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41st PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 100

CONTENTS

Tuesday, June 10, 2014




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 147 
l
NUMBER 100 
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2nd SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Public Sector Integrity Commissioner

    I have the honour, pursuant to section 38 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, to lay upon the table the report of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2014.

[Translation]

    This report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

[English]

Export Development Canada

    I have the honour to lay upon the table the Auditor General's report on the design and implementation of Export Development Canada's environmental review directive and other environmental review processes.
    Pursuant to Standing 108(3)(g), this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 29 petitions.

Committees of the House

Liaison 

    Mr. Speaker, I have two reports today. Pursuant to Standing Order 107(3), I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Liaison Committee, entitled “Committee Activities and Expenditures, April 1, 2013 - March 31, 2014”.
    This report highlights the work and accomplishments of each committee and includes as well a detailed budget that funds the activities of the committee members. In addition, this is the final report for 2013-14 fiscal year. The information has been included to facilitate comparisons between fiscal years.

Procedure and House Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 104 and 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, regarding the membership of committees of the House.
    If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence of the 15th report later today.

[Translation]

Auditor General Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to sincerely thank the hon. member for Québec for seconding this bill.
    I will keep my speech short. Currently, neither the Auditor General nor the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development oversees the country's 18 port authorities. My bill simply aims to correct that situation because although port authorities function independently, they manage crown property, which is therefore public property. That is the purpose of this bill.
    Again, I would like to thank the hon. member for Québec for seconding this bill, and I would ask that all of my colleagues examine it very closely in the coming months.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[English]

Committees of the House

Procedure and House Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier today, be concurred in.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Petitions

Emergency Protection Order  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present the fourth petition from my constituents regarding the amended recovery strategy for the greater sage grouse in Canada.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to rescind this strategy.

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition signed by citizens of Canada who acknowledge that current impaired driving laws are too lenient.
    The petitioners are calling on the government for tougher laws and implementation of new mandatory minimum sentencing for those persons convicted of impaired driving causing death. The petitioners are also calling on the government to change the Criminal Code of Canada to redefine the offence of impaired driving causing death as vehicular manslaughter.

Agriculture  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition signed by nearly 60 residents from across Ontario who call on the government to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or the Plant Breeders' Rights Act through Bill C-18, the agricultural growth act. The proposed change would further restrict farmers' rights and add to farmers' costs. The group calls on Parliament to create legislation that will maintain the rights of farmers and other Canadians to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds.

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions from citizens of Canada pointing out that the current impaired driving laws are too lenient. The petitioners want to see tougher laws and the implementation of new mandatory minimum sentencing for those persons convicted of impaired driving causing death.

Rail Transportation  

    Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding that there has been a temporary reprieve for VIA Rail through the Maritimes, I am still receiving petitions saying that service cuts in northern New Brunswick and the Maritimes would pose a real hardship on the residents there, that they would have a serious and detrimental effect on the economy, and that rail is the most environmentally friendly and economical means of transportation. The petitioners are seeking investments in rail infrastructure to allow VIA Rail to continue.

Agriculture  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions this morning. The first one calls on Parliament to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or the Plant Breeders' Rights Act.

  (1010)  

Abortion  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition says that, whereas Canada is the only nation in the western world, in the company of China and North Korea, without any laws restricting abortion; therefore, the petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to speedily enact legislation that restricts abortion to the greatest extent possible.

Pensions  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition from residents of Winnipeg North who believe that people should be able to continue to have the option to retire at the age of 65, and they ask that the government not in any way diminish the importance and the value of Canada's three major seniors' programs: our old age security, our guaranteed income supplement, and the Canada pension plan. It is with pleasure that I bring this to the attention of the Prime Minister and the government of the day.

Agriculture  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to table a couple of petitions. The first one is from constituents asking the government to refrain from making changes to the Seeds Act and the Plant Breeders' Rights Act through Bill C-18, an act to amend certain acts relating to agriculture and agri-food.

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, the two other petitions have to do with the leniency of Canada's impaired driving laws; and in the interests of public safety, the petitioners are asking that the government seek tougher laws and the implementation of new mandatory minimum sentencing for those persons convicted of impaired driving causing death.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition that was collected in Prince Edward Island, so it is signed largely by Prince Edward Islanders but also by visitors to our fair province. These are Canadians who are concerned about the cuts to Canada Post. They are concerned about the job losses associated with these cuts, the impact they will have on seniors and the disabled, and the lack of consultation that led to the cuts. They call on the government to reverse the cuts to services announced by Canada Post and look instead for ways to innovate in areas such as postal banking.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 477 and 481.

[Text]

Question No. 477--
Mr. Dan Harris:
     With regard to ex gratia payments by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, based on Order in Council 2012-0861 issued in June 2013 which provides the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) with the authority to approve ex gratia payments of up to $250,000 in his adjudication of grievances: what is the number of instances where the CDS used that authority, broken down by (i) total number, (ii) rank of grievor, (iii) type of grievance, (iv) amount paid?
Hon. Rob Nicholson (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the Chief of the Defence Staff did not exercise his authority to approve ex gratia payments of up to $250,000 in his adjudication of grievances based on Order in Council 2012-0861, issued in June 2013.
Question No. 481--
Mr. Philip Toone:
     With regard to the streamlining and consolidation of offices and jobs in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (including the Canadian Coast Guard): (a) what offices, branches and service centres have been restructured since 2006, (i) how many jobs have been affected, (ii) among these jobs, how many have been reallocated elsewhere in the Department, (iii) to what programs or sub-programs and to what locations have these jobs been reallocated; (b) what departmental programs have been restructured in terms of jobs since 2006, (i) what programs or sub-programs have been affected, (ii) among these jobs, how many have been reallocated elsewhere in the Department, (iii) to what programs or sub-programs have these jobs been reallocated; and (c) how many science-related jobs have been affected since 2006?
Hon. Gail Shea (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, including the Canadian Coast Guard, does not track information related to the streamlining and consolidation of offices and jobs.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 470, 473, 474, 475, 476, 478, 479, 480, and 482 could be made orders for return, the returns would be tabled immediately.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 470--
Mr. Scott Simms:
     With regard to government records on the Manolis L. since its construction in 1980, what are the details of documents, memos, correspondence, reports, or any other forms of information that exist, broken down by (i) department, (ii) date, (iii) file or reference numbers, (iv) type of record, (vi) purpose, (vii) title, (viii) summary, (ix) contents, (x) availability?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 473--
Mr. Peter Stoffer:
    With regard to disabled RCMP veterans who are trying to end the reduction of long-term disability benefits by the amount of their Veterans Affairs Canada disability pension: (a) how many Members of Parliament (MP) wrote to the Minister of Veterans Affairs with respect to the issue identified above for each of the years from 2010 to 2014; (b) how many Conservative MPs wrote to the Minister with respect to the above issue for each of the years from 2010 to 2014; (c) what was the total amount of money spent by all government departments and agencies on the disabled RCMP members' class action lawsuit, including outside legal counsel; and (d) what is the estimated cost for settling the RCMP class action lawsuit?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 474--
Mr. Peter Stoffer:
     With regard to disabled Canadian Forces veterans who are trying to obtain fair compensation with settlements under the New Veterans Charter (NVC): (a) how many Members of Parliament wrote to the Minister of Veterans Affairs with respect to fair compensation for injured veterans under the NVC, for each of the years from 2006 to 2014 inclusive; (b) what is the total amount of money spent by all government departments and agencies, excluding the Department of Justice, from October 2013 to the present, on the Equitas Society class action lawsuit, that is, the defence against disabled Canadian Forces veterans trying to obtain fair compensation with settlements under the NVC; (c) what is the total amount of money spent by the government to hire outside legal counsel from October 2013 to the present on the Equitas Society class action lawsuit; and (d) what is the total amount of money spent by all government departments and agencies on the Equitas Society class action lawsuit from October 2012 to the present, including all costs associated with the work of Department of Justice?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 475--
Mr. Peter Stoffer:
    With regard to homeless veterans: (a) what programs from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) are in place to assist homeless veterans; (b) what programs are in place by other government departments, if applicable, to assist homeless veterans; (c) what organizations are working in partnership with VAC to provide support to homeless veterans, broken down by province; (d) what is the annual breakdown of contributions issued to organizations working in partnership with VAC on veterans homelessness from 2009 to 2013 inclusively, broken down by province; (e) how much did VAC spend on veterans homelessness annually from 2009 to 2013 inclusively; (f) what are the details of VAC's evaluation of the effectiveness of their financial contribution and program delivery for the partnership defined in (c); (g) is VAC considering a plan for a national coordinated effort to support homeless veterans and, if so, what are the details; (h) how many homeless veterans have been identified annually by VAC, from 2009 to 2013 inclusively; (i) how many homeless veterans have been identified by organizations working in partnership with VAC annually from 2009 to 2013 inclusively, broken down by province; (j) how many homeless veterans identified in (h) and (i) are now in receipt of departmental benefits or services; (k) what is the breakdown of the type of departmental benefits or services the homeless veterans received from 2009 to 2013; (l) what are the planned expenditures by VAC for homeless veterans for the next five years; and (m) what are the planned expenditures by VAC for organizations working in partnership with VAC to provide support to homeless veterans?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 476--
Mr. Rodger Cuzner:
     With regard to government funding, for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group in the province of Alberta, providing for each (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the location of the recipient, indicating the municipality and the federal electoral district, (iii) the date, (iv) the amount, (v) the department or agency providing it, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file-number of the press release?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 478--
Mr. Jack Harris:
    With regard to the Canadian Forces' Cadet Program, for the years 2008 to 2014, broken down by region: (a) what is the overall budget allotment per year for the program; (b) what is the full breakdown of the costs of the program, broken down by cadets and officers, including but not limited to, information on capital expenditures, administration and support, uniforms and equipment, and travel; (c) what is the full breakdown of the costs of staffing the program, including the breakdown of costs by intermediary staff, support staff, and military staff; (d) how much of the program's budget is spent per cadet and what is the amount directly delivered to the local squadrons and corps, excluding uniforms and salaries for squadron and corps staff; and (e) how much of the program's budget is spent on administration, broken down by the following rank level and category, (i) part-time primary Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service (COATS) and Cadet Instructors Cadre (CIC) reservists, (ii) full-time primary COATS and CIC reservists, (iii) civilian employees?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 479--
Mr. Philip Toone:
    With regard to government funding allocated to the constituency of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine: (a) what is the total amount of funding allocated from fiscal year 1993-1994 to fiscal year 2001-2002, broken down by year, department or agency, initiative, and amount; and (b) if any of the amounts requested in (a) are not available, why not?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 480--
Mr. Philip Toone:
     With regard to government funding allocated to the constituency of Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia: (a) what is the total amount of funding allocated from fiscal year 1993-1994 to the present date, broken down by year, department or agency, initiative, and amount; and (b) if any of the amounts requested in (a) are not available, why not?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 482--
Ms. Judy Foote:
     With regard to the accounts of the former Canadian International Development Agency for 2012-2013, compared to those of 2011-2012: (a) what was the total amount of increased funding for multilateral programs; (b) what sectors within the multilateral programs have seen an increase in funding; (c) what sectors within the bilateral programs have seen a decrease in funding; (d) was multilateral spending increased for maternal, newborn and child health; (e) has funding for education decreased or increased, and for which Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Assistance Committee codes; (f) why was there an unused balance of the Crisis Pool Quick Release mechanism; and (g) can the balance of a certain mechanism’s unused funds be reallocated to different programs?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, finally, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
     The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Income Splitting  

    That, in the opinion of the House, the drastic increase in income inequality under recent Liberal and Conservative governments harms Canadian society; and that the House express its opposition to the Conservative income splitting proposal which will make this problem worse and provide no benefit to 86% of Canadians.
    Before we begin, since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending June 23, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bills.
    In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bills be distributed now?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues.
    Clearly, this issue is of particular importance to the NDP. It is a question of the inequality created by the Conservatives, and the Liberals as well.
    Today we will be dealing specifically with the plan the Conservatives presented to Canadians during the 2011 election campaign. We will talk about the concerns it raises because it is quite possible, under the current circumstances, that this plan will be implemented. We will explain exactly what the plan entails and why it is totally wrong for Canadians.

  (1015)  

[English]

    Let me start with the basics of what the Conservatives have proposed, and this goes back to a 2011 campaign promise. I suppose in the midst of a campaign, politicians from time to time get excited or in some cases desperate to gain power, as the Prime Minister was. In that desperation and excitement they make promises that are very bad promises with respect to a policy that they would actually want to invoke one day. That is exactly what this is.
    This is a $5-billion income-splitting scheme that the Conservatives have proposed that would not help upwards of 85% of Canadians. Let us pause for a moment. It is a $5-billion scheme that 85% of Canadians would see no benefit whatsoever from. That fact is actually increasing with recent reports. We have one report out today from the Broadbent Institute, called “The Big Split”, that says the number of Canadians who will miss out on this particular program might be quite a bit higher.
    It is not just from progressive think tanks; it is also from groups like C.D. Howe. It is also from very conservative economists across the country who have come out and said that the proposal as offered by the Conservatives is one that would increase income inequality in this country. It would further push the tax burden onto the middle- and working-class Canadians and away from those who are earning the most.
    We know that over the last 30 to 35 years income inequality has increased dramatically in Canada. Some 90% or more of that was experienced under Liberal regimes, which is, I suppose, telling of the traditional Liberal way of campaigning, which is to campaign to the left but govern to the right. A massive amount of inequality went on under the Liberals but the Conservatives picked up that bad tradition and have continued it. We see income inequality increasing. A recent Parliamentary Budget Office report showed that of the recent tax breaks that came, those people in the 20% top-earning tax bracket took home $11 billion in benefits, fully 36% of all that was offered. The bottom 20%, those we would think they would be most interested in helping out, took home a little less than $2 billion of what was offered, so less than 6%. The top 20% get more than one-third of the benefit, and the bottom 20% get around 6% of the benefit.
     That is the Conservative ideology. We understand that. We disagree with it fundamentally as New Democrats, and we see increasing disagreement about the Conservative ideology and plans because income inequality hurts the economy broadly. It does not just hurt those who are most impacted and affected.
    We have also seen a second tax shift that has gone on and it is not just increasing the burden to the middle and lower incomes in Canada. We have also seen a tax shift away from corporations under the Conservatives. Just since the Conservatives' taking power, the corporate tax burden has dropped by almost $4.5 billion while personal income tax has increased by $15 billion. When they ask who is paying for all the services that Canadians rely upon, such as the police and the fire and the health and education services, all of those things, and they wonder who is picking up the tab, they see that under a Conservative world view they do not believe corporations should have any part in that. The Conservatives do not think that corporations derive any benefit, I suppose, so why should they pay for it?
     We know that good transportation systems, good urban transit, good health care, and good education support not just those who are directly implicated but help the entire economy more broadly, because healthy and smart workers make for a profitable and prosperous economy. However, the Conservative world view says that corporations should not have to pay for any of that, that individuals should pay more and more, and we see that in the numbers.
    The Conservatives are entitled to their own opinion on this issue, but they are not entitled to their own facts. The facts speak clearly and loudly that there have been increasing shifts in the burden of taxes away from the rich to the middle class and lower incomes and away from corporations to the individual. Those two shifts have been very destructive to millions of Canadian families and, I would argue, have hindered the Canadian economy writ large.
    We wish that the Conservatives would at least take the Hippocratic oath and just promise to please do no harm, because they have made things bad and they now propose to make things worse. They somehow believe that the answer to income inequality is to have more income inequality. The suggestion from the current finance minister is that this type of income-splitting scheme, which is going to cost the treasury upward of $5 billion and only benefit less than 15% of Canadians, and will only benefit the 15% of Canadians who least need the help, is a good plan for Canada.
    I will give the Conservatives credit for this. They have somehow managed to unify right- and left-thinking economists in this country. This is a rare feat. This is kind of hard to do, because if we put three economists in a room, we end up with five opinions, but on income splitting the Conservatives have managed to bring all the economists to one side, whether they are progressive or more conservative thinkers. As the C.D. Howe Institute said, this policy does more harm than good. It has also garnered a certain amount of attention from Canada's leading papers. Let me read a couple of quotes.
    The first one is in the Ottawa Citizen, which states:
    Income splitting is a tax cut for the rich....
    There are many ways in which Canada could spend [this money].... We could come up with tax policies to help low and middle-income citizens. We could cut taxes across the board, for all taxpayers, instead of using the tax system to make value judgments about which kinds of families should get tax breaks.
    Let us talk about which kinds of families those are. Who would benefit is a relatively short list that one can quickly and easily define. As the Broadbent Institute calls it, it is the Mad Men family. It takes us back to the 1950s, maybe the 1960s, where there was one income earner who was earning quite a bit of money and the spouse earning very little. That is who would benefit from this.
    Who would not benefit is a long list, and we should go through it. There will probably be a bunch of Conservative ads on this, if history is any teacher, and a lot of Canadians might think that they can see themselves benefiting, maybe it applies to them and will help out their families. This would not help people whose kids are over 18. It would not help people who do not have kids. Imagine that. It would not help people who are not married and with kids under 18. It would not help people who are married with kids under 18, but are in the same income bracket. All of the people I just listed would get no benefit from this scheme whatsoever. When we start to whittle it down to find out who it would actually benefit, more and more we see that it would benefit people who do not actually need it.

  (1020)  

[Translation]

    This is not just a question of economics; it is a question of morality.
    After years of deficits, we will finally have a surplus of approximately $5 billion to $6 billion. Now the question is: how does the government want to use this money to help Canadians?
    The Conservatives made a promise during the 2011 election campaign. However, all of the facts are contrary to what the Conservatives claim their intentions are. The new Minister of Finance is saying it is an excellent idea.

[English]

    There is something in government that we should all adhere to that talks about evidence-based decision-making, but with Conservatives, more and more there is decision-based evidence-making. What they do is make a decision based on their ideology or some hope in the midst of an election to gain a few more votes and pull the wool over Canadians' eyes, and then they reverse themselves and try to find some evidence to support that ideology, even if it does not exist.
    I understand that the Conservatives are unlikely to listen to the editorial board of the Ottawa Citizen or perhaps The Globe and Mail that says income splitting needs to be reconsidered or abandoned in favour of a better use of surpluses, that if the government wants to cut taxes, this is not the way to do it, or that the Tory proposal was ill-considered from the start.
    Maybe they would listen to the C.D. Howe Institute, as they are strong supporters of it, who said:
    The splitting proposal would significantly raise marginal effective tax rates for most lower-earning spouses, thus imposing barriers for working or returning to work; this would make married women more vulnerable by reducing their work experience.
    And if the objective is to provide support to families in raising children, it would distribute most benefits where they are least likely to be needed.
    The C.D. Howe Institute said that if this is the target for the Conservatives, if this is who they are trying to help, then this policy will not help.
    There is something in the midst of that quotation that is important, another inequality that would be perpetrated by the Conservatives, that is:
...thus imposing barriers for working or returning to work; this would make married women more vulnerable by reducing their work experience.
     This would put further pressure on women to not enter or re-enter the workforce. Why would the Conservatives want to do that when all we hear from economists, the banks through the progressive side, from the manufacturers association, from basically every key group in the Canadian economy, is that we need more women in the workforce, we need women who have left the workforce to come back in and to have that choice? The Conservatives knowingly would invoke a policy that would resist that and would say no to that.
    We know that women on average earn 16% less than men in Canada. That is a deplorable fact, but that fact should have some bearing on the way the Conservatives design tax policy. If women are earning a significant amount less than their male counterparts on average and they are married and may even possibly benefit and fall into that rare 14% of this category, the pressure would be on them to stay home because they are earning less on average. The Conservatives know this.
     They may have a Leave it to Beaver kind of world view, a throwback to Ward and June Cleaver and that all things will be good, and that is how the world ought to be oriented. I know there are some Conservatives who believe that. This is 2014. This is an idea that most right-thinking people, most progressive people, have long since left behind. The Conservatives say that maybe the only place for a woman is in the home or something. We believe a woman's place is in the House of Commons.
    This policy explicitly supports the Conservative world view, which we think is wrong. They are trying to do some social engineering here, through the tax code, and we know that the Conservatives love their boutique tax credits. They like to tell Canadians how to think and shop and what programs to put their kids into and little incentives here. They love to put their hand in the market and put their hand on the scale. They like some free market but not all free market. They like to intervene on mortgage rates and all sorts of things and interfere. I often imagine what it would be like if a New Democrat finance minister phoned up the banks and asked them to change their mortgage rates.
    Let me quote my departed friend because I think the voice of Mr. Flaherty, God rest his soul, is important in this debate. Before he left the finance minister's office Mr. Flaherty had some strong opinions about this particular policy we are talking about today, about income splitting. If nothing else, if none of the facts give any of my Conservative colleagues pause or none of the opinions held by the leading economists in this country about how bad this policy is, maybe the words of Mr. Flaherty might.
    He said:
    It benefits some parts of the Canadian population a lot. And other parts of the Canadian population...not at all.
    What he was talking about is that 86% number, the fact that this policy is so directed at so few as to not be worth the $5-billion price tag.
    I know the Conservatives feel like they somehow are entitled to their position in government and that the next election, within a year, cannot come too soon. We see this with governments. Governments age very badly, the current government being a great example. The arrogance and entitlement seems to be something that almost inherently is affected in this place. The fact that the Conservatives would go into that election saying that they are going to wed themselves to this particular policy, as bad as it is, as unequal as it is, as ineffective as it is at helping Canadians but simply out of hubris and pride, shows just how far they have fallen away from their roots of responsible and accountable government.

  (1025)  

    If the government has some sort of assessment of what this program would do for Canadians, that is much more than the 14% or 15% of Canadian households that would benefit by the income-splitting scheme or that it has not been skewed to the most wealthy of Canadians, then I look forward to the debate today. I know my colleagues, the New Democrats, look forward to hearing the evidence as to why this is such a great scheme and why spending $5 billion at the federal and provincial levels is a great idea.
    It is remarkable that so many Canadians would be excluded. When Conservatives are on the doorsteps in the next election telling people that they have a plan for them, if they are talking to a person who is not married, then I guess they will have to move on to the next door. If they come to a door where the household has children older than 18 who have moved on, then they have to move on to the next doorstep. If at the next door there is a single parent, and I was raised singly by my mom, that parent will not benefit from this.
    I would think that if we were to spend this kind of money to try to target and help families, which is what the Conservatives are claiming to do with this policy, then we would try to help those families that are struggling to make ends meet. We would try to help those families that, for more than 30 years, have suffered through growing inequality and that, under the Conservatives, have seen so much less of the benefits.
    I have listed the statistics before, but I will do it again. Out of the Conservative tax breaks, the bottom 20% got around 6% of the benefit, and the top 20% got 36% of the benefit. Maybe that is another golf membership or jacuzzi in the backyard for some, but for those families struggling to pay the bills, it is offensive that the Conservative government keeps ignoring the basic needs of families trying to get their kids to school and offer their children better hope.
     For the first time in many generations in our country, all the evidence is pointing to the generation following having a lower quality of life than what we are experiencing right now. If there is any wish parents have for their children, it is that they will have equal or better opportunities than the parent did. However, the opportunity gap grows with the income gap. The gap in opportunity that is afforded to middle-class and working-class Canadians and their children is growing. The gap in accessing better education and training, to that first job, to get that first business loan to start that new enterprise, is growing.
    As was once said by an American politician, it becomes a society of the haves and the have mores. Under this policy, that is something the government is going to promote.
    The government will say that those who already have great resources, who have benefited greatly by living in this society and prospering through their own hard work or through some endowment are going to get more under the Conservatives because they feel they deserve more for just being who they are. However, those in the middle and lower incomes will get less. They will access less and their services will be cut because we know what the Conservative government has been doing. It is lowering expectations, lowering services, reducing health transfers and gutting environmental policies. It is doing all of this in some nefarious scheme to say to Canadians that they should not expect much from government, particularly if one is so unlucky to have been born into the middle or lower classes.
    One of the concerns that economists are expressing to us is what they call a “stratification” of the economy. Canada, for many generations, has enjoyed the possibility that, regardless of where or at what income level one was born, there was a possibility that one could improve one's lot through hard work and dedication. To take that hope away from people is more than discouraging; it is despicable.
     This is something that no government should promote. However, we hear it time and again from across the political spectrum, from economists to the C.D. Howe Institute to the Broadbent Institute to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to Conservative economists and left-wing economists. They agree that this program, this $5 billion income-splitting scheme will offer benefit to very few people.
    The New Democrats oppose this proposal because it disproportionately helps those who do not need it and hurts those who need a hand. As New Democrats, there is nothing more fundamental for us, it goes to our DNA, we believe the role of government is the thing that we do when we come together to accomplish that which we cannot accomplish alone.

