a clear message that things are not going well, not at all.

Today, the government and the Minister of Finance had a unique opportunity to announce that they were going to address this issue and set the stage for the ministers' meeting. Again, they have been promising to fix this situation since 2015. Every time a Bloc Québécois member stands up in the House and asks the government if it is going to do its job, the government says that something is coming down the pike and not to worry. We may have believed that promise once or twice, but after hearing it for seven years, enough is enough.

What message are we sending to the provincial health ministers who are trying to figure this out? They are the ones holding together the health care system, which is crumbling because of the considerable strain it was under during the pandemic. Now they are being invited for talks, but the numbers that have just been released show that there is not a penny more for them. It is contemptuous. This government stands up at every opportunity to lecture every other level of government. It even stands up to lecture the Pope and people around the world. However, when it comes to dealing with its own files, it is nowhere to be found, it is not up to the task.

That is what we saw with passports and immigration too. Everything this government touches turns into a fiasco. There are cost overruns and service is not up to par. Now it is trying to tell the provinces what they should do, but it is not even investing any money.

I mentioned immigration. A few days ago, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced new immigration levels. Canada will aim to bring in 25% more immigrants by 2025. That means 500,000 newcomers per year, as reiterated in today's statement.

The Bloc Québécois is concerned about that for a number of reasons. Let me start with the practical, pragmatic reasons. We believe those targets are unrealistic. Our riding offices have been inundated with requests for urgent intervention because departmental employees cannot handle applications that are already in the queue. Wait times are atrocious, documents get lost, and mistakes are constantly being made. From a purely practical, technical perspective, maybe the government should show that it is capable of doing its job properly—and it is not—before it changes the target. Then we can talk.

The government did not include one line about housing capacity. We have a housing shortage. In Quebec and across Canada, there is a shortage of housing. The Liberal government in Ottawa withdrew from funding social housing in the 1990s, and nothing has been done since. Of course, a bit of funding was announced recently, but it does not go far enough to meet the current needs. There is not enough housing. The private sector does not have the capacity to build enough homes, condos, apartments to meet the current needs. The government is planning to grow the population very quickly. Where are we going to put all these people?

Condos and houses are no longer affordable. What do we tell young people? They want the American dream, which is to be part of the middle class and have a union job that allows them to buy a house and pay for it during their working life. Now that dream is shattered. Young people can no longer hope to be able to afford a home or become a homeowner in their lifetime. The housing shortage is exacerbated by the imbalance between supply and demand and the fact that the population is growing. Prices are skyrocketing, and housing is no longer affordable. These young people are being told that we are going to increase the population very quickly without restoring any balance to the housing market. This does not make sense.

I used housing as an example, but the same is true for schools. There are not enough spaces. There is no coordination in that area either, nor in the area of health care. This is irresponsible.

The situation is tough for us in Quebec, since we are not yet a country. Earlier, the leader of the Conservative Party talked about what he will do when he is prime minister. I want to talk about what Quebec will do when it is a country. I think this will happen within 10 years, because we will work hard. Seeing how this government and this nation ignore us, we will have all the cards to take control of our destiny.

If we were to accept our share of the target that has been announced, which is prorated to our population, how could we properly accommodate and integrate such large numbers? That is impossible. It is impossible to guarantee that the French language would be preserved and respected. Even in Quebec, we see that the French language is in decline. Bill C-13 is currently being studied in committee, and the government wants to reject the Bloc's amendments, which seek to better protect French in Quebec. I am not even talking about French outside Quebec, because the figures have plummeted and that is so very sad. With the complicity of the fourth party in the House, the government will continue to erode the weight of the French language even within Quebec.

We are not equipped to properly welcome all these newcomers in the language of Molière, the official language of Quebec. That is a serious problem. It is an impossible situation because if we welcome fewer immigrants in order to integrate them well, Quebec's weight as a proportion of Canada's population will quickly diminish. Either way, we could be marginalized, and it is the very survival of our culture that is at stake.

