Madam Speaker, in my 18 years in politics, I have never seen Canadians suffer as much as they are suffering now. I just criss-crossed the country and met a lot of people. In fact, 93,000 people registered for my events. I make a point of listening to all their stories, and I never leave the room until I have spoken to everyone who wants to meet me. I heard some heartbreaking stories.
We are talking about young people, 35-year-olds, who have done everything they were supposed to do. They earned a degree and they are working hard, yet they are still living in their parents' basement or in a small, 400-square-foot apartment because the price of housing has doubled since this Prime Minister took office. Our housing bubble is the second largest in the world. Yesterday we learned that the percentage of Canadians who own their own home is at its lowest level in over 30 years.
When the Prime Minister took office, Canadians were paying 32% of their income on average to maintain a mid-size house. Now, the average family has to pay 50% of their income just to keep their house. This increase is due to higher costs, but also to an increase in interest rates, which this government had promised Canadians would not happen for a long time. It told Canadians not to worry, to go ahead and take out big loans, since interest rates would remain low for a long time, and there would never be any negative consequences. Now we are seeing interest rates rises 300 basis points, or 3% in simple terms.
This phenomenon is not only affecting the housing sector, it is also affecting the price of food. I will take this opportunity to read out some headlines, because even the media is starting to notice a problem. “Rents are so high in Toronto that students are living in homeless shelters.” “Inflation: Child hunger a major concern in Canada amid skyrocketing food prices.” “GTA food banks say they're facing the highest demand in their history.” “Nearly 6 million people in Canada experienced food insecurity in 2021, U of T study says.” People can no longer pay for food. Some single mothers are even watering down their children's milk because they cannot afford food.
As for gas prices, I met a young man who works in the mines in northern Ontario, and he told me that he could not go see his dying parents in Thunder Bay because diesel was over $2 a litre. He was not able to say goodbye to his own parents.
What is the Prime Minister doing to respond to this crisis? First, he is trying to divide people by attacking them because he thinks that if Canadians are afraid of one another, then they will forget that they cannot pay their bills. The Prime Minister is keeping in place vaccine mandates that every other country has lifted. He is still insisting on the use of the ArriveCAN app, which really does not work. He is trying to divert people's attention away from the cost of living by dividing Canadians and creating problems and division.
The next part of his plan involves increasing income taxes and taxes on gas, heating and food. The first thing the official opposition has called for since I became leader is for the government to do away with the tax hikes so that Canadians can keep more of their paycheques in their pockets and so that energy, gas, heating and other costs become more affordable.
That is our role, here in Parliament, to turn pain into hope. Canadians need hope. The comment I heard most from the people who attended my events was “Thank you for giving us hope”. For the first time, people believe that things can improve, and they will. We can change things.
The first thing we need to do is axe all the tax hikes, but we also need to control spending. Today's inflation is the result of a spendthrift government. The government's spending is increasing the cost of living. The $500-billion inflationary deficit increased the cost of what we buy and the interest that we pay. Inflationary taxes are increasing costs related to our businesses and our workers who provide products and services. The more the government spends, the more things cost. That is “Justinflation”.
We can reverse this trend by introducing legislation to limit government spending. This will subject politicians to the same economic rules that families have to follow. When a family increases spending in one column of their budget, they have to cut spending elsewhere. They have to find a dollar to spend a dollar. The same principle should apply to governments. During the Clinton years, the United States passed a law that helped Americans balance their budget and pay down $400 billion in debt. It was, at the time, the largest debt repayment in the United States. As soon as the law was struck down, Americans were plunged back into a deficit. This is proof that we need to put legal limits on politicians' spending and that politicians should have to follow the same spending rules as single mothers and small business owners.
Furthermore, instead of just printing more money, we need to produce more of the things that money buys, produce affordable food, energy and natural resources here in Canada, and we need to build more houses. We need to remove the barriers that the Prime Minister has put in place.
Let us start with food. The Prime Minister increased farmers' taxes. That increases the cost of fertilizer and of the energy needed to produce food. Now he wants to limit the use of fertilizer. That will require farming more land to produce the same quantity of food. Tractors and other equipment will have to cover a larger area, burning more diesel and other fuels. More food will have to be imported. Bringing this food from other countries to Canada will again require using more energy.
Did we not learn during the COVID-19 crisis that it is irresponsible to rely on other countries for what we need?
We should be able to grow our own food here, in Canada. Our farmers are the best in the world. We should remove the barriers that the government has put in place. We will cancel these taxes on farmers, scrap the government's plans to reduce the use of fertilizer and eliminate the paperwork that is so expensive for our farmers.
Second, we will provide incentives to our municipalities to cut their red tape. At present, Canada has the lowest housing units per capita in the G7, even though we have the largest land area. That is ridiculous. That is why housing prices in Canada are the second highest in the world relative to household income. With regard to home ownership, Vancouver is the third most expensive market in the world, and Toronto is the sixth. A Conservative government will tie the dollar amount for infrastructure in big cities where housing prices are too high to the number of houses built.
