Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss Bill C-47, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget.
I represent a riding with one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have consistently left parts of the country like mine, northern Manitoba, behind, preferring to stand with their billionaire friends than communities like the one I come from, and communities in our region. I think in many ways this budget reflects that.
We have seen the slow pace at which the Liberals move when it comes to helping people verus the zeal that comes with standing with the billionaire class. Liberals have been in power for eight years, and it took New Democrats to force them to expand health care services and finally move to provide dental care services for millions of Canadians. New Democrats have made this call for years and now many seniors and young people will finally get access to the dental care they need.
We also know Canadians are struggling to put food on the table for their families in a way we have not seen in a generation. The reality is the current government is not doing enough. We know the GST rebate that will be sent to families will provide immediate relief for Canadians, and that is also something that is there because of the work of New Democrats. Let us be clear. If Liberals had it their way, none of these supports would have been included. While there is still more work to be done to deliver for the working class, if it were not for elected New Democrats in Parliament this budget would have been much worse.
Let us talk about what is not in the budget. New Democrats forced the government to help people, but we know there is so much more that must be done. Without this pressure by New Democrats, this budget would not have provided Canadians any sort of help, and they should know that New Democrats will always fight to get results for them.
One area that is very concerning is the lack of urgent significant investment in indigenous housing. The $4 billion over seven years for a co-developed urban, rural and northern indigenous strategy, starting in 2024-25, is not enough. We know that Liberals did not even want to put this much money in the budget, and it is outrageous that the money will only start flowing in the next fiscal year. Indigenous communities, first nations and Métis communities, like the ones I represent, need action now. The infrastructure gap facing first nations is at least $30 billion, and we suspect that number is much higher. The $4 billion over seven years is barely a drop in the bucket and will not do enough to end the inhumane conditions the current government, and governments before it, have forced indigenous peoples to live in.
When we talk about the housing crisis facing indigenous communities, let us be clear as to what we are talking about. In places like Shamattawa, Cross Lake and Tataskweyak, we are talking about dilapidated, overcrowded homes, with 12 people or even more to a house, with holes in the walls, mould in the corners and heating that does not work in some of the harshest climates in the country. If members of the House think that the amount of money in this budget for indigenous housing is sufficient, it is because they have never set foot on a first nation.
It is shameful that the government had to be pulled kicking and screaming to make even these small investments, and I challenge any sitting member who defends the indefensible to come to northern Manitoba, to visit Nunavut, to visit first nations in northern Ontario. The money is barely a drop in the bucket. It is no surprise coming from the Liberal government. It could not even budget for indigenous housing in its platform. It literally had no money for indigenous housing, the most extreme housing crisis in our country, in its platform. When people show us who they are, we should believe them.
The current government will continue to pay lip service to these commitments and do less than the bare minimum. Yes, it might say all the right things, throw in the word “reconciliation” a few times, but I have suspected for a long time that when it comes to indigenous peoples the government is satisfied making Canadians in cities feel comfortable, rather than making the real systemic change that would allow indigenous peoples and indigenous communities to actually have the right to secure and safe housing. We need real systemic change.
A great example of how the government is satisfied to tinker around the edges without materially improving the lives of people is how they are dealing with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a Crown corporation.
To rewind a bit, over a year ago, I proposed legislation that would help communities like the ones I represent, first nations, Métis and northern communities, to access over $35 billion to take on the devastating impacts of the climate crisis in their communities. The Canada Infrastructure Bank, since its inception, has been an abysmal failure for Canadians but a success for the billionaire class. In our bill, we worked to fix that, and a lot of our solutions actually made it into this budget.
We called for the Canada Infrastructure Bank to prioritize the needs of northern and indigenous communities. At the time, the Liberals voted against that, but it is now in the budget. We called for the Canada Infrastructure Bank to prioritize funding projects that help us deal with the climate crisis. At the time, the Liberals voted against it, but it is now in the budget. We also called to end the corporate giveaway led by the Canada Infrastructure Bank by removing its privatization capacity. The Liberals voted against it. Curiously, this did not make it into the budget.
We see this repeatedly throughout the budget any time we deal with corporate profits. In 2021, as the richest companies in the country had record profits, they managed to push their tax rate lower, avoiding $30 billion in taxes.
The government knows about these loopholes. We have called on it numerous times to close them, because the reality is that the problem is getting worse. As Dr. DT Cochrane from Canadians for Tax Fairness pointed out, in the decade before the pandemic, “Canadian corporations claimed about eight cents of every dollar as pre-tax profit.” In 2021, that number was 12¢, which is unsurprising. Every time a for-profit corporation gets a hold of a dollar, it is compelled to siphon as much profit as possible.
What is equally unsurprising is that the Liberals refuse to do anything about it. If New Democrats were in power, we would bring in an excess profit tax to make sure that billionaires pay their fair share. It really highlights the issue with the Liberal Party and its repeated, utter refusal to do anything that upsets the status quo or upsets the capital class and the Liberals' rich and powerful friends.
This is why we are unsurprised that the budget is woefully inadequate when it comes to combatting the climate crisis. For the 2023-24 period, only $14 billion is allocated to climate-related spending efforts. This is insultingly low when compared with the 2% of the GDP we need to address the scale and magnitude of the climate emergency. Most of the spending in the Liberal budget is in the form of tax breaks and subsidies to corporations rather than direct investments in proven emissions reduction projects.
If we could solve the climate crisis through tax breaks to wealthy corporations, it would have already been done. Members can believe me on this: That is literally Liberals' only solution, which they try again and again.
We need to be real. The climate crisis is nothing to take lightly. Canadians need a plan that will funnel funds into publicly owned sustainable energy projects to reduce our carbon emissions in the long term. Such investments could be made in public transit, renewable energy projects and infrastructure that makes sense and protects our communities. What we have instead is the continued billion-dollar giveaway to big oil.
Why are the Liberals more concerned with preserving subsidies for big oil, which made record profits this year, than investing in a sustainable, green economy that will save lives? The government has always said the right things when it comes to the environment. It is an expert at greenwashing. Unfortunately, the government has always done the complete opposite. Continued support for the oil and gas sector hinders our progress towards a sustainable, low-carbon future.
I want to be clear on this: A New Democrat climate policy would involve investing public money in public carbon emissions reduction plans, such as public transit, decarbonized energy grids and renewable energy alternatives. This would be done at a much higher rate than is done in this budget, which carries with it an incalculable loss for future generations. The truth is that the current Liberal government lacks the imagination and, most importantly, the political will to seriously tackle the climate crisis head-on.
In closing, New Democrats are proud that we forced the Liberals to make some investments that would make a real difference to the people across the country. However, there is so much more that needs to be done, particularly when it comes to the most marginalized communities—