Let me be clear. Immigration is a great asset. Welcoming newcomers is wonderful, except that Quebec culture does not support the policy of multiculturalism, which basically consists of telling immigrants to come live here as though they were still living in their own country and not to integrate because their grandchildren will.

That is not what immigration is for us. We want to be able to say hello to a newcomer, to talk with them. We want to benefit from their rich cultural heritage, and we want them to be one of the gang, someone we can interact with. That is not going to work if the the immigration levels are quickly increased as announced. That is very worrisome.

I am sorry that I spent a little longer than expected on that aside, but it is still very important.

Let me come back to the economic statement. With regard to EI, as my colleague from Terrebonne said, the Minister of Employment and Workforce Development likely did not talk to the Minister of Finance.

As she also said, it sounds like the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry did not talk to the Minister of Finance either. It sounds like the Liberal government is using the Apple method of developing policies and projects piecemeal without any communication. It looks like that is what is happening here. Everything that the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry has said, in the House and in the media, is missing from the economic statement. I do not get it. That is problematic.

In times of economic uncertainty, discipline is called for, but not austerity. That is why we want the most vulnerable, like seniors aged 65 to 75, to have support measures they can count on during this inflationary period. That is very important. We do not want austerity. We have asked the government to focus on its basic roles, on the federal government's primary functions, to try to concentrate on those and do them well for a change. Health funding is one example.

We were really surprised by the last budget, in the spring. The government announced 15 or so new policies, new ways of doing things, mostly in health. These were all encroachments on provincial jurisdictions. Instead of focusing on doing its job well, the government wanted to work on the ground in Quebec and the provinces and encroach on their jurisdictions.

Here we have another example. The government is announcing the creation of a jobs secretariat. That is something Quebec is taking care of, and it is going quite well. Ottawa wants to use us as a model. One of our fears is an encroachment in a few years' time. Sooner or later, it is going to impose conditions on us. It is going to steal our model and then tell us that it has its own program now and that we have to follow suit. Then we will no longer have the freedom to implement our model, which is based on the labour market in Germany. We drew inspiration from Germany. Again, these are encroachments. Instead of doing its job well and focusing on its role, the government continues to stray.

The media reported a new tax on share buybacks. It is an interesting measure. We look forward to studying it, but the update states it will be implemented in 2024. It is now 2022. Today, the government was either rehashing old measures or announcing measures that will not be implemented in the next little while, or next year, but the year after that. Once that time comes, we can talk about it then and see if the government has made the same announcement about the same measure six times by then or if it changed its mind.

Evidently, this is not an economic update that will go down in history. The minister's speech earlier was full of fine rhetoric, fine principles, and a fine acknowledgement of the problems affecting the economy. However, this government was either rehashing old measures, approaches and actions it wants to take or putting off new measures to the distant future. The rest is inconsequential. The government had a golden opportunity to solve problems and consider the seriousness of the current crisis, but it did not do so. That is extremely unfortunate.

Obviously, I encourage the minister to talk to her colleagues, to come to the Standing Committee on Finance more often, and to communicate more with representatives from all sectors of the country's economy, without ever forgetting Quebec. That will only do her a lot of good and may even inspire her to implement concrete measures.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec


Greg Fergus LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and his thoughts on the economic statement. I obviously disagree with his conclusions. I do not even agree with his analysis.

The fall economic statement offers a good example of a government that is ready to help Canadian workers in need, to help Canadian families and vulnerable individuals, including Quebec families and vulnerable Quebeckers. Is my hon. colleague against doubling the GST credit for Quebeckers?

He spoke about the fact that the student loan program does not apply to Quebec. I would like to know whether my colleague is prepared to encourage the Government of Quebec to follow the federal government's lead and eliminate interest on student loans. In fact, I insist that he do so. Does my colleague agree that the Canadian government provided a lot of funding for the Quebec system?

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague. As I often remind him, he is the member who represents me because my second home is in his riding, so shout out to him.

