moved that the third report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented on Monday, March 21, 2022, be concurred in.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to members this afternoon. I would like to mention that I am splitting my time with the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
The world is different now than it was just a year ago. We have an unprovoked invasion and war by the Russian Federation against Ukraine that threatens our global security and shattered peace in Europe, inflation is anything but transitory and COVID restrictions are lifting across Canada, giving hope to our nation that we can return to some normalcy. However, it is in this global context that we must consider the budget.
Our committee heard testimony from a number of witnesses about what they would like to see in this year's budget. The budget can provide some opportunities and can deal with some challenges that our country faces. There is no question that our government needed to provide unprecedented levels of support to Canadians and businesses during the early days of the pandemic. However, as pandemic concerns abate through our greater understanding of the virus, we must be prepared to evolve our approach to government spending.
Closer to home, Canada must put its own economic house in order so that we can respond to the changing global context. We have to re-establish Canada as a destination for investment, and supply the world with ethical, conflict-free energy. If we want to stop Mr. Putin's war machine, we must help our allies reduce their dependence on Russian energy by ensuring that our energy can reach global markets. Furthermore, we can create a secure North American energy market that uses all sources of Canadian energy, including renewables, traditional fuels and nuclear energy. That is how we will help defeat Mr. Putin.
At home, the number one issue affecting Canadians is affordability. At the grocery stores, at the gas pumps and at retail shopping locations, prices keep going up and up. Our purchasing power is shrinking faster than at any other point in the last 30 years. This is a silent tax that hurts the economically vulnerable and those on fixed incomes, such as seniors, the most.
There are several ways the government can address this, and we heard some of them at committee.
We can reform competition policies and help lower prices for consumers by increasing competition in key sectors, which includes banking, air travel and telecommunications. If we believe excess profits exist in these industries, the answer is not additional taxes to increase government revenues. Rather, consumers should capture these excess profits in the form of lower prices.
We should reform the one-for-one rule on regulatory burden. Instead of taking out a regulatory rule for every one we bring in, why do we not just cut the regulatory burden by 50% over five years? Let us be ambitious.
We can quicken the implementation of the beneficial ownership registry for Canadian corporations that look to the Canadian market to hide assets in the form of money laundering. Most of those laundered funds end up in real estate, which distorts our local real estate markets. Just last week, the Bank of Montreal indicated that in six years there has been a threefold increase in housing prices in Orillia, which is in my riding. How can we expect young Canadians to look at this country and think that home ownership is in the cards for them?
We need to focus on economic growth. We have seen an unprecedented growth in the size of government by every available measure, but at this point we must focus on the private sector to take advantage of the entrepreneurial spirit of Canadians. The government has seemed more interested in wealth redistribution than it is on underlying economic growth, and this must change. We do not need new superclusters or national consultations distorted by well-connected lobbyists and rent-seekers. We must create an environment where businesses of all sizes can thrive. Businesses that grow create jobs and pay taxes.
An overarching opportunity following the pandemic is the rapid deployment of high-speed Internet across all regions of the country, and that is very important to the people in Simcoe North. It is nice that, as we heard just today, the government might be subsidizing and working with those who are of low income so they can access high-speed Internet, but this really will not help those who do not have access to high-speed Internet in the first place.
Tax policy that penalizes success also drives investment away. It is not a surprise that in the year following the changes the government made to the marginal tax rates in 2016, the government received far less revenue than it anticipated. These short-sighted policies can drive businesses, jobs and tax revenues to other jurisdictions. This hurts Canada through lower tax revenues that are used to fund social programs enjoyed by all Canadians: health care, retirement security and, of course, education.
Furthermore, industry-specific tax policy is a very poor idea. The government should set a consistent rate applicable to all sectors. Capital can move freely across borders, and in some sectors, like financial services, companies can shift operations and profits to other jurisdictions. Additional taxes on oligopolies are only going to result in higher prices for consumers or lower levels of investment.
We must carefully understand the negative impacts of certain tax policy changes. For example, the luxury boat and car tax we heard at committee will only increase the sales of these products in foreign markets, notably the United States. This will drive investment, jobs and taxes out of Canada with very little revenue increase for federal coffers. My riding has one of the largest freshwater marinas in the world, plus another dozen or so other marinas. This is going to take jobs out of my community and will hurt the people of Simcoe North.
When it comes to fiscal responsibility, now is the time to make a new path. The Bank of Canada indicates that the economy is robust and is operating near full capacity, which means additional fiscal expansion will just create inflationary pressures. These warnings are coming from all corners of the country. It has been almost 10 years since the federal government underwent any serious scrutiny of its spending, and it is unhealthy for an organization of its size to go this long without reviewing its expenditures.
It is even more important now to rationalize our non-core expenditures to focus on priority areas, including our national defence. We must support our allies, such as Ukraine and those in NATO, and we need to be able to defend our Arctic sovereignty. Pulling forward defence expenditures to displace other planned spending is a sacrifice that Canadians are willing to make in the face of increasing threats from the Russian Federation.
Additionally, the government is going to see a windfall of revenue resulting from persistent inflation, higher-than-expected oil prices and, yes, higher taxes. These excess revenues should be used to reduce the size of the deficit or provide relief to Canadian families in the form of tax holidays. Significant deficit spending at all stages of the economic cycle will have a protracted impact on the fiscal sustainability of government finances. It will threaten our AAA credit rating, which is only going to drive up the cost of borrowing. We cannot continue to erode the country's fiscal position with no plan to rein in unnecessary expenditures. The ability of future governments to deal with the emergencies of their time depends on the responsibility of our government today.
We also must think about the overarching regulatory framework in the country with respect to financial regulation. We are still waiting for open banking regulations. We are still waiting for the government to get serious about innovation in the financial services sector. However, we need to consider asking our agencies to get back to basics. The emerging housing affordability issue and related financial system vulnerability expose serious concerns about the effectiveness of our regulatory system in Canada. We have agencies on one day saying one thing about the housing market, and on the next day, a different agency says the complete opposite. That cannot be left to continue. We also need to make sure we have the right people and HR strategy to attract those who have knowledge about the financial services sector to help us through this transition.
Finally, there are a few items I would like put forward that we heard at committee that the government should be considering.
We talked about high-speed Internet. We need to re-establish the Lake Simcoe cleanup fund. We have to fund the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. We have to implement a two-year ban on purchases of real estate by non-resident Canadians. Let us take the wind out of the sails of this red-hot property market. We have to follow through on the existing mental health and addictions commitments for an opioid addiction strategy. Finally, we need to ensure that we can introduce employee-owned trusts that will help our business owners transition business interests to employees. I hope we will make some headway on affordable housing and all kinds of housing in this budget.