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  • Writer's pictureLeah Taylor Roy

Budget 2023: Debate April 18

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Madam Speaker, there is much I want to say and it really is my honour to rise as the representative of the people of the great riding of Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill to address budget 2023, a budget that will benefit those living in my riding and all Canadians. It is a budget that defines the middle way.

We have heard a lot this morning already from people who want more in the budget, things we have missed, and people who would like us to spend less. Many members have criticized what we have, and it is easy to do that. It is easy to point out things that could be there. I listened to the member for Courtenay—Alberni and agree that a school lunch program is very important. However, we find ourselves in a time when we are facing serious challenges.

We are still in the postpandemic economy, as is the rest of the world. We are facing high inflation, we are facing high interest rates and we are trying to address serious issues that have been made clearer through the pandemic. We can maybe talk about new bells and whistles on a car, how perhaps we would like to have Apple play or a better sound system. I think perhaps that is what defines the difference between the Conservatives and Liberals: we are more concerned with every Canadian having a way to get to work than having bells and whistles on a car. This budget addresses the very important needs that are facing us today, while at the same time trying to contain spending and being aware of the fact that our deficit has been large throughout COVID and we have to bring it down.

As I said, we are in a postpandemic economy. The shutdowns prompted by the pandemic have led to a reduction in production and imposed significant stresses on the global supply chain, as we all know. Although the opposition likes to blame actions taken by our government for this worldwide inflation, I know as well as they do that, as the middle power, Canada does not have the ability to create inflation worldwide. In fact, if we had that kind of economic power, we would be using it for the good of Canada and would probably be putting in place a lunch program and others that we would like, including employment insurance. However, that is not the case.

It is also not the case that the price on pollution has caused inflation. The price on pollution did not increase between April 2022 and April 2023, yet inflation was rampant. In fact, with the most recent increase, we have seen inflation declining. Even on a simple basis of correlation, it does not stand, never mind causality. Rather than talking about opting out of inflation through cryptocurrency and other things or cutting programs, we are investing in Canada. We are trying to build the economy, to continue on a program that has been in place since 2015 to make sure that our economy is green, that it is inclusive and includes all Canadians.

Speaking of crypto, just in the last two weeks, I have received emails in my riding from people who have lost their life savings after investing and using crypto as the way to do it. There is no redress, there is no way to follow it and they are out their life savings. In one case, it is almost $1 million and in another case $8 million. We cannot just opt out of programs like that. We have to be serious, not reckless, and follow this path.

We are not only dealing with global inflation. The COVID-19 pandemic also underscores fault lines in our society, in particular, around health care. We know the problems that were there before were exacerbated through the pandemic, so this budget focuses on health care. It is the largest part of the budget and is much needed. The provinces have been asking for increases in the Canada health transfer, so we have included bilateral negotiations with provinces to respond to their needs. There is $25 million for mental health in those bilateral negotiations and the provinces can spend the money where they see it is most needed.

Health care was one of the very important things that we had to address. Given that, the affordability crisis is ongoing. As I said, we are in a postpandemic economy, so we needed continued supports, such as the new grocery rebate. However, that is in addition to ongoing programs that have been instituted since 2015, programs like the Canada child benefit and the dental plan, which is expanded in budget 2023 to people living with disabilities and seniors. There are programs in place like the Canada child benefit, which this government put in place and has been helping to bring people out of poverty.

When comparing a 2018 model to a 2023 model, Canada is much better in that we have decreased poverty among children significantly and among seniors. To me, that is far more important than the bells and whistles on a new car. Those basic things that we have done are making a difference to Canadians across this country.

In my riding of Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, almost 2,000 children have been able to get the dental care that they were unable to get prior to having this dental plan in place. That is significant. It is clear to us that the health care system was in need of more transfers. We put that money in place and are working co-operatively with the provinces on that.

The other area we knew we had to continue with was the greening of the economy. We have programs in place to ensure that we do our part as a country to move Canada forward. Countries around the world are recognizing that things have changed and we have to change with them. We cannot be left behind. We know the price on pollution is the most efficient market mechanism to try and make some of these changes.

We are investing in clean tech. This budget has significant investments in clean technology to encourage businesses to invest. Through the Canada growth fund, we are working with the Public Sector Pension Investment Board to attract additional private capital to Canada to green and clean our economy.

We are laying the foundations for a made-in-Canada solution to tackle climate change. This is a federal responsibility. Members can say that we should leave these things to the provinces.

I was in an environment committee meeting yesterday listening to first nations in the region around the Kearl Lake tailings pond spill. It was heartbreaking to listen to them. We heard witness after witness talk about the provincial regulator that had not done its job and had not protected these communities from these spills from these tailings ponds, and this continues.

As a federal government, we have an obligation to protect Canadians, their health and safety, and I am not okay with leaving it to the provinces when it is, in fact, a federal responsibility. Cutting back our spending by exempting ourselves from our responsibilities and stepping back is not okay with me, and neither is slashing programs. We have to live up to our responsibilities, and we are doing that in this budget.

We know we cannot afford to maintain the status quo when the world around us is changing due to the climate crisis and the response of most advanced economies to it. We are making significant investments to ensure that Canada does not fall behind. We know that the Canadian economy will be stronger when all Canadians are able to fully participate in it and benefit from it.

We are continuing to ensure that indigenous communities, women, people living with disabilities, the 2SLGBTQA+ community and other under-represented minority groups are participating fully in the process of shaping policy priorities that support them.

Budget 2023 continues to implement the plan that was set out in 2015 by this government. We need steady progress on these goals, not knee-jerk reactions that slash programs and go to alternative methods. We must continue to do this and it is only by continuing on this path that Canada will reach its full potential, achieve greater prosperity and fairer responsible economic growth.

We are well positioned, as a country, to capitalize on the many advantages we have, and they are numerous. If we continue to support one another and work together, we will build an economy and society that will be second to none, one that will be shared by all Canadians.

At a challenging time, in a challenging world, there is no better place to be than in Canada.

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