I want to remind him that doubling the GST credit is a measure the Bloc Québécois called for prior to last spring's budget. It is a very good measure. It was passed unanimously in the House, actually. In committee, the clause-by-clause study took just one meeting. Never have we seen a bill pass so quickly. If the government cares to take notice, I would like to point out that, if it draws inspiration from measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois more often, things will go more smoothly and be better managed.

This is not rocket science. It is because we are in touch with people and organizations. We are in touch with reality and what is possible, and we share that information with the government. When the government uses that to inform its decisions, everybody is happy.

Let me point out that education is under provincial authority. I am glad Quebec has not let go of that power. As I said, these measures are perfect for people in other provinces, but they have nothing to do with Quebec.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:45 p.m.


Scot Davidson Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague touched on the lack of action on basic services. When I travel through York—Simcoe, people are talking about the lack of children's Tylenol. They are talking about lineups at airports. They are talking about passports. They are talking about a public service that has increased employees by 30% for worse outcomes.

The government is failing us with basic services, and in my riding, when I go around, people are talking about 15- or 18-month waits to see a specialist. They are saying they do not have doctors. Now we have a dental plan, which the government has come out with, and people are truly saying that, before we spend a billion dollars on that, they would love a doctor.

Why are the Liberals going around the provinces, when there are already provincial plans there? Could the member touch on the failure of the federal government on basic services?

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:45 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his intervention and his question.

I believe that people are experiencing the same thing in each of our ridings. This government has demonstrated that it is incapable of providing the basic services it is supposed to provide. I do not know anymore how many times I have cited the example of passports. That is a striking example.

As my colleague mentioned, everyone everywhere is being impacted by the health crisis. There is a direct link to be made to the disengagement of this government, which does not want to fund public health care based on the capacity to pay established by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. That is clearly unacceptable and it must change.

With regard to dental care insurance, we already have a dental plan in Quebec, and this government did not even deign to try to harmonize the plans or in some way amend the bill in committee. That is shameful.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:45 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I am going to talk a bit about housing. Earlier we heard the official opposition leader say that government spending contributed to the housing crisis. I think it is plausible that it threw fuel on the fire that was already burning, even before the pandemic.

However, we know that there are a lot of people who have a lot of money and who will continue buying properties to rent them out to Canadians who have enough money to pay rent, regardless of whether the government continues to spend or not.

Today the government is presenting some targeted measures to respond to the problems in the housing market. However, they all presuppose that housing is a commodity and that we should be using market tools to fix this problem. Housing is considered solely in the context of the market and there is no mention of the investments that we need.

Could my colleague say a few words about that?

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:45 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for his question. I am fortunate to serve with him on the Standing Committee on Finance. I can say that we often work very collaboratively together, and it is a pleasure to work with him.

On the housing issue, the fundamental problem is supply. There is not enough housing, that is, not enough houses and condos to meet the needs of the population. We need to build more. However, there is not enough capacity in the construction sector to meet the needs and to ensure acceptable equilibrium prices. Obviously, the solution to ensure that the price remains affordable is to have properly funded social housing. The cost of rent should not exceed 30% of people's income.

Yes, there are some exceptions, but this government is basically just funding affordable housing, which is a catch-all concept. It needs to start funding social housing again. Under Bill C-31, most people living in social housing in Quebec will not receive any assistance. This is unacceptable and should have been changed in committee, but this government refused to do so.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:50 p.m.


Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, we are in the midst of a climate emergency, yet big oil and gas companies are making record profits. In light of that fact, I am sure the member for Joliette was as relieved as I was that, at the very least, the governing party did not introduce new fossil fuel subsidies in this economic update.

Then again, the government did not introduce a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies, it did not completely end fossil fuel subsidies and it did not invest in major energy retrofits with those funds. Is the member concerned about that?

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:50 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his important question. The short answer is “yes”.

I would also like to point out that he asked his question entirely in French. I congratulate him and thank him for that.

