On April 29 I spoke in the House on Bill C-8, the bill that would implement the government's Fall Economic Plan.
The Prime Minister waited over two months after calling his unnecessary election to recall Parliament and then tabled the Fall Economic Statement at the eleventh hour before the holidays.
Bill C-8 fails to provide the targeted tax relief that families deserve, fails to tackle Canada’s cost-of-living crisis, and with a global food shortage looming as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, fails to provide adequate support to farmers and agricultural producers who have struggled with punitive costs on their operations as a result of the Liberal’s carbon tax on farm fuel.
The Fall Economic statement fails to address the largest economic issue that Canadians are facing – the Liberal government’s cost-of-living crisis. Instead of presenting an economic plan for families that fights back against the inflationary crisis, at a time when many Canadians are barely making ends meet, the Prime Minister is focused on his own ideological agenda with his allies in the NDP.
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-8 at report stage. Bill C-8 has been a bit of a baby on our side over here. I actually helped shepherd this through when it was first introduced in the House, and we looked at it at finance committee for some time. We had a number of proposals brought forward at committee to try to make it a better bill. We are still trying to make it a better bill, but one of the issues we have been focusing on, and I think the government has finally started to try and focus on, although I do not really think the Liberals know what they are doing, is housing. I say that with some concern for our country going forward because I do not think the government has its eye on the ball with housing. I think it has missed the mark for seven long years.
If we look at housing in Canada seven years ago and at housing now, the demographics have changed. We are more and more of an investing country for real estate, as opposed to a living country for real estate. That is because we have lost everything else to invest in in this country.
If a Canadian wants to put their money safely into an investment that would return l5% a year, their financial advisor would say there is one commodity under this broken government with which they would get 15% a year. The only thing happening in the Canadian economy of any extent right now is residential housing. Everything else has fallen to the wayside.
As a matter of fact, combined investment in the Canadian economy has gone negative. That means depreciation of our assets in Canada. Our capital stock, such as farms, factories and buildings, is negative if it depreciates more than the money that has been invested in Canada over the past number of years. That is a problem because we need long-term sustainability. It is the first time in our history when we have experienced this.
The government has to start paying attention to that because it has been ignoring too much as far as our economy goes. Part of the reason for that is the regulations that have stopped investment in this country and the regulations that have stymied the development of our best industries in Canada, with no clear thought about the outcome of what happens there.
In the bill there is a 1% surtax for non-resident owners of passively held real estate. This is a trap. I am going to tell the government this right now. What Canadian people need to understand is that this is a way for the federal government to find a way to tax what should be within a municipal taxation mechanism, and that is a tax on property. Right now there is already a tax on property. Everybody here who owns a home knows that tax. We pay it once a year in June in my province. It is our municipal taxes. Those municipal taxes are based on the value of our property, and they have an escalation in some provinces.
B.C. in particular has started escalating that based on non-resident owners, and in some cases it is as much as 6% higher in British Columbia. Regardless of that application of an extra 5%, plus 1%, plus 2%, or however it happens in Vancouver and different parts of the Lower Mainland, 7.7% of the housing stock in the Lower Mainland is still owned by foreign investors. Not that that is a bad thing, although it is in some cases, which I will go into later in my speech. I think Canada should be a country that does accept foreign investment. I wish that foreign investment coming into Canada was going into productive uses in our economy. Housing is a passive investment, and I do not think the government understands any of that.
This is part of the problem we have. The Liberals are being schizophrenic.
We now have a budget in front of the House of Commons, in addition to the measures taken in Bill C-8. We have a budget that says we are going to stop foreign buying for two years. We will put on the brakes while we figure this out. That is what the government is saying at this point. Interestingly, this was part of the Conservative platform in the election. I take pride in that because we had identified foreign interference in the Canadian housing market as the one issue that first and foremost we needed to adjust in order to get back to a level playing field, where Canadians could actually buy the houses and the condos they live in. That was identified by the Conservatives in the election, and I am glad that the Liberals have finally, after seven years, figured out how to move this lever forward.
Think about that. In Bill C-8 we have a 1% surtax, and the government is saying that it will also stop this for two years. Liberals are only figuring this out now, and I am going to suggest that they are not getting good advice on this file.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is a Crown corporation of the government. I would say that in the last seven years, its non-partisanship has been diminished to the point where it is just an instrument of the Liberal Party of Canada. That is an absolute shame.
I look at what is happening here and around the world, and I see this group of people who are continuing to put more money in their own pockets with huge bonuses, but with what outcome? In most parts of Canada, when we get a bonus it is based on the fact that we did our job very well. The bonuses being received by our public officials in this case are being received because they are ruining the Canadian housing economy for Canadians. How are they doing that? Well, they are coming up with all kinds of programs, none of which are working and all of which are throwing words against the wall and have no real outcome for Canadians.
