Bill C-30 is band aid solution, but band aids help when you are bleeding

Speaker: Ms. May
Time: 04/10/2022 16:07:33
Context: Debate

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Whitby, for sharing his time with me. I am honoured to stand here on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin nation and say meegwetch.

This has been a somewhat frustrating debate, as many speakers have noted. There is unanimous support in this place for Bill C-30, yet there are things about which we want to debate. For my part, I would just like to say that I support Bill C-30, because Canadians need help. Raising and doubling the GST rebate that would go to lowest-income Canadians would amount to $2.5 billion in total, and it would reach, in small amounts, 11 million Canadians. That is not something to sneeze at. People want help, and as my hon. colleague from Vancouver Kingsway said moments ago, $500 is not a small of money, when one is really up against it. It will make a difference; that is why I will vote for this.

We also have Bill C-31 that would provide a one-time-only $500 to help low-income renters as well as begin the really important work toward including dental care in our health care system, an idea originally proposed by the Green Party of Canada.

There is nothing not to like in this bill, but there is much to talk about, because it does not address really large problems, like what happens if we go into a recession. What if this inflationary problem is not solved by what the Bank of Canada has done in raising rates? The rate hikes have been quite dramatic. What if the rate hikes push us into a recession? That is a reasonable thing to ask, since that has happened many times before. As a matter of fact, according the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ economist David Macdonald, every time over the last 60 years rate hikes have been used to address inflation, recession has occurred.

C’est une situation très difficile. Nous faisons face à de nombreuses crises mondiales: les changements climatiques, la pandémie, la guerre entre la Russie et l’Ukraine.

All of these things combine to create what we are now experiencing in higher prices. The response we get to this, in terms of the interest rates, is we also have a debate in this place about how much money the Liberals spent in dealing with COVID and how they were just printing money.

I would say to my Conservative colleagues that I have no doubt that if Stephen Harper had been prime minister through the pandemic, he would have done exactly the same things that the current Prime Minister did, because every economy in the G20 followed the same playbook. Every economy in the OECD was taking the same advice. Central bankers were using quantitative easing, a term I learned from the great former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, who used quantitative easing. We were doing exactly what all the other economies around the world were doing, virtual zero interest rates and quantitative easing to create billions and trillions of dollars of money flowing into the global economy to confront the pandemic and to try to save lives. These were complex issues, for sure, but they are simplified.

What I hear from the Conservative benches as we debate is that Bill C-30 provides a band-aid to the inflation and pain we are undergoing, and a band-aid is good when one is bleeding but it is not a long-term solution. What we have been hearing from the Conservatives in the debate on Bill C-30 is that all the pain that Canadians are experiencing is from the failures of the current government, that inflation is the fault of the current government and that global supply chain problems are the fault of the current government. I suppose the war in Ukraine, and by extension since that has been the proximate cause of the biggest price hikes in terms of energy supply is due to the fault of the government.

Disproportionately in this debate, the Conservative benches want to blame a very small increase, a 2¢ a ton increase in the price of our carbon pricing that affects only some provinces, and we have heard it, more than three times, what that impact is. It is minuscule in the context of what we are experiencing and the real pain Canadians are feeling.

The simplification on the Liberal side is to say in comparison to other countries we are doing so much better. For instance, talking about our debt-to-GDP ratio, just looking at the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio which is over 100%, we are doing better than the United States by quite a lot. However, a single mother who is trying to buy groceries does not really care that overall Canada is doing better on our debt-to-GDP ratio. That is not top-of-mind. She really wants to know that somebody has her back, as the Liberals like to claim they do.

Both camps, to varying degrees, have oversimplified the problems we are facing. In doing so, I do not think we adequately respect the intelligence of thoughtful Canadians who are more than prepared to understand that this is a global problem and that we are not the only country experiencing inflation. In fact, some of the countries that are experiencing inflation much worse than ours have no carbon price and have not gone through the same policy instruments. This is not a specific problem for which we can blame the Liberals. I will blame the Liberals for many things, but I cannot blame them for this inflation.

When we look at what this is, I want to refer my colleagues to a book that I think is prescient and worth looking at. It came out in 2005. It is by James Howard Kunstler, who is a best-selling author. The book was called The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, in which he pointed out that when the price of gas and the price of oil becomes constrained by real events, that is going to mean that we have a real challenge to what we presume to be our right to a certain standard of living, to a certain lifestyle, for lack of a better word.

When we look at the real costs of everything, and I am going to quote Andrew Nikiforuk, in The Tyee, referring to the The Long Emergency:

Since April 2020 the cost of oil has climbed five-fold. The price of coal, the cheapest of fossil fuels, has hit new highs by nearly 150 per cent.

These are real costs that really affect prices.

What do we need to do if we are serous? We do not need band-aid solutions. We need long-term solutions, anticipating that we may well be in a recession. Let us look at a wealth tax. We need to go back and look at a general wealth tax, but specifically let us look at a windfall tax on oil and gas profits. Oil and gas profits due to the war in Ukraine have posted unbelievable gains.