Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-30 and to share some of my reflections, not only on the government’s budget and its implementation, but also on how the government views its relationship to Canadians.
I have been open in my critique of this budget. There is some good, and there are some things to be optimistic about, but ultimately this long-anticipated budget lacks the courage required to lead this country into a bold, new future. Canadians were not given a clear picture of what concrete steps will be taken to lift us up from our darkest hour. What we all need is leadership.
A leader speaks with clarity. Instead, we often spin our wheels with mixed messaging. The government has clearly indicated that we will be net-zero by 2050, while missing the point entirely that the decade we are currently in is actually the most important to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
A leader speaks with consistency. On the one hand, the government declared a climate emergency in 2019. Then, within the month, it had purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline to shepherd it through construction and more than double oil sands production.
A leader acts with integrity. The government says that no relationship is more important than its relationship with indigenous peoples, yet court injunctions are being enforced on unceded lands across this country in the name of law and order. Reconciliation has lost its meaning.
This budget is just another example of symbolism over substance, where we maintain the status quo under the guise of transformation. I am certain I am not the only one who feels as though the last 14 months have simultaneously trickled by at a snail’s pace and disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Last March, the world had to stop. We had to stop travelling, stop going to the office and stop enjoying Sunday dinners with grandparents. We had to adapt. Week by week, month by month, we were tested. We saw COVID sweep through long-term care homes as residents had no access to PPE or rapid testing. We closed our borders as a nation and many provinces chose to do the same. In those early months, there was no certainty about vaccine production timelines. All the while, tremors were shaking the economy, hitting small and medium-sized businesses the hardest.
We now find ourselves 14 months into this pandemic, and the Deputy Prime Minister has tabled a budget said to focus on Canadians and the middle class, and those seeking to join it. This middle-class obsession is yet another way to avoid talking about the widening gap between those experiencing extreme poverty and the wealthy elite.
We are in the throws of a housing crisis from coast to coast to coast. Not only is it becoming more and more difficult for young people to purchase their first home, but people cannot afford apartments as rental market prices are skyrocketing. People across the nation still do not have access to a primary care provider, mental health care professionals or the ability to pay for their medications they require to live.
Research published last month exposed that over half of Canadians, 53% of them, are within $200 of not being able to cover their monthly bills. This includes the 30% who report they are already insolvent with no money left at month’s end to cover their payments. This is unacceptable. How have we let income inequality reach this point? How is it that we are unwilling to face it down directly?
Instead, our government would rather reflect wistfully on the middle class, while banks increase their profits and children go hungry. People are having a hard time. The people we work for. They have done their best to manage so far, but I have felt the increased weight of it all in their correspondences to my office over the last month or two.
People’s financial reserves are exhausted. Their emotional reserves are exhausted. They do not need insincerity from their government. They need to be seen. When over half of our population is living with the anxiety of maybe not being able to make ends meet, or already being unable to do so, perhaps this middle-class concept is a little more than a relic of a bygone era.
It is important to name things as they are so we can approach them with integrity. I want us to have real conversations about offering stability, health and well-being to Canadians, meeting them where they are at, understanding the urgency and acting. This budget is a missed opportunity to truly offer Canadians a shift to directly improve their quality of life.
I had been hoping that one lesson taught by the pandemic would have been that we were able to act quickly and put in place life-changing programs, such as the Canadian emergency response benefit. In many cases, it kept people quite literally alive. However, even with the CERB, the government demonstrated indifference to the most vulnerable. We determined an amount that would be livable, knowing full well that we were continuing to ask persons with disabilities, seniors and those on social assistance to live on much less.
We had a chance to offer Canadians the stability of a ground floor to ensure that basic needs are met. We could have offered a collective sigh of relief with a guaranteed basic income. Instead, many Canadians are still holding their breath. I will not hold mine while I wait for the promises of the government to come through.
Another lesson I was had hoped to see reflected in the budget was the need to address racism and systemic inequality. We are still waiting for action on missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. Words will not protect them. Words will not have their cases investigated the way they should be, and words will not root out hate and white supremacy in our society.
The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat should have a robust plan to reach into every corner of our institutions to confront the vectors of power that have been at play since colonization began. Racism kills. We must adopt Joyce’s principle that aims to guarantee that indigenous people have equitable access to all health and social services and to the highest attainable standard without discrimination.
We also need concrete, long-lasting actions for change in the Criminal Code, police enforcement and the carceral system. We know that our society will not be able to thrive until we break down the barriers that prevent people from living their full lives. Until there are real reparations and real justice, we cannot talk about reconciliation.