This will encourage them to cut red tape and reduce the cost of building permits so that more housing can be built. Every time a federal government funds a public transit station, we will make sure there is intensive densification in the surrounding areas so that young people can live in homes and apartments next to public transit.
Third, we will sell 15% of the 37,000 federal buildings so that they can be converted into housing and create millions of homes that our young people could buy in order to start a family.
Instead of importing foreign energy, we will get rid of laws like the ones arising from Bill C‑69 and others to allow energy to be produced here in Canada. This will create jobs and make the cost of energy more affordable. It will increase Canadians' purchasing power by raising the value of our dollar. When our energy sector is strong, our dollar goes up. The value of the dollar is tied to our purchasing power. When the dollar is low, it costs more to buy anything on international markets. Let us strengthen our dollar, produce our own energy and end oil imports.
By the way, where are the Liberal and NDP environmentalists to protest the foreign oil we are importing? Why are we funding dictators? We should be funding Canadians' paycheques here at home.
Finally, we want to give Canadians back control of their lives, in the freest country in the world, where the dollar keeps its value so that Canadians can have the life they work so hard to build. We should be a country that rewards hard work, a country where people can keep more of their money. We need to reform the tax system so that hard-working Canadians who contribute to the economy can keep their hard-earned money and provide better for their families. We should be a country that encourages and supports those who work hard, take risks and help build our country.
It is good to be back in the House, but would it not be nice if our young people could have a home? That is what we should be working towards. Unfortunately, yesterday we learned that the rates of home ownership are at their lowest levels in a generation. House prices have doubled under this Prime Minister. In fact, when this Prime Minister took office, the average family could afford their monthly housing costs with 32% of their paycheque. That has rocketed up to almost 50%. Vancouver is the third-most overpriced housing market on planet Earth. Toronto is the sixth. We have the second-worst housing bubble on planet Earth. No wonder nine in 10 young Canadians say that they cannot even dream of affording a house.
Now, from housing to food, we see the headlines. Even the media has noticed: “Rents are so high in Toronto that students are living in homeless shelters”; “Child hunger a major concern in Canada amid skyrocketing food prices”; “GTA food banks say they're facing the highest demand in their history”; and “Nearly 6 million people in Canada experienced food insecurity in 2021, U of T study says”.
Then there is energy. I met a young man in northern Ontario who said that he could not afford to put the diesel in his car to go and see his dying relatives one last time, who are hundreds of miles away in Thunder Bay. I met a working man, an energy worker ironically, in St. John's, Newfoundland, who said that the rising cost of gas meant he could not afford to replace his boots so he was taping them up with duct tape.
Canadians are suffering, and why is this happening? The cost of government is driving up the cost of living. Half a trillion dollars of inflationary deficits means more dollars chasing fewer goods, leading to higher prices, bidding up the cost of the goods we buy and the interest we pay. Inflationary taxes drive up the cost of businesses and workers to make our goods. The more Liberals spend, the more things cost. It is just inflation, and Canadians are paying the price for it.
What has been the Prime Minister's response? His first response was to attack the people who were suffering, to call them horrible and disparaging names, to divide and distract. His strategy is simple. He thinks if people are afraid of their neighbours, they will forget that they cannot pay their bills, so he keeps in place divisive and unscientific vaccine mandates to shut truckers out of their ability to transport goods across the border and soldiers, who have served our country bravely and loyally, out of their jobs. He does this all to stigmatize and attack so a single mother who is putting water in her kid's milk might forget, he hopes, how badly she is suffering under his watch because she will be afraid of her fellow citizens. It is time to replace fear with freedom. It is time for us all to unite.
The Prime Minister's second approach has been ever predictable. He wants to raise taxes with a new tax hike on paycheques that will take effect on January 1, meaning that Canadians will take home less of what they earn. Small businesses will have to pay a higher cost for every single person they keep on the payroll, forcing many to make the painful choice of laying people off. A few months later, on April 1, April Fool's Day, he will continue to carry out his plan to triple the carbon tax. He wants to increase gas taxes, home heating taxes and, indirectly, food taxes because, of course, food requires energy. This is going to make things worse. The Conservatives have made the demand that the government must cancel all its tax increases on our workers and our seniors so that their paycheques go further and their energy becomes affordable.
We in this House have a duty to transform the hurt into hope. That is what Conservatives will do, because things can get better. There is nothing wrong with Canada, with our country, that cannot be cured by what is right with this country. We have the answers that will counter this inflation and reinforce the purchasing power of Canadians.