As Radio-Canada reminded us this week, Canada provides the second-highest oil subsidies in the G20. That is unacceptable. I have been in the House since 2015, and this government has been saying since that time that it will end subsidies to oil companies. As with so many other issues, this government talks the talk but does not walk the walk.

In the economic statement, the government refers to a measure it introduced last spring concerning a deduction for green energy. However, this measure is aimed at the private sector, not the public sector. In addition, small modular reactors are considered green energy. These are small nuclear power plants on wheels that extract oil from the oil sands. The government will be using taxpayers' money to support that. These are its environmental policies, and I am very concerned about them.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:50 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to take the opportunity to talk a little about respect and what it means, because I think we are living in a time when people are finding it hard to be respected.

People are working hard at full-time jobs while interest rates are going up. If the conversation they are having around their table is whether they are going to continue to be able to afford their home, whether that is because of mortgage payments or rent that continues to climb much faster than any possible justification for it, I think they would feel like they cannot get respect.

Young people who are working four or five different jobs in the gig economy, trying to make a go, are giving up on the dream of home ownership. They are wondering if they are going to be able to afford to buy their food as they try to figure out a time to eat between the different jobs and the places they have to get to in order to work them, and they do not feel the effort they are putting in is respected right now.

People facing layoffs know there is not a decent employment insurance system to count on, because some of the improvements that were there for the last couple of years during the pandemic were taken away by the government in September, even as it begins to talk about the possibility of recession. They are feeling like they are not getting any respect, that the government is not there to put in place the kinds of things they need in order to weather the storm.

There are people living with disabilities, who cannot work at all or who can work only part-time, and I think there are many people who, due to COVID, either have had the experience of not being able to work for reasons beyond their control or have not been able to get enough work. A lot of Canadians now know that pain, and it is one that people living with disabilities in Canada have known for far too long. They cannot get respect. When they see that the meagre disability pensions various levels of government offer, which have been legislating people living with disabilities into poverty for years, even before the pandemic, are not going up in the context of inflation, it is hard for them to feel respected.

Seniors have worked their whole lives and are now trying to make it on a fixed income that does not really grow and certainly does not grow at the pace of the extraordinary level of inflation we have seen in essentials. They do not feel like the career they had, to fight for and earn that pension over time, is being respected when it gets burned up so companies like Loblaws can make another million dollars a day of profit.

Indigenous people in Canada are part of generations of people who have not been able to access good economic opportunities and services at home. When they move to the city and find that systemic racism and jurisdictional disputes get in the way of their ability to access those opportunities and services, that is not respect, and that is a long and ongoing disrespect that Canada has paid far too often to indigenous people.

For sick Canadians right now, who just need to go to the hospital or need to get their kid or parent to the hospital, it is hard to feel respected when they walk in and see the incredible need that is there and the fact that governments have not risen to the occasion to invest in the training, employees and infrastructure we need in order to be able to deliver good health services.

Therefore, on top of all the real financial distress that people are experiencing, I think there is also this tremendous feeling of disrespect, of working really hard doing the things people can in order to make it, and of more and more not being enough. There is a feeling that the people who should be there to have their back, to try to create structures and systems that allow people who are working hard in their own way to succeed, are not doing that job.

Respect requires a few things. I do not pretend to have a comprehensive list today, but I want to offer up some of the things I think are particularly pertinent to debate in this place and some of the policies that we could adopt here in order to make life a little easier for Canadians.

Certainly one thing that respect requires is civility. We have to treat each other well. Respect also requires that we be honest with each other, and there is certainly a lack of that in this place, far too often. The third thing it requires, which speaks to some of the problems I opened this speech with, is results. We can talk at people all we like, but if at the end of the day things do not actually get better, if there is not actual material improvement that they can feel in their household budget, then it does not matter what we say in this place.

At the end of the day, we are not respecting people if we are not coming to the table and working together to implement real solutions that are going to make a difference in their lives.