This budget is supposed to be about building a more resilient Canada, one that is better, fairer, more prosperous and more innovative, but without implementing a guaranteed livable income, I do not see how it will help Canadians to be more prosperous. While refusing to hike the capital gains tax and a reticence to impose a significant wealth tax, this has nothing to do with being better or more fair.
Who will bear the brunt of the deficits anticipated for the next decades? It is one thing to announce long-overdue investments in health care and housing, but these were needed decades ago. Will the government have the courage to implement a tax to target the large corporations that are profiting off this pandemic? As things stand, these corporations are the ones building back better and they are doing it on the backs of Canadians.
The minister also said that this budget is in line with the global shift to a green, clean economy. Everyone here should know without any surprise that I strongly support that vision, but I wish I was able to believe that this statement had value beyond the rhetorical. I see the situation we are facing as a potential opportunity. As the entire world looks to shift away from fossil fuels, we are given an incentive to figure it out now, to invest in innovation that will meet the energy demand with renewable energy or that will reduce our total energy demand.
The economic opportunity of new industries combined with an effort to redirect workers to these sectors holds immense potential. I know that some Canadians, indeed some members of this House, see me as an idealist or perhaps even naive, but my commitment to the rotational workers in my home province and beyond is real. I believe with every fibre of my being that their best futures are not travelling to and from Alberta for dwindling work in a dying industry. Their knowledge and skills can be transferred to benefit the economy of the future, one that is sustainable and renewable, one they can proudly leave to their children and grandchildren. That takes courage to stand one’s ground and to do what is right, even when some people do not like it.
I know that with all of my colleagues in this House, we share the common objective of improving the lives of Canadians, but I also know we see different ways of getting there. As a woman, a mother and an educator, I want to put the emphasis on the well-being of people above all. I know that with a healthy and happy society, we can all thrive. What we need is a government with the courage to lead, a government that will share a vision for Canada that inspires us and a resolve to charge forward in that direction with confidence. This is how we will transform our society. This is how we will build the Canada of tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague’s passion and support for the oil and gas industry. To be clear, I said the oil and gas industry was dying, not that it was dead.
We clearly still have a need for Canadian oil and gas and I absolutely want to highlight the ethical standards that we have here in this country, but it is about the transition. It is about using that oil to lead us into the future. We know that petroleum products are still in use and are going to be in use for some time to come, but we can make a conscious effort to change some of the ways that we use them to lead us into the green economy future.
It is not about it being dead now, it is about preparing for that day to come and acknowledging that we need to shift. We cannot wait.
Mr. Speaker, I am certainly appreciative of that question as well, especially in light of being a mother. Any decision that we make as a government must be made with the foresight of future generations and how they are going to benefit. Certainly, oil and gas contributes to building wind turbines, solar panels and the renewable energy that we know is ready, available and affordable for Canadians now. That is very much how I see this transition and how this will happen in Canada.
I also really want to highlight the need to reduce our energy demands. There are so many ways that we can retrofit commercial buildings and residential buildings. Look at all the personal decisions that we make on a daily basis as far as energy consumption goes. There are ways that we can reduce it while meeting the demand that we currently have with renewables.
I just have a comment as well that I do not believe we need to emphasize a broader future of nuclear energy. I really think it is about reducing the demand for energy first and then utilizing the amazing renewable technology we have now.
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, we are in a housing crisis that is playing out in multiple ways: we see the impacts of victims of domestic violence who are not able to turn to a safe place and put a roof over their head with their children; and we see some of the tent cities that we are seeing in our big city centres. It is devastating. This is Canada. It is a beautiful, prosperous country where everyone should have the right to affordable housing. We are just not there yet.
I really would have appreciated seeing stronger steps taken to address this. Some more investments have been made in housing, but we know the rapid housing initiative was so oversubscribed. We have to do so much more.
Mr. Speaker, absolutely, it was nice and encouraging to see the plan to implement a national child care strategy, but without the groundwork for conversations with provinces and territories to get on board. That was the largest criticism we have as far as the NDP motion that was tabled for a national pharmacare program. There is a little bit of a cognitive dissonance there. Really, we just need to put our heads together, get the job done, deliver for Canadians, and do the groundwork that is required to make sure that happens while respecting provincial jurisdictions.
I am ready to do that work and I know that my colleagues in the NDP are also willing to do that. Let us get the rest of this House on board to do it as well.