Mr. Speaker, as a bit of personal history, I was the son of parents who lived through the Great Depression. My dad Tony put food on the table by being a locomotive engineer. He worked at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and he served as secretary-treasurer of his union. My mom Helen was a busy stay-at-home mother to five kids.
We were happy, but I do not remember our having a whole lot of money when we were growing up. As a kid in grade school, I can count on one hand the number of times that we actually went out to a real restaurant. My mom's attitude was “Why waste good money on a restaurant when we have food at home?” I remember that if there was a big sale at the grocery store, we would sometimes get steak at home, but it was a rare treat. The reason I remember that is when we would have it my mom always had the same thing to say. She would say, “That steak cost 99¢ a pound, so make sure you eat all of it, even the fat.”
It was a good lesson in life, though. At an early age, kids in my family learned the value of money and we learned that one never wastes anything. My parents gave me a great life lesson and I was happy. Those lessons stuck with me and I think a lot of Canadians these days can relate to those lessons. They understand the value of hard work and money and they want value from governments for their tax dollars.
I know these have been challenging times with the COVID pandemic. Due to this terrible pandemic, governments were forced to shut down the normal economy. As such, people needed an income. Governments had a duty to come to the rescue, but they spent a lot of money, especially the current Liberal government. I admit that a good chunk of it was needed. In fact, Conservatives pushed the Liberals to increase financial benefits to Canadians during this pandemic. Right at the beginning of the pandemic, we fought to get a big increase in the small-business wage subsidy.
However, as we enter the road to recovery we need a plan back to fiscal balance. It is a lesson my parents and many of our parents and grandparents learned the hard way. I know many of my constituents feel the same way. I regularly survey my constituents for their views on important issues of the day. One question I asked them recently was whether they are worried about the federal debt. The vast majority, more than 80%, said they are very worried; yet, the Liberals failed to take prudent measures in this budget. Despite record spending, there is no meaningful action to reduce our massive debt load, and “massive” is the key word here. The debt is more than a trillion dollars and climbing.
The Liberals do not even have a long-term plan to return to balance. This is a shocking failure by the government. It was only a year ago that the Prime Minister was boasting of Canada's fiscal capacity to offer supports during the pandemic. He said his government could spend lots of money because of the prudent decisions it made previously. Why, then, is he not making those prudent decisions for the future?
As COVID made clear, we cannot foresee these events. Just consider the government's failure, early on, to recognize how serious COVID itself was. Early on, we Conservatives gave this advice: Shut down flights from COVID hot spots. The government members said we were being alarmist, even racist. What is going to happen during the next crisis that we face, with our now limited fiscal capacity? We do not have the capacity to keep on spending.
The Prime Minister boasts of prudent decisions, but he fails to make them. Prior to COVID, the current government showed a complete lack of fiscal discipline. Instead of prudently managing taxpayer money, the Liberals ran deficit after deficit. During the good times, the Liberals added more than $72 billion to the national debt. To put that into perspective, that is nearly $2,000 of new debt for every man, woman and child in Canada. Continuous deficits and endless debt leave us vulnerable. It is not sustainable.
In a crisis, one needs a healthy balance sheet. Who said that? An expert did. That is the view of Philip Cross. He is the former economic analyst at Statistics Canada.
When Conservatives were in power, we were fiscally responsible. We came out of the 2008 financial crisis better than any country in the G7. Here is what Cross said about that: “strong balance sheets in Canada stood it in good stead to endure the recession and emerge into recovery. The recession was shorter and milder in Canada than in other G7 nations, partly because the flow of credit was not disrupted as it was in other nations and a large pool of savings was available to finance spending when income fell temporarily.”
What is going to happen in the next crisis, if the Liberal government gambles our safety net? Most Canadians know about the value of money. These Liberals have to learn that, too. Let us just go over some of the Liberals' useless spending. Earlier this year I asked an Order Paper question on the expenses related to having government employees work from home. Working from home was, of course, an important safety feature, and I think we can all accept reasonable expenses. However, can anyone really justify spending $2,815 of taxpayers' money for a desk or $1,160 for a work chair? Having gone through that document, those are hardly isolated incidents. That is only scratching the surface.
The government's contempt for transparency has been evident for years. However, it has doubled down during the COVID crisis. It is actually hiding crucial information on how taxpayers' money is being spent. Even a former parliamentary budget officer criticized the government for lack of transparency. For example, members from across the aisle on the transport committee recently talked out the clock to avoid accountability. Instead of being transparent about their mismanagement of the infrastructure bank, they tried to bury the details, but the details, of course, eventually come out. For example, how the infrastructure bank recently paid out nearly $4 million for executive terminations, how the bank has completed zero projects in four years and how it is projected to lose billions of taxpayers' dollars.
Building needed projects in Canada seems to be too complicated for the Liberals' budget, but they do not seem to have any issue funding the China-controlled Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to build projects outside of Canada. The Liberals have funnelled tens of millions of dollars to this Chinese state-run bank; this is despite the Chinese Communist regime holding two of our citizens against their will on trumped-up charges. How, exactly, is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank good value for money?
As we are racking up more and more debt, I wonder just how much of it is being wasted. This is an important issue, especially for younger generations. We are passing this debt on to the next generation to pay off, and we owe it to them not to bury them in debt. Even worse, this spending is not even geared to growing the economy, but members should not take my word on it; that is the analysis of the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer. He said that “Budget 2021 estimates overstate the impact of stimulus spending over the next 3 years,” so despite massive unsustainable spending, we are not even going to see additional growth. One thing that is also readily available is that the government's strategy is not prepared for an increase of interest rates. Even a minor increase could have a devastating effect on our long-term national finances.
My constituents are demanding answers. Like my parents, they know the value of money. They work hard for their money. They expect and demand that their money is not wasted. Canadians know that Liberal spending is out of control.