Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate you on your role. It is wonderful to see you take part in a fine Canadian federal institution such as the Speaker.
I am pleased to rise again to talk about Bill C-8. It is another massive Liberal spending bill, with little oversight and probably little chance of delivering on what they have talked about. It is almost a Liberal pre-engagement gift to our colleagues in the NDP.
To summarize, the fall fiscal update added $70 billion in new spending and this is spending on top of that. This is $70 billion, as I mentioned, that does not even include the Liberals' campaign promises, which will be tens of billions more for their election goodies. This is going to add on top of what we saw in the public accounts, the $1.4 trillion of debt for the Canadian taxpayers. Think about that: $70 billion more on top of the $1.4 trillion that has already been added up until now. That does not even include probably $100 billion to $200 billion, depending on which discount rate we use, for unfunded public service pension liabilities and hundreds of billions of dollars more in Crown corporation debt that is not accounted for.
One of the problems I have with Bill C-8, and I have talked about this a lot in the House and in committee, is the lack of proper oversight for the bills and spending. We have heard the previous Treasury Board president admit to committee that he had not been following the rules. We saw it with the WE Charity scandal. The Treasury Board is required to have, for their submissions, an official language analysis. The Treasury Board, under the current government, decided to ignore it and not require an official language analysis, even though it is right in the rules that it is required. They break these rules in order to benefit their friends at the WE Charity, which, of course, was funding members of the Prime Minister's family.
We saw it with the wage subsidy, with the $100 billion. We asked the President of the Treasury Board if it had gone through the Treasury Board approval process. It had not. This is, again, the problem we have. The Treasury Board rules are not just suggestions. They are not mere guidelines. These are actual rules. The Treasury Board is supposed to be the gatekeeper, the adult in the room at the cabinet meeting to ensure that Canadians are getting value for their taxpayer money.
What did we see? The Treasury Board said they were not going to look at that and that it was more important to get the announcement out than to do its job. Therefore, $100 billion did not go through Treasury Board approval.
What did we get? We heard about massively profitable companies making out like bandits. We hear the NDP demanding higher taxes on these companies with excess profits, but it is funny that we never hear them going against their colleagues in the Liberal government to end these massive subsidies and this corporate welfare. As long as we are spending, that is okay. They do not care where it is spent.
We saw that with the Liberals. We saw the Thomson family, one of the wealthiest, the second, if not the top, wealthiest family in the country, receive money in the wage subsidy. Companies like Berkshire Hathaway, worth half a trillion dollars in market cap, a company owned by the Oracle of Omaha, got money from taxpayers in the wage subsidy. Then there is Nike and Rogers. Rogers has $25 billion to do a buyout bid for Shaw Communications, yet it got money from the government. Chinese state-owned banks and airlines received wage subsidy money.
Of course, what would a government handout from the Liberals be without money going to their friends at Irving? It was not enough that they are getting, probably, a $100-billion contract for the Canadian surface combatants and hundreds and hundreds of millions more for the offshore patrol ships, yet the Liberals are also giving them wage subsidies.
As for the offshore patrol ships, the way shipbuilding works, the first ship is the most expensive, the second one a bit less expensive and so on, as the company learns and improves productivity. The sixth, seventh and eighth ships should be a lot less expensive, yet, for the government, with Irving, the price is going up. The more ships, the more productive they get, but somehow the ships are becoming more expensive. Again, it is just another handout without proper Treasury Board oversight.
We heard of an exclusive ski club with a $43,000 membership. We hear the government talk a lot about the middle class and those hoping to join the middle class. How many in the middle class can afford $43,000 for a membership at a ski club? This ski club had $13 million for a new lodge, paid $13,000 in taxes and yet got $1.4 million from the government for the wage subsidy.
Here are some of the other companies. Suncor energy, much as I love energy companies, with a $31-billion market cap rate, got money. Bell Canada was another. Couche-Tard from Quebec, with a $45-billion market cap, got money. Lululemon is another. The money was used for share buybacks and executive bonuses.
Unlike our colleagues in the G7 or the OECD that were also offering wage subsidies, we were the only country that did not set up fencing around who got the money. Britain had a program for wage subsidies, but it banned the use of money for share buybacks and executive compensation. Not this government. “Why?”, we asked. Well, it did not go through a Treasury Board program. We asked the Auditor General. Her comment was that the government did not set up the fencing even though it knew it would be more expensive and knew that companies would take advantage of that.
The CRA did not have all the information it needed to validate the reasonableness of the applications before issuing payments. Why is that important? The Auditor General stated that $300 million in the first tranche of the funding went to companies with a high risk of insolvency. He stated and showed that $2 billion had gone out to companies that had not filed taxes or GST remittances in years. The CRA knows that these companies have a much higher chance of going into bankruptcy. It is one of its leading indicators of companies going into bankruptcy, and yet the government handed out the money without any oversight. The Auditor General's report stated, “We noted that the subsidy was paid to applicants despite their history of penalties for failure to remit and other advance indicators of potential insolvency.” This is the Auditor General. This is not a partisan Conservative MP. Again, why was there no oversight?
I will go back to the poor planning. We have been asking for rapid testing since 2020. If members go back to Hansard, they will see many requests from our health critics over the last two years for more money for rapid testing. Those requests fell on deaf ears.
The government will say, “Well, look, there's $1.7 billion in Bill C-8 for rapid testing, and there is also $2.3 billion in Bill C-10.” I am sure that is going to come back as well, so it is $4 billion. “Big deal”, members are probably thinking, “That's great.” However, in the supplementary estimates (C), which are being deemed reported tomorrow, there is also $4 billion for rapid testing. Therefore, is there $8 billion for rapid testing, because that is what the government is asking approval for? Well, no, it is not $8 billion; it is just $4 billion. The government has basically said that it messed up, so it is going to duplicate the request to Parliament in order to make sure that it has the money. Honestly, one could not run a lemonade stand with such advance planning, yet this government thinks to run the government that way.
Here is the funny thing. The supplementary estimates (C) will be approved tomorrow for $4 billion, and Bill C-8, which was brought in a couple of months ago, will actually approve the $1.7 billion after it is already approved in the supplementary estimates. Again, it just goes back to poor planning by the government.
Also, in Bill C-8, the repayment of the CEBA is being extended for six years. We asked in public accounts if there was no provision for bad loan writeoffs. We were told that there is no provision for loan writeoffs for this money, because there is such little chance of any of it, they were saying, being written off, which is wonderful. However, why then is the government extending payback for a couple more years if the government itself is saying that there is almost no chance of any losses? Again, it just goes back to poor planning by this government.
Bill C-8 all around is a poorly written bill and there are a lot of items that are not needed, which is why we are not going to be supporting it.