  (1030)  

    We look to help our neighbours. We look to care for our neighbour's children, not cast them aside. We do not invoke policies based on pure ideology to gain a couple of points in an election poll, rather than design government as it should be, based on sound evidence.
    A progressive government, in perhaps a year or even a little less, will have the opportunity to offer Canadians just that.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member opposite. I am not surprised that the NDP will vote against yet another way to give Canadians some of their money back.
    What I would like the member to try to understand, if possible, is that doctors do not make a diagnosis based on one test or by looking at one cell. It is based on the collective assessment of all the tests. What I mean by this is that this is just one additional way the Conservative government can give Canadians more of their money back.
    We have brought in tax reductions for farmers, families, students, businesses and seniors. In fact, we have brought in 160 different tax reduction policies. This is yet one. The NDP voted against all the other 160 reductions. Why would it vote against yet another reason to give Canadians back more of their hard earned tax dollars?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Conservative cabinet, the largest one in Canadian history. Did he know that? For the penny pinching Conservatives, they found space for just about everybody in the Conservative caucus in the cabinet and are handing out this little perks and baubles, but not when it comes to Canadians and the services that they want.
    My friend omitted something from his question when he talked about giving Canadians money back through this policy. He did not say which Canadians, did he? He did not say that only 14% of Canadians would benefit from this policy and that it would be skewed toward the wealthiest Canadians. He did not say that. He just said “Canadians” broadly.
    This is how the Conservatives approach these questions. They hope Canadians are not paying any attention. They hope Canadians will somehow see themselves in a program for which they do not qualify. That is a total of 86% of people who are listening to this broadcast, 86% of people who are going to vote in the next election.
    They are smarter than that. We have confidence in the intelligence of Canadians to see through this charade, that they would not benefit. This is for the haves, not everybody else, and my friend across the way absolutely knows it.
    Mr. Speaker, in reading the motion, one cannot help but think why the NDP has chosen to bring a motion that would incorporate the Liberals, as if the NDP is on a high horse. I would suggest that it needs to get off that high horse.
    I come from Manitoba, where there has been an NDP administration for a decade now. Income inequality has continued to grow under the New Democratic government in Manitoba. When the member talks about giving corporate tax breaks, I would suggest that it is likely that the Manitoba NDP has given more corporate tax breaks than any other provincial government.
    I would like to quote the Premier of Manitoba. He said, “The general Corporation Income Tax rate will drop to 12%...This tax was 17% when we took office and our reductions since then are the first in half a century.” He is glowing about the number of corporate tax breaks. This is from an NDP government.
    Does the federal NDP and the Leader of the Opposition still endorse the NDP government in Manitoba to the degree that he has stated?
    Mr. Speaker, I often wonder what my friend is doing here because he spends most of his time talking about the Manitoba legislature. I know he was there for a number of years. He misses it and that is fair enough. We all miss things that we used to love and had a modicum of success in, but were rejected overwhelmingly. So be it.
    The Liberals hand out $100 billion in corporate taxes at the federal level, in the federal House, which is what we are talking about—
    The NDP doing that in a federal—
    Be quiet.
    Mr. Speaker, they hand out $100 billion at the—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. I can tell the subject today is of great interest to the hon. members who are in the House today. However, it is important that all hon. members have the chance to hear the commentary.
    The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley will finish up and then we will go to the next question.
    Mr. Speaker, here is what happens. When the Manitoba NDP, if he wants to talk provincial politics, reduces the small business income tax rate to zero, it is to stimulate small businesses—
    An hon. member: To what?

  (1040)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is zero. It is to help create jobs, which they do.
    When the federal Liberals, under Paul Martin, handed out $100 billion of income tax breaks to the largest and most profitable corporations, it came without any strings attached.
    As Mr. Flaherty said to corporate Canada, which is sitting on $500 billion of what economists call “dead money”, that money went out the door without the jobs being created. We see that in the evidence in the 7% unemployment rate and a youth unemployment rate that is still stuck at recession levels.
    If my friend wants to talk facts, absolutely, let us talk about them. Is he supporting this scheme? That would be an even more curious question for the Liberals to answer today.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. friend for leading off this very important, indeed historic, debate, putting the issue of income splitting in the broader context of the growing inequality in our country.
    I would like to ask my colleague for his comments on a quote from the late finance minister, our friend, Mr. Flaherty. On February 12, he was quoted in The Globe and Mail. He said:
    You know, it’s an interesting idea. I’m just one voice. It benefits some parts of the Canadian population a lot and other parts of the Canadian population virtually not at all. And I’d like to think I’m analytical as finance minister, so when we discuss it eventually in cabinet and caucus I will present my analysis to my colleagues.
    Why does my colleague expect the former finance minister would have indicated that this policy would not assist some part of the population at all and, as an analysis, was not well founded?
    Mr. Speaker, the quote is quite insightful because what we know is the finance department has done a study on income splitting and has come to some conclusions. We have asked the new Minister of Finance several times for a copy of that taxpayer funded report, but he will not offer it. Mr. Flaherty referenced it many times, and it was the source of his consternation and concern about the inequality of the scheme.
    One would think the Conservatives would at least have something here today that would say this was in fact a much more equal program that would help a certain number of Canadian families, that they thought it was a great program and worth the $5 billion. I am doubtful, but hope springs eternal in this place. One always imagines that the Conservatives might use evidence one day to justify their tax policies. Maybe that day is today.
    Mr. Speaker, I was interested in hearing how gloomy things were back in the 1960s and 1970s when my colleague was growing up and how bad the family structure was back then. However, he spent most of his time pointing out all of the Canadians who would not benefit from this tax proposal. I wonder if my colleague would point out how many Canadians did not benefit from the investment of taxpayer dollars into the satellite offices that my colleague and his friends set up. How many Canadians did not benefit from those mailings that went out in franked envelopes paid for by the taxpayers, which had NDP partisan material inserted in them?
    It is important to realize that those tax dollars could have easily helped to reduce the tax burden on Canadians across Canada, including those who are trying to raise children under 18, who this policy would definitely benefit. It would help them with clothing allowances, education, sports and the things that all of us in the House think are important for young families to give to their children.
    Could he point out the big savings that would have occurred if the members of the NDP would not have spent those millions of dollars on those partisan activities?
    I appreciate the member for Kitchener—Conestoga's reference to a comparison on this point. As has been raised on other occasions, especially during questions and comments, we do try to keep the questions relevant to the matter that is before the House. I am not so sure that area is relevant to this question, but I will certainly let the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley field the question if he so wishes.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives spent $170 million on economic action plan ads. What a fantastic waste of taxpayer money.
    I am a bit disappointed in my friend. Usually when Conservatives run out of any arguments or evidence, they quickly grab on to some fictitious carbon tax. I am disappointed that this is not the talking point anymore because that was always fun to refute and to ask them why they were so angry at the Alberta government, or the B.C. government for that matter, for its policies.
    To his point about helping Canadians, that is the entire point of this day, talking about how few Canadians would benefit from this $5 billion scheme that the Conservatives have proposed. If my friend actually had contrary evidence, if he had a list of Canadians who would benefit, that it was much more than the 14% of predominantly wealthy Canadians who would get this and that it was some other group of Canadians, then so be it. However, he does not present facts.
    The Conservatives do not present facts; they present the ad hominem attacks. That is fine. That is their way. We will go to Canadians with evidence, facts and numbers that are supported across the political spectrum. We feel confident with our position on this. The Conservatives use personal attacks showing their lack of confidence in their policy.

  (1045)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to clarify that it is my absolute pleasure to split my time with the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women.
    I am pleased to respond to the extremely misguided motion proposed by the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley in regard to income equality.
    In his earlier comments, it seemed that he was putting women in the kitchen. I am proud to say that I am a woman. I am a member of the House of Commons. I am a chartered accountant, and I am a mother. I am proud of all of these roles. Apparently, the hon. member is not comfortable with that kind of diversity in our caucuses.
    Today I would like to reassure the hon. member that our government's top priority remains focused on creating jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity for future generations, for our children. At the same time, we are ensuring that all Canadians have the opportunity to share in the benefits of a strong economy. That is progressive.
    I would like to highlight what our government's economic action plan has done to reduce taxes for Canadian families like members' families and mine, since taking office in 2006.
    I am not surprised that the NDP is against a tax cut to put money in the pockets of Canadians. Everyone in the House is well aware of that party's record for opposing tax relief for Canadians. This attitude is precisely why the NDP, in all of its socialist wisdom, knows how to spend money better than those who earn it. We disagree.
    I would like to talk about our government's strong record of tax relief for Canadians, both low income and middle income.
    Since we have formed government, Canadians have benefited from significant broad-based tax cuts. These tax reductions have given individuals and families more flexibility to make the choices that are right for them. The average Canadian family of four will pay close to $3,400 less in taxes, this year and every year to come.
    These significant savings come from a variety of sources, such as a reduction in the GST rate to 5% from 7%, a tax cut that the Parliamentary Budget Officer noted is progressive and that significantly helps lower-income families. Of course, the opposition voted against this significant relief for low-income Canadians.
    We also increased the amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal tax, a measure that has helped low and middle-income Canadians across the spectrum. Again, it was opposed.
    We took 380,000 Canadian seniors off the tax roll completely because they no longer have to pay federal taxes. I am sorry to say that, at least in my province, they still pay significant provincial tax.
    Our government introduced the working income tax benefit to help low-income Canadians over the welfare wall. Yet again, this was opposed by the opposition.
    We have also introduced the universal child care benefit, which is helping young families across the spectrum. Again, it was opposed, with the Liberals famously saying that all it would do is to allow families to buy more beer and popcorn. That is not what families do in my riding. They invest in their children and their children's future.
    It boggles the mind just how ideologically opposed the opposition is to allowing Canadian families to have more money and to make the decisions that are right for them.
    However, that is just the beginning.
    Our Conservative government has also introduced numerous targeted tax reduction measures. For example, we have helped families by introducing the children's fitness tax credit and the children's arts tax credit.
    We have introduced the registered disability savings plan to help individuals with severe disabilities and their families save for their children's long-term financial security.
    We have enhanced support to caregivers of infirm, dependent family members by introducing the family caregiver tax credit.
    We have provided annual targeted tax relief for seniors and pensioners by increasing the age credit and the pension income credit amounts.

  (1050)  

    We have provided further support to students, especially to their families, because a lot of families help their children to get through university. We have now exempted scholarship income from taxation. That was a big change. We have introduced a textbook tax credit, and we are making registered education savings plans more responsive to changing needs.
    We have introduced pension income splitting for seniors, which has had a huge and helpful impact on so many seniors, and we have introduced the public transit tax credit, to encourage public transit use and again put more money in the pockets of the people who use it.
    We have introduced the tax-free savings account, the most significant change to taxation since the introduction of RRSPs, in 1957. In total, our government will have provided almost $160 billion in tax relief for Canadian families and individuals over the last six-year period.
    Let me point out to the opposition that Canadians, at all income levels, are benefiting from tax relief introduced by our government, with low-income and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater relief than higher-income Canadians. In fact, the federal tax burden is the lowest that it has been for all Canadians in 50 years. More than one million low-income Canadians have been completely removed from the tax rolls as a result of the tax relief provided by our government. That leads to real income equality.
    Canadian families, in all major income groups, have seen increases of about 10% or more in their real after-tax, after-transfer income, since we, the Conservative Party of Canada, have formed government. Canadian families in the lowest income group have seen a 14% increase in real income.
     Moreover, Canadian families in all major income groups had higher income, after taxes, transfers, and inflation, in 2011, than they had prior to the recession. That is great news for Canadians.
    The share of Canadians living in low-income families has also fallen to its lowest level in three decades. Canadian children from poor families have a higher probability of moving up the income scale than similar children in such countries as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, or Sweden. This confirms that our low-tax plan for job creation, economic growth, and long-term prosperity is in fact working.
    Going forward, the government will keep taxes low and will examine ways to provide further tax relief for Canadians, while returning to balanced budgets.
     Of course, the leader of the NDP claims that the average Canadian family earns 7% less than they did 35 years ago. This figure is wrong and is based on median market income of Canadians before tax, before transfer income. This is not new math; this is bad math. We have to take all of the factors into account when we do any kind of calculation.
    This figure does not adjust for the fact that the average number of people in Canadian families has actually declined over the last three decades, and overlooks the impact of taxes and transfers. Controlling for the changing composition of Canadian families and accounting for the impact of taxes and transfers, the income of middle-income families has increased by 31%, since 1976.
    Our government has shown that we are providing the support that hard-working Canadian families need. Our recent budgets have built upon our record of supporting families and communities while establishing a path for returning to balanced budgets.
    Economic action plan 2014 supports families by keeping taxes low; better recognizing the costs of adopting a child; helping to lower the prices of consumer goods; better protecting financial consumers, including seniors; and promoting low-cost and secure pension options.
    Our approach is working. I am very optimistic about our prospects as a nation, and I am very optimistic about the opportunities that will be available because of economic action plan 2014, for our children, for the future, for our seniors, and for Canadian families, who now have more money in their pockets.
    Conservatives believe that Canadian families know how to spend their money. They do not need the NDP to spend it for them.

  (1055)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my friend's speech. However, I am a bit confused, in that she did not talk about the Conservatives' income-splitting scheme, which is today's topic.
    She could perhaps clarify if she is in support of the $5-billion income-splitting scheme, as has been suggested by the finance minister as being a good policy. We know Mr. Flaherty thought it was a worrisome policy.
    I know she has been given direction from her friend across the way to say that this is a universal conversation. However, this is just a very clear, simple, and respectful question. Is she in favour of the income-splitting scheme, as has been suggested by the current finance minister, the $5-billion program that Conservatives talked about in the 2011 election?
     It is not a new thing. It is not unknown. The Conservatives have talked about it. The finance minister says he is supportive. I wonder if my friend is supportive as well.
    Mr. Speaker, while the hon. member evoked the name of the late Jim Flaherty in this House today, he did not listen to what Jim Flaherty said. Jim Flaherty was perfectly clear when he delivered economic action plan 2014.
    Number one, we are going to reduce the budget. We are going to reduce the deficit so we do not mortgage the future of our children. That was number one.
    Number two, the late minister Flaherty was perfectly clear that we are going to look at all kinds of tax reductions.
    Contrary to the opposition, we believe that Canadian families can do a better job of spending money on their children and investing where they believe it matters than having the NDP spend it for them.
    Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is with regard to the income inequality that exists today. We have a growing number of wealthy people who are getting wealthier, versus those at the other end of the spectrum.
    My question for the member is this. Does she foresee where the Conservatives will try to narrow the gap so that we would be enhancing life for the middle class in Canada? If so, when does she anticipate that we will be seeing such actions that would provide a tangible result?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments and questions from my hon. colleague from Winnipeg. He made a very interesting point in his questions to the previous speaker. He made the comment that the NDP government in Manitoba has not put in tax cuts for seniors.
    We have taken 380,000 senior citizens in Canada off of the tax roll. In Manitoba, those senior citizens who pay no federal income tax do pay provincial income tax. That is a scandal.
    As for the middle class, we have received a commendation from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. He indicated that the middle class has never been better off, and The New York Times says the same.

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague for what I see as a great speech. I want to congratulate her for bringing together the bigger picture that this government is attempting to do, which is to create a very efficient way of running the country, keeping health care transfers at the highest level ever, social transfers to the provinces, but also reducing taxes in every area we can think of. She makes a valid point that people know how to spend their money better than any government.
     In Ontario, for example, we have a provincial government which has tax rates that are out of control. Electricity rates are the highest in North America. People are taxed to death and see money wasted every day.
    I wonder if the member would comment on all of the tax initiatives that this government brings forward, and not just this one. It is about the whole picture of making Canadians lives much better.
    Mr. Speaker, even if I had all day, I could not possibly speak to all the tax cuts, in detail, the government has delivered.
    Yesterday, and throughout the week, the Minister of State for Finance has made it clear that we are in a leadership position in terms of reducing taxes. We are asking all other levels of government to reduce taxes on Canadian citizens as well. That is our plan, and it is going to work.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the motion before us.
    I would like to take my time today to describe how our government's economic policies have strengthened Canada's middle class. We all know that a strong middle class is vital for Canada's economy. However, while the NDP and Liberals claim to advocate on behalf of the middle class, it is our government that is delivering results. Consider the following: a recent Statistics Canada study revealed that since this government has taken office, the middle class has flourished significantly, and I quote:
    The median net worth of Canadian family units was $243,800 in 2012, up 44.5% from 2005 and almost 80% more than the 1999 median of $137,000, adjusted for inflation.
    Another study, one from The New York Times, indicates that Canada's middle class is better off financially than that of the U.S.:
    After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada—substantially behind in 2000—now appear to be higher than in the United States. Further, since 2006, Canadian families in all major income groups have seen increases of about 10% or more in the take-home incomes.
    These statistics are remarkable in their own right, but they are even more impressive when we consider the global economic challenges Canada has navigated during this period. Indeed, we experienced the worst global recession since the Second World War, yet our economic performance during both the recession and the recovery is among the strongest in the world.
    Over one million net new jobs have been added since the height of the recession, the vast majority of which are full-time and in the private sector. This is one of the strongest job creation records in the G7.
    At a time when Canada's financial systems were brought to the brink of bankruptcy, Canada's banks remained the soundest in the world. When other countries increased taxes, our government kept taxes at record lows. In fact, the federal tax burden is at its lowest level in 50 years.
    Unlike the opposition, we believe that leaving more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families is a good thing. That extra money provides flexibility to make the choices that are best for them. It also helps build a solid foundation for future economic growth, more jobs, and living standards for all Canadians. That is why our Conservative government has proudly introduced close to 180 tax relief measures since taking office, reducing taxes in every way the government collects them.
    What is more, Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from tax relief, with low- and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater relief, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer recently confirmed. Indeed, Canadian families in all income groups have seen increases of about 10% or more in their take-home pay since 2006. In 2014, the average Canadian family is saving close to $3,400 in taxes, while one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the tax rolls altogether. This is historic tax relief.
    Unfortunately, the tax-and-spend opposition continues to oppose each and every one of our tax cuts. Let me take this opportunity to remind it of some of the tax reductions it voted against: cutting the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%; increasing the amount Canadians can earn tax free; reducing the GST from 7% to 5%, putting more than $1,000 back in the pockets of an average family of four in 2014; and establishing the landmark tax-free savings account, the most significant advance in the tax treatment of personal savings since the RRSP.
    In addition, the opposition has opposed a variety of tax credits that recognize the costs borne by hard-working Canadian families, credits like the child tax credit, the children's fitness tax credit, the children's arts tax credit, the family caregiver tax credit, and the first-time home buyers' tax credit. They were against other target measures to help Canadian families, including the home buyers' plan, the adoption expense tax credit, and the medical expense tax credit.
    We have also enhanced benefits for families and individuals, which the opposition also voted against. These include the universal child care benefit, which offers families more choice in child care by providing up to $1,200 a year for each child under age six, and the working income tax benefit.
    More recently, in economic action plan 2014, our government proposed a number of measures to expand tax relief for health care services. These included exempting the professional services of acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors from the GST and HST.
    To support people with disabilities, our government introduced the registered disability savings plan, or RDSP, in budget 2007. The RDSP is widely regarded as a major policy innovation and positive development in helping to ensure the long-term financial security of those with severe disabilities. Since becoming available in 2008, over 81,000 RDSPs have been opened.
    These important measures are a handful of examples illustrating how our government has responded to the needs of Canadian families and has helped Canadians keep more of their hard-earned money.

  (1105)  

    However, as we frequently see, the opposition members reject our efforts to lower taxes for Canadians. They prefer that we adopt dangerous economic policies such as a carbon tax that could kill businesses, investment, and jobs and hurt Canadian families to further their own misguided agenda. We will not engage in reckless spending that would inevitably be paid for by middle-class families. Unlike the opposition, we believe in spending taxpayer dollars efficiently, effectively, and only when necessary. After all, Canadian families know the importance of living within their means, and they expect governments to do the same. That leads me to my final point.
     Perhaps one of the most profound ways we are helping Canadians is by making sure that future generations will not be paying for past obligations of their parents and grandparents by returning to balanced budgets in 2015. By returning to surplus, we would ensure solid, stable prosperity for all Canadians well into the future. Indeed, balancing the budget and reducing debt would ensure that taxpayer dollars would be used to support important social services such as health care rather than for paying interest costs. It would preserve Canada's low-tax plan and allow for further tax reductions, fostering growth and the creation of jobs for the benefit of all Canadians. It would also strengthen the country's ability to respond to longer-term challenges, such as population aging and unexpected global economic shocks.
    This government understands the importance of middle-class Canadians, and as our actions have shown, we have listened and we have ensured a middle class for this country that will continue to lead the world. We will continue with our low-tax plan, unlike the tax-and-spend Liberals and New Democrats, whose high-tax, high-spending agenda would threaten jobs and set working families back.
    Mr. Speaker, we have a debate today on income splitting as proposed by the Conservative government: a $5-billion scheme the Conservatives have said they campaigned on and that they are going to bring in next year. Is it the Conservatives' plan to actually not talk about income splitting all day? We have had two speeches so far, 10 minutes each, with lots of opportunity for my friend across the way who just spoke, and the one prior, and maybe future Conservatives, to actually say what they think about income splitting, because that is the debate today. They can talk about all sorts of things, and they can use all the political rhetoric they want. However, this is the question I have for my friend. As is currently proposed by the Conservative government, is she in favour of income splitting, yes or no? That is all.
    Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say that the comments of the member opposite sort of crack me up, especially in his speech earlier. Those members stand here and rhyme off numbers. They pretend they want to help Canadians, but then the NDP member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley mentioned something about a woman's place being in her home. For the record, I just want to say that this government has done more for women and girls in Canada than any other government. Fortunately for Canadians, those members will not see this side of the House.
    As I mentioned earlier, the average Canadian family is saving close to $3,400 in taxes, while one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the tax rolls. That is what tax relief is about, and that is what we want for Canadians, but then, the member opposite continues to oppose each and every one of our tax cuts. Let me remind members of some of the tax reductions they voted against: cutting the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%—

  (1110)  

    Order, please. I am just going to take some time for more questions and comments.
    The hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul.
    Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for her very insightful speech, because it listed all the things our government has done to help all families, including middle-class families, with middle-class families now prospering more than ever before in this country. I would like the member to please tell us what has been done for seniors and for those who are disabled, because I did not hear that in the speech.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who does an outstanding job for her constituents and for women across Canada.
    In terms of seniors, the government introduced pension income splitting and doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for a pension income credit to $2,000. We increased the maximum guaranteed income supplement earnings exemption to $3,500 and introduced the largest increase for the lowest-income GIS recipients in a generation in our economic action plan 2011. We also removed 380,000 senior citizens from the tax rolls completely.
    In response to persons with disabilities, the enabling accessibility fund has funded over 1,300 community-based projects, totalling over $89 million, since its inception. In our economic action plan 2014, we propose to connect persons with disabilities with jobs by providing $50 million over three years to the ready, willing and able initiative of the Canadian Association for Community Living and $11.4 million over four years to support the expansion of vocational training programs for persons with autism spectrum disorder, led by the Sinneave Family Foundation and Autism Speaks Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, given that we are talking about tax policy and whether a particular tax policy is regressive or progressive, and we believe that income splitting, as designed in the Conservative platform, is a regressive tax policy, would she agree that making the non-refundable tax credits such as the caregiver tax credit, the children's activity tax credit, the volunteer firefighters tax credit, and all those tax credits that currently do not benefit low-income Canadian families, fully refundable, thus enabling low-income families to benefit from them as well, would render our tax system more progressive?
    Mr. Speaker, the tax credits the member opposite mentioned are a measure welcomed by many Canadians. I would like to provide some statistics from a report on financial security from Statistics Canada. Statistics Canada found out that the median net worth of Canadian families was up 44.5% from 2005 and almost 80% more than the 1999 median, adjusted for inflation. This is a significant improvement in the wealth of Canadian families, which are benefiting from the policies and tax credits of our Conservative government.
    Income inequality has not increased in Canada since 2006, and the proof is in the numbers. We have cut taxes 160 times, saving the average Canadian family over $3,400 a year, and poverty is at a record low for all Canadians, including children and seniors.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to speak on this NDP motion on income inequality and income splitting.

[Translation]

    This is a two-part motion. The first part is a statement that acknowledges the harmful effect of the increase in inequality on Canadian society and tries to assign blame solely to the Conservative and Liberal governments. The second part is a condemnation of the Conservatives' election promise on income splitting.

  (1115)  

[English]

    I would like to address these two parts in order.
    First, in terms of income inequality, I agree with my colleagues in the NDP that rising income inequality is a crucial issue for Canadian families. I also agree that it is harmful to our society and that as members of Parliament, we ought to address it. That is why two years ago, I moved a private member's motion directing the House of Commons finance committee to conduct an in-depth study of income inequality. In the wording of that motion and in my speeches in this place I avoided partisanship and as such obtained support from members of Parliament from all political parties, including sufficient support from Conservative members to actually pass that motion.
    The purpose of that study was to identify solutions and to put Parliament on a path of progress toward greater equality of opportunity in Canada. At the time, I asked that all members of the House put partisanship aside and work together on this issue, and we were successful in having the finance committee conduct a study. In the end, the finance committee spent just a small fraction of its time on income inequality compared to its other studies. Despite that, the committee's report to the House identified a number of credible solutions that would improve equality of opportunity for Canadians across the country. It included solutions such as increasing the availability of affordable early child education and care programs, a recommendation that was supported by a variety of witnesses, including the Canadian Medical Association, Canada 2020, TD Economics, and the Canadian Council on Social Development.

[Translation]

    The report also showed the extent of the problem. It showed that income inequality and equality of opportunity have worsened in Canada over the last generation. The fact is that they have deteriorated under the federal and provincial governments of all parties.

