Madam Speaker, I want to add my comments on the fall economic statement.
Ahead of the Liberal government's fall economic update, our Conservative team put forward two really concise proposals. One was to stop the tax increases and the other was to stop spending money we do not have. Unfortunately, the Liberals did not take our advice in either one of those areas. They are still proceeding with their planned tax hikes and they are continuing to spend at record levels.
It goes without saying that Canadians are having incredible difficulties paying their bills, rent and and mortgages and putting food on the table. Seniors, students and working families are getting crushed by the dramatic rise in the cost of almost everything they purchase these days. Heating a home or business is not a luxury; it is a necessity. The Conservatives get that, but it is clear the Liberals do not. Canada was the only G7 country to raise energy taxes during this inflation crisis.
The finance minister should have used the fall economic statement to stop the plans to triple the carbon tax. It was a missed opportunity, and it is regrettable that the Liberals are failing to listen to their constituents, who are struggling to pay their bills.
Thanks to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, his recent report on the costs of the Liberal carbon tax completely debunked the Liberals' claim that people are better off under their rebate scheme. It proved what Canadians already knew about the Liberal carbon tax: It is costing them money. For months, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has been claiming that eight in 10 Canadians get more money back from the carbon tax. The PBO report says that is not true, and most households that are subject to the Liberal carbon tax “will see a net loss”.
After years of the Liberals saying their carbon tax results in more money going into the pockets of Canadians, it is time for the Liberal government to end the charade. It needs to admit that Canadian households are in fact losing money and will continue to lose money because of the carbon tax. Every time the Liberals get up in the House and state otherwise, it is simply not accurate.
In Manitoba, winter has already arrived. The temperatures are plummeting and people’s furnaces are running non-stop. According to Manitoba Hydro, the carbon tax is equal to 9.79¢ applied to each cubic metre of natural gas that a household uses. The typical household in Manitoba will use around 2,250 cubic metres of natural gas in a year, resulting in $220 in carbon taxes. It is important to note that the carbon tax is also applied to the fuel people put in their trucks or cars.
Constituents of Brandon—Souris are disproportionately affected by the carbon tax. I have stated this a number of times in speeches in the House. I am a proud Manitoban. I am also proud to be from rural Canada. The Liberal government needs to start realizing that its policies affect rural and urban Canadians quite differently. My riding covers a span of well over 17,000 square kilometres. Unfortunately, I do not believe the government has any regard for the livelihoods and concerns of those who are from that portion of our great nation.
Many members of the Liberal government probably do not understand what life is like in rural Manitoba, or anywhere in rural Canada for that matter. People must drive long distances to get to the grocery store or to a doctor's appointment. They have to drive a long way to take their kids to school or to drop them off for hockey practice or music lessons. Many must commute to work in the next town or drive into Brandon. Many students from rural areas must drive into the city to attend either one of our great educational facilities: Brandon University or Assiniboine Community College. The Liberals are punishing these folks through no fault of their own, and none of these Canadians are buying the Liberal gaslighting that their rebates are covering the increased costs due to the carbon tax.
The other policy item our Conservative team was looking for in the fall economic statement was for the Liberals to get spending under control, which is almost an oxymoron for Liberals. Not only was there no plan to get spending under control, but the Minister of Finance is also asking for Parliament’s approval for $14.2 billion in unidentified spending in the fall economic statement. At a recent finance committee meeting, when pressed on what this money was for, the Minister of Finance flat out refused to outline what the money would be used for.
This lack of transparency is shocking. I for one will not vote in favour of giving the Liberal government a $14.2-billion blank cheque. How are we as parliamentarians supposed to scrutinize the government’s spending plans when we do not even know what it wants to spend it on.
It is the same irresponsible action that the Prime Minister took at the start of COVID, when he told the finance minister, at that time Minister Morneau, to put forward spending for 21 months, to the end of December 2021, with none of it being voted on in the House. It was completely unaccountable. This is another proof point that the Liberals have zero regard for fiscal transparency, nor do they have a plan to eliminate wasteful spending.
Every single hour the government’s debt goes up by another $6 million. That equates to $144 million per day. All of that debt is getting expensive. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, federal debt charges will top $53 billion by 2024. The amount of money the government will spend on the interest payments on the debt will almost be as much money as the federal government transfers to provinces for health care. The debt charges cost $20.4 billion last year alone, and according to Department of Finance, this year will total at least $34.7 billion.
During a Senate committee meeting, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said, “That will have a major impact on public finances...We’ve looked at the impact of increasing interest rates as well as the increase in the stock of debt. We estimate that in the next four years interest payments will probably double”.
In the weeks leading up to the update, the finance minister was speaking about fiscal responsibility for the first time in seven years. In a leaked internal memo, she even asked Liberal ministers to find a dollar for every new dollar of spending, exactly what Conservatives had been pushing for, for years. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the Liberals’ words did not align with their actions. They refused to commit to cancelling any of their planned tax hikes and announced plans to increase inflationary spending by a whopping $52.2 billion over the next six years.
While the finance minister plays down the threat of inflation and spiralling government debt, the reality is that uncontrolled Liberal spending has played a role in making life less affordable. Even the Governor of the Bank of Canada confirmed that more deficit spending has resulted in more inflation. More inflation means Canadians are paying more without getting more.
Pay cheques are not going as far as they used to. Nearly one in five Canadians are skipping meals to cope with rising food costs. More than 88% of Canadians say it is more difficult to buy food. Food bank usage is at an all-time high. Housing prices have doubled.
In closing, our Conservative team has proposed several tangible ways to bring inflationary costs down for Canadians. We want the Liberals to enact a dollar-for-dollar law that requires government to find a dollar of savings for every new dollar of spending.
We want the Liberals to end wasteful spending by, for example, getting rid of the multi-billion dollar Infrastructure Bank, which has failed to build any infrastructure projects since it was created, and stopping their disastrous firearms buy back scheme, which would do nothing to stop gang violence.
We want the government to get out of the way of our farmers so they can grow more food. We want to see a plan that would spur the private sector to build more homes, which includes incentivizing municipalities to encourage home building. We want the Canadian energy sector to get more projects built so Canada could sell more LNG to our allies.
We will never stop pressing for an end to the carbon tax, which is raising the cost of gas and home heating. In a country like Canada, no one should be forced to choose between buying groceries and heating the house, especially in winter.