That, given the average middle class Canadian is already overburdened with taxes, the House call on the government to abandon any plans it may have to in any way tax health and dental care plans.
He said: Mr. Speaker, let me say right away that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
We are gathered here today to talk about the state of the public purse. For the 15 months that it has been in power, this government has made it clear that it has lost control of public spending.
The Liberals were elected on a campaign of running a small budget of $10 billion, but in reality the deficits are closer to $30 billion. What is more, they talked about a balanced budget by 2019. That is false. The budget will not be balanced until 2055 and we have not even talked about the debt. If nothing changes within this government, Canada's debt will be $1.5 trillion by 2050. That is utterly irresponsible management.
This government is also known for creating new taxes and fees for workers, and also for businesses. The government should be encouraging businesses to create jobs and wealth. Instead, this government is burdening businesses and workers with even more taxes.
On December 2, a National Post article by John Ivison informed us that the government was considering taxing Canadians' private health and dental care plans.
On December 5, I stood in the House to ask the government what its plan was, and to give it a chance to answer yes or no. At that time, I asked if it would be creating a new Liberal tax, and whether it would tax those who have that kind of protection. I asked my first question on December 5. The dodged the issue. He did not answer the question. However, I am used to it, as it was not the first time. It is a trademark of the current government to dodge the issue when it has no answer. It did the same with respect to the zero deficit. I asked the government 15 times in the House when it would get back to a zero deficit. There was no answer. I will soon be asking the question for the 16th time.
We asked the government 10 times when it would decide whether there would be a tax on health and dental benefits. We did not get an answer on any of those 10 occasions. The members for and , along with the , also asked the government about 10 times whether it was going to move forward with this Liberal tax. The Liberals always avoided the question.
Sometimes a little serendipity happens. Yesterday morning, the government was informed that we were going to debate this issue in the House today. Since it is a supply day, we submitted our motion and informed the House, the parties, and all parliamentarians of the topic that would be discussed. The government learned that there would be a debate today. Yesterday, the asked the what his position was, and, at the very end of his answer, the Prime Minister finally said that the government would not impose such a tax.
We need to be careful. Let us remember that, just two weeks ago, the same was saying that the most recent election would be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post system. However, yesterday, he told us that the voting system would not change. That same Prime Minister told us that his government would run small deficits of $10 billion, when now it seems that the deficit will be closer to $30 billion. The same Prime Minister told us that we would return to a balanced budget in 2019, when the budget will not be balanced until 2055.
As a result, when the told the House yesterday that he was not going to tax health and dental benefits, we have good reason to doubt his statement. That is why we are offering all parliamentarians, particularly the Liberal members, the opportunity, pleasure, and privilege of officially voting to confirm that health and dental benefits will not be taxed, as requested by the official opposition, the Conservative Party. Let us be careful.
Why create a tax on health and dental benefits? It is a bad idea. First, it affects a large number of Canadians: 13.5 million Canadian workers currently have health and dental insurance. Also, some people may have family coverage under their health insurance, which means that not just the 13.5 million workers but also their families are affected. We are talking about 24 million Canadians. That is a lot of people.
It is a bad idea because families would have to pay an additional $2,000 on average. For the past two months, many people have been warning the government about the dangers of doing this.
In his January 12 letter addressed to the , Robert R. Blakely, of Canada's Building Trades Unions said, “In the absence of this benefit, our organizations would be obliged, in the interest of our members, to seek public funding to replace this care, which is vital to the health of Canadians.”
Unfortunately, one province already has this tax, so I know what I am talking about. In 1993, almost 25 years ago, Quebec imposed such a tax.
What can we learn from this exercise? A study by Amy Finkelstein from MIT, published in the Journal of Public Economics in September 2000, states, on page 34:
This represents a decline in workplace coverage of about one-fifth, and corresponds to an elasticity of coverage by employer-provided supplementary health insurance....
When that happened in Quebec, one in five insured workers lost that insurance, and 95% of them did not get it back.
If, God forbid, the government were to go ahead with this plan, millions of Canadians would suffer the same fate. We also need to consider the long-term effect on public health because we are talking about dental care. If people are not insured and do not take care of their teeth, that will lead to problems that will have to be dealt with eventually.
Why are we concerned about the government's interest in taxing Canadians more? Since coming to power, the government has earned a reputation for taking aim at the tax credits that our government introduced, tax credits for the arts, sports, post-secondary education, and textbooks. This Liberal government scrapped the tax credits that we introduced to help families.
In October, the government changed the rules for buying houses, the mortgage rules, without even holding consultations.