[English]

    Let us be clear that federal and provincial governments have a shared responsibility for social investment and tax policy and have a responsibility to create conditions for social equity and economic growth and opportunity. This shared responsibility includes all governments, federally and provincially, including NDP governments, although the motion specifically chooses to say “Liberal and Conservative governments” without acknowledging that in fact this is not a partisan issue.
    If we are going to deal with this issue effectively, we need to accept that income inequality has grown in Canada, just as it has grown in most of the industrialized world. There are a number of reasons, but some countries are doing a better job than others in maintaining equality of income and equality of opportunity, and those best practices and ideas are what we should be looking at. If we look at Canada's record of rising income inequality, we see that our colleagues in the NDP have taken a selective view of the facts. I encourage them to avoid this temptation, because if we look at the evidence available to us, we get a different perspective.
    We can look at Canada's provincial Gini coefficients. StatsCan tracks the annual Gini coefficients for every province back to 1976. Members of the House will already know that the Gini coefficient is the most common way to measure income inequality, with zero representing a completely equal society in which everyone receives the same income and one representing a society in which all the income would go to one person or family.
    When the New Democrats look at these Gini coefficients, they want to focus on total after-tax income. This measurement looks at the inequality that remains after governments have redistributed income through taxes and transfers. The drafters of today's motion and anyone else who wants to follow along at home can find provincial Gini coefficients for total after-tax income on the StatsCan website in CANSIM Table 202-07051.
    The data show us that when the NDP was most recently in government in B.C., from 1991 to 2001, income inequality among B.C. families went up by more than 15%. That is a drastic increase, to borrow a phrase from today's motion. That is after taxes and transfers are factored in.
    For individuals living in B.C., the Gini coefficient went up by more than 12%. That is a drastic increase. Ten years of NDP rule left B.C. with the highest rate of income inequality of any province in Canada. That is despite the fact that the NDP inherited the fourth-lowest rate of income inequality when it took office in B.C. Today B.C.'s Gini coefficient sits slightly lower than it did when the NDP left office. Thankfully, I guess, if we were in the blaming business, which I do not think we ought to be, the current Liberal government has been able to undo some of that damage when it comes to income inequality.
    The NDP record on income inequality is not much better in Saskatchewan. After 16 years of NDP rule, the Gini coefficient for Saskatchewan households climbed by more than 8%, which is another drastic increase. Even in Manitoba, the most recent data show that income inequality for households is up by 2.5% since the NDP have taken office.
    I am only using these examples to point out that the NDP ought not try to make this a partisan issue, because by doing so we distract this House from dealing with the issue itself. The NDP has intentionally tried to prevent a consensus in this House on the issue of income inequality by playing politics and partisanship with us.
    The Conservatives would say that income inequality is not an issue. They are wrong. The NDP will try to make it an issue of class warfare and try to divide it along party lines. I think that is also wrong if we are serious about the issue. The issues of rising income inequality and inequality of opportunity are too important and the consequences of inaction too dire for us to be engaged purely in partisan bickering. Canadians will be better off if we work together to understand how we can reduce income inequality and strengthen equality of opportunity. Therefore, I encourage all members of this House to accept the record of their respective parties and let us focus on the future and develop the best public policy responses to this important issue. We need to move on together and work on solutions that can strengthen equality of opportunity.
    We also need to address what is probably the worst example of inequality in our country, aboriginal and first nations Canadians. There is a demographic, social, and economic time bomb represented by, among other things, the fact that 400,000 young aboriginal and first nations members will be entering the workforce in the next 10 years. If they have the skills they need to compete and succeed, it would be a good thing for our economy. If they do not, which is the case with many, it will be of dire consequences to our economy and our society. We need to close the first nations and aboriginal non-first nations education system funding gap. That is something we ought to all agree on across party lines.
    These are important issues, and the cost of inaction is significantly high. We have heard from the Conference Board of Canada and from the former dean of the Rotman School of Management, Roger Martin. We have heard from the former governor of the Bank of Canada, now Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. All have said that those who say income inequality is not an issue are wrong and that those who want to make it an issue of class warfare are wrong.
    We have to focus on equality of opportunity. They have all warned us that rising income inequality and inequality of opportunity will limit economic growth and prosperity and that rising inequality will tear at our social fabric. It causes future generations to lose hope, and it is notable that for the first time a majority of Canadians now believe that today's generation will be worse off than their parents. Rising inequality weakens the public trust in our institutions. As parliamentarians, we must be careful and avoid policies that would lessen equality of opportunity or deepen inequality.

  (1120)  

    Inequality can rise when governments lose sight of how their policies affect equality of opportunity. For example, the proliferation of non-refundable tax credits is contributing to greater inequality. These tax credits exclude low-income Canadians from any benefit. Another example of a measure that will increase income inequality is the Conservatives' income-splitting scheme, which is, of course, the subject of the second part of today's motion.
    In the last general election, the Conservatives vowed to bring in income splitting as soon as the budget was balanced. It was a cornerstone of their 2011 election platform. Some estimate its cost at $3 billion per year, and I have heard potentially $5 billion. It is clearly the Conservatives' biggest election promise so far.
    During the election, the Prime Minister said that once the budget is balanced, income splitting “...should be one of our highest priorities”. According to the fine print, couples with children under 18 would be allowed to split up to $50,000 of income each year for tax purposes. However, since the election, both the C.D. Howe Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have published thorough reports showing massive flaws in the Conservatives' plan. They have shown how the Conservatives' promise to bring in income splitting would disproportionately benefit high-income earners at the expense of the middle class and low-income earners. The C.D. Howe Institute has called the Conservatives' income splitting a flawed idea that excludes 85% of Canadian households from any benefit whatsoever.
    However, it is not that these low- and middle-income Canadians would be just completely left out of the deal; worse than that, they would end up having to pick up the tab through reductions in social investments that could benefit them, and ultimately they would pay higher taxes in other ways. In the words of the C.D. Howe Institute report, the Conservatives' promise:
...would offer no tax reduction for the great majority of Canadian households, while the government revenue loss would lead to either a curtailment of public services or an increase in their tax burden to make up the shortfall.
    In other words, most Canadians will pay for this expensive Conservative tax cut through higher taxes or reduced services or both.
    Let us look at some examples of how a family might or might not benefit under the Conservative scheme.
    In the Conservatives' budget, they like to give examples of how a family might be impacted by their plan. They even give these family members names. In fact, if we flip to page 190 of the latest budget, we will see that Blake earns $48,000 and Laurie earns $72,000. Blake and Laurie and their two children represent the Conservatives' idea of an average middle-class family. In fact, they are on the higher end of the average, and the Conservatives' claim about their savings from previous budgets are a bit skewed.
    However, even in the Conservatives' idyllic vision of the middle-class family, Blake and Laurie would not get a penny from the Conservatives' expensive promise to bring in income splitting. Even the fictitious family that the Conservatives cite in their budget would not benefit from income splitting.
    If Blake and Laurie would not get anything under the Conservatives' scheme, and the scheme costs $3 billion per year or more, then who would benefit?
    Well, under this scheme, the Prime Minister, who earns $320,000 per year and has a stay-at-home spouse, would actually save $6,500 per year. Meanwhile, a Canadian who has a stay-at-home spouse and who earns the average industrial wage would save less than $10 per week. Most households would get absolutely nothing, including households run by a single parent, a person who is struggling to make ends meet, who has no one else to rely on, and who cannot access good-quality child care and early learning.
    Former finance minister Jim Flaherty understood the shortcomings of this plan when he said in February that income splitting needed a long, hard analytical look to see who it affects and to what degree, because he was not sure that overall it would benefit our society.
    Shortly after Mr. Flaherty made this statement, The Globe and Mail agreed. It published an editorial against the idea, saying:
    But Mr. Flaherty is right. Income-splitting needs to be reconsidered, or abandoned in favour of a better use for the federal surpluses that should begin to appear next year. If the government wants to cut taxes, this isn't the way to do it.
    The Tory proposal was ill-considered from the start.

  (1125)  

     With their income-splitting scheme, the Conservatives made a major campaign promise that just was not thought through at the time. Today, with the resources of government and the Department of Finance, the whole government approach, and the capacity of government to research the best practice approaches from around the world and develop sound policy, there is no excuse for the Conservatives not to step back from this and develop a better way to reform our tax system to render it more progressive. We are not in the heat of an election right now.
    We have not had a significant study of our personal tax system since 1971 with the Carter commission. Everything has changed in the decades that have ensued in terms of both the global economy and the Canadian economy. Surely there is room for a thorough study of our tax system so as to create a tax system that is fairer, more progressive, and potentially even more globally competitive.
    We can look at some examples. Germany has a robust economy, but at the same time, it does not have the same levels of income inequality that we have seen grow in Canada. What is it doing in terms of apprenticeship? What is it doing in terms of skilled trades? What is it doing in its tax system that we could learn from?
    The Nordic countries are other examples. Scandinavian countries are sound economic models. They have good growth, and even competitive corporate tax rates in many cases. They also make good investments in progressive social policy, like early learning and child care, as examples.
    The Liberal Party is open to supporting tax changes that would benefit middle income Canadians. We introduced the working income tax benefit in the last mini-budget in the autumn of 2005 when the member for Wascana was finance minister. That was an example of progressive social policy that helps people get over the welfare wall.
    The child tax benefit was introduced by a Liberal government but continued and expanded under the Conservative government. It is another example of a progressive tax policy that has benefited a lot of Canadian families.
    Compare those with the non-refundable tax credits that I mentioned earlier that do not benefit low income Canadians and do not change people's behaviour. If high income earners have children in hockey, they are going to benefit, but even if they do not receive it, their children would still be in hockey.
    We ought to be thinking about the low income families for whom a direct benefit might make the difference toward their children being in an activity that could change their lives and improve not just their childhood but put them on track to a productive and healthy life. These are the people we ought to be most concerned about, because they are falling through the cracks, and that comes at a huge social and economic cost, not just to those families but to all of us.
    We cannot support an income-splitting scheme that would help high income earners and shift the burden to the already struggling middle-class and low-income families who are having trouble making ends meet. We cannot support a tax cut that would so clearly lead to greater income inequality and inequality of opportunity.
    This brings me to the motion before the House today.
    We agree that increasing income inequality and a growing inequality of opportunity is harmful to Canadian society. We agree that the Conservatives' income-splitting scheme excludes the vast majority of Canadians from any benefit whatsoever and that it could lead to greater income inequality.
    Finally, the fact is that Canada has seen a drastic increase in income inequality under federal and provincial governments of all stripes. This debate ought not be simply about assigning blame but instead be about recognizing the problem and working together across party lines to find solutions. Therefore, the Liberal Party supports the motion.

  (1130)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I was on tenterhooks waiting to find out if the Liberals were going to support the motion.
    I understand that there are, perhaps, some hurt feelings, because the motion, as it reads, talks about how recent Liberal and Conservative governments have increased income inequality in Canada. My friend from the Liberal Party wants to debate whether that is a partisan attack or a statement of fact.
    The statement of fact is that income inequality has increased dramatically under successive Liberal and Conservative governments. The member then went on in his speech to say that it was more the fault of the provinces, when the Liberals were in power, I suppose. It was not at all connected, in the Liberals' view, to the fact that the Liberal federal government cut transfer payments by as much as 40% to those same provinces. Maybe there is a connection. We argue that there is.
    I am very glad that the member was declarative about the Liberals' support for the NDP motion to say that the $5-billion price tag to this income-splitting scheme would be unfair. We have heard from two Conservative speakers so far who have yet to declare the Conservative position on income splitting at all.
    I wonder if my friend could add to the debate and speculate as to why my Conservative colleagues have such a hard time making their opinions known about whether this $5-billion scheme is supportable or not.

  (1135)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of points on this. I really wish that the New Democrats would actually focus on the issue at hand, which is dealing with income inequality and creating public policy to do that. This motion could have been amended to add “and NDP governments” and it would have been perfectly legitimate, but the question is how productive that is when we ought to be seeking consensus across party lines on this and dealing with the issues that are important.
    The member took a swipe at the Conservatives. The Conservatives have not been definitive here today, but I know there were more than 20 Conservatives who voted for my motion to study income inequality at committee. I know that many members of the Conservative Party have a sense that there is a growing inequality of opportunity, that it is wrong, and that we need to do something about it.
    In the wording of motions and in our conduct in the House, we should try to appeal to people's better angels from time to time, as opposed to driving divisive wedges between the parties, and actually work together to develop solutions. There is a lot of common ground between the NDP, the Conservatives, and the Liberals when it comes to equality of opportunity. If we frame it as such, we can gain better consensus and build better public policy that respects all parties but, more importantly, deals with an important issue facing Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party believes in family tax fairness and choice for parents. That is why we brought in the universal child care benefit. Instead of giving money to bureaucrats, researchers, and activists who failed to create daycare spaces for years, we give it directly to parents so that they can choose what kind of child care they want. That is the fundamental debate we have.
    On the question of income splitting, more popularly known as family tax fairness, I support it. I believe it is fair that a single-income family earning $60,000 should pay roughly the same taxes as a dual-income family earning $60,000.
    We know from the public opinion data that, overwhelmingly, parents favour the option, if they have a choice, of having one parent in the home in the very early years. However, right now it is difficult for people to afford to do that, except for the very rich. We want to make that a possibility for all of those families who would choose it, regardless of their income.
    I wonder if the member across will support family tax fairness and support the Conservative proposal for that fairness.
    Mr. Speaker, sometimes, what really frustrates me on issues like this is that we have the occupiers in the NDP and the tea partiers in the Conservatives, without the capacity of actually working together on some of these issues.
    The minister referred to early learning and child care. I remember being in the House when he used to call it a national babysitting program. The reality is that early learning and child care are important social investments that create more competitive economies in places like the Nordic countries, for example. He may dismiss these wild-eyed activists, like Margie McCain or Dr. Fraser Mustard, but the reality is that the quantifiable data demonstrates that investments in early learning and child care not only create more social equity but create a more competitive economy.
    It is fine to demonize, marginalize, and stigmatize that type of research, but there are just as many economic advantages to those kinds of progressive investments as there are social advantages.
    Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate my colleague on his long-time focus on the issue of income inequality. The hon. member has been talking about income inequality since before the issue started to rise in awareness and started to make headlines.
    My question is this. Would the hon. member not agree that income inequality is bad not only for the economy but for democracy? If there is not a strong middle class with purchasing power, then that slows economic growth. That is the importance of reducing income inequality for the economy. However, it is also important for our democracy, because if income inequality grows, people become very skeptical about whether their government has their best interests at stake. Therefore, there is a double whammy when there is increasing inequality. One is on the economic front and the other on the democratic front.

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member, my colleague and friend, raises an important issue and that is that, if people feel that the system is broken, that there is no way they can benefit from the system, not only can they give up on the economic system but they can choose political alternatives or opt out completely from the whole political system. We see disfranchisement today with a lot of young people, and the fact that only 22% of first-time eligible voters actually vote may be related to the economic challenges young people face today. They do not hear enough discussion in this place and other legislatures across the country on actually dealing with the issues they face, whether it is their education or their capacity to find work.
    The issue of unpaid internships is one that we have dealt with at various points in the House. The fact is that a privileged child from a wealthy family can have a swish unpaid internship when a middle-class or low-income child or adolescent has to go to work at whatever they can do. That deepening of inequality of opportunity at that stage in their lives is really bad for both the economy and society.
    I can go further as well. Later today, the Liberal member for Toronto Centre will be speaking. She is a global expert on the whole issue of inequality and the author of the book Plutocrats. She will bring her particular insight, which comes from an international perspective on the issue. I would urge all members of Parliament to be here to listen to her discourse later today. It will provide an international perspective and apply it to Canada, as we consider what are the best ways forward and what countries are doing a better job combining robust pro-growth economic policy with good social and progressive tax policies.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am on the Standing Committee on Finance with my colleague from Kings—Hants, and I would not want to leave out an important point, which is that the Conservatives blame the provincial governments for income inequality.
    If the motion states that it is the federal Liberal and Conservative governments, that is because the Liberal government reduced spending in the 1990s by 40% for transfers like the Canada social transfer, which includes health care and social assistance.
    I know that my colleague was not there, but the Liberal government at the time must take responsibility, which is why it is included in the motion.
    However, when he spoke about common ground between the Conservatives, the New Democrats and the Liberals in the House on the issue of income inequality, it is clear that in committee the Conservatives denied the perception that we had of income inequality.
    Would my colleague like to comment on the findings in the report of the Standing Committee on Finance and also on this perception that the Conservative government has of income inequality, which differs from ours and even from that of the Liberals?
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien inherited the largest deficit in history. At the time, some difficult, but necessary decisions had to be made.
    We take responsibility for that. We are not here to blame any party. Every federal and provincial government has to take responsibility for the decisions it makes and do its job by creating progressive policies for the future.
    Today, I am a bit disappointed with this NDP motion because it is not necessary to be so divisive on an issue as important as inequality.

  (1145)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to an extremely important issue that I think is going to be one of the election issues in 2015.
    We know that this was a Conservative promise, one that was made without much regard for reality or the social impacts of income splitting.
    I want to briefly summarize what income splitting is, even though other MPs are generally doing the same. Nonetheless, it is good to go over the basics and the reasoning.
    In their 2011 election platform, the Conservatives proposed allowing individuals to transfer a portion of their income to their spouse, to a maximum of $50,000, in order to put themselves in a lower tax bracket. This applies to families with children, of course.
    There are several problems with such a measure. At first glance, it seems like a good idea. I think the government is currently trying to rebrand this measure and find a different name for it. We heard the minister of state talk about justice or fairness for families. On the contrary, this measure is unfair to families. If we look beyond the issue of whether up to $50,000 can be transferred, we see that this measure mostly benefits people with high incomes. A number of studies—the most notable of which are those conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the C.D. Howe Institute—clearly showed that 85% to 86% of families will not benefit at all from this measure. It will benefit only 14% or 15% of Canadian families. How is that fair? It is not.
    Clearly, this is an extremely costly measure for the federal government. It will be extremely costly in terms of the public services that will eventually be lost. The government is responsible for providing adequate funding, but the Conservatives have exactly the opposite philosophy in how they govern.
    According to the two organizations' estimates, the measure will cost the various levels of government about $5 billion—$3 billion for the federal government and about $2 billion for the provincial governments. However these measures will benefit less than 15% of Canadians. Why are only 15% of Canadians benefiting? Let us look at those who will not benefit from this measure. I have a whole list. Clearly, income splitting will not do anything for single people because it affects families with children. It will not do anything for couples who do not have any children. It will not do anything for single-parent families, even though they could use a break, because the measure pertains to couples. Clearly, if a person does not have a spouse, income cannot be transferred. This measure will not do anything for families with children over the age of majority, even if those children are still dependants because they are going to school or they have a disability, for example. The taxation system provides for some tax credits in that regard, but the income splitting measure will not do anything for those individuals. Income splitting will not do anything for families where the parents have similar incomes. A family where both spouses are working and earning about $30,000 will not benefit from this measure at all. This measure does not do anything for parents who earn less than about $42,000 because they are in the lowest tax bracket. We can therefore see that the list of couples who will benefit from this measure is extremely small.
    As a blatant example of inequity, consider the members of this House who have minor children and whose spouses or common-law partners are stay-at-home parents. We are people who would benefit from that. Here in the House, there are a number of members who are still young enough to have minor children. With our salary and a stay-at-home partner, if we can transfer up to a maximum of $50,000, we would personally benefit from about $5,000 in tax cuts. Do we want the $5,000? In society, that might benefit us personally. However, ultimately, we need the money far less than couples who, for instance, have trouble making ends meet and where each person has a salary of $20,000 or $25,000. Both must work to provide for their family. We therefore must think of the example we have here in this House.
    In terms of the list of exceptions, I will move on to the question of good governance.

  (1150)  

    As I mentioned, income splitting would increase income inequality, since the wealthiest families would be the ones benefiting from it, as only one spouse needs to work and earns a salary that is high enough to provide for the family.
    We are also wondering whether, after balancing the budget, the Conservatives are prepared to do without $3 billion in revenue.
    The Conservative government often talks about the late Jim Flaherty, former finance minister. However, before he died, Mr. Flaherty had given the Conservative government a serious warning that this measure was extremely risky and that it had to be studied because it would only benefit a few segments of society, leaving out many families who would have far greater need of it.
    In our view, this measure is completely inappropriate. At the time, Mr. Flaherty had warned the government that this measure was risky because, if the government wanted to balance its budget eventually, it had to make choices. Does the government want to throw the country back into deficit right away by providing additional tax cuts once it balances the budget, or does it want to use the surplus for other things such as debt reduction?
    Since the Conservatives took power—so since the 2005 public accounts were released—Canada's debt has increased from $421 billion to $667 billion. That figure will be even higher this year. That is an increase of $256 billion—or over 60%—since the Conservatives took power. Do the Conservatives want to use the future surplus to pay down the debt? No, they are talking about offering tax cuts, which will create an even bigger deficit.
    That is what happened when they lowered the GST from 7% to 5% and we saw our revenues drop by $8 billion a year. In 2008, even before the recession, the Conservatives had started running a deficit as a result of this measure and the additional corporate tax cuts.
    The Conservatives brag about being good managers, but at the end of the day, they are the ones who put us in a deficit situation. Aside from the period between 2006 and 2008, when they came to power and eliminated the federal government's fiscal space, the last time a Conservative government introduced a balanced budget was in 1912—yet they brag about being good managers.
    My colleague from Kings—Hants mentioned the provinces and income inequality, but he ignored the fact that transfers to the provinces were cut by 40%. These cuts obviously made things tough for the provinces. He blames the provinces for the increase in income inequality. He also blames Liberal, Conservative and New Democrat governments for a situation they inherited from the federal Liberal government at the time.
    The NDP has a better record on balancing budgets than provincial and federal Conservative governments. The governments of Tommy Douglas, Gary Doer and Roy Romanow introduced balanced budgets for over 10 to 15 years, and meanwhile, the federal government was running deficits under the Liberals and Conservatives.
    The NDP is, without a doubt, the party that is most likely to properly manage public finances for the public good and is considered as the party that properly manages taxpayers' money. After assessing the situation, the Department of Finance agrees with us.
     The United States has income splitting, and I am certain a Conservative member will point this out. In fact, it is not so much that the U.S. has adopted income splitting, but rather that it has adopted a basic unit of taxation. Unlike Canada, where the individual is the basic unit of taxation, the family is the basic unit of taxation in the U.S. There are historical reasons for that approach.
     In the mid-20th century, the United States needed to unify its taxation policies. A number of states considered the individual as the basic unit of taxation, while others considered it to be the family. Eventually, they had to simplify matters. A broad debate on taxation was held, and the outcome was a more or less simplified taxation system.

  (1155)  

     The process involved defining the basic unit of taxation. The U.S. decided that it should be the family. A number of commissions, including the Carter commission, and several committees studied the issue. The Carter commission was the last great commission to undertake a reform of the taxation system. After two years criss-crossing the country, the commission produced a report, which was greatly watered down by the subsequent Liberal government, this being the 1970s after all, but widely hailed by academics and tax experts. The report recommended that the individual be considered as the basic unit of taxation. This provision allows for a simpler tax system that everyone can agree on.
     Now the government wants to allow people to use the family as the basic unit of taxation in some cases and the individual in others. This will further complicate the taxation system, and if only for that reason, this is not a desirable policy option.
     The government boasts of having already introduced pension income splitting. The tax cost of this initiative is already higher that originally forecast. At the end of the day, as a result of pension income splitting, Canada will lose $1.2 billion in tax revenues while the provinces overall stand to lose about $500 million.
     This example gives us a pretty good idea of what income inequality would look like. Let us consider for a moment how this measure affects seniors. If we divide pensioners into two groups, one-half having the lowest incomes and the other half having the highest, we see that the half with the lowest incomes benefited from only 2% of the tax cuts as a result of pension income splitting. That means that the half with the highest incomes benefited from 98% of the tax cuts. What is more, the 10% of pensioners with the highest incomes benefited from 31% of the tax cuts.
     The example of pension income splitting illustrates the scope of the problem and how the income gap will widen, not only as a result of this measure, but also as a result of the Conservatives’ proposed initiative.
     Now then, will the government move forward with this initiative? It will be included in the next election platform. However, if we are to believe the current Minister of Finance and certain MPs, it is clear the government appears intent on moving forward. Moreover, instead of addressing additional income inequality issues, it is starting to rebrand to economists, journalists, the media and society as a whole the totally unfair policy of income splitting, which has now acquired a bad reputation. It will rebrand it as an exceedingly fair policy.
     I am truly flabbergasted to see how blind this government is to such clear facts and figures. I am far less hopeful than my colleague from Kings—Hants, who spoke just before me, as to the will of the parties in the House to find some common ground for dealing with income inequality. It is clear that the Conservatives are turning a blind eye to this reality. For them, it is a matter of facilitating access to education and training. We are not opposed to that, but it will not be a cure-all. Initiatives have been taken in the past, and continue to be taken by this Conservative government and by various provincial governments, that increase the effects of income inequality. Some of the proposed initiatives, such as income splitting, will increase the problems, even exponentially.
     When I talk about economists, it is quite interesting to see where these negative comments about income splitting are coming from. It is rare to see the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the C.D. Howe Institute agree, not only on the fact that this policy is harmful but also on the fact that it would have some financial ramifications.

