Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the budget implementation bill and give some thoughts about the budget. The document itself, as tabled by the Minister of Finance, was 725 pages long. It is the largest budget document in federal history. Unfortunately, quantity does not necessarily mean quality.
In terms of quantity, we have record spending and deficits. This fiscal year and the last fiscal year are ranked one and two, and both contain the largest amount of spending and the largest deficits in recorded Canadian history. It is not even close to the third-highest deficit. The current deficit that will have to be paid by Canadians will total over half a trillion dollars. That is just for the last two years. There is surely more to come. If we write on a piece of paper the number 5 followed by 11 zeros, that is nearly the amount of accumulated deficit incurred since Confederation. We are far from where we were when the Prime Minister promised “a modest short-term deficit” six years ago.
Canadians will be paying for this spending for decades. Since all of the spending comes from borrowed money, we will also be paying interest. We are not paying off the debt today, but its effects will drag on our economy like an anchor weighing down a swimmer in the ocean.
Right now, interest rates are being held low. The Bank of Canada is purchasing government debt off the open market, which puts downward pressure on interest rates. This allows the government to borrow and spend, but this is impacting the lives of everyday people in my riding of Richmond Centre.
Consequently, the price of everything is increasing. Indeed, with easy credit due to low interest rates, the prices of real estate have skyrocketed. Young constituents of mine cannot afford a place to live, while older folks are sitting on a windfall. Rents are getting higher because landlords must afford to finance and pay back higher and higher levels of debt. Unaffordability of places to live is one of the consequences of huge government deficits.
Higher prices are also seen in everything else, ranging from food to gasoline, services, and the list goes on. Disruptions in supply chains due to COVID-19 are not helping. Everybody at street level can see this happening. Prices were bound to rise, but the government's fiscal policy is making things a lot worse than they should be.
I do concede the point that last year in March, we knew a lot less about COVID-19 than we do today. Governments around the world reacted in different manners, but most were consistent in providing emergency supports to the population while we figured things out.
Beyond that, there was no excuse for what we have seen out of the government over the past half-year or so. The Liberal government has been very slow to bring us back on the path to recovery. Nothing illustrates this more than the snail pace of COVID-19 vaccinations that we have seen. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars were wasted in this initial effort.
We should be a first-world nation with first-world results, but instead the Liberal government has been lagging badly. Most Canadians at this point, including myself, are in the category of receiving a partial vaccination. Compared to our fully vaccinated friends down south in the U.S. and compared to countries like Israel, we have underperformed. This will cost us, and we see it in the budget today.
We see plenty of media out there showing obvious evidence that things are heading back to normal in places outside of Canada. People are attending sporting events, socializing and exercising without having to wear masks. Indeed, we are seeing hints of that occurring today from our provincial governments. However, people remember the initial promise of the federal Liberals when they said it would take two weeks to flatten the curve, which did not turn out as expected at all.
With this uncertainty, why would anybody want to make preparations for a recovery that may or may not occur? The rug has already been pulled from the floors of the restaurant industry in British Columbia, twice, with incredibly short notice.
My point is that the government's failed response to the COVID-19 vaccinations has directly resulted in the necessity of additional emergency spending support. Tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars would not have had to be spent had we seen one the leaders rather than a laggard in our COVID-19 response.
However, the current Liberal government has made so many missteps that will slow down this road map. The slowness of our government's COVID response has also caused distortion in the labour market. I speak to businesses that cannot find employees because government benefits are competing with them, competing with businesses that want to hire. Going back to my original point about costs, it means the cost of labour is rising and this results in increased prices for everything. The volatile economic climate caused by the government's missteps is stalling our recovery.
At least before COVID-19, Richmond was home to a vibrant tourism sector. Today, we have travel centres and tourism-sensitive areas of the economy that are completely shut down. We need to create an environment that would get this sector back to where it was. We support tourism, but not virtualism. This is what I have been telling people here in Richmond.
While nearly every industry from coast to coast to coast has felt the negative effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality and tourism industries have been especially hard hit, from international border closures, to provincial border regulations and stay-at-home orders, the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Canadians, either directly the in tourism hospitality industry or in an adjacent field, have been hammered by COVID-19.
I have heard from countless constituents who work for airlines, the travel infrastructure, hospitality and in the tourism industry and they have all told me the same thing: “we need help”.
I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks to my colleagues from Niagara Falls as well as Durham for their efforts in bringing the voices of those in the tourism industry to parliamentarians and to this place to be heard, and indeed, they were heard.
Richmond Centre is also home to the YVR airport and to many great aerospace firms that operate and maintain our airlines, airplanes and helicopters. The budget funding needs to be implemented in conjunction with an aerospace strategy that allows us to compete in the global marketplace.
The final area I want to touch on is one which is extremely close to my heart. For a number of years, I was very fortunate to be able to serve not just Richmond, but Canadians from coast to coast—