I want to talk about civility, which is something we have talked a lot about this year, unfortunately, because there is such a pronounced lack of it. Even though we have some strong disagreements in this place, that is okay, because that is what this place is for. However, we need to do that in a way that respects other people with a different opinion and we need to understand that it does not make them demons, monsters, traitors, treasonous or whatever other word people want to substitute in. Just because somebody disagrees with us does not mean we should adopt a conspiracy theory that they are part of some kind of world movement to undermine everybody. Just because somebody disagrees with us does not mean it is okay to promote the use of violence or attack them physically.

That is not okay. We have seen too much of that in Canada. We have seen too much of it encouraged, frankly, in the kind of irresponsible rhetoric that too often finds its way to the floor of the House of Commons.

I am going to disagree with some people today, and I am going to be harsh in my criticism. That is okay. It is when it gets taken to the next level that it is a real problem, and it is a problem that is too present and is undermining Canadian democracy.

Unfortunately, we are living in a time when that is not an alarmist thing to say. It is a truth that needs to be spoken. It is in that spirit that I am going to engage in what I hope is some meaningful and constructive criticism here today.

We have to be honest with each other if we want to show respect to ourselves and to each other in this place, but also to Canadians. I want to highlight some issues on which I think there is a pronounced lack of honesty about what is really going on. That is important, not just from the point of view of respect, but in the sense of being honest for its own sake. It is important because, if we want to get to that other part, the results, we have to be honest about what the problems are. If we cannot be honest about what the problems are and where they come from, or if certain political agendas are allowed to obscure what the real causes of the problems are, then we will not get to the solutions and we will not get the results we need.

We talk a lot about inflation in this place, and inflation is a real problem. That much is true. That is honest, and we will hear that from all sides. If we want to tackle the problem of inflation, then I think some of the narratives around here are quite unhelpful.

As much as I think it is true that the liquidity that was offered to banks right at the beginning of the pandemic, just as it was under the previous Conservative government when the great recession of 2008 hit, poured more gasoline on the fire in our housing market, I do not think it is plausible to try to pretend that moment in 2020 caused the housing crisis in Canada.

How do we know that is true? Anyone with a memory that extends back past 2020, which I hope is anyone serving in this place, will know that housing was getting more and more unaffordable then. It was breaking household budgets then. We have been on a trajectory for the last 20 years that has seen housing prices skyrocket.

In the case of inflation in the housing market alone, it is simply not true to say this is a new problem since 2020 and it has all been fuelled by government dollars. In fact, the people buying up these properties are private actors in the housing market, and they were sitting on tons of cash before the pandemic.

They are finding ways to buy properties in the housing market and make housing more unaffordable for people who do not have a lot of means, so they can rent those same places out to renters. One of the places this started was when the Harper government refused to renew the operating grants of affordable housing that was built in the sixties and seventies.

That was not even the starting place; it was just another place. We can go back to 2015 and a bit earlier to see when real estate investment trusts started slobbering all over formerly affordable buildings that they could pay for with the money they already had in hand, mostly due to corporate tax cuts that were initiated in 2000 by the Chrétien Liberals and continued by the Harper Conservatives. Jim Flaherty himself complained that businesses were not spending and reinvesting in real capital that enhanced Canadian productivity. Those piles of cash were being used to get into real estate.

Let us not pretend somehow that public spending alone manufactured a housing crisis in Canada. It is not true. We will not fix the problem until everybody in this place, including the leader of the Conservatives, acknowledges that. Let us have a little honesty about the root causes of that.

Let us also have some honesty and recognize that we are in a time of serious global supply chain shortage. That is driving a lot of inflation when it comes to the price of many things. People who have been fortunate in this time to purchase automobiles have complained about the long wait. It is because they cannot get the chips from China, because China has a zero tolerance COVID policy so they often do not have workers in the factories that make the chips.

It is partly because of the free trade agenda of Liberals and Conservatives alike that outsourced that work at the end of the 1980s and the early 1990s instead of building that stuff here. It is a little rich to hear Conservatives these days talking about restoring and free trade out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.