  (1200)  

     I have a question for my colleagues who always boast of their sound management. Do they really want to take action that will once again put the federal government in a deficit situation, for the sole reason of bringing in a tax break that will benefit only 15% of Canadian households? Would they not rather show good governance and start tackling urgent issues?
     We do not have any problem whatsoever with tax cuts for middle-class families, for families that need a break. However, such measures must be reconciled with measures to reduce the debt, which, may I remind you, has ballooned by 60% since the Conservative government was elected in 2006. Steps will also have to be taken after that to rebuild public services that have been devastated in recent years, especially since 2006.
     Consider R and D, the environment and immigration, to name a few areas. All of these services to Canadians have been drastically cut, jeopardizing in the process services for which Canadians pay taxes and to which ultimately they are entitled. I suspect that one of strategies of the Conservative government, and of Conservatives in general, is to ensure a mismatch between the taxes paid to different levels of government and the services that Canadians receive for their tax dollars.
     I know that a debate on immigration took place in the House until very late last night. I was astounded by a statistic I learned of during the 2013 holidays—if I am not mistaken— regarding a call centre in Montreal that was set up to respond to Canadians requiring a visa or experiencing immigration problems. The number of employees at the call centre was so drastically cut that 91% of telephone calls in December 2013 were lost in the system and never got through to an agent. In other words, only 9% of calls were answered by an agent.
     How about we talk about the cuts to science made by the Conservative government? I know what the ramifications of these cuts are because there are a lot of scientists in my riding. Some scientists work at the Maurice-Lamontagne Institute. Others work at the Institut des sciences de la mer, ISMER, at UQAR. Still others work in a number of private sector companies that come under the umbrella of the Technopole maritime du Québec. A hub of expertise has sprung up in Rimouski and the lower Saint Lawrence valley in marine biotechnologies and maritime technologies in general. The cuts made by the government to the Maurice-Lamontagne Institute have resulted in an exodus of scientists from the region. This has hurt not only the region's economy, but also Canada’s reputation in the sciences.
     Additionally, there were a number of measures imposed as part of the overhaul of the employment insurance system that are having a major impact on regions where the economy still relies heavily on seasonal employment. These measures are intended to diversify the economy, but that takes time. In reality, the measures imposed by the Conservative government are making the regions in question poorer. Ironically, the Conservatives’ slogan in 2011, at least in Quebec, was “Our regions in power”. Almost every measure imposed by the Conservative government has ended up hurting the regions and making them poorer.
     I know that this issue will be a core plank of our election platform in 2015 in the lead-up to the next election. If what we are seeking is good governance, every measure to do with budget surpluses should be divided between logical tax cuts that benefit a broad cross-section of society rather than simply 15% of people, as income splitting would do, paying down the debt and reinvesting in a number of public services that have suffered considerably as a result of this Conservative government’s cutbacks.
     This, therefore, is the principle of good governance that we espouse, and it corresponds to the good governance models of our New Democratic governments in the provinces. I hope that the government will listen to reason and scrap this ill-advised policy of income splitting in favour of adopting fiscal and economic policies that will benefit all Canadians and not just a small segment of the population.

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech and for the work he does on the Standing Committee on Finance.

[English]

    I would like to address the income inequality issue that we studied at the finance committee. We issued a report and we talked about the need for support for general measures like health care, education, and social services that our government has funded at 6% year over year and 3% year over year.
     We also talked about targeted measures like the working income tax benefit, which I believe has not been mentioned on the other side of the House. I would like members opposite to comment on the benefit of that program that specifically targets low-income working families and individuals to ensure that they get ahead.
    I do want to focus my remarks and ask the member opposite to comment on pension income splitting. If I understood him correctly, he was in fact quite critical of the measure brought in by our government in 2006 to allow pensioners to split their income. In fact, he said this was sort of a foreshadowing of what would happen under income splitting generally. Pension income splitting has been a resounding success. I have certainly heard it across the country. Pensioners come up and say that they have been able to keep much more of their income in their pockets.
     I would just ask the member to clarify NDP policy on this. The NDP opposed it at the time, but does the NDP still oppose pension income splitting, and would it reverse that policy if it were given the opportunity?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc, who is a highly respected member of the Standing Committee on Finance. His work is greatly appreciated by members of all the parties.
    His question is relevant, but this is not necessarily about whether we would support it or not. My argument about pension income splitting focused on program logistics. Generally speaking, pensioners do not have as much income. Therefore, this will impact their income differently than it will the income of the general population.
    If we look at the results, this program requires far more tax expenditures than initially forecast. There was no calibration at all.
    Then, if you take everyone who is retired and divide them into two groups—one group for those with a higher income and the other with a lower income compared to the median—it becomes clear that 98% of the tax breaks will go to the 50% of pensioners who have a higher income.
    Those who really need it, the people in the 50% with the lower income, will not benefit very much. It might lower their taxes by less than $20. Those who benefit are the retirees with a higher income.
    It seems that calibration was not necessarily a consideration, and that is a very serious wake-up call for a much larger measure that would affect families with children.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for all his hard work at committee. All of his explanations were very clear.
    Do we really need income splitting? I do not think so. This measure will cost $3 billion, yet 85% of Canadians will not benefit from it.
    What is the NDP proposing to make life more affordable and to ensure that the largest number of people possible will have a better life and better living conditions?
    Mr. Speaker, the question is appropriate. I addressed this to some extent in my speech, and I can expand upon it now.
    Making life affordable for people is something we are very concerned about. The NDP has come up with a number of measures under the leadership of the member for Sudbury and the member for Québec, who are doing excellent work on this.
    These measures are intended to help not only Canadian consumers with respect to credit cards and ATM fees, among other things, but also small and medium-sized enterprises, an important economic driver that is often overlooked in our economic policies.
    This measure will cost the Canadian government over $3 billion in lost revenue. It is imperative to know how those surpluses should be allocated. Since 2006, Canada's debt has increased by 60%. Sixty per cent since 2006. We need to start recognizing this situation.
    I know that the former finance minister, Mr. Flaherty, cared about this situation. That is probably one of the reasons why he voiced strong reservations about income splitting.
    With any future budget surplus, the Canadian government must consider paying down the debt and possibly cutting taxes, which will benefit many Canadians, as well as reinvesting in public services. After the huge cuts, they really need it. They have often been misguided by various departments.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say to my colleague that I listened with interest to his speech on income splitting.
    I would like to know whether he thinks this measure is generating controversy among the Conservatives. Is he aware of anything like that?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Bourassa for his question. I think this is the first time we have had the opportunity to talk directly to each other since his election to this institution.
    Yes, I think the situation is a bone of contention, which has been widely reported in the media. The controversy did in fact start when Mr. Flaherty expressed serious reservations about whether income splitting was viable and appropriate. We then saw that the members of the Conservative caucus where very divided on it. There are some who are very much in favour of this measure. The voices supporting it are generally the ones of social Conservatives. That is because income splitting is an incentive. This measure is seen by a number of groups who are in favour of social conservatism in Canada as a measure that will encourage women to stay at home.
    Take, for example, people with incomes of $100,000 or $150,000. Whether we like it or not, income disparity in our society is still considerable. There are significantly more men than women with high incomes. Clearly, if women stay at home, income splitting will be possible, whereas if women work, the gains will not be nearly as great. That might explain why the social Conservatives are in favour of these measures and why the fiscal Conservatives are against them. The fiscal Conservatives, as we see here, want the government to eventually use the surplus to pay down the debt and reinvest in important public services.
    In that respect, I can indeed see a division within the Conservative caucus, and I look forward to seeing how our colleagues opposite will vote on this motion.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have so much respect for my colleague in this that I have to return to the subject.
    The criticism from the other side is that targeted tax measures like income splitting, like pension income splitting, ought not to be done because they would not benefit the entire population. If we look at pension income splitting, that is true. It does not benefit people in my age group. If I look at my parents, they are both school teachers. They have pensions that are very similar. They do not benefit as much from the policy. However, there are many Canadians across this country who benefit from pension income splitting who are very positive on that.
    I think it is incumbent upon the official opposition to be very clear with respect to that policy. Would it reverse the policy of pension income splitting that was put in place by this government in 2006?
    Frankly, if the NDP ever forms government, I could see the member as a possible minister of finance. He is going to have to make that decision.
    I think the NDP needs to be clear with Canadians as to where it stands. Does it support the pension income splitting that was put in place in 2006, and if not, would it seek to reverse that policy?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question and for his persistence. It is an important question.
    I am not here to lay out the NDP's 2015 election platform. I think he will acknowledge that, just as I would not necessarily ask him to share the Conservatives' economic platform for the next election.
    However, what I spoke about—because it needed to be done—was the nuts and bolts of these measures and how they would work. What we have here is a measure that benefits primarily those with the largest pensions, and I am sure he would acknowledge this. If the government believes that tax relief should truly benefit those who need it most, this measure is not as effective as it could be. A the very least, it needs to be calibrated differently.
    I used this example to warn the government. If ever it is re-elected in 2015 and decides to move forward with this measure, it should be careful. People can expect that the negative impact on Canada's economy, Canada's tax situation and all Canadian households will be far different from the promises that were made.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the official opposition's motion.
    The government is obviously against the motion. The premise of the motion is incorrect. It states:
    That, in the opinion of the House, the drastic increase in income inequality under recent Liberal and Conservative governments harms Canadian society...
    There is no drastic increase in income inequality. Income inequality has not increased in Canada in recent years. On the contrary, income inequality has decreased in Canada in recent years.
    The problem is that the motion is based on the NDP's political ideological. It is not based on data, facts or statistics, which clearly show that income inequality has decreased in Canada.

[English]

    In fact, contrary to what the motion would suggest, we have seen a reduction, not an increase, in so-called income inequality in Canada. The truth is that in the past many years, the Canadian economy, notwithstanding the impact of the largest global recession since the 1930s, has done quite well, as a rising tide has lifted all boats.
    We see that Canadians are generally better off in terms of their income. Canadians overall are significantly better off in terms of their net worth and assets. The lowest-income Canadians are better off as well. In fact they are closer to the mean than they used to be.
    Child poverty is at an all-time low in Canada. The number of people living below the low-income cutoff, often referred to as the poverty line, has diminished. The government has eliminated nearly one million people from the tax rolls altogether, so they do not have to pay taxes, by increasing exemptions and other progressive measures in the tax system.
    The entire premise of the NDP motion is incorrect. In fact, families at all income levels had higher incomes in 2011 than prior to the recession, according to Statistics Canada. With robust income growth, the share of Canadians living in low-income families was at 8.8%, according to the most recent figures, the lowest level in three decades. Let me repeat that. The number of Canadians living below the low-income cutoff line is at its lowest level in 30 years.
    That is not my opinion. That is not a figment of my imagination. That is a fact based on data from Statistics Canada. I would invite my friends from the NDP to actually contend with the facts on this matter, rather than reciting stale and misleading talking points.
    That is not to say that we should be satisfied.

[Translation]

    Of course, as a society, as a government and as parliamentarians, we must always work to improve the living conditions and economic opportunities for all our citizens, including, and particularly, those living with low incomes.
    That said, we need to recognize that we have made progress and that the percentage of Canadian families living below the low-income cutoff has diminished.

  (1220)  

[English]

    Indeed, the median real income of Canadians, and this is very important, according to the recent study conducted by the Luxembourg Income Study and The New York Times, hardly a Conservative house organ, indicated that for the first time in history, Canadian median family incomes have exceeded those of the United States.
    The American dream was always considered the gold standard in terms of middle-class prosperity around the world. However, according to this recent exhaustive study of all the available data, the Canadian middle class is better off than its counterpart in any other major developed economy in the world, having exceeded that of the United States. This did not happen by coincidence or accident. It happened, of course, because of the hard work of Canadians but also because of the prudent economic policies of Canadian governments, and I would submit this government in particular, which has reduced enormously the tax burden on Canadian families. We have reduced the tax burden, through 160 separate tax relief measures, by an average of $3,400 for an average family of four per year. That is not cumulative. That is to say that year after year, the average Canadian family is paying $3,400 less in federal taxes than it did when our government came to office, and that happened because we made necessary but prudent decisions to better manage our spending and decided that taxpayers would come first.
    Here is the basic problem with the motion in front of us. The NDP's view is that government should come first and that we should feed the insatiable appetite of government bureaucracies and programs by taxing people more. That is what drives policies that lead to unemployment, stagnant incomes, and fewer economic opportunities.
    Fundamentally what this government believes at its core is that hard-working families know better how to spend an extra dollar than politicians or bureaucrats do. New Democrats have a different view. It is a defensible view. It is a view they sometimes obscure at election time, but their fundamental view is that they know better, as politicians, how to spend that extra dollar than working moms and dads do.
    Take, for example, the issue of daycare. The NDP and its Liberal friends on the left believe that we should raise taxes on hard-working Canadian families, so that they have to work harder and their after-tax disposable income shrinks, so that we can take that tax revenue, coercively taken from those families, and cycle it through the enormously expensive bureaucracy of the Ottawa government and then send it to the bureaucracies in the provincial governments, which will then cycle it through various programs. In the case of Manitoba, I recall the failed child care policy of the former Liberal government. What did it end up doing? It raised government union wage rates in the child care sector. It did not actually add a single child care spot.
    Again, that is a defensible view. It is a view my friends on the other side will articulate. They believe that we should put more economic pressure on hard-working families, more stress, and reduce their take-home pay by increasing their taxes in order to cycle all of that money through two bureaucracies and send it back out in the form of a putative public benefit, when huge amounts of those resources have, in fact, been absorbed by administration and bureaucracy.
    Our approach is different. Our approach is to leave the money in the hands of mom and dad in the first place, because we believe that they are the best experts with respect to child care, not government bureaucracies or politicians. That is why we introduced the universal child care benefit that sends a $100 cheque per child under the age of six to every family, which then gets to decide how to spend that themselves, rather than politicians and bureaucrats making that decision for them. It is very simple.
    It is also why we raised, by the way, the basic personal exemption. One of the issues I am going to get to is so-called income splitting, what I call family tax fairness. Under the status quo and a Liberal unfair tax policy, it is unbelievable but true that they actually used to say that a spouse working outside the home was of greater value to our society and economy than a spouse working at home.

  (1225)  

    They reflected the perceived devaluation of dads and moms who work at home by having a lower spousal exemption in the tax code than the basic personal exemption. For a two-income family with one spouse out in the paid workforce and another at home in the unpaid workforce, guess what? The person in the paid workforce would get a higher basic personal exemption against their income taxes than the spouse at home in the unpaid workforce. What kind of weird mentality says that dads or moms who are at home taking care of their kids or their elder relatives are worth less for making what is for many of them a sacrificial decision for their families?
    We believe that they are serving the common good, that such dads and moms are making a choice that is best for their families, which we should respect and not penalize. We should respect the choices families make and not penalize them for making choices that they think are best for themselves. That is why this government eliminated that one dimension of family tax unfairness when we raised the basic spousal exemption to be equivalent to the basic personal exemption.
     These are some of the reasons we have seen an increase in average family income and net worth. In fact, the median net worth of Canadian families has increased by 45% in real inflation-adjusted terms since 2006. Canadian children from poor families have a higher probability of moving up the income scale than in such comparable countries as the U.S., U.K., France, or Sweden. That is to say, not only do we have fewer Canadian families and children living in poverty than before, and not only are we at a record low in child poverty in this country, but we have greater upward social mobility for those families. We actually do have the Canadian dream.
    This is what The New York Times was so astonished by when this study came out last month. The so-called American dream, the notion of upward mobility for low-income families, had become much more of a dream than a reality. However, here in Canada, it is a reality. We continue to have a society characterized by such upward social mobility.
    The facts are that the middle class in Canada is doing better. There are fewer poor families and fewer poor children and less income inequality, regardless of what the opposition says.

[Translation]

    I would like to talk about the second part of the NDP's motion, which states:
...and that the House express its opposition to the Conservative income splitting proposal which will make this problem worse and provide no benefit to 86% of Canadians.
    Once again, the premise of the motion is incorrect. The New Democrats are wrong. They are mistaken.

[English]

    With the premise of this motion, the opposition is simply wrong.
    I find it very interesting that in the political rhetoric and positioning of the NDP, those members always talk about working families. The late Jack Layton, whose memory we honour, always focused on kitchen-table economics. In the last election, he visited a lot of families around their kitchen tables, yet the position of the NDP here today could not be clearer: it does not actually support the family as an economic unit. Those members actually think that some families should be actively discriminated against through unfair preferences in the tax code. We fundamentally disagree.

  (1230)  

    That is why, in our 2011 election platform, the Conservative Party of Canada committed that if we balanced the budget, we would, at the end of our mandate, introduce family tax fairness by allowing splitting of income between two-parent families.
    As the Prime Minister has done, I am pleased to reconfirm that it is absolutely our intention to keep that commitment that we made to Canadians in the last election to introduce family tax fairness, to end the discrimination against certain families, to end the unfairness.
    How do we do that? I would like to accept the rhetoric of the NDP position and turn it into policy substance. When New Democrats talk about kitchen table economics and the importance of supporting working families, we do not just do that rhetorically, we want to do that substantively. We do not want to do it as a political tactic or trick. We want to do it by amending the tax code to say that we will treat the family as an economic unit, because after all, it is an economic unit. Is that not the point? Dads and moms who arrange their affairs together as couples with kids or other dependents are making a choice to share their property, to share their income, to share the burdens of life. In so doing, they become the best social programs, the best schools, the best crime prevention programs in raising children.
    There is no social program that produces stronger social outcomes than a strong family. Can we all agree on that? We should be honouring and respecting the often difficult and sacrificial choices that families make. That is what family tax fairness through income splitting seeks to do.
    What does this mean? Right now, perhaps a dad in a family decides to stay at home to take care of young, pre-school children, or perhaps elderly dependent parents who are living with the family, and we will see more and more of that with the aging of our society. His wife or his spouse goes out and works and makes, let us say, $75,000 a year, which is not much above the average income level in Canada. I do not know why New Democrats are laughing. It is a lot less than they make as MPs. If the wife is the income earner making $75,000 a year and dad is at home taking care of young kids or maybe elderly parents, they end of paying 30% more in taxes, $2,000 more in taxes than a family making the same amount of revenue with both parents in the paid workforce.
    What this so-called preference, what this discrimination, what this unfairness does is say that the work the dad puts in at home does not have any economic value. The government says it is worth nothing.
    I am not just saying this. I will never forget being in the opposition as revenue or finance critic asking the Liberal government why they permitted this tax unfairness against such families. The then minister of state for finance, the hon. Jim Peterson, for whom I have great regard, committed the ultimate political gaffe. He accidentally told the truth. He actually said the government believed that stay-at-home parents were not working. I guess he had never met a stay-at-home dad or mom, because they work harder than most of us do every single day of the week and they deserve our recognition and our support.
    That is why the Royal Commission on Taxation in 1966 recommended that the appropriate tax unit should be the family, as the income and expenditure of two individuals are not independent when they live together. That is why the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, 60 years ago, supported elective joint taxation, voluntary income splitting. It is why the U.K. and France and most other developed countries treat the family unit as an economic unit for purposes of taxation.
    It is about time that we said we value families, we support the choices they make, and we will end the unfairness. Will the opposition join us in that?

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, essentially the minister said that income inequality is not a problem. Let us look at the statistics from Statistics Canada. Median income from 1976 to just a couple of years ago grew by a staggering 0.2% for the middle class. In 2002, the average CEO in Canada earned 84 times what the average worker in that same company earned. Flash forward 10 years later, just a couple of years ago, that went up to 122 times the amount for the CEO as compared to the worker. In 1982, the top 1% earned 7% of all of Canada's income. Now that same group earns 12%. We have seen median wages stagnate over that same period, but the minister denies that.
     Let us get to income inequality, which his colleagues ignored. Let us talk about who does not benefit from my friend's myopic vision of the world. People who make under $44,000 a year do not benefit. Would a couple who make $44,000 each but are both in the same tax bracket benefit? Absolutely not. Single parents do not benefit. People who do not have kids do not benefit. People who are divorced do not benefit. Of all Canadians, 86% do not benefit from this $5-billion tax scheme.
    The Conservatives have the audacity to talk about fairness. What about the 86%? What about the idea that fairness should apply to all as opposed to this very narrow scheme that costs so much money, skews to the wealthy, and leaves out more than 85% of this country?
    Mr. Speaker, there we have it, the finance critic for the official opposition, for the NDP, saying that families making $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 a year are wealthy. If I were making $60,000 a year, like most public sector union members who are the core of the NDP's constituency, I would be terrified of this guy becoming the finance minister because he thinks they are wealthy. We know that means that the NDP would impose bigger taxes.
    We heard the same thing from the leader of the Liberal Party. He said he would not impose taxes on the middle class. Then when he was asked to define the middle class, he said that it excludes people who have assets like seniors on fixed incomes.
    The data is clear. In the past decade there has been shrinking income inequality, fewer children living under the low-income cut-off than ever in our history, and the lowest level of families under the LICO in 30 years.
    I have a question for my NDP friend. If he were in government would he repeal income splitting for pensioners?
    Mr. Speaker, I have a question that is related to our seniors. We see this initiative that the Conservatives have now embraced as a multibillion-dollar promise to citizens. Hundreds of thousands of seniors or individuals are looking forward to being able to retire at the age of 65. The government has now increased it to age 67.
    My question for the member is this. To what degree does he feel that facilitates the whole issue of income inequality, given that in future many of those seniors will not be able to retire until the age of 67 and will have to be in the workforce? I have listened to the member. The vast majority of the working class, the hard-working individuals in Winnipeg North, would love to have an annual salary of $50,000 plus. Many of my constituents are working somewhere in the $35,000 mark.

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, to correct the member, we have not raised the age of eligibility of OAS. We will be doing so in nearly two decades' time. It will be a gradual phase-in.
    When the OAS system was designed in the 1960s there were seven retirees for every beneficiary and the average life expectancy was age 65. By the time we raise OAS eligibility to age 67, there will be one beneficiary for every working Canadian. The average age of life expectancy is now 76 and is going higher. Therefore, the Liberal Party's opposition to the modest, gradual increase in the age of eligibility for OAS is a fundamental reflection of how this is no longer the Liberal Party of Paul Martin and how this is no longer a Liberal Party of sound economic management.
    Governments across the world, including social democratic governments of the left and centre-left all through Europe, in Japan, and elsewhere, have all moved to increase eligibility ages for such public entitlements analogous to old age security to reflect reality. That life expectancy has grown by well over a decade in every one of those countries and the working taxpaying population has shrunk. Rather than just demagoguing on this issue, it is incumbent on any party that aspires to be government to tell us how they would pay for the entitlements of baby boomers if we do not have an age of eligibility that reflects growing life expectancy 15 and 20 years from now.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister's comments very intently. I am very pleased to hear him talk about stay-at-home dads. My son was a stay-at-home dad. He helped to raise two of his children. The benefits of the universal child care system were extremely beneficial for his family. They made a choice to have my son stay at home with the kids to help make sure that his family was stable and to make sure that the family unit worked together.
    I can say, without a doubt, that this has been a huge benefit to my own family.
    Mr. Speaker, indeed, the universal child care benefit has been massively popular for exactly that reason. It helps parents to make that choice. Admittedly, it is at the margin. It is not going to make a fundamental difference, but it helps. It helps a whole lot more than taxing families.
    By the way, regarding the plans of the opposition parties to create a so-called “universal government Ottawa knows best child care scheme”, according to the advocates of this so-called child care, 1% of GDP would cost at least $18 billion. Guess what? That money is not grown on trees. It is not printed by the Bank of Canada. That money would come out of the pockets of taxpayers.
    Do members know what would happen? The opposition would end up raising the GST back. It would take away the child care benefit. It would remove income splitting for seniors. It has pretty much admitted that now, since it is against income splitting. It would raise taxes on families in order to give them a punitive benefit. Who would the big winners be? The big government unions.
    We will not let that happen.
    Mr. Speaker, listening to the minister speak on income splitting, I was wondering which country he was looking at. When I looked at British Columbia and, specifically, Newton—North Delta, there, I would have said that a higher number than 86% would not benefit from the scheme here that would benefit, at best, the top 14% of our income.
    I am talking about a province where child poverty is very high. We are talking about a country where the way our first nations communities are in some areas, we are compared to worse than third world countries.
    When we really look at the real issues to be addressed to make life more affordable, is this really the best that the minister can support? Income splitting for the very, very wealthy?
    Mr. Speaker, there we go: “the very, very wealthy”. A constituent of hers, a family in her riding, making $50,000 would save $500 in income taxes through family tax fairness. Only the NDP could consider someone with a $50,000 family income as very wealthy, which is code for “we have to raise their taxes so that they are not very, very wealthy anymore”.
    That is why NDP tax-raising policies are always against the advantage of people who actually want to be in the middle class.
    Let us be clear. Family tax fairness is not about a preference for certain families or people at certain income levels. It is about eliminating discrimination. It is about fairness. It is about treating people equally. It is about treating the family as an economic unit. If the NDP says it supports kitchen table economics for working families, why will it not treat families as an economic unit in the tax code?