We will call for a cap on taxes so that Canadians pay no more to the government and can keep more for themselves. We will call for the government to cap its own spending, and it can do this by simply following the same rules that everyday families follow. If a family decides it wants to build a porch in front of their house, they cancel their vacation or, better yet, they go out and find a deal on lumber and look for a way to keep their vacation costs down so that they can do both but for the same budget. This is how small businesses function as well, but not government.
The great Thomas Sowell said that the number one law of economics is scarcity, that people always want more than there is to have and that the number one rule of politics is to ignore the number one rule of economics, because politicians are the only creatures in the universe who do not have to live with scarcity. The birds in the trees, the fish in the seas, all must make maximum use of limited resources, but the politician just passes the cost on to someone else in higher inflation, debt and taxes. A “pay-as-you-go” law would force politicians to make the same either-or trade-offs that everyday Canadians make in their lives.
The principle is very simple. If the government brings in a new dollar of spending, it should find a dollar of savings to pay for it. All of the existing spending that is in the budget goes ahead into the future, but when the government steps into this House to introduce a new measure, it should accompany it with savings to pay for it. The government did this in the United States during the 1990s and that allowed the American government to balance its budget, pay off $400 billion of debt, have booming job growth, record-low unemployment and a massive increase in prosperity, but as soon as it let the law lapse, it went right back into deficit, proving that politicians need the same legal limits on their spending that families follow every single day. Our families have been pinching their pennies long enough. It is time for government to pinch its pennies, too.
Instead of just creating more cash, why not create more of what cash buys? Why do we not grow more food, build more house and produce more Canadian resources right here in our country instead?
Let us start with houses. As I have said, we have the fewest houses per capita of any country in the entire G7, even though we have the most land on which to build. Why? Local government gatekeepers stand in the way.
In Vancouver, the cost of government gatekeepers, that is permitting, delays, consultants and taxes, is $600,000 for one unit of housing. It is about $350,000 in Toronto. This prevents people from owning a home.
I propose is this. The government should link the number of dollars big overpriced cities get for infrastructure to the number of houses that actually get built, so we have an incentive for them to remove the gatekeepers, lower the costs and increase the speed of building permits so we can get more houses.
Let us require every federally funded transit station be pre-approved for high-density housing around it, so our young people do not even need to own a car. They can live right next to transit. Let us sell off 15% of the underutilized and overpriced 37,000 federal buildings, so we can convert that into housing. Let us create millions of new homes, so our newcomers, immigrants, young people and working-class people can re-establish the dream of home ownership.
Let us put an end to importing overseas oil into this country. Where are the protesters? Where are the Bloc, the NDP and the Liberal protesters standing in Saint John, New Brunswick to greet all those big tankers coming from overseas? They say that they are against oil, but they have no problem if that oil comes from foreign dictatorships. There are 130,000 barrels of overseas oil every single day arriving at our shores and taking our money back to their countries at the same time.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister violates his own sanctions against Putin by sending back a turbine so the Russians can continue to pump gas into Germany, so the Germans can fund the Russian war against Ukraine. It is incredible. Those members are against pipelines in Canada, but in favour of maintaining the turbines for Russian pipelines that fund foreign wars.
Meanwhile, we have 1,300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that could be used to free Europe from its dependency on Putin, meanwhile bringing back paycheques to this country. We have the ability to produce it cleaner than anywhere else on planet earth. In fact, the shortest shipping distances to both Asia and Europe from North America are right here in Canada.
What else do we have in Canada that allows us to liquify natural gas so it fits on a ship? Cold weather, which is our most abundant natural resource. That actually lowers the cost of liquefying natural gas by 25%. With Quebec, Newfoundland and British Columbia hydro, we can do it emissions-free. Why do we not ship our clean Canadian natural gas to Asia to shut down coal-fired plants there and ship it to Europe to break European dependence on Putin? Let us turn dollars for dictators into paycheques for Canadians.
Let us make work pay again in our country. Let us stop punishing people for the crime of getting up early in the morning and putting in a hard day's work. According to a Finance Canada document, if a single mother with three kids who earns $55,000 a year goes out and earns another dollar, she loses 80¢ of that dollar to government clawbacks and taxes. If she makes $25 an hour, she takes home $5 of that. No one should work for $5 an hour. That is below minimum wage, and yet our tax and benefits system punishes her for trying to work a little harder so maybe her kids can go to camp in the summer or maybe they can join the little league team.
We should reward hard work in our country. We should set out to reform our benefit and tax systems, so that every time someone works harder, takes another shift, earns a bonus and gets up a little earlier they keep more of what they earn.
My parents raised me to believe that it did not matter where I came from; it mattered where I was going. It did not matter who I knew, but what I could do. That is the country I want my kids to inherit. I want this to be a country again where it does not matter where people start off. If they work hard, if they take risks, if they study, if they learn, if they build and if they contribute, they can achieve anything they want. Right now, people do not feel that way, but hope is on the way.
We are going to bring change to our country. We are going to put change back in your pocket and we are going to make this the freest country on earth.