Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure it is to see you in the chair. It suits you well. We never know what will happen in the future, but I think you would really appreciate being on the other side in three years, just as the Conservatives would and as all Canadians would like to see, by the way.
We are therefore gathered here today to talk about Bill C-8, which deals with the economic update and implements some of the government's financial measures.
I want to say from the outset that my speech will deal exclusively with something that is currently affecting the financial situation of all Canadians, and that is inflation, of course.
For many months now, Canada has been grappling with its highest inflation rate in 31 years. It is important to remember that, at that time, there were also substantial interest rate hikes and we finally managed to bring inflation under control. However, we have not had an inflation rate of 6.7% in 31 years, and it is affecting all Canadian families. Everyone, without exception, has been directly affected by the high inflation rate.
Why do I want to talk about that today?
It is simply because I do not think there is anything at all in Bill C-8 that directly addresses the problem of inflation, which is having an impact on all Canadian families. The bill provides no relief for them. However, there are two things that the government could do but has failed to do.
Inflation affects everyone. However, as the report issued by the Royal Bank of Canada a few days ago indicates, unfortunately, the poorest among us are those who are hardest hit by inflation. Why? The reason is that essential goods, such as food, housing and transportation, are directly impacted by inflation.
A high-income person eats just as much as a person with a lower income. If the price of food goes up, those with a very high income will be much less affected than people with a low income. We are not talking about luxuries here, or the proverbial cherry on top, but about essential goods that have been drastically affected by inflation. That is why this affects every Canadian family and that is why the government should focus its financial and budgetary efforts on helping Canadians cope with inflation.
I must have asked the government dozens and dozens of questions about inflation, as has my colleague from Carleton, and as have all my colleagues on this side of the House.
The Minister of Finance generally tells us that it is not the government's fault, that this is happening all around the world. She says it is because of the health crisis we had, the supply problems affecting the entire globe, and the war in Ukraine. It is not Canada's fault; this is happening all around the world. To that, I say no.
Let us not forget that when Bill C‑8 was introduced and we were asking questions about inflation, this government told us that it was temporary. We were told that this problem would sort itself out, which brought to mind the sadly infamous and pitiful statement of the current Prime Minister, who said in 2015 that budgets balance themselves.
That is not true. A budget does not balance itself. Nor is it right to say that inflation resolves itself, as the government claimed just six months ago. As the Governor of the Bank of Canada says, it is here to stay, and we must get a handle on it.
The government needs to take two measures to directly address inflation, and this has nothing to do with what is happening in Ukraine, or with the supply chain or with the pandemic. The government needs to freeze price and tax increases and control spending. Why?
When people have concerns about their personal budget and are unsure whether they can buy something, invest in a place, or pay for an unexpected expense, they have to ask themselves questions and think twice. They cannot just spend as much as they would like, and they have to make choices.
This is exactly the approach that should be taken by the head of any family—father, mother or anyone taking care of a family. Sometimes the entire family deals with it, and that is what needs to happen. People take action, think twice and control their spending. That is the responsible way to govern. However, this government has done everything except control spending. Everything that has been done since 2015 shows a total lack of fiscal responsibility.
Let us not forget that in 2015 they got elected on a promise that they would run three small deficits and in 2019 there would be no deficit—zero deficit. That was the proposal, the solemn commitment from the Liberals in 2015. The reality is that we have not had three small deficits and then, poof, none at all. We have had one, two, three, four astronomical deficits each time. They just cannot help themselves. It increases year after year.
I cannot help but laugh at the budget tabled by the government, which states that, in five years, the deficit will be a tiny $8 billion. No one believes that, because these people have not governed properly since 2015.
Of course we understand there had to be extraordinary spending because of the pandemic. That is completely understandable. We will give the government that. However, just because the government was spending does not mean it could not keep that spending under control. That is the issue. Let me point out that, when our party was in government, it had to deal with the worst economic crisis ever, the 2008 crisis. That was the worst economic crisis since the 1920s and 1930s. Our government governed responsibly. Yes, there were deficits, but we had a plan. As a result of that plan, in 2015, under the Conservative government and thanks to the sound management of our finance ministers, we were the first G7 country to recover after the 2008 crisis. That is something to be proud of, and our management of public monies was realistic and responsible.
The current government went on a spending spree, even though economic growth was strong from 2015 to 2019 and money could have been set aside. We are not against the extraordinary spending and the very high deficits that happened because of the pandemic, but now that it has been done, the government needs to manage matters properly and accountably and keep things under control, which it is not doing. The more the government spends, the more that spurs inflation. The more money is injected into the economy, the more prices rise. The first thing to do is control spending.
The second thing to do is freeze increases. In an ideal world, we might ask for taxes to be waived. That might be nice, but it would not be realistic or responsible. Yes, there are some taxes that we do not agree with, such as the Liberal carbon tax, but at the very least, to give Canadian families a break, the government should not increase these taxes. It had a golden opportunity to give families a break on April 1, but it decided to go ahead as if it was business as usual, as if there were no inflation, as if money flowed like water and everyone had money jingling in their pockets, as if no family had any problems. Consequently, today, because of the Liberal carbon tax, the cost of transportation is spiralling upwards and not downwards, and that is unfortunate.
The government should have looked to President Macron and his management approach. I may perhaps surprise many people by saying that, but it is true. France had opportunities to freeze certain prices and it did so. The inflation rate in France is 4.1%; in Canada, it is 6.7%.
Those are some tangible things that the government could have chosen, and should choose, to do in order to give families a break. Every Canadian family has been affected by inflation. The hardest hit are the most vulnerable. This government must pay close attention to this situation and the reality on the ground. This government must do two things: control spending and stop scattering money willy-nilly, and immediately freeze all rate increases and tax hikes.