  (1245)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Victoria.
     The widening income gap, whether on a global, national or community scale, is clearly a social justice issue. However, it also poses a threat to our prosperity, our safety and even our health.
     As a number of studies have shown, in a more egalitarian society, the poor as well as the rich are healthier. Equality benefits everyone.
     High income inequality, globally and in Canada in particular, is a concern to many people. Yesterday, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, addressed the issue and called it an obstacle to our country’s return to greater prosperity. It is a problem that therefore needs to be addressed, not only for the sake of social justice, but also for the sake of our collective well-being.
     Unfortunately, Canada has been moving in the opposite direction for a number of years now. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen, as does the gap between the rich and the middle class and the gap between workers and the big bosses.
     There is a tendency to place much of the blame for this state of affairs on Conservative government policies. Some of the responsibility must indeed be borne by the Conservatives, but at the same time we need to realize that they are not entirely to blame. In fact, 94% of the increase seen in income inequality over the past 35 years occurred on the Liberals' watch.
     However, I get the impression that the Conservatives felt they had not done enough to widen the gap. They decided to press the issue. They have proposed income splitting for couples with children under 18 years of age. Basically, this will benefit mainly the wealthier members of our society. Under the proposal, one spouse would be able to transfer up to $50,000 in income to the other spouse for tax purposes.
     To better understand the situation, consider the example of an MP with children and a spouse who does not work. I think all of us can identify in some respects with this example. This MP would be able to transfer $50,000 in income to his or her spouse. I imagine that some MPs would be delighted to be able to do that. The problem is that while this measure may be advantageous for MPs and high income earners, for the vast majority of Canadians, it will be of little or no benefit.
     Let me describe to you those who would not benefit in any way whatsoever. There is no benefit for people earning less that $44,000 a year. A couple earning more than $44,000, where both spouses have relatively similar incomes, regardless of what that income might be—$100,000, $200,000 or $300,000—will not see any benefits if they are more or less in the same income bracket. Income splitting will not benefit single persons, childless couples, couples with adult children, single mothers and fathers, and divorced parents. For the vast majority of other people, the benefits will be relatively minor.
     According to figures released by the C.D. Howe Institute and the Broadbent Institute, income splitting would benefit only 10% to 15% of families, and obviously the wealthier families.

  (1250)  

     I have nothing against tax cuts, but they should target the people who need them the most. If we take a closer look at the numbers, we see that this measure will actually benefit 5% of the wealthiest families, at the expense of taxpayers in general, because public funds are involved.
     The measure would cost the federal government $3 billion annually to implement and, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the price tag for the provinces would be about $2 billion. There are quite a few zeros in $5 billion. I wonder if this government has given any thought to what it else it could possibly do with such a large sum of money.
     I can think of many things it could do. For instance, it could help every single family, not just the wealthiest, find housing. In one part of my riding, 25% of households with children live in one-bedroom or studio apartments. Yes, in Canada. I am deeply shocked.
     Could the government not earmark the tidy sum of $1 billion to help people in this situation? Could it not set aside a little more money for seniors' pensions or for infrastructure that is in need of repair? Is there not some way to help all families, not just a few?
     Unfortunately, this government would rather focus on a small number of Canadians who are already among the wealthiest citizens. This government is Robin Hood in reverse. It continues to raise taxes and cut services to the middle class. It chips away at EI, raises the retirement age and delivers a fatal blow to Canada Post, all for the sake of providing some tax breaks to the wealthiest members of our society.

[English]

    Indeed, I would call this government “Dooh Nibor”, which is Robin Hood backwards. It continues to take from middle-income citizens who have trouble making ends meet, through taxes and cuts to services, to give to the wealthiest.

[Translation]

    This bill has even more harmful effects because it might discourage women from joining the workforce. I am not the only one to say so. The rather well-known C.D. Howe Institute also says so.
    It says that income splitting would significantly increase the marginal effective tax rate for most spouses with a lower income, which would create an obstacle to employment or a return to work. This would reduce the work experience of married women, who unfortunately often have a lower income, which would make them more vulnerable. The Institute is of the opinion that income splitting would not achieve its self-proclaimed objective of equality if the objective is to support families with children and that this measure could actually benefit families with no children.
    Among the harmful effects of this measures is a geographic imbalance, in that some provinces would benefit from it more than others. One of the provinces that would benefit less is Quebec, which this government has completely abandoned.
    It was minister Flaherty who said, and rightly so, that this was not really a good idea. For all these reasons, I will stand with my NDP colleagues and strongly oppose this bill.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two simple and direct questions for the hon. member.
    First, does she agree that a family is an economic unit?

[English]

    Does the member agree that the family constitutes an economic unit and should be treated as such in the tax code? Second, would an NDP government repeal the policy of income splitting for pensioners?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I agree that families are crucial to our society and, clearly, to our very survival. Families play very important economic and social roles. It goes without saying that families need our help, but every family needs help. This government’s approach is to help but a few families, and only the wealthiest families at that.
     When it comes to pension income splitting, we said at the time that the program structure was all wrong. The way the program was designed was such that it benefited only a small segment of pensioners, as opposed to every pensioner.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I know the minister across the way wants to ask questions of me as the finance critic that the NDP would not in fact reverse income splitting for pensioners. I think he can put that conspiracy to the side.
    To my friend across the way, I rarely do this, but for this debate it is important to have illustrations and make things personal at times. The way that the Conservatives have constructed this scheme, many families, what we sometimes call traditional families—father, mother and kids—would not benefit from an income-splitting scheme, if they happen to be in the same tax bracket, if the kids are too old. There are all of these exemptions. There are more exemptions than inclusions.
    However, those who will benefit are those Canadians where one of the couple is making a great deal of money and the other is making much less. That is the way that this is set up. For me as a member of Parliament, we are well compensated, on average $160,000 or so; ministers make more, et cetera. In my circumstance, the way that this is described, I and my family could benefit by as much as $5,000 or $6,000. However, those families that the minister and the Conservatives seem to care about, who are earning $50,000 or $40,000, who may even apply for this and be compensated, would earn a couple of hundred dollars.
    Why would families in the very highest tax brackets get as much as $5,000 or $6,000 of benefit from a program, when they arguably do not need it, where the middle-income families, whom the Conservatives seem to care about suddenly, would receive almost nothing? What is the equity in that? How is that going to fix the income disparity that we see in this country?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right. I am struck by that all the time. Indeed, among the major beneficiaries of this new policy are several persons seated here in this House.
     At the same time, I think of my piano teacher, who, with her spouse, runs a small piano school. They have a child, and things are tough for them. They are trying to get established. They have about the same income. For them, there is nothing to be gained from this measure. I think of my brother, my sister-in-law and their three sons. There is no benefit to them, either. To some degree or another, the benefits are kept out of reach of the vast majority of Canadians, and the worst thing is that those who need this the most will not benefit from it. We are talking about billions of dollars.

  (1300)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and speak, in the strongest possible terms, in support of the motion by my colleague, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. It is a twofold motion; it would do two things. It would first signal the drastic increase in inequality in our country, and second, more specifically, it would address the Conservatives' proposed policy of income splitting. I would like to address both of those in the short time available to me.
    I am pleased to learn today that the Liberal Party is going to be in support of this initiative. The Conservatives are obviously deeply divided on this. Today we got an Orwellian rebranding of the income splitting proposal. I understand we are now to term it the “family tax fairness initiative”, which has a very nice ring to it.
    Let me be personal for just a moment. When I was running for election a year and a half ago to represent the people of Victoria, I ran into a retired schoolteacher on a doorstep in Oak Bay. She asked, “Do you feel it?” I asked what. She asked if I felt how Canada is changing; if I felt how we are no longer glued together as a community as we were; if I felt the increasing gap between the rich and poor. She asked if that is the kind of community we want our children to grow up in. I said no. That is one of the reasons I am so proudly speaking in support of my colleague.
    This retired schoolteacher got it right. We can literally feel the change, and I do not want my kids to grow up in that kind of country. I want the kind of country I benefited from when I grew up in a lower-middle-class family where all opportunities were available, rather than creating a permanent underclass of the poor and a few very rich people. That is the kind of economy I fear we are going to experience in the future.
     I am not just saying that from a fearmongering perspective. On April 3, a Globe and Mail headline was “Canada’s 86 wealthiest have as much as the 11.4 million poorest”. That is shocking. It is shocking that 0.002% of the total population is getting richer and now has as much wealth accumulated as 11.4 million Canadians. The top 20% have half the income, but what is more telling is that the top 20% now have 70% of the wealth of our country. Most Canadians understand that the current government has abandoned the middle class and the poor, with little job security and high debt, and so many of our fellow citizens are living paycheque to paycheque.
    Statistics Canada also showed wealth gravitating to the top. While median income rose almost 80% since 1999 to $243,800 per family unit, the top 40% possessed 88.9% of total net worth, leaving the bottom 60% with a mere 11.1% of the pie. The poorest 20% of family units had more debts than assets.
    The author of a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives concludes, “If one Canadian makes $100,000 a year selling a company (or shares) while another makes $100,000 a year working at a job, the worker will pay twice the tax of the business seller.” We are in desperate need of Carter 2 in this country for a review of our tax system, which is only contributing to this increasing inequity, which that schoolteacher told me she felt so tangibly and which we all know is going on around us.
    However, what about the new income splitting proposal, which has so divided the Conservatives, which is now to be called the “family tax fairness project”. It amounts to a tax break for the most wealthy. It would cost the federal government $3 billion a year without providing benefits to a staggering 86% of our families. My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley got it right when he said that the Conservatives are clinging to a bad idea due to “hubris and pride”, as he termed it. I just wish they would do what the famous former premier of British Columbia, W.A.C. Bennett, said: take a sober second look.
    Just for the hon. member for Victoria, the clock was incorrect. The hon. member actually has several minutes remaining. I apologize for giving him the one-minute warning. He has five more minutes, if he would like to continue with his speech.

  (1305)  

    I feel as though I have a second wind, thanks to you, Mr. Speaker. I did think that I did not need to be speaking quite so quickly. Thank you for the reprieve, if I can call it that.
    It really is quite shocking. If I may go on, today's National Post, that left-wing propaganda machine, had another study about this income splitting or—what is it to be called now?—family tax fairness initiative. It says:
    It turns out that among the target group [for this policy]—families with minor-aged children—the biggest winners by far reside in Alberta, where the average annual tax saving would be $1,359....
    Second is Saskatchewan, with $1,070.The article says:
    These two provinces, which have a combined 42 federal ridings, sent 40 Conservative MPs to Ottawa in the 2011 election.
    Whereas, at the other extreme:
    Families in Prince Edward Island will get an average benefit at $488, followed by Quebec families with children, which would average $510 in benefits. Those two provinces were among the least productive for the Conservatives....
    One wonders, and the National Post appears to be wondering, whether there might be politics behind this initiative.
    I am sure that is not true. I am sure it is good public policy. However, it does raise some rather interesting questions.
    If people do not have kids under 18, it is no good for them. If people are single parents, it does not matter to them. If people are divorced, it is irrelevant to them. If people happen to earn what their spouses earn, it does not matter to them.
    We understand the finance department had a report that was done, which appears to have been the basis of the late Mr. Flaherty's antipathy and growing concern about this policy: the need for greater analysis, as he pointed out. We cannot get that report. We would love to see what the finance department says about it.
    However, in the words of that Canadian Press article that I cited, “This policy is an inequality generating machine.”
    Inequality is what we are here, in part, to talk about today, because it has been spiralling out of control. The top 1% of incomes are surging. The typical Canadian family has seen its income fall for the last 35 years. The gap is getting bigger and bigger. We all know that. We all feel that.
    Billions of dollars have been cut to social transfers by successive Liberal and Conservative governments, which has made things worse by reducing access to social programs for low income families.
    When we cut transfer payments to the provinces, they get deficits. They get debt, but the federal government gets to brag about a balanced budget. The province passes it on to aboriginal governments and to municipal governments. To some degree, they can have that kind of debt, that kind of imbalance. They cannot run deficits.
    So, this trickle-down theory is of great concern, certainly in British Columbia, where I hear about it all the time.
     Robin Boadway is the David Chadwick Smith Chair in Economics at Queen's University. He was an excellent witness at the finance committee, where we studied income inequality. That report has been alluded to earlier today. He talked of the significant changes in the tax system, such as changes in the tax treatment of capital income, changes in the structure of labour markets and unemployment, and the effect of changes, as I just said, in federal-provincial transfers on provincial social protection programs. He says:
    All of these have reduced the automatic responsiveness of the tax transfer system to income shocks, and this has been particularly noticeable at the top and bottom of the income distribution.
    His analysis concludes that government is fundamentally responsible for the surge in income inequality.
    To wrap up, I strongly speak in support of a motion that would get the government to do the right thing and take that sober second look that W.A.C. Bennett talked about, about a policy for income splitting promised in the heat of an election campaign. It does little good for so many of us and only makes it worse for so many. We must take more specific and directed measures at income inequality. I urge the government to please get on board.

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, first, would the hon. member admit that the percentage of Canadian families living below the low-income cutoff line, typically referred to as the “poverty line”, is the lowest level ever?
     Would he admit that the percentage of Canadian children living below that so-called poverty line is at its lowest level ever?
    Would he indicate whether he has read the Luxembourg Income Study in The New York Times indicating that Canada now has the highest median family income of any developed country in the world?
     Finally, in his constituency, Victoria, I know there is a disproportionately large number of seniors, pensioners, some of them with relatively high incomes, above the average. Will he maintain our policy of income splitting for those seniors, including the high income ones in his constituency? Or will his class warfare apply to the high income seniors who are benefiting from pension splitting, under the current government?
    Mr. Speaker, I can categorically say that I will not contribute to class warfare, and I really do not believe that citing articles from The Globe and Mail, Professor Robin Boadway of Queen's University, and other notable experts in this matter would suggest there is any kind of class warfare in making common sense observations about things that most of us see every day in our constituencies, the phenomenon of living from paycheque to paycheque.
    Has Canada made progress with seniors' poverty? Absolutely, and I am proud of that, but we have so much more to do. I have not read the particular report from The New York Times that was referred to by my hon. friend the minister, but I have read the report on income inequality, which expressed great concern about income equality as recently as this year. The majority of the members who prepared that report were Conservatives. Obviously as Canadians, we know there is much to be done.
    On pension splitting, what NDP members would do when we form government is a matter we can talk about after we have the opportunity to review the books and see the secret reports the government is withholding.
    Mr. Speaker, income inequality has always been an important issue for the Liberal Party. A couple of years ago, the Liberal Party critic introduced a private member's motion that was ultimately passed by the House of Commons.
    With regard to the motion that has been brought forward today, I take some exception to the NDP aiming all of the criticism to the Conservatives and the Liberals. The NDP needs to recognize that there is federal-provincial joint responsibility with regard to taxation issues. A third party should be included in terms of what is being asserted here. For example, from 1991 to 2001 the NDP was in power in B.C. That government took B.C.'s level of income inequality from fourth place across Canada to the worst in Canada.
    Would the member not at the very least acknowledge that it is not just one or two political parties that need to improve? Would he not include his own party? If we want to get ahead on this issue of income inequality, we need to deal with its core issue and how we could best enhance that. Our motion that passed in the House two years ago was an attempt to do that. A committee would have discussed the issue and come up with recommendations and ideas that would have had a tangible impact.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Kings—Hants had it right, that this ought not to be simply a partisan exercise.
    Nevertheless, we do need to acknowledge where we came from. Governments in this place were never NDP governments. They were Liberal and Conservative governments over succeeding decades and they pushed the debt down to the provinces. The NDP has never formed government, to my knowledge, in the House of Commons, so I do not know why provinces would be included in a motion trying to direct our federal government to take responsibility for income inequality.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the memorial ceremony for the RCMP officers who were laid to rest today in Moncton very close to my riding. We always need to recognize and remember the sacrifice that our law enforcement officers are prepared to make each and every day to protect the greater society.
    I am so pleased to be able to participate in this debate today. It gives me the opportunity to provide the House with clear facts regarding our government's record, which has raised the income of the middle class and reduced the tax burden on low and middle-income Canadians. That is why our government's top priorities remain creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity, and we will not be supporting this NDP motion.
    Conservatives know that the best way to raise the income of Canadians and their families is through a strong and growing economy. This means ensuring that Canadians have the skills they need to fill well-paying jobs that a strong economy will generate.
    We believe the private sector creates jobs, not governments. This is why the government has put in place appropriate policies to maximize the growth in job creation and reduce inequality by reducing taxes, increasing support for hard-working Canadian families, promoting trade investment, supporting key economic sectors, making education accessible and affordable, reducing barriers to labour market participation and being responsible fiscal managers of the Canadian economy.
    The proof is in the numbers. Since the depths of the global recession, Canada has demonstrated the strongest labour market performance of all G7 countries, with over one million net new jobs created since the pith of the economic recession in July 2009.
    Indeed, because of this strong economy, the Canadian standard of living is one of the highest in the world. Canada's low-income rate has been dropping. In fact, it is at the lowest it has ever been. This is something the NDP like to ignore, but it is a fact.
    Since the beginning of 2006, the take-home income of Canadian families across the board, and that is in all income groups, has increased by 10% or more. According to a recent Statistics Canada study, the median net worth of Canadian families is almost 80% more than the 1999 median and when adjusted for inflation, it is up 44.5% from 2005. Our government has helped the average Canadian family of four save close to $3,400 per year by cutting taxes over 160 times.
     It is clear that our plan has been working and Canadians of low and middle incomes have seen real tangible improvements in their bank accounts.
    It is not just Statistics Canada studies that are validating this approach. The Parliamentary Budget Officer in a recently released report entitled “Revenue and Distribution Analysis of Federal Tax Changes: 2005-2013”, identifies that middle and low-income earners have accrued the greatest financial benefit, specifically those in the 20 and 30 percentile of income earners, or those earning between $12,000 and $23,000. This group of households has accrued an average increase of 2.5% in after-tax income resulting from the major personal income changes since 2005.
     This is because we understand how important it is to create the right environment for businesses to grow and create jobs. We recognize how vital it is to ensure that all Canadians have an equal opportunity to share in the benefits of a strong economy.
    Through our jobs, growth and long-term prosperity approach, our government has effectively taken action that has improved the lives of Canadians at all income levels. This is why I find the NDP's motion so puzzling. The facts and studies validate our approach to creating the conditions for jobs and growth. I would think even the NDP would look at the hard facts and come to the conclusion that many Canadians have, which is that Canadians are better off today than they were in 2005.
    The growing wealth of Canadians ought to be something that all parties can agree on, because each and every member wants to see less poverty and more Canadians with employment.
    We are not saying that we are done. It is quite the opposite. We are saying that we are just getting started.
    Canada currently has one of the lowest poverty rates among seniors in the world. It is lower now than it was under the Liberals, at 5.2% in 2011. The number of Canadians living below the low income cut-off is now at its lowest level ever. There are nearly 1.4 million fewer Canadians living in poverty under our Conservative government than under the Liberals.
     Our government has removed one million Canadians from the tax rolls, including 380,000 seniors. Since we took office, there are 250,000 fewer children in poverty than under the previous government.

  (1315)  

    However, we are not satisfied. As the Minister of Employment and Social Development has pointed out, over and over again, there are still far too many people without jobs in Canada and far too many jobs in Canada without Canadians to fill them.
    Our government believes more can be done with the training dollars we spend to lead to guaranteed jobs, which will improve the lives of Canadians and reduce overall inequality. We also believe that the best way out of poverty is a well-paying job. We believe the best way to reduce inequality is to create more jobs, and this can be done by improving and transforming our skills training system.
    Let me outline some of the measures to transform the skills training system that will help Canadians get these available jobs and help Canada create more and better jobs.
     As the economy has recovered, these skills mismatches along with labour and skill shortages have emerged in certain regions in certain sectors, highlighting the need to transform training and give employers a role in deciding where training dollars will go. This is why our government introduced the Canada job grant. The Canada job grant will encourage employers to invest more in skills and training and be involved in decisions to ensure that training leads to a guaranteed job at the end of that training.
    The minister has reached agreements with all provinces to deliver the Canada job grant through the Canada job fund. The government is also committed to improving other labour market transfers to ensure that funds are being used to help Canadians obtain the skills they need for jobs in high-demand fields.
    To this end, the government is renegotiating the labour market development agreements with provinces and territories. These are over $2 billion training funds that come directly from the EI account. Currently the human resources committee has been studying the renegotiation of these agreements, and as a member of that committee, I look forward to being able to recommend to the minister some ways that we could improve these agreements to better train unemployed Canadians for guaranteed jobs at the end of that training.
    Our government is also investing $11.8 million over two years and $3.3 million per year ongoing from that to launch an enhanced job-matching service. This will provide job seekers with modern and reliable tools to find jobs that match their skills, and to provide employers with better tools to look for qualified Canadians to fill available jobs.
    Through a secure, authenticated process, registered job seekers and employers will automatically be matched on the basis of skills, knowledge and experience. This proposed enhanced job-matching service will build on the launch of a modernized and easy-to-use consolidated national job bank.
    Our government has also taken steps to reduce barriers to labour mobility across provinces and territories by helping regulated occupations develop nationally accepted standards.
     To reduce non-financial barriers to completing apprenticeship training and obtaining certification, budget 2014 introduced a flexibility and innovation in apprenticeship technical training pilot project, which will expand the use of innovative approaches to apprentice technical training.
    In addition, budget 2013 allocated $4 million over three years to continue to work with provinces and territories to harmonize the requirements for apprentices, as well as examine the use of practical tests as a method of assessment in targeted skill trades. Apprenticeship training is an important part of the post-secondary education system, and is a key provider for the skills and knowledge necessary for jobs and growth.
    To further assist Canadians with training for a career in the skilled trades, budget 2014 announced the Canada apprenticeship loan, which would expand the Canada student loan program to provide apprentices registered in the Red Seal trades with access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year.
    This action builds on the existing government initiatives to apprentices and employers to encourage apprenticeship training and stimulate employment in the skilled trades. The apprenticeship grants are designed to encourage more Canadians to pursue and complete apprenticeship programs in the Red Seal trades.
    In budget 2014, the government committed to take steps to ensure that apprentices would be aware of the existing financial supports available to them, while they were on technical training programs through the EI fund.
    These are all measures that the government is taking to ensure taxpayers are well served by the federal training dollars.
    Our government recognizes that there are often challenges for under-represented groups, such as youth, people with disabilities, aboriginal people and newcomers to Canada, in obtaining the support they require for jobs and growth. Encouraging the participation of under-represented groups in the job market continues to be an important priority for all of us.
    Our government provides over $6.4 billion to the provinces to support skills development and higher education.

  (1320)  

    I have already touched on two of the transfers, the labour market development agreements and the Canada job fund. There are other transfers, such as the $3.75 billion for post-secondary education that comes from the Canada social transfer, or the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities, which provides $222 million to the provinces for the targeted initiative for older workers.
    In addition to the money that we transfer to the provinces to help under-represented groups, the federal government directly spends almost $1 billion on skills development and higher education. There is a youth employment strategy which invests $300 million to provide training, internships, work experience and education for young people. There is the apprenticeship incentive grant and the apprenticeship completion grant, which provide over $110 million to help apprentices.
    There is a skills and partnership fund, which partners with employers to provide training for guaranteed jobs mainly in the resource extraction industry. There is the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy, which provides $336 million to support aboriginal labour market participation. There is the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities, which is providing real job experience for Canadians with disabilities.
    It is very clear from what I have just outlined that our approach is working and we have been raising the incomes of Canadians and their families. We have targeted initiatives for many different Canadians, for many different jobs and much different training to ensure we provide fairness across the board. We are continuing to equip Canadians with the skills required to obtain and keep the well-paying jobs available today and in the future. We are continuing to make smart investments in programs that are having real results for under-represented groups.
    The Conservative government will continue to focus on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity and put in place the appropriate policies to reduce inequality. That is why I will not be supporting this motion. I would encourage my colleagues opposite to look at the facts and reject the motion.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a simple question for the member. He has gone on at great length about all the things that he thinks his government has done so well. At the end of all of that, he said he would not support the motion. Could he tell us if he supports income splitting, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, of course I support tax fairness for families across Canada. My background is as a teacher. Two teachers who are married and making $50,000 per year each face a much lower tax burden than a welder who makes $100,000 a year and whose spouse stays at home with the children. There are two families, each making the same total income, but one family has to pay significantly less tax than the other family. That is inherent unfairness.
    I know the NDP does not like to hear about any tax cuts or any tax reductions for Canadians, but we believe tax policies should treat all Canadians and Canadian families with children fairly.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague did a wonderful job outlining the measures that this government has taken, and I commend him for that. I also commend him for the great work he does in the House to further the work of the government.
    One of the things I would like him talk a little more about is the fact that Canada is universally known for creating competitiveness to encourage both foreign and domestic investment. Could the member tell me what a few examples are of the measurements that our government has implemented since we took office in 2006 and how our taxes stack up against other G7 nations?
    Mr. Speaker, if we look at the tax reductions that this government has made, we reduced taxes over 160 times since taking office in 2006. We have lowered taxes on Canadian families. As I mentioned in my speech, today the average of four can expect to pay up to $3,400 less tax than it did before we took office.
    We have lowered taxes across the board. Small and larger businesses pay lower taxes and they are the economic drivers of our society. Today, we have a low corporate tax system that encourages foreign and domestic investment and that invites companies to come here, stay here and employ Canadians. It invites small and medium-sized businesses to expand and grow. Therefore, low taxes is one of the best ways to try to ignite our economy and continue to respond to what was the largest recession since the Great Depression.
    We are on the right track, we are moving forward and our low-tax plan is bearing fruit. I want to thank my hon. colleague for supporting those initiatives that will create a robust industry in Canada.

