Business of the House

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to join the debate here today, and after the question from my friend from Scarborough, to hopefully elevate the debate to reality for a few moments.

This is a quintessential, classic, political tactic. When a new government comes into office, it usually spends its first number of months blaming the last group of people for all of its woes. We have seen this repeatedly. All parties have engaged in it to a certain degree.

What is unique about the debate before us today is that the Liberal Party, the new government, actually does not have support from the very departments that oversee the finances of the nation.

Normally, if a new government tries to blame the old guys for the problem, it has some form of evidence provided by the departments. It is usually last-minute spending for an election or that sort of thing. However, this is a case where it is a bridge too far. They are trying the old Liberal tactic, but they do not have the data to support it.

What is important to note about this motion is that if anyone in this House is disparaging the work of our professional public service, it is actually the government, because its own officials in Finance Canada and in the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer have confirmed that the previous government left Canada in a small surplus position.

Everyone knows that for the last number of years, the global economy has been tight. There was not a tremendous surplus, but it was a surplus. In fact, the revenue stream was positive enough that despite early spending commitments and a willingness for the government to spend, each month is clicking away, and it is still gaining between $500 million and $1 billion in surplus. We saw that when the finance department confirmed a surplus of hundreds of millions of dollars in November.

This is one of the cases when the old and tried political trick does not work when its professional departments release information that shows that the trick is a phantom.

I would like to say that I am going to split my time with my colleague from Barrie—Innisfil. I should have mentioned it off the top.

It is important for Canadians, because this is a government that has a lot of new, eager, and capable members of Parliament. I know that they are here to do the best for the country. Many of them were not here when their leader was leader of the third party.

I said this last week in debate about the energy east pipeline. For several years, the Prime Minister, who at the time led the third party in this place, did not support running a deficit at all. In fact, knowing that the Conservative government had set a plan in place during the global recession to get Canada back to a balanced budget position by 2014-15, and seeing that Canadians were behind that position, the Liberal Party, at that time, took a position that they would not run deficits. As I said last week, it took an election campaign for that fundamental principle of the fiscal plan of a party to change. The Prime Minister, during the election, said that he would run, for a couple of years, a modest deficit of up to $10 billion. That was certainly very different from the approach of the Conservative government, which had worked in a steadfast manner to get to balance.

After the election, after telling Canadians that it would be one or two years of modest deficits in the $10-billion range, in the first few days of this new Parliament the government’s number changed to $20 billion per year. Canadians did not vote for that. Then, if anyone has been following in recent weeks, speculation is coming out that those numbers will be more like $25 billion to $30 billion for two to three years.

The real underpinning of the motion before the House today is not just to show that we cannot use the age-old game of blaming the last team. It is that the Liberals are changing their fundamental financial plan for Canada’s future by the week. That is deeply concerning.

I suggested some time ago in a column I wrote that excessive spending is not sunny ways. When we are dishing out the dough, there may be some sunshine, but if we are putting Canada’s financial position in a precarious situation, those are storm clouds on the horizon.

What we hear from the government already, in preparation for the budget, is the potential for a $60 billion to $90 billion deficit over the course of its four years. That is certainly different from a year ago, when the Prime Minister said no deficits. Then, during the election campaign, he said up to $20 billion over the first two years, and then they would balance. Now we are in the $60-billion range at a time when the Liberals are also putting so many hurdles in the path of resource projects, or stopping them, that capital is fleeing Canada. Depressed resource prices and our dollar are compounding this, yet they are not changing this reckless plan.

The motion today is to set a stark line between the last government in this place and the present government. The Conservative Party believes that a balanced budget should be achieved whenever possible, that stimulus should be limited, and that a plan to end the deficit caused by stimulus in a recession should be clear and attainable.

Sometimes I say to my wife that I feel too young to be a “former”. I am a former air force person, a former lawyer, and a former minister. I am a young “former”. Many of the former ministers in this place have talked about the decisions of governing, and this is where I am very concerned that the Prime Minister is not ready to govern, because it takes decisions.

A minister in his government is famous for saying that it is not easy to make priorities. That is what Canadians elected them to do. Those priorities need to be getting a proper world price, or better than current price, for our resources. That includes budgets that do not put our future at risk. That includes not eliminating a popular measure for saving, the TFSA, or reducing it dramatically. That includes not driving out talent and our creative class by taxing stock options as income and by raising taxes on those very people.

When I was veterans affairs minister, we steadily increased and modernized the department. It is important to note, despite a lot of the rhetoric we hear on this, that the Chrétien government and the Martin government ended with a $2.9 billion budget for Veterans Affairs Canada, and we ended with an approximately $3.4 billion budget. Any way we slice it, despite a global recession and despite our pledge to balance the budget, which we did, we increased that budget by 15%. We spent in different areas, because post-Korean War and during 30 years of the Cold War, PTSD was not even discussed in a responsible way. The previous government went from the two operational stress injury clinics it opened to 27 by the time we left office, addressing a new need. That new spending went to areas of need.

We created a family caregiver relief benefit. We created the retirement income security benefit. We created the critical injury benefit, all new benefits passed in the last Parliament to address some of the gaps in the new Veterans Charter, which the previous government created. In fact, it was the now Minister of Immigration. All parliamentarians voted for it, and our government implemented it and fixed it along the way.

That took decisions, because when we want to balance the books, when we do not want to raise taxes on Canadians, when we want to lower them, it means making priorities.

The motion before the House today draws a line in the sand. The previous government planned; spent in priority areas; tried to get jobs created through innovative new sectors and by supporting our resource sector; spent prudently; created retirement tax planning, with the tax free savings account; and allowed all families a benefit with the universal child care benefit.

We made those decisions and balanced the budget. The Department of Finance officials confirm that. It is about time that the new government recognizes that, and starts a new course to make sure the sunny ways do not turn into storm clouds on the horizon.

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