I am going to suggest that perhaps we need new leadership and perhaps we need a new minister. The minister disclosed earlier this week, and I am reporting what I heard on the news, that he has also recently invested in the Canadian housing market. It is good that he has a financial adviser who says that since there is nothing else to invest in in Canada, go into housing. However, I think that is part and parcel of the problem here, and maybe the people advising him to do that are at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. I do not think he would have invested in housing if he saw a correction on the horizon.
We need a slowdown in the escalation of housing prices in Canada. That is what the country requires in order to get back to a basis where new families and new Canadians can afford to buy a home and live here.
Part of the problem we have in the Canadian housing market, of course, is foreign influence and money laundering. I am going to go through money laundering here with the House. An amount between $43 billion and $113 billion is laundered in Canada each year, and it contributes to domestic problems such as higher house prices and fentanyl.
I have knocked on doors in Calgary Centre in two elections now, in 2019 and 2021. The number of homeless people, the number of people dying of fentanyl and the amount of drug addiction in my riding in downtown Calgary has grown exponentially. Part of that is linked to foreign money that is coming in, bad foreign money. There is good foreign money coming in to invest, but there is also laundered foreign money, the proceeds of crime, that is just looking for a home. That is what we need to combat here in Canada more than anything else, and it is the main issue on which the government has failed.
I have always said that the number one thing we could do is address the money laundering laws in Canada to stop this from happening any further.
Now, $43 billion to $113 billion is a big gap because it is an estimation, but a bunch of that is going into investments that are safe, like houses. I have called on the minister and called on the government to stop that trade, and the Minister of Finance says they will look at doing this in 2025. I am curious as to why. If they know there is a problem and know where the worst perpetrator of money laundering is in the G7, why are they going to wait another three years before they decide to look at it?
I am going to suggest that there might be some link there. Is it a long-term exit, where they get a whole bunch of buyers coming in and laundering money in Canada who are associated with people they know? I am going to suggest that maybe there is no impetus on the other side of the House to actually reduce the price of houses for Canadians across Canada.
This is a travesty. Take the first step first, and get toward a base of housing investment in Canada that makes sense.
In the budget, the government came up with this crazy idea of building a whole bunch more houses in Canada. We have lots of houses in Canada. As a percentage of our economy, it is actually more than any other sector at this point in time. By throwing more money at the wall, we are going to further inflate the cost of houses because there are not enough trades out there to build them. There is also not enough money out there and lumber out there to do it. Let us think about all that is going to go up in this process.
As I said, this is a crazy approach from a government that is only trying to find its feet. It does not have good advisers on housing and does not have good policy on housing. It needs to set itself back, say that this is a major problem in Canada, particularly for young Canadians and people buying their first home, and get back to a basis where we start making sense in this country again.
April 29th, 12:30 p.m.
Economic and Fiscal Update Implementation Act, 2021 https://openparliament.ca/debates/2022/4/29/greg-mclean-2/
Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate my colleague's admiration of Stephen Harper and his government's admiration of Stephen Harper's policies. The first-time homebuyer program is a bit of a copy of the tax-free savings account, a great savings instrument for Canadians. I know the Liberals copied that to have something called the first-time homebuyer program, which would be great if people had money to put into another savings account while they are saving for a mortgage at the same time. I thank the member for some constructive comments on that. We will see how it works. It is not the worst plan I have seen from those on the other side of the House, and I have to give them that credit, but there are other issues.
To deal with my friend's question, he talked about the supply of housing.
The supply of housing in Canada is as high as it has ever been. The issue is that the supply of money going into housing is also as high as it has ever been. Thirty per cent of the houses built in Canada now are owned by investors, like the member's cabinet minister, the Minister of Housing, who recently went into that as well. This is part of the problem. Everybody is investing in housing because there is nowhere else to invest. I wish the member had heard that in my speech.
April 29th, 12:35 p.m.
Economic and Fiscal Update Implementation Act, 2021 https://openparliament.ca/debates/2022/4/29/greg-mclean-4/
Mr. Speaker, I remember reading an article from a well-known Canadian years ago that said the source of the money being brought into Canada does not
matter: If it is dirty elsewhere, once it gets to Canada it will be fine.
That is completely absurd, and a well-known Canadian wrote that.
When we are inviting dirty money into Canada, we are inviting everything that is associated with that dirty money, such as the drug pushing and the other crimes associated therewith. Making sure it stays isolated from Canada is part of our goal in getting more investment into Canada.
I am sorry I was not able to address the question fully.
April 29th, 12:35 p.m.
Economic and Fiscal Update Implementation Act, 2021 https://openparliament.ca/debates/2022/4/29/greg-mclean-3/
Mr. Speaker, I quite agree with my colleague from Drummond. Inflation is a problem in the Canadian economy. Inflation is caused by price increases and other factors, but the economy is also partially to blame for inflation.
Consider the lumber shortage, for example. Lumber prices skyrocketed last summer, increasing by nearly four times. It was a real problem, which significantly increased the cost of houses. Other supply chain issues are also going to drive up the price of homes.