  (1330)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is the same old story, day after day. Our colleagues across the way have no comprehension of the immense gap between the rich and the poor. Every week, approximately one million Canadians use food banks to feed single-parent families or families with two or three children. This is happening right across Canada, in every region, in both rural and urban communities, even here in downtown Ottawa.
     I wonder why the Conservatives deny the importance of a social fabric here in Canada. What will be achieved by consistently giving more to the rich and less to the poor? It will lead to still more poverty and a high crime rate. The food banks are practically empty because people are donating less and because more and more Canadians are using them.
     The members opposite continue to bury their heads in the sand. Could it be that they no longer even walk down the street in downtown Ottawa and see the endless lines at soup kitchens and food banks?
    Why is this government ignoring reality?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not know who is ignoring reality. All we have to do is to read the analysis from The New York Times study, which suggests that Canada's middle class has leapfrogged middle-income earners to the south of us. We have the richest middle-level earnings cohort in the world here in Canada. That is a fact. That was released in international studies.
    Median income in Canada has climbed by 19.7%, since 2000. This matches the pace in Britain. We are ahead of Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany, and far ahead of the meagre 0.3% in the United States under the Obama administration.
    I do not know who is ignoring reality, but I can tell members that the facts support that Canada's changes in tax policy and its investment in jobs and economic growth are showing great fruit. We hope that the opposition will get on board and support this.
    Mr. Speaker, talking about reality, here are some figures. Food bank usage has increased. More and more Canadians are working at minimum wage. Many of them are working part-time jobs just to make ends meet. The number of seniors living in poverty is on the rise.
    We have a government that is so far out of touch with what is happening on the ground that it is willing to spend $65 billion to benefit less than 14% of the population. Can the member justify this kind of expenditure when 86% of the population would not benefit from it?
    Mr. Speaker, if the member remembers my speech, I talked about all of the different initiatives that our government has taken to support all facets of society, including tax reductions. I know that the NDP never supports them because it believes that governments should have all of the money and fund all kind of social programs. It does not trust Canadians who have the dollars in their pockets to make their own decisions on spending. That is the basis of the NDP.
    The member talked about seniors. I know that she has a lot of seniors in her riding in British Columbia. When she protests against income splitting for families with children, taking money away from children across the country, would she also support the elimination of income splitting for seniors, which has benefited seniors from one end of the country to the other? Would she stand up and say that she is going to vote to take away income splitting for seniors?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is quite simple, and it all adds up: a society where the social fabric is strong, where people have an opportunity to rise out of poverty and do not have to resort to food banks or second-hand clothing stores to buy clothes is a society where people will consume more, drive more and feel better, whether we like it or not. Everybody will do better, even the wealthiest among us.
     My question is simple. I would like to know why the government is investing billions of dollars—not millions of dollars, billions of dollars—in initiatives that will benefit just 15% of Canadians, Canadians who do not even need the help? Instead, we should be investing in social programs, for example, in homelessness initiatives or programs to assist seniors living in poverty or single-parent families, who will not benefit from this initiative, either.
     I would like to know why the government does not put its money elsewhere.

  (1335)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the truth is, we are supporting these groups that she talks about. For youth, we have the youth employment strategy, with over $300 million in investment to support youth. We have strategic initiatives for older workers, trying to train them so they can get back into the workforce if they choose to keep working. We have lowered the tax burden over 160 times. The average family of four pays $3,400 less a year in tax.
    All of the international data, studies and reports, show that the Canadian middle class is doing far better than their counterparts in other countries. We have initiated strong tax relief across the board for Canadians. We have specific programs so that we have under-represented groups getting training for the jobs that exist today and jobs that will exist tomorrow. Also, we are supporting employers getting skin in the game so they can help to train people for the jobs they will have.
    We are taking these strong steps, and I do not understand why, with every one of these initiatives we put forward, the NDP constantly votes against them.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this motion. I think it is one that clarifies the differences here in this House.
    We have had the Liberal Leader saying that he thinks it is a decent idea. We have the Green Party, which has it in its party platform, and we have the Conservatives going on about everything else except the topic of this motion today.
    I think there is a reason for that. If someone in this House said they had a great proposal, to write an average cheque of $7,128 to 147,000 of the richest families in the country, we would all think they were crazy. An average benefit of $7,000 to 147,000 of the richest; that is what this policy would do. That is why, on this side of the House, we are fundamentally against it.
    When we look at the total expenditure of $5 billion, which is $3 billion federal and $1.9 billion provincial, we think about how we could spend $5 billion. How about a universal child care program that would actually help families who cannot find a place to put their kid in quality care? How about a national pharmacare program that would help seniors living in poverty and struggling with choices between keeping a roof over their heads or buying pharmaceutical drugs. There are lots of things we could do with $5 billion.
    Instead, the Conservatives are saying let us write a cheque for $7,128 to 147,000 of the richest families. It is beyond belief that they would say that this is a policy about fairness and tax relief for families. This is about aiding their richest friends.
    I am amazed that some of the Liberals have gone against what the federal Liberal leader said at the beginning. We do not often see that in the Liberal Party. However, I would like to hear from the federal Liberal leader about whether he still thinks it is a decent idea. It seems like an indecent proposal to me.
    I will be sharing my time with the member for York South—Weston, though I do have a lot to say on this.
    Who actually benefits from this? We talk about the 14% of families who will benefit. For people in my riding making under $44,000 a year, there is no benefit. For a couple who make above $44,000 a year but are both in the same tax bracket, there is no benefit. For single parents, there is no benefit. For couples with no kids, there is no benefit. For couples with kids who have grown up, there is no benefit. For parents who are divorced, my favourite in terms of irony, there is no benefit.
    In my riding, we have a pretty high percentage. I think 86% might actually underestimate the people who would be excluded. When we go through that list, it is just about everybody who I talk to on a daily basis who would get nothing out of this federal income splitting program.
    What we have seen is growing income inequality, and this measure would simply fuel that inequality. The incomes of the top 1% or 5% have been skyrocketing, while the average family struggles to make ends meet at the end of the month. The gap between the ultra-rich and the rest of us in Canada continues to grow. Liberal and Conservative governments have done nothing to attack this problem.
     I would rather that we were discussing a proposal like a living wage. When I was on city council in Esquimalt, before I came here, we had a long debate about the failure of the minimum wage to provide an income that people could actually live on, that could support a family in dignity. Instead of talking about income splitting that benefits the rich, I wish the Conservatives were proposing to talk about a living wage.
    It was the Liberals who eliminated the separate federal minimum wage, in 1996. Now we have a situation where minimum wages continue to erode. In real dollars, we are probably still somewhere below where we were in 1976 when it comes to the minimum wage.
    Who earns that minimum wage? The people who would not be benefiting from income splitting for sure, 41% of whom are women and young people. In British Columbia, 32% of minimum wage earners are between the ages of 25 and 54, and 9% of them are aged 55 and over. We are not just talking about teenagers going to school and living in their parents' basement. We are talking about people trying to build a family for themselves, support themselves in dignity, and even support themselves when their retirement income fails. Remember, almost 10% of those aged 55 and over are still working at a minimum wage, and most of them are women.
    What would a living wage do? A living wage is the idea that we would pay an amount that two parents, both working full time, with two children, could provide the basic necessities. It does not include paying back debt, savings, trips to Hawaii, which is what I suspect many of the people who would benefit from this income splitting would use this extra income for. Instead, let us pay them a wage that allows them to live in dignity.

  (1340)  

    In April 2014 in greater Victoria, which I represent, that required a wage of $18.93 an hour. The minimum wage is $10.25, so people who are on the minimum wage are living well below what it takes to live a life of dignity.
    Whenever we talk about raising the minimum wage, there are those on the other side who talk about it as a job-killing proposal. If there is any job-killing proposal, it is the income-splitting proposal. That is because it would take money out of the economy in Canada and give it to people who will spend it abroad, either investing or travelling, whereas if we put money toward raising the minimum wage up to a living wage level, those people just might have enough to buy a pizza for their kids at the end of the month. They just might have enough money to make repairs on their house. They just might have enough money to do things that stimulate the local economy.
    When we are talking about income splitting, I cannot for the life of me see how any of that is going to put money back into job creation and small business in my riding. It is actually going to take money out of circulation, most probably money that will end up being invested abroad or spent abroad on things like travel, or else money that will be spent on luxuries. Most of those luxuries are not produced in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
    There was a statement in 2006 that I found very interesting. It was cited by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. This statement was signed by 650 economists, including five Nobel laureates. Let me quote a sentence from it:
...a modest increase in the minimum wage would improve the well-being of low-wage workers and would not have the adverse effects that critics have claimed.
    It would not have adverse effects, so if we are talking about spending $5 billion of tax money, let us put it into something that alleviates poverty rather than something that aids those who are already doing well in our society. Let us put it toward incentives to create jobs at the entry or basic level. Let us put it toward training programs. Let us put it toward child care, and then let us put our efforts in the House toward making sure that people actually get paid a living wage in this country.
    Earlier one of the Liberal members talked about making this a non-partisan issue. I guess what he means is that the Greens, Liberals, and Conservatives agreeing would somehow make it a non-partisan issue.
    At the fundamental nature of politics is what kind of Canada we believe in. I find this proposal for income splitting not the kind of Canada that I believe in, not the kind of Canada I want to live in.
    Some of the residents of my riding might benefit from such a proposal, but when they actually see its huge cost and the vast majority of its benefit going only to the wealthiest and most successful, even those people who might benefit in my riding would have cause to think about it again.
    Why am I so sure of that? Because even the former federal minister of finance, Jim Flaherty, said he had serious concerns about this proposal. If the Conservatives were not prepared to listen to Jim Flaherty at that time, I am not sure who they will listen to, but hopefully they will get a chance to listen to Canadians. When it comes time for the next election, I hope they put forward policies like this one, policies that clearly state their agenda, which is a devotion to trickle-down economics. Their idea is that if we give money to those who are doing the best, somehow they will invest it or spend it in such a way that the other 86% of Canadians can eventually benefit from it. We all know that this kind of economics simply does not work.
    It is interesting to look at the people who have talked about income splitting and expressed their doubts. They range from the C.D. Howe Institute on the right to the Broadbent Institute on the left. Both found that the proposal would, as we have argued on this side, cost the federal treasury $3 billion. Both found it would cost the provinces, yet the provinces have nothing to say about it, because Conservatives never talk to the provinces. It would cost them $1.9 billion out of their tax revenues. Where are they supposed to find that?
    Very interestingly, in terms of the percentage of people who would not benefit from this measure, both the C.D. Howe Institute and the Broadbent Institute found that between 86%, in the case of the C.D. Howe Institute, and 90%, in the case of the Broadbent Institute, of the population would not benefit from this income-splitting proposal.
    I wish we were talking about a living wage for Canadians who go to work every day, work hard to put a roof over their heads and support their families, and maybe put a little away for their kids' education or for their retirement. This policy of income splitting does nothing to favour those people. It benefits only the 147,000 richest Canadian families, and it would give them, as I said, a cheque for an average of $7,128. I do not think anyone would really want to go back and talk to their constituents about what a great idea that is.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and neighbour from Vancouver Island, from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, for giving me a chance to clarify the Green Party platform, which he referred to as the 2011 platform.
     We do not mind the concept of income splitting if there are adequate resources to make it possible without shrinking the services that we need in the Canadian government. However, I do not want it going on the record that we currently support income splitting. I want to give members some indication as to why it is unlikely to show up in our 2015 platform.
    Members of the party at the convention changed from supporting a carbon tax that could be used to offset income splitting to moving to a carbon fee and dividend whereby every Canadian would receive the benefit of essentially translating pollution into support for lower incomes and all levels of income. That provision means that income splitting is no longer possible under our budget, because it is about a $5 billion cost. If we do not have something to offset that $5 billion cost, then it is simply not possible to do it. Therefore, we would be distributing the carbon fee and dividend throughout the economy, and we no longer support the income-splitting provision to which my hon. friend referred this afternoon.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands for that explanation, even if I cannot understand it. What she seems to be saying is that she supports income splitting, and the only problem is where we would find the money to do it.
    I am saying that the concept is fundamentally wrong because it benefits those who are at the top of the income scale. It does not make any difference at all where we find the money to offset it. The member has talked about a carbon tax or carbon fees or other ways to offset it; that does not make any difference to me. It still takes $5 billion away from the public treasury and gives it to those who need it the least in our society.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank and congratulate my colleague for a wonderful enumeration of what income splitting will do to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

[Translation]

     These are measures that do not help the Canadians who truly need them. It would be better to propose a measure such as a guaranteed minimum income that would help all families and all Canadians, nationwide. Such a measure would cost from $50 million to $100 million a year and would stimulate the economy.
     What we want—and what the government wants—is for the economy to prosper. However, constantly giving to the wealthiest Canadians is not the way to make the economy thrive. The people who need the money are the ones who frequent food banks and thrift stores. They the ones who need this money. They will immediately reinvest the money in the economy, especially the local economy.
     Not so long ago, our party proposed a guaranteed minimum income. What impact would a guaranteed minimum income potentially have on the middle class?

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Compton—Stanstead. I would answer him in French, but my grammar and accent are not up to the task.

[English]

    Therefore, I will unfortunately have to respond in English.
    I do agree with the member. The question here is how to make the economy grow. Do we make it grow by helping the people who have already succeeded, the people at the top? Do we make it grow by redistributing some of this money that the Conservatives obviously regard as excess, this $5 billion they want to give back to the richest families, or do we spend it at the other end on a national child care program, a national pharmacare program, job training programs and apprenticeships, things that would help the people who work hard every day? These are the people who go to work every day and are still not earning enough to support their families in dignity.
     As the member for Compton—Stanstead said, I support putting our efforts at the other end, toward those hard-working families that could use a little support.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this topic, as it is a very crucial topic for a lot of people in my riding. I say “crucial” not because they are looking forward to income splitting, but because most of them, if not all of them, would not gain a single cent out of this income-splitting proposal that the Conservatives are suggesting is a great thing for the average Canadian.
    The average family income in my riding is $30,000 less per year than the average for the rest of the country. Almost all of the people in my riding have incomes under the cut-off point at which income splitting would provide a benefit to them. We would have a situation in which those most in need, and I include my riding in that category, would have significantly fewer government services, because the Conservative government has been cutting back on services. They would have no additional income as they watch the cost of living and the cost of everyday items continuing to rise.
    For those individuals in my riding, those rising costs mean that they will continue to fall further and further behind. Some will fall into poverty. Some are already in poverty. They will certainly fall further and further behind, while some in the rest of the country, a very small portion, will actually do much better.
    We now have a situation in Canada in which the rich are getting richer fast. The various governments of the past 25 years have managed to create systems that are unfriendly to organized labour. Organized labour is one of the ways people improve their standard of living, but if the bosses who are making most of the money have governments that are unfriendly to organized labour, they do better, and the bosses are doing much, much better.
    The top 1% of earners of this country paid a proportion of our taxes, and that proportion is shrinking. Since the Conservatives took over in 2006, the proportion of net taxes paid by Canadians to the federal government by the top 1% has shrunk relative to the rest. That means everybody else is paying more than the top 1%.
    This proposal by the government will make that situation worse, because those at the very top stand to gain by this income-splitting proposal, while those in the middle and at the bottom would gain little, if anything. As a result, the division between the rich and the poor in this country would get worse.
    In the city of Toronto, where I reside and where my riding is, a series of studies have been done by Professor Hulchanski on the city of Toronto. This professor has discovered that there has been a hollowing out of large sections of Toronto as a result of the abandonment of the manufacturing industry, something about which the current government has done little, if anything.
    With the abandoning of the manufacturing industry and the replacement of those jobs by retail and other service sector industries, the average income for the middle class in Toronto has shrunk dramatically, while the income of those who are doing well has grown. We have a hollowing out in the inner suburbs of the city of Toronto. About 30 or 35 years ago, these people were considered comfortable middle class. Now those people are on the edge of poverty, on the edge of homelessness, on the edge of not doing well at all.
    The proposal by the Conservative government does nothing to change this situation. It does nothing to affect the thousands upon thousands of Canadians who are near the bottom of the food chain or the thousands upon thousands of people in my riding who are recent immigrants to this country.
    One of the reasons there are a lot of recent immigrants in my riding is that the housing is relatively cheap compared to the rest of Toronto. My riding ends up populated with individuals who are barely scraping by. As a result of this proposal by the Conservative government, those individuals will gain absolutely nothing. Anybody making less than $44,000 a year will see no benefit, and the large majority of people in my riding make less than $44,000 a year.

  (1355)  

    The average income in my riding for families, which is the net income of everybody in the household, is something approaching $77,000. That includes those who are doing well, and there are some in the riding. For those who are doing poorly the average is $77,000. The average in Canada is a little over $100,000. We can see that we are already only at two-thirds of the income of the rest of Canada. To suggest a largesse of the current government to redistribute wealth by creating a system of income splitting would simply make the problem worse. It would simply create an untenable situation in which the wealthy in this country would get wealthier.
    Perhaps it is a vote-getter for the base of the members opposite. Perhaps that is what is going on here. It is certainly not good policy, but if they believe that the rich should get richer and the poor should get poorer, and if that is who they are catering to when they are trying to get re-elected, unfortunately there are not enough of those people remaining in the city of Toronto to get them re-elected. I do not think the Conservatives are going to do very well in the next election. The people of Toronto understand full well that this proposal does not do anything for 86% of Canadian families. As for the 94%, the increase in income inequality, that is what the theory behind income splitting is. It is to redistribute wealth and maybe make income inequality less of a problem, but the effect of this is to continue the income inequality because those at the bottom will continue to be at the bottom. There is no benefit.
    We would take $3 billion out of the federal treasury and $1.9 billion out of provincial treasuries and give that money to those people who are already well off. Maybe that would get them a few votes, and maybe that is the key demographic they are looking for, but it would not get the votes of the majority of the people in the city of Toronto, the majority of the people in my riding, and the majority of the people in Canada, 86% of whom will see little or no benefit to this very strange proposal.
    Maybe there is an anti-feminist side to what is being proposed here because there are some members in the Conservative Party who believe that women should not be working, who believe that income splitting is the way to ensure that women do not enter the workforce. Already women only make 70% of what men make and as a result of income splitting, their incomes would be the drag on the family so it would be more likely that they would not enter the workforce. Those women, who tend to be the second earners in many families in Canada, would see that their contribution would be less, as a result of income splitting.
    We have situations where the government's proposal to income split would disadvantage the poorest, advantage the richest, and disadvantage the women in this country. Those are three philosophies that this party does not accept. We believe that if we are going to redistribute the wealth in this country, we should look after the poorest in this country first. We should look after seniors. We should look after women who make less than men. We should look after the middle-class people who have seen their earnings go off to the bosses and to the 1% of this country. We should look after the people who really need it first in this country.
    The notion that we can take almost $5 billion in wealth and give it to the rich in this country is something that we are so opposed to. We are theoretically and philosophically opposed to taking money from everybody, because that is who pays taxes in this country, and giving the lion's share of it to those who make the most. It does not make sense. It is not something we should do. We will be opposed to that policy should it ever come forward.

  (1400)  

    The time for government orders has expired. Consequently, the five minutes for questions and comments for the hon. member for York South—Weston will take place when this matter returns before the House following question period today.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Sunnybrook Veterans Centre

    Mr. Speaker, on June 6 I had the honour of visiting a photo display at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre in my riding of Don Valley West to commemorate D-Day. There I met with three of the many veterans residing at Sunnybrook. Bernard Julotte, now 98 years old, landed at Normandy on D-Day. It was truly moving to hear his first-hand account of the landing and his vivid memories.
    There was a photo love story on display as well, captured by Brigadier-General Harry Brodie, that told the story of how he met his wife during the war. Jack Ford, now 92 years old, had on display a number of photos he took while a member of RCAF Squadron 414's photo unit. While organizing his photos for this year's commemorations, he came upon a stack of negatives. These photos, taken in the days after the invasion when supplies were being brought in, were on full display for residents, family members, and visitors to enjoy.
    These are three of the many World War II stories at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre. Lest we forget.

[Translation]

Heritage Protection

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's lack of leadership when it comes to heritage protection is jeopardizing a number of historic sites in my magnificent region.
    For example, the subsidies granted to the Plaisance Heritage Centre under the Young Canada Works program have suddenly been reduced without any explanation or transparency. Now the centre's season is in jeopardy.
    What is more, the Church of the Annunciation in Oka, an extremely precious heritage building, is looking for support because a rosette recently crashed down from the ceiling and landed on the organ, destroying it completely. Even the Grenville Canal, a wonderful canal built just after the War of 1812, is crumbling.
    The NDP wants to ensure that there is long-term, predictable funding for history, heritage, and culture. Unlike the Conservatives, the NDP will protect our heritage.

[English]

Ratanak International Walkathon

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring attention to a special event, the third Ratanak five-kilometre walkathon that took place in Mississauga this past weekend. Ratanak International's focus is to provide support and safety to benefit Cambodian children rescued from the sex trade and to help put their lives back together after facing horrible experiences. Ratanak has helped provide medicine and medical services, has rescued and rehabilitated victims of sex slavery, and has funded a variety of agricultural programs to help Cambodians rebuild their country.
    I would like to congratulate and thank my constituent Larry Dearlove and his organizing team, volunteers, and over 300 participants, who have raised over $35,000 for this important cause. What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning with uplifting people who were there to raise much-needed funds, but also to raise the spirits of children so far away. It is a true privilege to support organizations like Ratanak, whose work changes people's lives.

Portugal Day

    Today is Portugal Day, when Portuguese communities around the world commemorate the death of Luis de Camões, the author of Os Lusíadas, Portugal's national poem celebrating Portuguese history and achievements. Camões captured the sentiment of the age of discovery, when Portuguese explorers led the world in mapping the coasts of Africa, Asia, and Brazil.
    In Toronto, over 200,000 Portuguese Canadians celebrate Portugal Day with a week-long festival in Little Portugal. Portuguese immigrants have helped to build strong communities and successful businesses throughout Canada. The highest per capita Portuguese immigrant population is in my riding of Kingston and the Islands. Centred around Nossa Senhora de Fátima and the Portuguese Cultural Centre, the Portuguese immigrant story is an important part of Kingston's history.
    In 2010, the Portuguese Cultural Centre hosted World Cup games, drawing soccer fans from all over. I look forward to World Cup excitement and Portugal's first game next Monday.
    Boa sorte e feliz dia de Portugal!

  (1405)  

Shootings in Moncton

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the women and men across our country who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Whether they put on a military, police, firefighter, or corrections uniform, they put themselves in harm's way so that the rest of us can rest easy.
    Today in Chilliwack, the flag at City Hall will be flown at half-mast, and a book of condolences will be available for those wishing to express their sympathies and share words of comfort to the friends, families, and colleagues of the three RCMP officers who were killed in the line of duty in Moncton last week.
    Similar gestures of solidarity and support are taking place across the country today.
    As Canadians pause to remember three RCMP officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, let us also resolve to give thanks to, and say a prayer for, all of those Canadians who run toward danger, rather than run away from it. May God bless them all.

Portugal Day

    Mr. Speaker, today, as Portugal honours its greatest poet, Luís de Camões, it is a privilege for me to honour the Luso Canadian community as we celebrate Portugal Day.
    Canada provided a home for many early immigrants from Portugal who left behind decades of fascist rule. They came with next to nothing, but their pockets were full with the desire to contribute and to succeed, not just for their own families and for their own community, but for Canada as a whole. Because of their experience, they wanted to help build a Canada that was fair for all, where everyone had access to opportunity, to health care, and to education.
    Today, that very same community's contribution to our cultural, commercial, and social life is one of Canada's great success stories. Portugal Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect not only on those accomplishments but on who we are as Canadians and the Luso Canadian community's vital role in shaping the Canadian identity.
    I invite my colleagues and Canadians from coast to coast to coast to celebrate and to congratulate the Portuguese-Canadian community. We wish Portugal good luck in the World Cup.
    Viva Portugal. Viva Canadá.

Farming in Lambton County

    Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Sarnia—Lambton, I would like to highlight the importance of the agriculture industry across Lambton County. With Lambton County's first ever Breakfast on the Farm event recently selling out, with over 500 tickets sold in a matter of days, we will see first-hand how important this sector is on June 14.
    With almost 600,000 acres of prime farm land, farmers across my riding are pleased to see their crops planted and already growing, and they are eager to showcase their products. Their efforts will lead to huge yields of soybeans, wheat, sugar beets, corn, and other fruits and vegetables too numerous to name here today.
    Our farmers do not just feed cities, either. They provide important source materials for a booming bio-based chemical industry that is rapidly growing in Canada.
    The next time members enjoy food from Ontario, there is a good chance that the product on their plate came from Sarnia—Lambton. They should stop and think about that, and join me in wishing our farmers and their families the best for the current season and beyond.

