Madam Speaker, this is a very important debate that we are having today. The most critical things facing this country right now are the fiscal economic situation and, of course, the vaccine situation. I have the privilege and honour of speaking to the vaccine issue this evening, which is where I am going focus most of my remarks in terms of the fiscal economic update.
Before us today we have Bill C-14, a bill to enact certain provisions of the economic statement. As members are aware, we had an economic statement tabled in this House. It was a fairly significant update, especially considering that we have not had a budget in in this House in the last two years.
First of all, I want to talk a little about history, because if I am leery about what the government is putting before us, it is with very good reason. As many people may recall, at one point the Prime Minister made the very infamous, or famous, comments about how budgets would balance themselves, and from the heart out. Clearly, budgets do not balance themselves.
In 2015 the current Liberal government had the good fortune to assume a very strong economy and a strong fiscal position. After working our way through the global recession, which was an extraordinary challenge, Conservatives did exactly what we said we would do. We said were going to put some stimulus into the economy, and we put that stimulus in. We said we would get back to a balanced budget in a certain time frame. Many, certainly on my side of the House, miss our colleague Jim Flaherty, who was so articulate and so thoughtful in terms of how he was going to deal with both taking care of the economy of the nation and taking care of the government's finances.
After finding that budgets clearly do not balance themselves, the Liberals, who promised a balanced budget, found that they could not do that, so they started to talk about the debt-to-GDP ratio, and Liberals were actually having trouble meeting their fiscal anchors in terms of the debt-to-GDP ratio. Essentially what Liberals have done is abandon any sort of attempt at trying to maintain some sort of control, so we have no fiscal anchor.
Before the crisis hit, we had issues with an aging population and poor productivity. We had challenges and we were heading into some very difficult times. This was pre-pandemic. I do not know if people are aware of the flight of capital that was leaving this country because of some of the policies and positions the Liberal government was putting in place. We were seeing a flight of investments leaving Canada.
The pandemic, of course, is an extraordinary crisis, and countries across the world are having to determine how they are going to deal with this extraordinary crisis.
We now know that we have gone from a $20-billion-plus deficit to likely one over $400 billion and that we have surpassed $1 trillion in debt. Day after day, I have witnessed a Prime Minister out on the porch announcing significant dollars with unfettered concern.
I do want to say, for those Liberals who are listening, that yes, we supported those measures, and yes, they were important measures during these extraordinary circumstances, but we certainly did not support everything the Prime Minister was announcing every day. We did realize that the CERB and rental assistance had to go out. However, there is a difference between supporting measures in the pandemic and some of the unfettered spending that we have seen.
What we have before is a fiscal update and a vague commitment by the Minister of Finance that she was going to have to spend $100 billion to build back better, so Canadians can understand if we are a little leery in terms of what the Liberals plan to do and how they plan to do it.
Within this particular update, there are some important measures. I will talk about the area of specific concern in part 7 after I reflect on one part of what the concern was. This is where the government needs to do some soul-searching and really wonder how it handled this pandemic. I am talking about long-term care homes.
We know that the vast majority of the deaths from the pandemic have been in our long-term care homes. We knew that in phase one. When we look at the tragedy that is happening today and what is happening in our long-term care homes, it has to break our hearts.
I certainly remember that at the time, we said the government had a window of opportunity to prepare for phase two. We knew we had challenges in our homes and we knew we had some time between phase one and phase two. What happened? The government got so sidetracked with the WE scandal and other issues that, other than sending some money to the provinces to support vulnerable populations, it did nothing.
We now have a commitment from the government for a few things. One is $1 billion for our long-term care homes. It is too late. That $1 billion should have been in the hands of the provinces between phase one and phase two to deal with infection control and do the minor modifications that would make the environment safer through investing capital into infrastructure for airflow. The Liberals had a window of opportunity; they missed it, and now they are saying that they are going to give $1 billion. By the time that money gets out the door, hopefully our residents will be vaccinated, but they missed an opportunity to do what needed to be done, and now they are saying they are going to give $1 billion for measures that should have been done months ago.
The other thing is that their answer to long-term care was talking about national standards. Whether one agrees with national standards or does not agree, everyone in government knew that it would take years to develop national standards. It was not a measure that was going to deal with the crisis of the pandemic.
What we have is a government that was negligent. The Liberals were sidetracked because they were so busy handing dollars to their friends at WE that they did not do the basics that they should have been doing to prepare for wave two, and that negligence is on their shoulders.
That is just one part of the fiscal update, and when I read it, it broke my heart, because it is too late. It should have been there earlier, so I felt it was important to draw attention to that particular component.
To go back to the main legislation, perhaps the reason that I find it so difficult to support it is that we have not had a budget. We had an economic update. We had some very vague talk from the finance minister about building back better, picking their winners and losers and, if it is anything like WE, making sure that Liberal-friendly companies were part of that build back better idea.
What they have asked for in part 7 is spending authority to be able to borrow money that far exceeds even their $100 billion. For any parliamentarian to give that authorization for borrowing power to the Government of Canada without having had a budget in the last two years is, quite frankly, irresponsible.
Therefore, I would recommend that the government take part 7 out of this legislation. Let us move forward with those measures in parts 1 to 6 that are actually going to help people. That would certainly be an approach that would be supportable.