Let us talk a little about the role that corporate greed is playing in inflation. We have seen reports that say as much as 25% of the current inflation that we are experiencing comes from price increases that go above and beyond the cost increases that companies are experiencing. That is a real thing.

When we look at the report about Loblaws today, and we see that mad money is being made by a number of companies, when we see that profit happening in the oil and gas sector, and we saw it with big box stores in the pandemic, we know that these price increases are being charged on the very market principles that Conservatives and Liberals alike love to defend, which is charge what the market can bear. It is why the government does not want to implement a windfall profit tax, because it thinks if someone is in the right place at the right time and they own something that they can charge a lot for, that that is good and that is what they should be doing. It does not matter if it is food. It does not matter if it is socks. It does not matter if it is rent. It does not matter if it is a Nintendo. To them, it is all the same.

What New Democrats have been trying to say in this place for a long time is that not all goods in the market are the same. There are goods that people cannot do without. They are not just goods. They are not wants. They are not desires. They are needs. We should have a government that structures our economy to make sure that people can access the things they need and leave to the market the things they simply want. That is a meaningful difference.

We need a little honesty in this place when it comes to what it means to defend the rights of workers. We have a Leader of the Opposition who gets up all the time and pretends that he is defending workers. I remember that he was part of the government with Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 that were a direct attack on workers' ability to organize. I have noticed his pathetic silence when it comes to the Conservative government in Ontario right now pre-emptively using the notwithstanding clause in order to deny the collective bargaining rights of workers.

I find it difficult to see the Prime Minister pretend to be a champion for those same rights when I watched in this place as his government introduced and railroaded through, with the help of the Conservatives, back-to-work legislation for Canada Post workers and workers at the port of Montreal.

If he is upset at the Ford government pre-emptively using the notwithstanding clause, we can be sure he does not have an objection to taking away collective bargaining rights by legislating people back to work. Let us have some honesty about that in this place as well.

One of the ways we could help people is by removing the GST on home heating. That is a long-standing NDP position. I thought maybe we would find some help from the Conservatives, but they are obsessed with the carbon tax. Let us have a little honesty about the facts.

First of all, the carbon tax does not apply everywhere in the country. B.C., Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories all have their own carbon pricing system. Removing the federal carbon tax from home heating would not do a whit for people who are concerned about the cost of home heating in those provinces. Maybe the provincial or territorial government would do that, but it sure as heck is not going to happen here.

What would help everyone across the country is if we removed the GST on home heating, because that does apply all across the country. That is why it is a better solution. That is why we proposed it in an amendment to a Conservative opposition day motion that presumably was about affordability and helping people, and they said no. Why? I am not going to take that as their permanent answer, because I believe, and we have to believe here, that people can come to their senses and make better decisions.

It is why I asked the leader of the Conservative Party earlier today after his remarks on the fall economic statement if he would join with us to work to get rid of the GST on home heating. He dodged the question. He never once mentioned the GST in his answer. I found that passing strange. The Liberals are inadequate on this. They should have done something about this in the fall economic statement. It was a clear opportunity to get something done.

Yes, they have done some things to help. I am going to give them that. What have they done to help? Well, they talk about dental care, so that children can get access to dental services. For some of them, it will be the first time in their life. They talk about the Canada housing benefit, another $500 a month for low-income renters. They talk about the doubling of the GST rebate that is going to be rolling out tomorrow for the next six months. They talk about investments in child care.

Those are all good things. I remember those things. I remember when we first raised those things and got laughed at by the Liberals, whether it was on the GST rebate, because, “Oh, we did not need that. The economy is roaring. Everything is fine. This inflation is just transitory.”

I remember running in 2015 on a national child care strategy. I remember the Liberals running against it. We kept up the pressure. We kept talking about it. We went out and talked to Canadians who need child care in order to be able to go to work. We knew we were not going to drop the file. We kept pushing it until the Liberals came to their senses.

