Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to add my voice to the debate on the fall economic statement.
The bill is a disappointing but unsurprising continuation of the high-tax, high-inflation policy that we have come to expect from the Liberal government. The bill offers Canadians more debt, more taxes, more spending and the prospect of more inflation and higher interest rates in the months and years ahead. I say that Canadians have come to expect this kind of bill because this is consistent with what these Liberals have delivered for the last seven years.
Back in 2015, these Liberals promised three years of what they called “modest deficits” that would be incurred entirely for the purpose of a transformational infrastructure construction program, which would lead to the budget balancing itself by 2019. It was obvious right from the start that this solemn election promise was a lie told to Canadian voters. They immediately started piling on new spending without any fiscal restraint and drove Canada straight into deficit, and they have never talked about a balanced budget since.
It was as if no Liberal MP had ever heard the promise they made to millions of Canadians on doorsteps that, if Liberals were elected, they would get short, modest deficits offset by gleaming new productivity-improving infrastructure. Instead, we have structural deficits and industries struggling under the weight of ever-increasing regulation. I would remind members of the House, and Canadians watching or reading this, that this government’s track record is how its credibility should be measured.
After ignoring their promise by pretending they never made it, Bill Morneau assured Canadians that what really mattered was not deficits but that the debt-to-GDP ratio would constantly shrink. Then, when his own departments’ projections looked like this so-called fiscal anchor was in jeopardy, he suddenly said that, no, what really mattered was Canada’s AAA credit rating. Then, at the moment when one agency downgraded Canada’s credit rating, when Canada was paralyzed by rail blockades, when Canada’s lack of pipeline capacity was helping drive Canadian energy prices below zero, when the economy was teetering on the brink of recession, and when this government was about to table a massive deficit budget, COVID struck. It is critical for Canadians to remember this important point. This government squandered four years of a booming world economy by creating new taxes and regulations that decimated Canadian industries and racked up $100 billion in new debt before the pandemic. All of this happened before the pandemic.
Conservatives warned this government throughout the first four years that it was grossly irresponsible to run large deficits and fail to build promised infrastructure while times were relatively good. Conservatives repeatedly warned the government that it was leaving Canadians vulnerable by leaving the cupboard bare during good times. The Conservative leader certainly did not predict the COVID pandemic, but he did warn the government that it had a responsibility to act prudently to maximize Canada’s capability to manage an economic downturn.
Now, nearly three years later, according to the fall economic statement, Canada’s debt is nearly $1.2 trillion, more than half of which was piled on by this government alone, and the majority of the new debt this government has added had nothing to do with COVID response measures, as $100 billion of it came before COVID, and $205 billion was added to the debt after the pandemic for spending that had nothing to do with the pandemic.
While the current and previous finance ministers were running these huge deficits, they assured Canadians that this was all okay. They said that interest rates were low and would remain low for the foreseeable future. They even said that rates were so low that they could run a deficit while lowering the debt-to-GDP ratio.
While the finance ministers were racking up the debt, the Bank of Canada was cranking up the printing press. The Department of Finance issued new debt, and the Bank of Canada bought it with cash created out of thin air. Current and previous governors of the Bank of Canada assured Canadians that this was fine, that there was nothing to be concerned about.
In fact, I asked the Governor of the Bank of Canada if buying up all this debt with newly conjured money would eventually trigger inflation, and he said no. He dismissed the concerns that I raised two and half years ago about inflation. He said that there would be no inflation, and even if there was, they had plenty of tools to deal with that. Our Conservative leader also raised these concerns consistently over the past two and a half years.
The finance minister dismissed these Conservative concerns about inflation and said that any inflation was simply transitory and nothing to worry about. Now here we are. We are in a full-blown cost of living crisis. Canadians are increasingly unable to afford basic necessities of life such as food, groceries, gasoline, housing and home heating.
Inflation has been called the cruellest tax of all. It destroys the life savings of seniors. It destroys the purchasing power of workers whose wages do not keep up with the cost of the goods they need to live. Canada now has the highest inflation in 40 years, yet there is absolutely nothing in the fall economic statement that would meaningfully address this crisis.
Milton Friedman said, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output.”
As the Conservative leader has put it, there is too much money chasing too few goods. The cost of government is driving up the cost of living. We must stop printing cash and start producing more of the things that cash buys, such as food, houses and affordable energy. Now that inflation is out of control and wreaking havoc on Canadians’ ability to feed, house, and transport themselves, and heat their homes, the Bank of Canada is raising interest rates faster than at any point in decades.
This has two important consequences for Canadians. First, it means that thousands, perhaps even millions, of Canadians are going to see their monthly mortgage payments shoot up drastically in the months and years to come. Second, it means that the interest on Canada’s debts will soon approach $50 billion per year, according to the fall economic statement. The Canadian government will soon spend more on interest than it does on health transfers or national defence.
On top of all that, this bill offers no meaningful tax relief for Canadians. The government is proceeding to triple the carbon tax on home heating, gasoline and groceries, again breaking a previous Liberal election promise to not raise the carbon tax above $50 per megatonne. This is in addition to the payroll tax, which is set to increase in just a few weeks. Canadians cannot pay a higher carbon tax with a smaller paycheque. They cannot afford higher food prices, higher home heating costs or higher gasoline and transportation costs. As the interest rates rise and house prices remain out of reach, Canadians despair that an entire generation has given up on the dream of home ownership.
However, the problems with the government go way beyond this terrible bill and deeply flawed and disappointing fall economic statement. It is a government that has failed Canadians so thoroughly that it is almost incomprehensible. The government is so hopelessly incompetent that Canadians cannot get a passport. The government cannot ensure access to basic children’s medication. There are nearly two and a half million people waiting for an immigration decision, and 10,000 people who were ordered into quarantine and threatened by a useless and dubiously acquired phone application.
The government’s payroll systems cannot pay, and its procurement systems cannot procure. Our Arctic is inadequately defended. Public officials have denied and defied democratic orders of Parliament. Emergency powers have been declared under false pretense. Cabinet ministers interfere with police investigations. Basic information is routinely denied to members of the public and to journalists. Our energy resources remain in the ground while Europe freezes and Putin laughs. Canadians cannot afford food. They cannot heat their homes. The finance minister continues to jeopardize Canada’s future with reckless spending and punishing taxes, while mocking desperate, suffering Canadians by having them believe that she shares their hardships and can relate to them because she cancelled her Disney+ subscription.
I have no confidence in the government. I oppose this bill, and I oppose the government. It is time for a Conservative government and hope for Canadians.