Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak to Bill C-32, the government's fall economic statement.
With inflation at record highs, interest rates rising and tax hikes on the way, Canadians are paying more attention to the government's spending now more than ever. They expect their government to be fiscally responsible with their tax dollars, and Canadians expect their government to make outcome-based investments and things that matter to them.
Unfortunately, since the Liberals took office in 2015, rural Canadians have been neglected by the government. I wish the government had spoken to rural Canadians and listened to their priorities and concerns before introducing the fall economic statement. Clearly, it failed to listen to rural Canadians.
Missing from the fiscal update is a plan to address rural crime. Rural crime is a pressing issue for Canadians who live in rural and remote regions. Unfortunately, the Liberal government has been silent on this issue.
Statistics Canada has reported that the crime rate in rural Canada has increased at a much higher rate than in urban Canada. The data shows that rural crime rates are 30% higher than in urban communities. Rural Canadians are vulnerable, and criminals are deliberately preying on the individuals and families in rural areas, knowing that the RCMP response times are highly delayed.
I spoke with a woman who lives just outside of the small community of Ethelbert, Manitoba last summer. She told me how her home was broken into multiple times in one year. Her home was invaded, her personal belongings were stolen and her safety was threatened. It took hours for the RCMP to respond, not because the police officers did not care but because they were so busy dealing with other responses.
Like many rural Canadians, the dream of living in a peaceful and tranquil region of our nation has turned into a reality of fear for one's safety. This is just one story, but I can assure members that nearly every Canadian who lives in rural Canada has, or heard, a similar one.
However, now the Liberals want to use the very limited policing services in rural Canada to implement their politically driven buyback program to confiscate legally acquired firearms. Even the provinces and territories are speaking out against this. New Brunswick, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Yukon oppose this wasteful use of police resources.
The provincial minister of public safety in New Brunswick said:
New Brunswick’s bottom line is this: RCMP resources are spread thin as it is...We have made it clear to the Government of Canada that we cannot condone any use of those limited resources, at all, in their planned buyback program.
The Liberals would rather use RCMP resources to enforce a firearm ban, which will do nothing to address rural crime, than use RCMP resources to protect the vulnerable families that live in rural Canada.
I should remind Canadians that violent crime has increased by 32% since the Prime Minister took office, and gang-related homicides have increased by 92%. Clearly, the Liberals' plan is not working. The Prime Minister has no plan to address the 30% higher crime rate in rural Canada, and that is very concerning.
The fiscal update did include new measures to support the victims of hurricane Fiona, and while I applaud the support, I want to raise an issue that was not addressed.
I was recently in P.E.I., meeting with Atlantic Canadians who feel neglected by their federal government, particularly the rural Canadians who feel their government is ignoring their needs.
Access to reliable, high-speed Internet and cellular service is critically important to rural Canadians from coast to coast to coast. When hurricane Fiona hit Atlantic Canada, cellular towers were down for days. The inadequate backup capacity on cellular infrastructure meant that Atlantic Canadians could not make a phone call in times of need.
Thousands of Atlantic Canadians waited weeks before they could reliably make a call on their cellphone. Imagine a single mother who does not know if she can contact local emergency services after a storm. Imagine seniors knowing they may not be able to call their loved ones in times of trouble.
While some cellular towers had backup generators, many did not have sufficient capacity and others had no redundancy at all. I found this very troubling. However, what I found even more troubling was the fact that this issue was raised by Atlantic Canadians to the Liberal government less than three years earlier after hurricane Dorian.
Atlantic Canadians called on the Liberals to address cellular redundancy in Canada, but their request fell on deaf ears. The Prime Minister failed to address cellular backup capacity in disaster-prone areas, and Canadians once again felt the impact of his neglect to this issue.
Even after the premier of Nova Scotia wrote to the Liberals urging them to address this issue, nothing was mentioned in the fall economic statement. Canadians deserve access to reliable cellular service.
If we want to connect Canadians with high-speed, reliable internet and cellular services, we need to increase competition in Canada. The only way to get lower prices and better service is to increase competition, enabling more innovation and choice.
Canada has among the highest, if not the highest, wireless prices in the world, according to a report by Rewheel/research. The minimum monthly price for a 4G smartphone plan that includes at least 20 gigabytes of data is higher in Canada than in Greece, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Germany, China, the United States, Finland, Sweden, Japan, Australia, Spain, the United Kingdom, India, Brazil and Italy, and the list goes on and on.
The Liberals think they can solve the problems with big government spending, but a lot of solutions emerge when we remove the government gatekeepers.
I think of Starlink, for example, a private company that provides internet through low earth orbit satellites. This is a company that is not reliant on government funding, that entered the Canadian market on its own, and has probably connected more rural and remote Canadians in one year than the government has since it took office. That is the power of innovation. That is the power of competition.
We should be encouraging private sector growth and innovation, not discouraging it.
Before I conclude, I want to point out one more thing. I noticed that there was a heading in the fall economic statement entitled “A Fair Tax System”. This reminded me of an encounter I had with a local taxi driver this year.
I was heading to the airport at four in the morning. A taxi driver had picked me up from my hotel and he told me he would only work for another two hours. I asked him why. He said that if he worked too much overtime, the increase in his tax rate would not make it worth his time. He would be working to put more money in the government’s coffers than in his own pocket. We should let that sink in.
Our tax system is discouraging Canadians from working. The government is discouraging seniors who want to top up their pensions. It is discouraging students who want to work for their tuition. It is discouraging parents who want to work a little extra to pay for Christmas presents. This is heartless and in no way a fair tax system. We should always be rewarding those Canadians who want to work.
Canadians are concerned with the rising cost of living. They are concerned with the irresponsible government spending. They are concerned with the neglect displayed by the government. They are concerned with what the future holds. I will continue to stand up for these Canadians.