I remember just about 18 months ago when the Liberals stood up with the Conservatives in this place in a previous Parliament to vote against dental care. It was through the power of our 25 votes in this Parliament that we held them over the barrel and are getting them to actually get it done.

Yes, I am quite aware of some of the things that the Liberal government is doing in order to bring help to Canadians. I am also quite aware of the extent to which those things would not be happening if Canadians, in their wisdom, had not elected a minority Parliament and given New Democrats the opportunity to fight for the things that we have always said we would fight for. That is exactly why we are fighting for those things.

One of the things that is in the fall economic statement, which again is something that is in the supply and confidence agreement, is a pandemic dividend. What is that? This time it is actually a dividend that comes back to Canadians, instead of Canadians paying for the dividends that go to shareholders. It is on banks and insurance companies that made record profits during the pandemic. It is a one-time payment of some of those enormous profits going back into the coffers of the Canadian government, not so that it is in the pocket of the government, but so that it goes out in the form of the GST rebate and the dental benefit and the Canada housing benefit. That is something that we fought for, including a permanent 1.5% hike on the corporate tax rate for those very same financial institutions.

I was glad to see the elimination of student loan interest permanently in this economic statement. That is something that I have watched New Democrat MPs get up for the last seven years that I have been here and talk about and, again, get laughed at by folks on the government benches. It is because we are here and it is because we are pushing that we see things like that in the fall economic statement.

I want to talk a little about housing again. There are a few initiatives here. There is an anti-flipping tax. There is a doubling of the first-time homebuyers' tax credit, which is something that New Democrats have advocated for. I will say that these measures are still part of that market-based approach to housing that I believe we really need to move past if we are going to find a solution to the crisis in housing.

We have to invest a lot more in non-market housing. That has to be the priority if the government is not going to challenge the culture of housing as a commodity, which it could do by moving on real estate investment trusts and which it could do by buttressing the position of non-profits that want to build non-market housing.

Unfortunately, one of the needs there now is just to cover the difference that interest rates have made for projects that are on the books that now cannot go ahead because interest rates have changed the math. If the government would come to the table to help them acquire buildings and lands quickly when they are having to compete with these rates, that would be helpful. If it would come to the table to say that it is going to cover the difference in their business plan for their non-profit housing, that they are suffering because of higher interest rates, that would be something that would help.

They also need to get serious on urban indigenous housing as a part of that. I want to give a shout-out to my colleague from Vancouver East. In question period earlier today, she was talking about the need for a meaningful and well-funded urban indigenous housing strategy. The government talks a big game. It wants to say that a $300-million investment is a record investment. I think that if that is true, what a shameful testament to Canadian history that indigenous peoples living in urban centres have not been able to access more funding for affordable housing far sooner.

That is the kind of thing that we need, but that again is outside the market framework that largely dominates Liberal thinking about the housing space. If we cannot break out of that, we are never going to make the difference that we need to make for Canadians in these challenging times.

I have talked a little bit about some of what is in the fall economic statement, but I want to spend some time talking about what is not in it.

As I said earlier, we are in a very challenging moment as a country. There are all of the things that New Democrats have fought for, some of which the government is doing and some extra things the government is doing. There is the 2% tax on share buybacks, which I think is a positive measure. I am glad to see it, but I do not think it is going to make all the difference. It has to be a part of a bigger package. In addition to those things, there are many other things that really ought to have been here and that an NDP government would have been keen to put in our own fall economic statement.

Consider the question of employment insurance. The government just today is starting to talk about a recession in the offing. Just a couple of months ago, we had an employment insurance system that had been made better, not perfect but better, during the pandemic as it was easier to qualify for benefits. There was actually a benefit floor. For a part-time worker or somebody working a couple of part-time jobs who is having a hard time getting all their hours and 55% of their income from those jobs that have been cobbled together is not enough to live on, we actually had an income floor so that when they were laid off, they could hope to be able to pay the rent. All of that went by the wayside on September 24. It is just gone.

