Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House today to join my colleagues in supporting the motion moved by my hon. colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
Before I begin my speech, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Compton—Stanstead, and I look forward to hearing his presentation.
The motion is very simple. What the NDP wants is quite clear. I will nevertheless tell the government once again what we are looking for, because sometimes we talk but the message does not get through. I will therefore try again.
First of all, we are calling on the government to present a fiscal and economic update to Parliament in order to inform both parliamentarians and Canadians about the real state of our public finances. We do not want any bogus projections from the Conservatives, as we have seen recently. We want an update on the state of our public finances.
Furthermore, we are also calling on the government to commit to presenting a budget that includes measures to help the middle class and create good-quality jobs. Frankly, that would be a refreshing change. What we are asking for is not unreasonable; quite the contrary.
From the minute we started debating this motion today, the Conservatives have refused to answer our questions and be transparent with Canadians. They keep giving us spin. They would have us believe that they are excellent managers, but everyone knows that this is not true. I can understand them wanting to bury their heads in the sand because reality is far from being in their favour. The current situation in Canada very clearly illustrates this Conservative government's incompetence. As I was saying, the Conservatives would have us believe that they are good managers and that we should trust them to lead our economy and help middle-class families. However, Canadians know better.
The NDP has repeatedly talked about the Conservatives' obsession with developing natural resources at the expense of other sectors of the Canadian economy and the possible consequences of not diversifying the country's economy. We are facing those consequences today. The Conservatives have denied the facts and tried to discredit the NDP for various reasons. Today, we are facing a problematic situation with the current price of oil.
The price of a barrel of oil is plummeting. Recently, TD Economics announced that because of the rapid drop in oil prices, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the Canadian government to balance the books for 2015-16, as promised. It is not likely to happen until 2017-18, and even that is pretty optimistic.
TD Bank seems to think that oil prices will recover, but other economists are much more pessimistic. A balanced budget could come even later than 2017-18 if conditions remain as they are.
I would like to quote from an article written by Alain Dubuc and published in La Presse yesterday. Nobody would accuse Mr. Dubuc of being a closet New Democrat. Nevertheless, he accurately portrayed the Conservatives' incompetence when it comes to the economy. He wrote:
The Canadian formula had less to do with Conservative genius than a fortuitous advantage—oil—over which they had no control. Canada's success—or rather the illusion of success based on oil-doped numbers—relied too heavily on burgeoning investment in oil and growth in the west, and not heavily enough on modernizing and diversifying the Canadian economy. That has led to significant environmental consequences and high costs for Quebec and Ontario. The government is therefore partly to blame for this turmoil.
As I was saying, Mr. Dubuc sums up the situation very well, and highlights the problem caused by the Conservatives when they decided to put all their eggs in one basket, and concentrate exclusively, or almost so, on the natural resources extraction sector to the detriment of other sectors of the economy. I am referring to the manufacturing sector, which has suffered huge losses in recent years.
We are now confronting job losses and the bankruptcy of big companies, as is now the case with Sony and Mexx, to mention only those two. Suncor is also announcing job cuts. Even the extractive sector is now suffering, because the price of oil is much too low.
Economists estimate that every $5 drop in the price of a barrel of oil costs our government nearly one billion dollars. We can thus imagine that if the price of oil stays as low as $45 U.S. a barrel, as it is today, that could represent a revenue loss of nearly $6 billion in a year for the Canadian government. Yet the Conservative government was relying on that revenue to generate a surplus and make election promises to its cronies. We thus have a problem on our hands. Apart from not necessarily being able to help Canadian families, we may find ourselves facing other cuts. The government’s choices are in fact fairly limited. That is why the NDP is now asking for an economic and financial update. It wants a real-world picture of the situation in order to be able to make the most appropriate choices for Canadian families.
Looking at the situation, I can certainly believe that the government is panicking, and wants to delay the tabling of its budget until April. However, crossing your fingers and hoping that the price of oil will stabilize or increase is not a valid economic strategy. I hope the Conservatives will realize this fairly quickly.
The Conservatives maintain that they will balance the budget, whatever it takes, but how are they going to achieve such a result? Are they going to cut services to Canadians even more than they have already done? Are they going to dip into the contingency reserve that should be used in emergencies, and not to fill gaps in the budget that the Conservatives were not able to foresee? Neither of these two choices represents a real solution that will benefit Canadian families. People are looking to the government for help.
A few months ago, we saw the Conservatives postponing $3 billion worth of military procurement because, there again, they saw that they would not be able to achieve their balanced budget. They cut in areas that directly affected frontline services to veterans, people that this government is constantly trying to make use of for electoral purposes. They claim to be big defenders of our military and our veterans, when we know very well that this is absolutely false. We will be facing agonizing choices because the Conservative government is quite simply incompetent in matters of economic management, and has not been able to prepare forecasts for the budget.
In fact, it chose instead to give election goodies to its buddies. Did it suggest the possibility of not implementing the expensive and inefficient income-splitting arrangement? Not at all. On the contrary, I believe it would look rather bad in this election year. However, the arrangement in question has been criticized by many experts and many economists. In addition to offering nothing to over 85% of Canadian families—which is huge—there are clear indications that setting up such a scheme would push the government into deficit. We are therefore in a difficult situation already, but the government is considering dipping into reserves that should be used in the case of floods or natural disasters, and unforeseen events of that kind. The government is out to win points in specific constituencies with a particular elite that the Conservatives are trying to win over, and it continues to push forward such a plan.
I clearly recall that the new Minister of Veterans Affairs was quite proud to announce to Canadians, to his Conservative supporters, that this tax measure introduced by his government would result in a tax credit of nearly $3,500 for his family. That is magic. Thank goodness there are limits on tax credits. I cannot imagine what he might get with his new minister's salary. What will this measure do for 85% of Canadian families? Absolutely nothing. Once again, the Conservatives hope to buy the vote of the wealthy with this gift.
What we are asking for today is very simple. We want the government to stop burying its head in the sand and be honest and transparent with Canadians for once. We want the government to present the actual economic situation. The NDP has proposed measures that could help Canadian families, such as our affordable national child care plan. When Quebec implemented its child care program, 70,000 women entered the labour market. This is a practical measure that will stimulate the economy and create jobs. I do not hear the government making such proposals. What we want to see today is a commitment from the government that it will present a budget that includes measures to help Canadian families and provide an economic update. It is very simple.