Conservatives condemn 'costly' Budget 2023, Freeland 'filibuster' reaches one month

Conservative MP Marty Morantz says the $496.6 billion budget warrants 'close scrutiny' because it amends or introduces 51 Acts of Parliament and runs to 430 pages.

Conservatives condemn 'costly' Budget 2023, Freeland 'filibuster' reaches one month
Facebook/Chrystia Freeland
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Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has yet to push her omnibus budget bill through the Commons finance committee, owing to a Conservative filibuster of the legislation. She called the opposition 'filibuster' an act of "bullying." 

Bill C-47, the Budget Implementation Act, proposes implementing many of the government's key commitments in Budget 2023, including public health care, dental care for millions of low-income Canadians, and significant green energy investments.

Cabinet grows increasingly restless as it attempts to break a month-long filibuster that has it tied up. One Liberal MP called it "arbitrary filibustering" to upset the cabinet's calendar, reported Blacklock's Reporter.

"What happens when you filibuster needlessly? Not for any real point," said Liberal MP Terry Beech, parliamentary secretary for finance. "The point is quite clear. The point is to obstruct the bill and to prevent it from passing or at least to delay it as long as possible."

Beech served the committee a notice to limit the Opposition to 15 additional minutes of debate on Bill C-47. He accused the Conservatives of "obstructing for obstruction's sake."  

Conservative MP Rick Perkins defended his party's detente, calling Budget 2023 a 'far-reaching' and 'costly' bill that requires thorough debate. Perkins accused Freeland of "building up a level of distrust in this committee and the House" for refusing their requests thrice over the past several weeks to discuss the omnibus bill.

"One thing that I learned during the NAFTA negotiations is that appeasing a bully never works," Freeland told MPs on May 16. "And that tends to be my approach in life."

Ultimately, she testified for 90 minutes on Bill C-47. However, the finance minister spent much of the allotted time taking pejorative potshots at the Conservatives, reported Blacklock's Reporter.

"The only people who are trying, I think, unsuccessfully, because Canadians are smarter than that, to mislead Canadians are the Conservatives," she told MPs. "If the Conservatives are interested as they should be in the substance of what's happening in the Canadian economy, I'm happy to answer."

"I'll acknowledge the Minister is here after multiple requests that she has ignored even though the Governor of the Bank of Canada has come regularly at the committee's request," said Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan. 

The Conservative finance critic said Freeland misled Canadians on balancing the budget by the fiscal year 2027/28 in her fall economic statement last year.

The federal deficit is expected to reach $40 billion in 2023, almost $10 billion higher than forecast in the fiscal update. It projected a $4.5 billion surplus for 2027, but the recent budget now forecasts a $14 billion deficit that year.

During the finance minister's testimony, she said federal debt charges are "absolutely handleable." Still, she would not discuss the figure, according to Blacklock's Reporter.

"I am opposed to fiscal fear-mongering by the Conservatives," she told the finance committee.

According to Budget 2023, debt costs will continue to rise yearly through 2028. The federal debt will total $1.2 trillion by the end of 2023. Debt interest charges will cost taxpayers almost $44 billion in 2023 and reach $50 billion in 2027.

Cabinet's last pre-pandemic budget, 2020, totalled $644.2 billion in spending, with $508 billion the following fiscal year. This year's projects federal spending at $496.6 billion, with half-trillion budgets expected in the coming years.

"It is so important that we work together to pass this legislation as quickly as possible," Freeland told MPs. 

As of Thursday, the finance committee completed 46 hours equivalent to debate across 23 meetings on the budgetary legislation. According to Liberal MP Peter Fonseca, chair of the finance committee, they discussed the bill for another five hours on May 26.

"I am tired of these shenanigans," said NDP MP Daniel Blaikie, who described the filibuster as a spectacle. "All the Conservatives are doing right now is pissing away our time," said Blaikie.

"What the heck is going on here?" he asked committee members. "Why should anyone watching this be impressed? Shame on us for not finding a way out, but what's happening doesn't help anybody."

Conservative MP Marty Morantz defended his party's actions, according to Blacklock's Reporter. He said the $496.6 billion budget warranted 'close scrutiny' because it amends or introduces 51 Acts of Parliament and runs to 430 pages.

"An effective opposition is fundamental to good governance," he added. "This budget is approaching 25% of the GDP of this country. It is a massive expansion of the government into the economy."

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