"The question around the budget really is what does the budget do to match the size and scope of the pandemic, a crisis that we have not seen in scale, size and scope since the Second World War? How does the budget put in place the important provisions for building as Canadians, hopefully in the coming months and years, will come out of this pandemic?"
43rd Parliament, 2nd Session
Ways and Means No. 2 / Budgetary policy
The Minister of Finance / Le ministre des Finances
(Resuming debate – 4th of 4 debate days)
You can view the full speech here.
Mr. Peter Julian: Madam Speaker, I would like to say, in appreciation, that I am speaking to the House today virtually from the traditional territory of the Qayqayt first nation and the Coast Salish peoples. I am honoured to share my time with the terrific member of Parliament for London—Fanshawe.
I want to start by talking, sadly, about the appalling loss of life we have seen through COVID-19. Today we passed a sad, sad milestone of 24,000 Canadians who have died as a result of COVID-19. We will underscore later in the day, in the House, the death of Emily Victoria Viegas, 13 years of age, who died on April 22 from COVID-19. That death toll of 24,000 is climbing as the third wave hits across this country.
Many industrialized countries were able to put in place both vaccine distribution and measures that lowered their death rates remarkably. Canada, sadly, as we see the death toll climb, has not been putting into place the measures that are so essential to ensure that we try to avoid as many deaths as possible during this appalling pandemic.
The question around the budget really is what does the budget do to match the size and scope of the pandemic, a crisis that we have not seen in scale, size and scope since the Second World War? How does the budget put in place the important provisions for building as Canadians, hopefully in the coming months and years, will come out of this pandemic?
The instruction of the Spanish flu pandemic is something that we must all heed. The Spanish Flu pandemic, which lasted well over a year and a half, had financial and economic ramifications that took over a decade to attenuate. When we are talking about COVID-19, we are talking about measures that not only must work in the coming months as we struggle with this third wave, as front-line workers struggle with this third wave, as health care workers and first responders with all their bravery and courage, often unvaccinated, struggle to save as many lives as possible.
As we go through this, we also need to underscore the importance of having policies in place that are sustainable in the coming years to provide supports for Canadians. Sadly, this budget does not do that. It is tragic to us. The member for Burnaby South, the NDP leader, and members of the NDP caucus repeatedly raised a clear direction that would have made a huge difference in terms of putting into place that infrastructure, that ability to invest to help Canadians both through this pandemic and afterward.
We talked about a wealth tax. We talked about putting in place a pandemic profits tax, in the same way that during the Second World War we were all in this together and there was an excess profits tax that assured not only the battle to be won against fascism and Nazism, but also the rebuilding afterward; the hundreds of thousands of housing units, hospitals; education and transportation, all built because we had put into place measures that meant that we were all in this together.
Sadly, this budget fails miserably in this regard. There is no wealth tax. There is no pandemic profits tax. There are no meaningful measures that actually combat the offshore tax havens that suck $25 billion every year out of our country, $25 billion that could be put into place for vaccination, education; improving our health care sector and for ensuring that all Canadians across the country have the wherewithal to go through the pandemic, but the government chose not to put in place any of those measures, despite the fact that the revenue that is lost or the revenue that is taken overseas is substantial. What we see in this budget is a free ride given to the ultra rich in this country. What about the COVID measures?
Sadly, the Prime Minister and the government seem to be saying “Mission accomplished,” when we know that that is far from the case as this third wave crashes on our shores, and as we see ICUs and emergency wards filled with Canadians.
Instead of putting into place measures that would continue to extend throughout the summer, we see that in a few weeks' time the government would actually start slashing emergency response benefits, and slashing supports that were given to small businesses. The government would say that it did put in place a measure, for all of those large businesses that have used the wage subsidy for dividend payments, for executive bonuses and stock buy-backs, that the barn door will be closed in July. It will not ask for any repayment, but says that if they use the wage subsidy in the final waning weeks of when it is available, then there may be consequences.
This is absolutely unacceptable, at a time when so many Canadians are struggling, that we are actually wrapping up all of the programs, starting in weeks, that would actually serve to provide support as the third wave hits our shores.
There is nothing in this budget that addresses what people with disabilities across the length and breadth of this country have been facing for well over a year now. The NDP fought, and we fought vigorously, half a dozen times, to push the government to finally implement a partial payment to some people with disabilities. Of the many struggles that the NDP caucus has undertaken over the course of the past year, it was probably the one where the government was most resistant, most refusing of providing support to people with disabilities.
We know that within days of the pandemic hitting, the Liberal government was willing to basically unleash cash, $750 billion given to Canada's big banks, and liquidity supports within days. Contrast the $750 billion, an unprecedented amount that pales to another supports ever handed to the banking sector and pales in comparison to what we have seen from the government in this pandemic, to people with disabilities who have struggled for a one-time $600 payment that only went to some people with disabilities, by no means all, and then being told in the budget that the government is going to study the question in the next three years. Maybe, eventually, there will be some supports given to Canadians with disabilities.
The NDP member for Winnipeg Centre brought forward a guaranteed livable basic income proposal that Liberals voted against. Now Liberals are saying to Canadians with disabilities, who compose half of the people who are lining up at food banks to make ends meet, right across our country, and compose half of the growing number of homeless in our country, “Wait three years, and maybe we will do something.”
Students are being forced to pay back student loans, while the banks get $750 billion in liquidity supports. The homeless are being offered a scant number of housing units, and yet we know, from the Second World War and the instruction of actually having in place measures that made sure we were all in this together, that the federal government was capable of building 300,000 units of affordable housing within three years of the conclusion of World War II. In this budget, there is scant provision for the homeless in our country.
There is also the pharmacare program. At a time when 10 million Canadians have no wherewithal to pay for their medication, at a time when health care should be top of mind, Liberals killed the Canada pharmacare bill and they have abandoned any commitment to putting in place public universal pharmacare with this budget.
Ce que les libéraux ont décidé de faire, c'est de copier une partie de la plateforme électorale de Thomas Mulcair en 2015, et de promettre de mettre en place une garde d'enfants. C'est considérable, mais on ne sait pas s'ils vont tenir parole. Ils promettent aussi de mettre en place un salaire minimum fédéral, et on sait aussi que ces promesses, comme toutes les autres promesses des libéraux depuis six ans, ne seront probablement pas tenues.
To finish off, I would just like to say this, a rhetorical question to my Liberal colleagues: Why do Liberals always put the interests of banks and billionaires before those of all other Canadians?