Retirement Congratulations

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to a great leader from our community in Durham, a leader who also happens to be my father, John O'Toole. He is retiring this week, after 19 years as our member of provincial Parliament.
    While raising a family of five children and working 31 years at General Motors, he was always active in our community, ultimately becoming school trustee, local councillor, regional councillor, and then MPP in 1995. In the government of Mike Harris, he served as the parliamentary assistant to the minister of finance, the late Jim Flaherty, and to the minister health, who is now our President of the Treasury Board.
    He served with great distinction, and the families of Durham will be truly thankful for his work as an advocate and a champion for our community. He was the iron man of the legislature and spoke in the House more than any other member. I will have to serve 50 years in this House to have as many appearances in Hansard as my father.
    He remains a personal inspiration to me. I thank my dad for his public service, and I wish him and my mom a happy and healthy retirement.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

Youth Centres in Quebec

    Mr. Speaker, last Saturday, for the first time in 20 years, I got on a bike to join the clients and supporters of the Centres jeunesse du Québec in the 2014 edition of Une route sans fin, a cycling challenge.
    Although the ride may have seemed like just one of a politician's professional activities, my involvement in the Baie-Comeau section of the event was primarily motivated by a desire to discreetly gather information and observations that might allow me to assess the cultural appropriateness of the approach used by those caring for a vulnerable clientele, 42% of which is made up of Innu and Naskapi young people.
    As a result of conversations with Mr. Huard, the director of the Centre de protection et de réadaptation de la Côte-Nord, I come back to the House to report that the services are well tailored to the realities of a provincial clientele of young people, 117,000 of them each year, who most often come from dysfunctional social units. Having surreptitiously listened in on the discussions during our bike ride, I have no difficulty in concluding that the residents of the centre in Baie-Comeau enjoy outstanding guidance that is in clear contrast to the negligence that too often has marked their short lives.

[English]

Portugal Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is Portugal Day, and in the coming days, this will be celebrated across Canada with parades and other community gatherings.
    Canada is proud to have a well-established and well-integrated Portuguese community across the country. Portugal Day gives all Canadians the opportunity to celebrate Portuguese culture and heritage. Streetsville is home to the Portuguese Cultural Centre of Mississauga and is a vibrant part of our community.
    Portuguese explorers were among the first to arrive in Canada. They discovered the land that later became known as Labrador. Indeed, the Portuguese connection to Canada goes back to the very discovery of our country, and today Canadians of Portuguese heritage continue to make Canada strong.
    I extend my best wishes to all Canadians taking part in Portugal Day celebrations.

New Westminster Salmonbellies

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour the 125th anniversary of the New Westminster Salmonbellies and to celebrate North America's oldest lacrosse club, winner of 24 national Mann Cup championships, in the greatest lacrosse city in the world.
    New Westminster, the oldest city in western Canada, is the home of the Salmonbellies, who are to lacrosse what the Montreal Canadiens are to hockey. We are proud of our bellies, and you can only say that in New West, Mr. Speaker.
    The Salmonbellies are active members in the community, participating in the annual Hyack parade, hosting events for Canadian military personnel, sponsoring “Cops for Cancer” with the New Westminster Police Department, and putting on many camps and clinics with the New Westminster Minor Lacrosse Association. The Salmonbellies' 24 Mann Cup banners hang from the rafters in Queen's Park Arena. This year I am confident that the team will bring home its 25th Mann Cup national championship banner.
    Congratulations to the Salmonbellies on behalf of the citizens of New Westminster. Go, bellies!

70th Anniversary of D-Day

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about last week's D-Day commemoration from the perspective of the children.
    There is no doubt of our gratitude and honour for Canadians and Allies who fought and fell in the cause of our collective freedom. It is important that this torch of remembrance be passed to following generations, and that is what we saw happening last week. We saw hundreds of young Canadians on the beach at Juno and at the Canadian cemetery at Bény-sur-Mer. They were learning about and speaking about the service and sacrifice of their grandparents, and I know that they will share their Normandy experiences with their classmates.
    We also met many French children, who are absorbing the gratitude of their elders for what Canada means to their life in France today.
    One of the simplest and most moving of our events was on the beach with 48 local students. They each picked up sand from the beach and gave it to us to bring back to Parliament as a sign of their young gratitude, sand like I hold in my hand, and then we all sang O Canada together.
    We all express the sentiment of “Lest We Forget”, and I was very encouraged by what I know will become the mantra of young people on both sides of the Atlantic: We will remember them.

Shootings in Moncton

    Mr. Speaker, all Canadians are united in grief today as we pay our final respects to Fabrice Gevaudan, Douglas Larche, and Dave Ross, three courageous members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who gave their lives in the line of duty last week in Moncton. We think of their loved ones, their families, and their friends. We think of Constables Darlene Goguen and Eric Dubois, who were also injured. We think of all their contemporaries who trained with them, as all Mounties have done since 1885, at “Depot” Division in Regina. As they say, it is the place where Mounties are born, and they are born into a force, a tradition, and a police family of remarkable character and calibre that is uniquely and distinctly Canadian.
    The RCMP is integral to how this country defines itself. When a member is taken, we all share the loss. We all send our heartfelt sympathies. A grateful nation, together, says thank you and GodSpeed.

  (1415)  

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, today I am proud to stand up in the House of Commons to inform Canadians of the work our government is doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while keeping the economy strong.
    Under the previous Liberal government, Canada lacked any policy to reduce these emissions, which is why our government has been working so hard to reduce emissions. We have introduced new emissions regulations for vehicles, and we were the first major coal user to ban the construction of traditional coal-fired power plants.
    Climate change is a global issue, and while Canada currently emits less than 2% of global greenhouse gases, we believe it is important to assist other countries. That is why we contributed $1.2 billion to help developing countries do their part. We achieved all of this without imposing the NDP's $20-billion carbon tax on Canadians. Thanks to our actions, carbon emissions will go down close to 130 megatonnes from what they would have been under the Liberals.

[Translation]

Shootings in Moncton

    Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today in the House to honour the memory of James Larche, Georges Gevaudan and Dave Ross, who were killed by a gunman last Wednesday evening as they were working to keep the people of Moncton safe. Three families were robbed of their loved ones in a cowardly act of senseless violence that shook the whole nation.
    On behalf of my colleagues, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to all members of the RCMP, the people of Moncton, and especially the families and loved ones of the three victims. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and distress these people must be feeling.
    None of us here will ever forget the heroism of these three police officers, nor will Canadians across the country. Their dedication to protecting the community of Moncton will be an inspiration for years to come.
    My deepest sympathies go out to their family members and friends.

[English]

Shootings in Moncton

    Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that Canadians from coast to coast to coast turn their attention to Moncton, New Brunswick. Today family and friends, thousands of RCMP officers, law enforcement officials, and first responders, joined by the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, gather in Moncton to honour the lives and memory of three fallen RCMP officers.
    Let us take a moment to remember and send our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of Constable Fabrice Gevaudan, Constable David Ross, and Constable Douglas Larche. A candlelight vigil in honour of the officers is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in front of the Codiac RCMP headquarters.
    I know I speak for all members of the House when I say we shall mourn their passing and that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Finance

    Mr. Speaker, income splitting is an economic policy that picks winners and losers, a policy opposed by many experts. The late Jim Flaherty voiced his concerns, saying, “I'm not sure that overall it benefits our society.” Today another report shows he was right. Nine out of 10 Canadian households would receive no benefit.
    Will the Conservative government abandon this unbalanced tax proposal that benefits so very few Canadians?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, our Prime Minister said that income splitting is a good policy for Canadian seniors, and it will be a good policy for Canadian families. Once the budget is balanced, we are committed to continuing to look for greater tax relief for all Canadians. As a result of our low-tax plan, the average Canadian family of four right now has $3,400 extra in its pockets in 2014. It is because this government has a low-tax plan that helps build jobs, create jobs, and the NDP have a high-tax plan that will take money from Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, if the minister has specific facts on this issue, he should make them public, because the facts that we know are very distressing. Under 2% of families with children would ever be eligible for the maximum benefit. There are also vast disparities in different parts of the country, and it would not benefit the middle class or working families.
    Let us be clear. This is an ideologically driven, unbalanced fiscal policy designed to reward only a few. Will the Conservatives now agree to abandon this short-sighted and costly tax plan?
    Again, Mr. Speaker, under this government, over one million low-income Canadians, including 380,000 seniors, have been completely removed from the tax rolls in this country. Since we have come to office, we have cut taxes 180 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years. As we approach the next budget, again, we will be looking for measures that will continue to lower taxes for Canadian families, help create jobs, and build this economy.

Public Works and Government Services

    Mr. Speaker, once again, we see that ideology and photo ops trump sound policy. Just as we have seen with gross Conservative mismanagement on fighter jets and the F-35s, Conservatives stubbornly refuse to tell the House or Canadians when the decision will be announced or whether there will be a competition, and now we learn that the Conservatives have been looking for ways to drag this out until after the next election.
    Will the government put aside its photo ops and PR and finally agree to an open and accountable procurement process?
    Mr. Speaker, in fact, the procurement process and the review through our seven-point plan have been totally transparent and open. In fact, all the data that has been gathered and that we are looking at, and numerous pieces of analyses, are available on the website so that Canadians know the motions we are going through.
    We also brought in an independent panel of outside experts to review the analysis prepared by the armed forces to look at the risk assessment to make sure it was both a rigorous review and one that is impartial. Once a decision has been made, then we will make the announcement.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it will soon be eight years since the government signed the memorandum of understanding regarding the procurement of 65 F-35s without a bidding process. Eight years later, it is clear that the Conservative government has not learned from its mistakes. It is preparing to repeat the fiasco, which was criticized by the Auditor General, by once again rushing into the arms of Lockheed Martin without a bidding process.
    After eight years of dithering and bungling, why are the Conservatives refusing to launch an open and transparent bidding process and guarantee industrial benefits for Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, we all know that there were problems with the procurement process to replace the CF-18s. That is why we came up with the seven-point plan in order to conduct the necessary analyses and identify and evaluate all the options for replacing the CF-18s. A decision has not yet been made. Once a decision has been made, then we will make an announcement.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are going to once again put the interests of Lockheed Martin lobbyists above those of Canadians.
    While other companies, such as Dassault, are guaranteeing that the aircraft will be assembled in Canada and that it will partner with the aerospace industry, Lockheed Martin is not guaranteeing anything at all. For years, the Conservatives told us that they had a firm contract with Lockheed Martin, which is completely false. There is nothing in their seven-point plan to guarantee a bidding process and nothing to guarantee industrial benefits.
    Why are the Conservatives preparing to give billions of dollars to Lockheed Martin without getting anything in return?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, we are working to ensure that the Canadian Forces get the equipment they need to do their job. In order for us to do that properly, research and analyses must be conducted in a rigorous and transparent way. That is what we are doing.
    That is why we brought in a panel of experts to review the analysis prepared by the armed forces. Many Canadian companies have already had business opportunities—
    Order. The hon. member for Wascana.

[English]

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, the government's economic policy is a full-throated celebration of mediocrity. At 1.2%, its economic growth record continues to be the worst since R.B. Bennett.
     A hundred and forty other countries are projected to grow faster this year than will Canada, including thirteen in the OECD, and at least the U.S. and the U.K. in the G7. The trade balance is in deficit. The current account balance is in deficit. Full-time jobs are being shredded.
    Does the government have anything to offer Canadians beyond its mediocre, repetitive talking points?
    Mr. Speaker, again, those just are not the facts. Thanks to the economic action plan, Canada has enjoyed a strong economic performance during both the recession and the recovery.
    Over one million net new jobs have been created, of which over 80% are in the private sector and 85% are full time.
    The IMF and the OECD both project that Canada will have among the strongest growth in all G7 countries in the years ahead. For the sixth straight year, we have a top credit rating.
    The opposition should not be so pessimistic.
    Mr. Speaker, compared to just before the recession, Canada's employment rate today is down, while the unemployment rate is up. There are 230,000 more jobless Canadians looking for work and another 200,000 who have just given up.
    The Bank of Montreal calls the Canadian job market “anemic” and “lacklustre”.
    Outside of one province, the rest of the country's growth in jobs this past year is a mere rounding error at 0.1%, and add to that sluggish wages, soft working hours, questionable job quality.
    Does the government even care that this is a problem for middle-class Canadians?
    Again, Mr. Speaker, even though the global economy remains fragile, this government has always said that. We have stood in the House and we have said that the recovery remains fragile. That is why we must be diligent in keeping our focus on job-creation measures and making certain that the economy is strong.
    Since coming to office, Canada has had the strongest job creation record in the G7 and has led in economic growth.
    Again, over one million net new jobs have been created since July 2009. These are overwhelmingly full-time jobs in the private sector.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the government cannot deny that Canada has shed 26,000 full-time jobs since last month. Behind each of those jobs is a human tragedy.
    Our economic growth is lagging behind that of 140 other countries, 13 of which are OECD countries. Our merchandise exports have not even rebounded to pre-recession levels, and Canadian families have an average of $1.64 in debt for every dollar they make. Our economy is struggling, and Canadians want jobs.
    Why is the government dragging its feet on the Building Canada fund? At this rate, the construction season will have come and gone.

[English]

    Again, Mr. Speaker, all around the world, whether it is the OECD or the IMF, they believe that Canada is on track, that we have the strongest job creation and strongest growth in the economy.
    Although he may be pessimistic, I think most people look at Canada very optimistically. Indeed, some countries wish they were in the same position Canada was.
    Let us look at what the Liberals have done. Every time measures have been brought forward to help build this economy, they have voted against them, whether it is freezing the EI or tax cuts for manufacturers. One thing for certain is we will—
    The hon. member for St. John's East.

Public Works and Government Services

    Mr. Speaker, two years after the review of the F-35 began and eight years after the memorandum of understanding that got the government into this trouble in the first place, the Conservatives are still trying to find a way out of the F-35 dilemma.
    Now government spinners are telling the media that they think they might rewrite the specifications, which is something they should have done two years ago. Could the minister confirm if this is true?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, our priority is to ensure that our Canadian Forces receive the equipment they need to do the job we ask of them.
    This is a very challenging initiative, but we have launched our seven-point plan to ensure that whatever decision we take is the right one. We are evaluating all of the options to replace the F-18 fleet. No decision has been reached yet, but once we do reach a decision after evaluating all of the options, then we will make the announcement.
    Mr. Speaker, as a Conservative source told The Globe and Mail, rewriting specifications could “be a way for the government to show action without having to make a commitment”.
    Conservative staff has told the media that there will be a briefing on Thursday. Is the government just trying to buy more time, or will there indeed be a fair competition with guarantees for jobs for the CF-18 replacement program?
    Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the New Democrats yesterday, they really should not believe everything they read in the press. There are different reports about all the different things we could do, each one of them claiming to be what we would do. We could not possibly do them all.
    Various ministers are reviewing a report from the analysis that has been prepared by the RCAF and has been viewed and reviewed by an independent panel of experts on this subject to ensure that the analysis is both rigorous and impartial. Once the decision has been taken, we will make an announcement.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, according to media reports, it seems that the government has decided to rewrite the specifications for the fighter jets that will replace the CF-18s. Observers are skeptical, however, because once again, everything seems to have been set up in a way that eliminates Lockheed Martin's competitors.
    An open, transparent bidding process is the only way to guarantee the best technology at the best price and maximize industrial benefits for Canadians. Why are the Conservatives ruling out that option?
    Mr. Speaker, as I just said, no decision has been made about replacing the CF-18 fleet. The ministers have received reports prepared by the Canadian Forces and reviewed by an independent panel of experts to ensure that the analyses are rigorous and impartial. We will make a decision and, once we have, we will announce it.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister demonstrated the full breadth of his ignorance regarding the fight against climate change by opposing it to job creation. His apocalyptic vision for our economy is equalled only by the proliferation of extreme weather events.
    We are talking about a cost to the Canadian economy of $5 billion per year. Therefore, it is the Conservatives' inaction in the fight against climate change that causes the most damage to our jobs and our economy.
    When will the Conservatives take the steps necessary to live up to their Copenhagen commitment?
    Mr. Speaker, clearly, the NDP does not understand the concept of balance. They always say no to responsible economic development. They say no to greenhouse gas reductions and to responsible transportation by pipeline. They say no to the environmental protection measures in our budget without reading it.
    The only thing the NDP says yes to is a $20-billion carbon tax.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is false to claim that taking action against climate change is bad for jobs and growth. Otherwise, Finland would not have just announced that it will reduce emissions by 80% by 2050, and the United States would not have committed to reaching its Copenhagen targets.
    Yesterday, our Prime Minister sadly took his place among world leaders who are failing on climate change. Will the minister now correct the Prime Minister and acknowledge that growing our economy and fighting climate change must be done together?
    Mr. Speaker, we are taking a balanced approach. I think most people forget that Canada represents less than 2% of global emissions, while the U.S. produces almost 20%.
    Canadians need to know that the coal-fired energy generation in the U.S. produces the greenhouse gas emissions of all the emissions produced in Canada, combined.
    We are pleased the U.S. is following Canada's footsteps. We continue to build on our record and work with the U.S. to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions internationally. We will do it without a $20-billion carbon tax.

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, someone once said, “Don't indulge your theories, think of your children and listen to the experts”. That was the Prime Minister, yet Conservatives are living in climate denial.
     The Conservatives are placing ideology ahead of the well-being of Canadians. They have no vision of what Canada could be. We could excel in research and development, promoting alternative energies, building new industries and leading the way in green technologies. We could be a leader in creating good sustainable jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
     Why does the minister not want Canada to be a leader in tomorrow's green energy economy?
    Mr. Speaker, of course we are a leader: 77% of Canada's electricity comes from non-emitting sources. We are the first major coal user to band construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units. The first 21 years, for example, of our new coal regulations are expected to result in a cumulative reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 214 megatonnes, which is equivalent to removing 2.6 million personal vehicles from the road per year. Our regulations for heavy-duty vehicles would reduce carbon emissions in those vehicles by up to 23%.
    What does the NDP have to offer? A carbon tax; a tax on everything.

[Translation]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' income splitting plan is as ill-advised as their inaction on climate change.
    It will cost federal and provincial budgets more than $5 billion, and 86% of Canadians will get no benefit from it at all. Economists, analysts and even the former minister of finance have all expressed their opposition to this bad idea.
    By providing a tax break worth $5 billion to the most wealthy, the government is going to erode public finances and make our society less just.
    How can the minister support such a retrograde measure?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, again, we are delivering historic tax relief, leaving more money in the pockets of Canadians where it belongs.
    Total savings for a typical family are $3,400 in 2014. We have increased the amount Canadians earn tax free. We have introduced pension income splitting. We have reduced the GST from 7% to 5%. We introduced important tax credits, including the Canada employment credit, the working income tax benefit and child tax credit, just to name a few.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the eventual return to a balanced budget should bring with it sensible economic decisions.
    Since 2006, under Conservative rule, the public debt has increased by more than 60% and public services to Canadians have been sliced and diced.
    Income splitting, as proposed, will cost the federal government $3 billion and will prevent us from tackling the debt and reinvesting in services to Canadians.
    How can the minister support a measure that will put us back into deficit just as a balanced budget has been achieved?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are not looking at any measures that would ever put us back into a deficit. We are coming to a balanced budget in 2015, as we promised Canadians. When we do, we will look at other measures in which we can help lower the tax burden for Canadians.
    We established the landmark tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since RRSPs. The NDP opposed it. Tax Freedom Day is over two weeks earlier than when the Liberals were in power.
     Again, we are lowering taxes. Over one million low-income Canadians are removed from the tax rolls, 380,000 of them seniors.
    Mr. Speaker, a lot of those people are not paying taxes because they do not have a job or do not earn enough, thanks to the Conservative government.
    The Conservative $5 billion income-splitting scheme would give the most money to people who need it the least. There is nothing for single moms. There is nothing for parents who are in the same tax bracket. There is nothing for 86% of Canadians.
    Canadian families have changed a lot over the years and take every shape and size, yet the Conservatives have not kept pace. I am sure the Conservatives thought the fifties were sure swell, but we need policies that work in 2014. When will they change their mind on this policy that is bad for Canadian families?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, unlike the tax-and-spend opposition, we do not believe Canadians should spend more money. As I travel across the country, I do not hear a lot of Canadians say that Ottawa is not taking enough revenues and that we have a revenue problem in Ottawa.
     We are leaving more money in the pockets of Canadians, $3,400 a year for the average family of four in 2014. We have cut taxes in every way government collects them: personal, consumption, business, excise taxes and more. Since we have come to power we have cut taxes over 180 times. The NDP voted—
    The hon. member for Markham—Unionville.

[Translation]

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, in the natural resources industry, temporary foreign workers are packed into dormitories like sardines and forced to work an unacceptable number of hours.
    In the trucking industry, temporary foreign workers are drawn in by false promises of permanent residency and are then exploited. This is a very serious problem.
    Why is the minister doing nothing to put a stop to these abuses?
    Mr. Speaker, we have taken major steps to prevent abuses related to the program. We are punishing employers who do not follow the rules.
    For example, we have created a black list to which we are adding more and more bad employers. In the budget bill, we created penalties for bad employers. In addition, I have asked my department to work with the Canada Border Services Agency on files of a criminal nature.
    We are taking action on this file.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Conservatives have a blacklist of five employers. Guess how many of these have actually had their licence revoked? Zero. They promised fines. Guess how many companies have been fined? Zero. They are doing nothing.
    This is a really important issue about which Canadians care deeply: pervasive abuse of temporary foreign workers. Will the minister finally answer seriously and do something about it?
    Mr. Speaker, when the member says their licence has not been pulled, I do not know what he is talking about. There is no such thing as a licence in the program. How ridiculous. We have a Liberal immigration critic who does not even understand the first thing about the program.
    The blacklist means that employers cannot access labour market opinions or work permits. How many employers were on the blacklist during 13 years of Liberal government? Zero. Why? Because Liberals did not have a blacklist. They did not have administrative and monetary penalties. They did not refer criminal cases for criminal prosecution. We are. We are taking action.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    It sounds like once again members are getting confused as to the sequence. When members are asking the question, members are supposed to be silent and asking their supplementals when the minister is finished answering them. We will try to keep that in mind from now on.
    The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra has the floor.

Public Works and Government Services

    Mr. Speaker, after the Auditor General exposed the Conservatives for completely botching the CF-18 jet replacement, they promised a thorough review of the process. We are now learning that the review has been rigged to select the F-35 jets, so was this a seven-point plan, or a seven-point scam?
    The panel's report is not classified, but the government is refusing to release it. Why will the Conservatives not table this report? Why can Canadians not know the truth?
    Mr. Speaker, the truth is that it was the Liberals who signed the original documents for the F-35s, and look where that got us. That is why we had to step back and launch a seven-point plan to review the process, so that all of the options could be properly evaluated in a way that was both rigorous and impartial.
    That has been done. It has been reviewed by a panel of independent experts to make sure that those terms were met. The ministers are now in the process of reviewing a wide range of reports that they need to make sure we make the right decision in getting the equipment that our forces need to do the job we ask of them.

