Hon. John McKay PC, MP reply to the Speech from the Throne of the 40th Parliament

November-20-08

House of Commons - November 20, 2008

Mr. Speaker:

Congratulations on both your re-elections. It is a testimony to the wisdom of the people of Kingston and the Islands to return such an able member and a testimony to the members that after some reflection they returned you to the Chair as well. I also have the good fortune of being returned to this position of privilege by the kind people of Scarborough-Guildwood. It is an honour to serve them.

Mr. Speaker unfortunately the Speech from the Throne was same old, same old. Having mismanaged the nation’s finances for the last 2 ½ years we now find ourselves in a deficit after years of Liberal surpluses. The warnings of the Liberal Party fell on deaf ears so we are now facing economic turmoil in a greatly weakened position. After 10 years of Liberal prudence we now have a Conservative deficit and of the Chief Budget Officer’s report is correct we are staring down the barrel of many deficits to come.

The first part of the Speech from the Throne recites Liberal achievements without attribution. The PM is fond of plagiarism but this is an even more magnified example of plagiarism. Paying down the debt, investments in education and health care, controlling spending and a sound public sector pension were inheritances from the Martin Chretien years.

It would have been generous, if unexpected, had the PM said these were accomplishments of the previous Liberal government.

Not only does he claim credit without attribution, but he also announces in his Speech from the Throne that he’s meeting with the Premiers. Last month during the election when the Leader of the Opposition suggested that very idea it was derided as fear mongering. Now the PM thinks it’s such a keen idea that he puts it in his Speech from the Throne.

The PM was also being economical with the truth when he neglected to mention that Canada was on the precipice of a recession in the 1st 2 quarters of fiscal 2008 and that his government was already running a deficit during the election. His Finance Minister was saying that he was not going to be the Minister of deficits. On CBC in response to a direct question from Peter Mansbridge he said that he couldn’t imagine any circumstances in which the Government of Canada would go into deficit. Now in the Speech from the Throne the government is telling Canadians that “it would be misguided to commit to a balanced budget in the short term at any cost.” The Minister of Finance is supposed to be on top of the nation’s finances. His Department tracks minute by minute changes in GDP and revenue. He either knew that the government was facing a deficit or he should have known that the government was facing a deficit. Again, was the Chief Financial Officer of the nation being economical with the truth or is he just incompetent?

The PM has nowhere to hide. Parliament’s Budget Officer is quoted in the media as saying “‘The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions.’” The article goes on to say that “Page concluded that Ottawa could run a deficit as high as $13.8-billion next year, in 2009-10. Deficits could remain higher than $11-billion each year through to 2013, adding nearly $50-billion to Canada’s debt over the next five years.”

As Mr. Page says we are looking at adding $50 billion to the national debt but in the Speech from the Throne the Government of Canada says it is now going to experiment with responsible fiscal management recognizing of course belatedly that after 6-8% per annum unsustainable increases to spending they’ve now got religion. Now the PM is going to be disciplined. By what standard should we measure his commitment to discipline? – spending as % of GDP -  spending as a % of inflation – as a % of people’s wages? Seems to me that it’s not the PM who’s being disciplined rather it’s the people of Canada who will be disciplined because the PM has no self-discipline.

Apparently the PM is going to be fiscally disciplined without touching transfers or program spending. Magically the nation’s finances will right themselves without cuts to anything except of course the ever popular whipping horse the civil servants. On page 6 he announces in new his war with the civil servants. The other alternative is having the Minister of Finance sell-off public assets at distressed prices. We in Ontario have seen this movie before. Just prior to an election Mike Harris and his Minister of Finance sold off the 407 for a song and then a few years later the consortium that bought it sold off 25% of it for the entire amount it had paid Mr. Harris. The people of Ontario and the GTA have been, and will be paying for that fiscal trickery for a long time. It has effectively made gridlock a permanent feature of travel in the GTA. This is what the people of Canada have in store for themselves.

No fiscal discipline on the spending side and even less on the revenue side. Just when we could have used a fiscal stimulus package aimed at improving productivity we learn that the cupboard is bare. Who emptied the cupboard of fiscal capacity against the advice of every economist in the nation? None other than the PM. Just when we need it the most we have no gas in our tank. It’s not as if Canadians haven’t been working hard – to quote Mr. Page: “The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions  as opposed to weakened economic conditions, since nominal GDP is higher than expected in Budget 2008.”

That means Mr. Speaker that Canadian are working hard but their money is being squandered by the government.

Having exacerbated the difficulties we are facing due to this international economic turmoil the PM is now offering free investment advice and he did it on Peter Mansbridge’s program. On October 7th he said there were buying opportunities on the market. Since that date the market is down 13% and it went down again today by 447 points.

As they say Mr. Speaker, free advice is worth what you pay for it – nothing. So not only has the PM demonstrated breathtaking incompetence at running the nation’s finances he is surely the last person you would want to give advice on your portfolio.

It’s pretty sad Mr. Speaker to have a PM so incompetent that not only does he put in jeopardy the nation’s finances but he also destroys Canadian’s hard earned securities.

Hon. John McKay PC, MP