Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking for the first time at length in this 44th Parliament representing the citizens of Chatham-Kent—Leamington.
Before I go on to make some comments on this specific legislation, I want to congratulate two of those citizens, my parents, as today is their 61st wedding anniversary.
With respect to Bill C-8, it should come to no one's surprise that I will be opposing this legislation and these additional spending measures. Why? It is because they are adding more fuel to the inflationary fires. The recent report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer states that more stimulus spending will only stoke these inflationary fires, resulting in an inflation tax. Asked at the finance committee if government deficits contribute to inflation, the PBO stated very clearly that, yes, they can.
How much money are we talking about? Another $71.2 billion in spending is referenced in the economic and fiscal update, and since the beginning of this pandemic, the government has introduced $176 billion in new spending that is unrelated to responding to the pandemic. Our interest-bearing debt is approaching $1.4 trillion.
I will borrow some descriptions my colleague from Edmonton West used yesterday when he outlined what that means. We understand what $1 million looks like. It is a one and six zeroes, but $1.4 trillion is $140 million millions. Folks should think about that. Yesterday during question period, the finance minister stated that 8 out of 10 dollars spent as a COVID response have come from the federal government, even if they have been delivered provincially, so the accountability for this spending lies with the government.
Let me mention two areas where Canadians would have been better served by a government being more proactive, which would have lessened the need to be so reactive to pandemic effects. The first is securing rapid tests. Conservatives supported the sourcing of rapid tests well before we had vaccines, almost two years ago now. Late in this pandemic, the government seems to have seen the light and now wants more rapid tests. After five waves of infection and the economic carnage that lockdowns bring, we are now finally seeing an effort being made.
The second is ICU capacity. Lockdowns have been invoked by provincial governments largely in response to the fear that critical care capacity will be overwhelmed during peak infection periods. It is not that often that my colleagues agree with opposition colleagues in this chamber, but on the point of increased health transfers, we do agree. In particular, while in some places we lack bricks and mortar in our health care system, we primarily lack doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners. It is the critical care capacity deliverers that we need so many more of.
While this is of course a provincial responsibility, in my federal role I have been closely monitoring the local health care capacity in my riding at Erie Shores hospital in Leamington and at Chatham-Kent hospital, especially because of the overlap of providing this care to our citizens combined with care for the guest worker community of the agricultural sector in my riding. I could spend 10 minutes just talking about the experience there in the last two years.
I did not realize that Canada only has one-third of the health care capacity of our neighbour to the south. I did not know that until we got into this pandemic. That is why such a low percentage of people who are critically affected by COVID so quickly overwhelm our health care capacity. These are the two areas where, especially early on in this pandemic, it would have been far better to respond proactively.
However, the cumulative effect of government spending in areas responding to, rather than preventing, the economic damage of COVID have led to a very predictable outcome: inflation. This form of taxation, and that is what inflation is, affects so many areas of our lives. It affects those particularly who can least afford it more than those with assets who can actually benefit from it.
Let me touch on just two areas. The first is housing and the crisis in housing inflation. The injection of so many printed dollars into our economy has exacerbated the rise in the cost of housing. While in Chatham-Kent—Leamington the average costs are not as high as national averages, the rate of increase, particularly on the lower end of the spectrum, is even higher. With the interest rate now below the rate of inflation, because it is rising, this provides a further incentive to bid up prices.
We have not yet seen the end of this inflationary housing bubble. The end is not written. The Bank of Canada has signalled that interest rates will rise. How many people will face an even greater pressure on their personal finances when it comes to renewing their home mortgage? The main solution of course lies in the basic laws of supply and demand. We need more houses built, not more taxes, and not more spending, which only drive the inflationary cycle.
Second is food inflation. Anyone who eats or, more specifically, buys groceries understands the rising cost of food in Canada. Prior to having the honour of standing in this place today, I actively farmed and produced food for most of my adult life. I also had the opportunity to be involved with the business of representing food producers at negotiation tables and in industry circles.
I understand that the broad inflation is not the primary driver of the cost of raw product of food prices in Canada. Weather events, geopolitical tensions and other trade issues impact the cyclical nature of these markets more than broad inflation, but, and this is a big but, I am speaking of raw food pricing. What the Canadian consumer experiences at the grocery aisle is only minimally impacted by the price of what a farmer receives. In most food stuffs, the percentage cost represented by the raw component is very small. The labelling, packaging, transportation, processing and preparing are cost components that dwarf the raw component, and of course, these are all cost drivers that are affected by inflation.
In conclusion, what would it take to get us out of this mess? First, the government needs to reorient its approach. It is encouraging to hear from our health care leaders, and in particular I want to point out Ontario's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kieran Moore, who support our need to learn to live and work with COVID. We need to move from a pandemic state of COVID to an endemic state. The vast majority of Canadians have done what we have asked of them. They got vaccinated and observed public health measures.
We have the tools, the vaccines and the rapid tests, or we should have the rapid tests. Now we need to learn to live with COVID, and we need to open up.
Second, we need to rein in government spending. We need to tamp down inflation, and we need to blunt the trend of rising interest rates, which inevitably result from inflation. It appears that the government's tax-and-spend approach, which resulted in inflation, is almost intentional. This is its way of inflating its way out of massive debt.
Lower taxes, less spending, leading to lower inflation and more economic growth is the only way out for all Canadians.