We have been saying for years during the pandemic that when those rules expired, when the government was ready to let them expire, they had to be replaced with meaningful structural reform to the employment insurance system and that in no way should the government let the new rules lapse because those rules were a lot more on the way to a functional employment insurance system than anything that we had before. At the very least, the Liberals could have kept that in place until they came up with a new fix.

We still have not seen what that new fix will be. There are rumours about maybe them acting on it this fall. I sure as heck hope so, because if the rumours about a recession in early 2023 are true, people are going to need that employment insurance to be there for them.

Only about four in 10 working Canadians before the pandemic qualified for employment insurance. That is why it was such a broken system. We have to find fixes to that. I had hoped at least there might have been a reference or a hint as to what the government has in mind on how to fix that system.

I was also disappointed to see that the only reference to health care in the fall economic statement was dental care. I am glad that dental care is there but, man, is there ever a lot more that we need to do.

The provinces need more funding for health care and I believe, as New Democrats do, that the federal government can play a positive role in convening provinces to talk about best practices to develop a human resources strategy that is not based on some provinces poaching people that other provinces train, but to have a truly national training strategy where the provinces participate on their own terms. However, somebody has to bring them together in order to have those conversations and make that happen. There is a role for the federal government to play there.

We need to acknowledge that a big problem in our health care system right now is that just not enough trained people are available to do the job. That is a national problem right now and it requires a response with every part of the country working together, arm in arm, to figure out how we meet that challenge. It is going to require federal funding, to be sure.

There was not a word about that. However, that is the reality that so many Canadians are living when they go to the hospital. This includes the 350 people who are dying from COVID every week in Canada, who are going to the hospital before their death to seek help and find they have to wait for hours if they are lucky, and days if they are not, to get service.

How do we pay for many of these things? I talked earlier about a windfall profit tax. We know there are companies that can afford to pay more and ought to be paying more. This is not a time when we should be tolerating exceptional profits, which are well above prepandemic levels, without asking those same companies to pay a bit more on that extra profit. It does not make sense because that is some of the money that Canadians are giving up due to higher prices, and we need that money in order to bring the cost of those essential things down.

I would like to think, and I hope others will agree, that mine was a pretty honest talk about some of the problems we are facing. I do not expect that everyone is going to agree on some of the solutions the New Democrats are putting on the table, which is fair enough, but that is what we are here to do, to put ideas out there and debate them. I hope we are here to find common ground as best we can in the course of debates like this to be able to move ahead on important measures, such as removing the GST from home heating, for instance, as we prepare to go into another cold Canadian winter.

Therefore, I offer what I hope is an honest analysis of the problems we face. I have tried to offer some solutions that I think would behoove the government to take up. We stand ready to work with anyone in the House who wants to talk about these solutions, or propose other good ones that we have not thought of yet, to make life better for Canadians as they stare down a very difficult fall and beyond.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec


Greg Fergus LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Winnipeg for his speech. I would also like to thank him for telling Canadians what parts of the fall economic statement resonate with him. That is different.

It is important that all parties have the chance to explain to what extent they agree and whether there is any common ground between their party and mine.

I would like to ask my colleague a very short and straightforward question. Does he think that the Minister of Finance's economic statement is sufficient for him to vote in favour of it?

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, something that is always important to consider when we are talking about a confidence vote is whether Canadians would be best served by a costly election right now, and the answer is no.

We will vote in favour of the motion tomorrow so that we can continue to do the work that we should all do to implement real policies that will really help Canadians in these difficult times.

We need to participate and not see an election as another solution.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Fraser Tolmie Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Madam Speaker, I used to fly airplanes, but I do know a bit about sailing, and one of the things one wants to do is keep the water out of the boat. However, it seems that the Liberal government's policy right now is to throw water into the boat and drown Canadians.

Therefore, I ask my colleague, who has just spent a bit of time speaking to this fall economic update, if he is willing to vote against this budget, campaign on his party's own terms and compare its budget to this one.