  (1445)  

[Translation]

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives announced that Marc Nadon had been appointed to the Supreme Court, Rocco Galati, a Toronto lawyer, immediately challenged the constitutionality of the appointment and managed to have it revoked.
    Now Mr. Galati has given notice that he will take the government to court if it cannot prove that its citizenship reform bill is constitutional.
    Will the Conservatives avoid making the same mistake twice? Will they listen to Mr. Galati's advice and take their bill to the Supreme Court to ensure that it is constitutional?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, here is what we do around this place. The government actually introduces bills. They are examined by Parliament. They go to committees. That is one of the fundamental obligations of the elected body in this country. Do bills eventually make their way into law that result in challenges from lawyers around the country? Yes. In fact, they do. However, let us live up to our obligation. Let us do our work. Let us examine bills in committee. Let us not wait for lawyers and courts to step in and do our work for us.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Bar Association, UNICEF, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees and many other experts agree that Bill C-24 does not comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or international law.
    They believe that some parts of the bill are unconstitutional. If the Conservatives really want to improve the Citizenship Act, why are they stubbornly ignoring these experts? Why not amend Bill C-24?
    Mr. Speaker, virtually all Canadians believe that citizenship should be revoked if it was obtained—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

[English]

    Order, please. Members know that they are supposed to wait until the minister is finished answering the question to applaud. I am sure they will be happy to give him their applause when he is finished answering the question, but we should wait until then.
    The hon. Minister of Immigration.
    Mr. Speaker, if the hon. members do not want to listen to us, then we do not understand why they ask questions.
    Canadians are virtually unanimous in accepting that citizenship be revoked when it has been obtained fraudulently, as we already do and have the power to do. It is very popular, under the authority of the Federal Court, that power be expanded to allow citizenship to be revoked when new Canadians have misled us with regard to war crimes that they have committed in the past, or human rights violations that they committed in the past. We consider it completely acceptable that dual nationals should lose their citizenship for treason, for spying, and for terrorism.
    Mr. Speaker, that is a pretty liberal definition of the word “unanimous”.
    The Canadian Bar Association, UNICEF, Amnesty International, and the Canadian Council for Refugees have all raised concerns about this bill. Now the Constitutional Rghts Centre says that it will challenge this in court if the Conservatives let this stand. Will Conservatives stop ramming through a bill that they know is going to be dragged through Canadian courts for years?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, the members opposite are not listening. The power to revoke citizenship already exists for administrative reasons when it has been fraudulently obtained. Under the new act, we would have the power to revoke it when someone has refused to reveal that they have committed crimes, committed human rights abuses, committed war crimes, and yes, Canadians find it entirely acceptable that we should revoke the citizenship of dual nationals for terrorism, spying, or treason.
    Mr. Speaker, how much bad legislation can one government draft? It seems that for these Conservatives, the sky is the limit.
    Let us enumerate: a Supreme Court pick, rejected; the crime bill is overturned; the Senate reform proposal, ruled unconstitutional, and that was just the spring session.
     Now the Conservatives are stubbornly forging ahead with another unconstitutional bill. Will the Conservatives listen to Canadians, start respecting Canadians' rights, and withdraw this bill?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, that question speaks to the pitiful quality of opposition criticism and commentary throughout this debate on Bill C-24. We will stand behind a bill if the main opponent to it is the disgraced ideological former lawyer of the Khadr family.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, three RCMP officers were killed, and two others were wounded in Moncton—
    Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Shameful.
    Order, please. I am going to ask the member for St. Paul's to come to order. I can hear her voice all the way up here, and I can only imagine what it sounds like on that end of the chamber.
    We have moved on to the next question, and the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, three RCMP officers were killed, and two others were wounded in Moncton. Having personally experienced the loss of two members of the RCMP at Spiritwood detachment, I have seen a community's pain.
    This tragic loss has shown the true resiliency of the people of Moncton and New Brunswick. I have seen and heard countless stories of the bravery of ordinary citizens helping one another stay safe, and the incredible courage in the face of imminent danger of front-line police officers from across the region, in apprehending the suspect in the early hours of Friday morning.
    As Canada lays these three heroes to rest today, can the parliamentary secretary please update the House on this situation?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to first thank the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for that question and for his service in the RCMP.
    Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the family and friends of the three Canadian heroes who lost their lives in Moncton last week.
    Today's ceremony, attended by the Governor General, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is a testament to the good work that the RCMP does to keep Canadians safe right across this country.
    On behalf of the government and all Canadians, we expect the individual responsible for these horrific and brutal crimes to be held accountable to the full extent of the law.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is the second time in 15 months that prisoners have managed to escape from a provincial prison in Quebec with the help of a helicopter. After the first incident at the Saint-Jérôme prison, the Government of Quebec asked Transport Canada to impose no-fly zones over Quebec prisons. It seems this request fell on deaf ears.
    Can the Minister of Transport confirm that she received that request? Can she tell us whether she will implement the same no-fly zones over provincial prisons as over federal prisons?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows, this was a provincial jail and certainly was under provincial jurisdiction.
    I would like to inform the members of this House, and all Canadians across the country, that Correctional Service Canada officers, under federal jurisdiction, have the tools they need to prevent these types of incidents.
     Of course, our government is always ready to assist the Province of Quebec in this matter.
    Mr. Speaker, that is just what we are asking about.
    Last year, the Quebec minister of public safety requested a no-fly zone over Quebec prisons. Right now, federal prisons are no-fly zones, but provincial facilities are not. Apparently, he has never even had a response to his request and now, once again, there has been a dangerous prison break using a helicopter from a Quebec institution.
    Instead of blaming the provinces for not carrying out their duties, why will the minister not take the initiative, contact the counterpart in Quebec, and implement a no-fly zone over Quebec penitentiaries?
    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, and as I just mentioned to the House, this is a matter under provincial jurisdiction. It was a provincial jail.
    Of course, as the member knows, and all Canadians know across this country, under federal penitentiaries and jurisdiction, our officers have the ability to deal with these situations.

[Translation]

Privacy

    Mr. Speaker, according to the Privacy Commissioner, 97% of companies collect personal information about their clients. In the digital age, that information can be shared or stolen more easily than ever. Bill S-4 contains some important measures, but also some ill-conceived measures that will allow companies to share information without a warrant and without notifying their clients.
    Will the government agree to amend this bill in order to correct these dangerous measures?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, these are effective and responsible measures that we adopted and included in a bill after numerous consultations with the private sector, the wireless sector and consumer advocacy groups. This morning or yesterday, the Senate studied three amendments and adopted one of them. This bill will come to the House. The hon. member and her colleagues will have the opportunity to examine the bill and propose amendments if they want.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am hoping that the minister can dial into the House and tell us if he has read Bill S-4. There are some serious questions about it, such as the fact that it would allow corporations to go to other corporations to take private information on Canadians, without consent, without notification, including their private Internet use.
    My question is, did he think it was a good idea to give corporations this free hand to snoop, or did he just not understand the legislation and that this loophole has created open season for spying on Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, there are certainly some times when—for example, to prevent elder abuse, to prevent the abuse of kids who are online, who often go onto websites where they are not aware of being abused online or their personal information is being stolen and credit card information can be stolen—there are circumstances, with the voluntary compliance of consumers, where this information can be shared with security organizations.
    Of course warrants are required if there are investigations. We dealt with this issue at the Senate. We adopted an amendment at the Senate committee and it will come to the House of Commons where we will move forward. If the opposition has anything other than noise to offer, we will certainly consider amendments, if the members have something reasonable to say.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, British Columbia communities like Kitimat have clearly expressed their opposition to the northern gateway pipeline. First nations are very worried about environmental risks involved, yet the ideology-driven government ignores these legitimate concerns. Why will it not listen to millions of Canadians and put away the rubber stamp?
    Mr. Speaker, the joint review panel has submitted its report on the proposed project to the government.
    Projects will only be approved if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. We are carefully reviewing this report, and a decision will be forthcoming.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister seems to enjoy frank conversation with respect to climate change and the economy.
    How is this for some inconvenient frankness?
    The IMF says:
...the costs of inaction on climate change are irreversible, potentially catastrophic....
    CP says:
    Canada ranks worst on climate [change]...among industrialized [nations]....
    The Globe and Mail says:
    Canada's lagging on climate change is putting the economy at risk.
    Frankly speaking, how does this “beggar thy neighbour” attitude on climate change actually help with creating Canadian jobs, growth, and prosperity?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we have a balanced approach. Our priority is to protect the environment while keeping the economy strong.
    We have made significant investments to begin Canada's transition to a clean energy economy and advance our climate change objectives.
    The actions we have taken on climate change will bring carbon emissions down to close to 130 megatons, compared to what they would have been under the Liberal Party.
    I am proud to be part of a government that is getting real results for Canadians, unlike that party that had 13 long years and did absolutely nothing about it.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, in January, Justice Paul Perell called out the federal government for suppressing evidence about what had happened at St. Anne's Residential School.
    He ordered the government to turn over that evidence so that survivors could get the compensation they were entitled to. However, once again, the government is stalling and refusing to turn over key transcripts.
    When will the government just come clean, obey the judge's orders, and allow the victims of St. Anne's to get the justice they deserve?
    Mr. Speaker, the premise of the hon. member's question is totally false.
    Our government continues, and will continue, to receive and disclose the documents through the process that was agreed to by all the parties to the Indian residential schools settlement agreement.
    We will continue to take our obligations seriously, which we do every day.

  (1500)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, here is the real premise of the question.
    The federal government's apology should be the start of a reconciliation process with the aboriginal peoples. However, if the Conservatives continue to hide information about what happened in residential schools, victims will never be able to move past that trauma.
    Even after a court ruling in favour of the victims, they are still fighting for justice.
    When will the Conservatives stop their obstruction and make every single document public? When?
    Mr. Speaker, my answer will be the same as my first one.
    If my colleague had respect for the courts, he would know that they are currently examining these allegations and that we must let them do so.
    Our government will continue to receive and disclose these documents through the process that was agreed to by all the parties in the agreement.

[English]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, countries around the world are addressing climate change while keeping their economies in mind.
    Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama brought in new carbon regulations for power plants, and we welcome those. This week, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott reiterated that countries should be addressing climate change but we should not clobber the economy.
    In Canada, we believe that energy and the environment work together. Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment please tell the House what actions we are taking to reduce GHGs while keeping our economy strong?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Calgary Centre for the question. I want to thank her for all her good work on this file.
    The actions outlined by President Obama do not go nearly as far in the electricity sector as the actions that Canada has already taken. Canada's rules are tougher and will affect new power plants sooner than regulations in the United States. We are pleased that the United States is following Canada's lead.
    Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott agrees with our approach that we can take actions to limit emissions without destroying our economy, as the NDP would like to do. We commend the Australian government for encouraging other countries not to impose a multi-billion dollar carbon tax, which is what the Liberals and the NDP have—
    Order, please. The hon. member for Etobicoke North.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, gunmen abducted 20 women from a remote village in northeastern Nigeria, as 272 schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist Boko Haram continue to be held captive.
    Could the minister of international co-operation tell us what specific resources Canada has sent to Nigeria to help search for the missing schoolgirls, whether these resources are on the ground, and whether Canada attended the Paris summit to boost the search for these schoolgirls?
    Mr. Speaker, Canada is very seriously concerned by these new reports that have come out that say Boko Haram has kidnapped 20 additional women. We are very concerned about the security situation in West Africa. Canada is doing its part, helping with its allies, providing all the logistical support it can. We will continue doing that.

[Translation]

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives replaced the boards of referees with the Social Security Tribunal, we told them that they were making a mistake, and now we see that we were right.
    The Conservatives' management of these tribunals is worrisome. The process does not allow for a fair and quick decision. What is worse, we have learned that, one year later, 11 member positions are still vacant. These seats are sitting empty while Canadians are facing extreme delays before their cases are heard.
    How does the government plan on dealing with this fiasco?
    Mr. Speaker, we continue to appoint members to the Social Security Tribunal. This new quasi-judicial organization is becoming increasingly effective with its decisions, and the chairperson keeps me updated.
    We will continue to work with the tribunal to ensure that it is able to reduce backlogs on appeals.

  (1505)  

[English]

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, our government has focused on responsible resource development that protects the environment. There are 84 pipelines crossing the 49th parallel today.
    The average approval time for those pipelines is three and a half months. The Keystone XL pipeline is now in its sixth year of deliberations. It is a project that would strengthen North American energy security. It would create jobs on both sides of the border. It would lower risk and rail congestion.
    Could the parliamentary secretary tell us more about why our government supports the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Yellowhead for that question. A total of five separate assessments by the U.S. State Department have concluded that this project would have no significant environmental impacts. Furthermore, alternatives to the Keystone XL project could increase emissions by 28% to 42%.
    Our government stands with the hard-working Canadians who are positioned to benefit from this project. Why will the NDP not do the same?

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, Jozsef Pusuma and his family have lived in sanctuary in a Toronto church for the last 30 months. As Roma, they left Hungary due to the segregation and persecution they were subject to.
    Now, Mr. Pusuma's daughter cannot even play outside for fear of being deported. Why? It is because the Conservative government lists Hungary as a designated country of origin, effectively calling it safe.
    When will the Conservatives admit that they made a mistake when they put Hungary on the designated country of origin list?
    Mr. Speaker, I will not make any apologies for the very successful reform of our asylum system that took place under the leadership of my colleague, now the Minister of Employment and Social Development.
    These decisions are made by an independent tribunal, by absolutely highly trained professionals who, under our laws, take decisions independently of elected politicians, independent of the partisan back and forth in this place. That is the way it should be.
    There are several options for appeal. Once those have been exhausted, we expect those who have not had their cases upheld to depart Canada.

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, when will the Minister of Employment lift the blanket moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the fast food industry?
    Mr. Speaker, it will be when we announce broader reforms to the temporary foreign worker program designed to prevent abuses, severely punish non-compliant employers, and prevent distortions in certain regions or industries in the Canadian labour market.
    We will ensure that Canadians always come first, and if that means employers have to pay a little more and be more active in recruiting and training Canadians, that is a good thing.

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I certainly took your point earlier today in trying to reduce the amount of heckling in this corner of the House. It is much appreciated. However, I think that in calling the member for St. Paul's, and I will admit I wish that heckling did not occur from her or others, I quite often hear very loudly the voice of the member for Essex and I think even—
    Orders of the day.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Income Splitting  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    We were moving to questions and comments for the hon. member for York South—Weston.
    Questions and comments, the hon. minister of state.

  (1510)  

    Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the member's comments earlier, but I have to admit I have absolutely no understanding of where he is going with his comments. I know that when I was elected to come to the House of Commons, it was to actually protect taxpayers from governments that were charging too much money. It appears that he is objecting to more tax cuts for Canadians.
    What I am asking the member to do is consider the totality of what this government has done with its tax cuts. The economic action plan is a strategic year-over-year plan that includes the reduction of taxes, over $200 billion less in taxes to Canadians as a result of this Conservative government.
    One plan does not meet all needs and that is why we have reduced taxes for farmers, families, seniors, students, just name it, small businesses, apprentices, people with disabilities, et cetera. Now we have another opportunity to add yet one more piece to the puzzle that represents quality of life for Canadians.
    Why does the member not have the ability to put it all together and think about the bigger picture?
    That is just what I am doing, Mr. Speaker. I do think about the bigger picture. The bigger picture clearly is that people who are at the low end of the economic spectrum would expect that the government would take the $5 billion and share it on a more equitable basis than just giving it to the most wealthy in this country. The most wealthy in this country do not need that $5 billion, and that $5 billion will come out of the pockets of the people who are all across the spectrum, including the poorest in this country. It is absolutely unforgivable that we take money from the pockets of the poor and give it to the rich. That is the opposite of what we should be doing.
    Mr. Speaker, income inequality is an important issue. It is an issue we attempted to address in the House, from the Liberal Party's perspective, two years ago when we made the suggestion that we needed to get the committee to come up with tangible recommendations that would make a difference, to try to close the gap.
    One of the most important things to recognize is that we need a holistic approach. We need to get the provinces and the federal government looking at policies that would, in fact, close the gap. Political parties, whether they are New Democrats, Conservatives, or Liberals, have at times fallen short.
    My question for my colleague is this. Would he not acknowledge how important it is that we take a look at policies in taxation, a joint responsibility between provinces and the federal government, so that the provinces and Ottawa have the ability to make a difference and close the gap on income inequality?
    Mr. Speaker, the income inequality gap will not be closed by this Conservative action in any way, shape, or form. In fact, it is making it even worse. It is taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. That is something the Liberals and Conservatives have been doing for the last 30 years. We need to stop this merry-go-round of taxing poor people so that rich people can get richer. That is the exactly the opposite of what we should be doing.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an amazing phenomenon to watch Conservative speaker after speaker reference Canadians broadly as benefiting from this very narrow and very expensive income splitting scheme. The Conservatives keep omitting that 86% of all Canadian families will see no benefit whatsoever. Of those families who happen to qualify, who happen to fit into the narrow definition as proposed by the Conservatives, only a few of them will see the maximum benefit, and that would be those families and those individuals who happen to earn more than $150,000, like some members of Parliament. For average working families, if they are in the same tax bracket, if it is a single mom or single dad, if they do not have kids, or if the kids have moved out by 18, all of these Canadians, that is the 86% that we are talking about.
    Given this vast amount of money, $5 billion out of the treasury to help Canadian families make ends meet, have that opportunity gap narrowed so that those who are born into lesser circumstances can achieve more through hard work, what kinds of suggestions would New Democrats offer to Canadians as opposed to the narrow ideology we see from the Conservatives?

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives rejected our very thoughtful proposal to create a national housing strategy. Most of the individuals in the city of Toronto who live in the big towers are close to being homeless.
    Five billion dollars would be almost all of the money required to make sure that every family in this country was housed appropriately.
    That is the kind of thing that the New Democratic Party would look at doing if we had $5 billion left over at the end of the day.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the motion before us today. Hon. members of the House may differ on solutions, but I am sure we can all agree that we must continuously look for ways to improve the lives of all Canadians. However, while the opposition would have one believe that our government is doing little to help families, I will take this time to correct the record.
    Frankly, the facts speak for themselves. Under this Conservative government, Canadians in all income groups are better off. Canadian families, at all income levels, have seen increases of about 10% or more in real after-tax, after-transfer incomes across the board since 2006. The lowest-income Canadians have seen a 14% increase alone during that same time period.
    Income inequality has not increased in Canada since 2006. In fact, it has decreased. Canadian families, at all income levels, have had higher incomes after taxes, after transfers, and after inflation, in 2011 and prior to the recession.
    Furthermore, the median net worth of Canadian families has increased by almost 45% in real terms since 2006.
    While the opposition continues to pose high-tax schemes that would actually increase income inequality and leave less money in the pockets of Canadians, our government is actually taking action and standing up for Canadian families.
    Our Conservative government has been clear that one of the most effective ways to support Canadian families is by providing tax relief. It does not stop there. Our government has seen to it that the federal tax burden is at its lowest level in over 50 years. We have removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls completely. We have introduced nearly 180 tax relief measures since we took office in 2006, reducing taxes in every way the government collects them.
    Let me list a few of them.
    We have reduced the GST from 7% to 5%. That is a 27% reduction in GST, putting more than $1,000 back into pockets of the average Canadian family.
    We have introduced the landmark tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since RRSPs. I must point out that more than nine million Canadians have since opened a tax-free savings account.
    We have introduced the child tax credit, a credit on an amount of $2,255 for each child under the age of 18.
    We have introduced the universal child care benefit, offering families more choice in child care by providing up to $1,200 a year for each child under the age of six.
    The NDP members who stand today and claim that they know what is best for Canadians voted against every one of these measures. The opposition will continue to reject our efforts to keep taxes low. That is the reality we face. The opposition prefers that we adopt dangerous economic policies that would kill business investment and jobs, and hurt Canadian families by taking more of their hard-earned money.
    We will not take economic lessons from the opposition. Let me remind the opposition that under our Conservative government, we have seen the benefits of Canada's economic action plan. Canada's economy has seen one of the best economic performances among all G7 countries in recent years, both during the global recession and throughout the recovery. This was due to strong economic leadership, fiscal discipline, long-term thinking, and tough decisions.
    With that, I would like to take the rest of my time today to expand upon a few of the very important measures my colleagues on this side of the House listed earlier today.
    To begin, let me take members back to budget 2007, when our government introduced the working income tax benefit, the WITB. The WITB fulfilled our government's commitment to help make work more rewarding for low-income Canadians already in the workforce. It increased the incentive for other low-income Canadians to enter the workforce, as well.
    Economic action plan 2009 went even further by effectively doubling the benefits provided under the WITB.
    Today, this initiative is making a real difference in the lives of Canadians. It has lowered the welfare wall so that low-income individuals now keep more of their earnings. In 2013, over $1.1 billion in WITB benefits were provided to individuals and families alone. Up to 1.5 million working individuals and families receive assistance through the WITB.

  (1520)  

    Recognizing that families are the cornerstone of our society, economic action plan 2011 took action to further reduce the tax burden on hard-working Canadian families. In doing so, we recognized that some families need additional support. For example, many Canadians have assumed added responsibilities by caring for infirm parents or other family members. Our government felt it was important to assist these family caregivers who make special sacrifices, often leaving the workforce temporarily and foregoing employment income.
    In support of these families who care for infirm dependents, economic action plan 2011 introduced the family caregiver tax credit, which came into effect in 2012. This 15% non-refundable credit on an amount of $2,058 in 2014 provides additional tax relief for caregivers of all types of infirm dependent family members, including for first-time spouses, common-law partners, and minor children.
    To further help caregivers, economic action plan 2011 removed the $10,000 limit on the amount of eligible expenses a taxpayer can claim under the medical expense tax credit for a financially dependent relative.
    Our government also recognizes that persons with disabilities specifically need assistance as well. Our support for them has been targeted and effective. This is evident through such programs as the enabling accessibility fund, which has funded over 13,000 community-based projects across Canada, totalling over $89 million.
    Even as recently as the measures in economic action plan 2014, our government has proposed to connect persons with disabilities with jobs by providing $15 million over three years to the ready, willing and able initiative of the Canadian Association for Community Living as well as $11.4 million over four years to support the expansion of vocational training programs for persons with autism spectrum disorder.
    That is not all. We also established the highly praised registered disability savings plan, or RDSP, based on the recommendations of the 2006 expert panel on financial security for children with severe disabilities. The RDSP is designed to help individuals with severe disabilities and their families save for their long-term financial security. Since its implementation in 2008, our government has made a number of improvements to the program. For example, to make sure that RDSP beneficiaries with a shortened life expectancy could access their savings, economic action plan 2011 provided them with more flexibility to withdraw their RDSP assets without requiring the repayment of Canada disability savings grants and Canada disability savings bonds.
    In 2011, our government launched a review of the RDSP program to ensure that RDSPs were meeting the needs of Canadians with severe disabilities and their families. Based on the feedback received during the review, economic action plan 2011 announced a number measures to improve the RDSP. These measures provide greater access to RDSP savings for small withdrawals, give greater flexibility to make withdrawals from certain RDSPs, ensure that RDSP assets are used to support the beneficiary during his or her lifetime, enhance flexibility for parents who save in registered education savings plans for children with disabilities, introduce greater continuity for beneficiaries who cease to qualify for the disability tax credit under certain circumstances, and improve administration of the RDSP for financial institutions and beneficiaries.
    Since becoming available in 2008, more than 81,000 RDSPs have been opened. Thanks to measures like the RDSP, our government is making sure that Canadians with disabilities get the support they need. A lot of credit should go to the late hon. Jim Flaherty, who championed this program.
    Let me now say a few more words about the government's tax reductions for seniors and pensioners. Once again, on this subject I have plenty of material to draw from.
    Since 2006, our government has increased the age credit amount by $1,000 in 2006 and by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000.

  (1525)  

    We have introduced pension income splitting for seniors and increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSPs to 71 years of age from 69 years of age, and much more. As a result of these actions, seniors and pensioners are receiving about $2.8 billion in additional annual tax relief. Overall, actions taken by this government have substantially increased the income seniors can earn before they are required to pay income tax. In 2014, a single senior can earn at least $20,050, and a senior couple at least $40,108, before paying any federal income tax at all.
    Seniors and those who support them may also take advantage of tax credits, such as the disability tax credit, the medical expense tax credit, and the caregiver credit as well as the family caregiver tax credit, which, as I mentioned, was introduced in economic action plan 2011 and came into effect in 2012.
    In the same year, our government enhanced the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS, for those seniors who rely almost exclusively on their old age security and the GIS and may therefore be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties. The measure provided a new top-up benefit of up to $600 annually for single seniors and $840 for couples and is improving the financial security of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada. This increase in economic action plan 2014 was the largest increase for the lowest-income GIS recipients in a generation.
    That is not all. Our government, since 2006, has also lowered taxes in a number of other very important ways for families. It has increased the amount of income all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax, increased the upper limit of the two lowest personal income tax brackets so that individuals can earn more income before being subject to higher tax rates, and reduced the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 16%.
     Our Conservative government has been ambitious in our low-tax agenda. It is aimed at creating a tax system that fuels job creation and economic growth in the economy, and as I mentioned previously, it allows Canadians to keep more of their hard-earned money. Tax reductions have also given individuals and families the flexibility to make choices that are right for them. While the opposition members argue that we are only helping higher-income Canadians, this could not be further from the truth. Low- and middle-income Canadians are receiving proportionately greater relief. Benefits for low- and middle-income Canadians delivered through the personal income tax system, and support for families with children, have also been increased and enhanced under our government.
    Finally, let me add that new measures we have introduced recognize that the health of the Canadian economy ultimately depends on providing opportunities for a high quality of life for all Canadians. That is why economic action plan 2014 would continue to implement the government's plan for jobs and economic growth. It would connect Canadians with available jobs and help them acquire the skills that will get them hired or get them better jobs in the marketplace; foster job creation, innovation, and trade by keeping taxes low; reduce the tax-compliance burden; continue to provide Canadian businesses and investors with the market access they need to succeed in the global economy; and support families and communities by taking additional steps to protect Canadian consumers, keep taxes low for families, and improve the safety of Canadians.
    To conclude, keeping taxes low is an important element of our economic action plan. It helps Canadians succeed in the global economy through the creation of high-quality jobs and greater opportunities for success. Economic action plan 2014 is the next chapter in our government's long-term plan to strengthen the Canadian economy in an uncertain world and to create jobs and growth while keeping taxes low for families and businesses and balancing the budget in 2015. It is clearly working. It is accomplishing what it is intended to do, and by returning to balanced budgets in 2015, it bodes well for not only the current generation of Canadians but for future generations as well.
     Taken together, the measures our government has introduced since 2006 and those in economic action plan 2014 will continue to keep taxes low and help Canadians succeed in the global economy, creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

  (1530)  

    A recent analysis by The New York Times and the Luxembourg Income Study suggests that Canada's median income households today are the richest of 20 peer countries, including, for the first time ever, the United States. It also shows that Canada's median income households saw increases of about 20% in their take-home incomes between 2000 and 2010.
    Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer tells us that we have delivered $30 billion in tax relief, which is benefiting low- and middle-income Canadians the most. Again, this is leaving more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians, and in 2014, that saving is to the tune of nearly $3,400 for an average Canadian family.
    Our record on tax relief is strong, and the results are speaking volumes. However, we have been clear that once the budget is balanced, our government is committed to even further, even greater, tax relief for Canadian families.
    I encourage the opposition, once and for all, to put aside its reckless high tax, tax-and-spend agenda and support our government's efforts to help all Canadians at all income levels.

[Translation]