Just yesterday, in committee, six different groups directly affected by the move all stated one after the other that the government had never approached them. This directly affects young families and Canadians who want to buy property.
I also want to talk about the current government's disregard for entrepreneurs, the creators of jobs and wealth. What did the government do? It raised Canada pension plan premiums by over $1,000 per employee per business. It cancelled the corporate tax cut that was supposed to bring it down to 9%. It cancelled the employment tax credit. Lastly, of course, this government is introducing its Liberal carbon tax, which will put an additional burden on Canadian families, to the tune of about $2,500 a year.
That is the Liberal way. The government is incapable of managing the country properly. It is creating colossal deficits and debts. Its idea of a solution is to stop helping businesses and families. Instead, it is thinking up new ways to pick taxpayers' pockets.
What is next? The government has decided to review 208 tax credits that are currently in place and generate about $100 billion. Indeed, the Liberal government wants to take another look at each one of these tax credits. We have no problem with that, but we would prefer to know what the government had in mind.
Does it intend to abolish these tax credits altogether, just as it abolished those for arts and culture, textbooks, and those meant to help our families? That is where the danger lies. If, heaven forbid, the government decides to cut tax credits even further, Canadians will have to pay even more.
We have nothing against reviewing these tax credits. What we do have a problem with is the fact that there is a hidden agenda at play here.
Listen to what the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said in an article in the Toronto Sun:
Unfortunately, there are worrying signs that [the Minister of Finance's] real intent is to use “simplification” as political cover to hike taxes by stealth for millions of Canadians.
This is just a terrible proposal, and we are giving the government the opportunity to clearly state its intention to say no to this Liberal tax—
Madam Speaker, it is always an honour to take part in a debate such as this. It is an extremely important debate. Why are we having it today? I am not alone in telling the House that over the past weeks I have heard from a large number of Canadians who strongly oppose any Liberal tax grab on health and dental benefits, and to quote them directly:
As you prepare for the 2017 Federal Budget, we ask you not to support a new tax on employee-sponsored health care plans which would put the health care of 24 million Canadians at risk. Taxing these benefit plans will not simplify the tax code, bring more fairness to Canadians or help grow the middle class. It will download complexity onto Canadian employers and leave many Canadians and their families and dependents without the care they need.
Every member in this place has been hearing the same from Canadians of all walks of life.
The Liberals have repeatedly been asked if they would authorize this new Liberal tax grab, yes or no. Likewise, the has continued to refuse to say no to this new tax grab on employer-provided health benefits. We heard from the who, probably after consulting the latest polls, which show a sharp dip in support of late, changed his mind. Loose lips sink not only ships but tax credits, but in this case, this is a tax grab.
Why has the support dropped so far that he has backed away from this proposal after leaking it through the media repeatedly? Let us stop for a moment and think about that. The Liberals' number one talking point suggests they are all about helping the middle class. How exactly would taxing employer-provided health benefits help the middle class? Only Liberals would dare to suggest they are helping the middle class by increasing taxes on the middle class. Seriously, who thought that this would be a good idea anyway?
Let us get serious for a moment. For an Ontario family earning $45,000 a year, this Liberal tax grab would have cost that family an extra $1,167 a year. That is a huge increase.
While the Liberals love to boast about the so-called middle-class tax cut, let us not forget that the Liberal tax cut did not apply to someone earning $45,000 per year. An individual would have to earn more than that to be even considered middle class by the Liberals to qualify for that tax cut. Yet strangely, those earning between $100,000 and $199,000 are considered middle class and do qualify for this tax cut. For Canada's most vulnerable families there was no tax cut for them, but they should not worry, because there is a huge increase for employer-provided health benefits for them instead. How can any member on that side of the House justify that? There are many good people on that side of the House, and I would suspect most of them would agree that tax fairness is not fair for those earning under $45,000 a year if they get hit with a $1,000 plus tax increase and do not have any offsetting tax cut.
Why are we in this situation? What did Canadians do to deserve a huge tax grab from the Ottawa Liberals on employer-provided health benefits? Here is the problem. The Liberal government was elected on the promise of running modest deficits of $10 billion, with a return to balance in 2019. Every Liberal MP campaigned on this promise. We know that promise, much like the promise for electoral reform, was a complete fabrication. As many seniors in my riding would like to point out, Liberals once promised if elected they would eliminate the GST—oops.
The reality is, at this point in time, that the Liberal government has absolutely no fiscal plan to return to balance. The has never had to balance a budget before and has no interest in doing so now. Already we can see that the Liberal plans to spend their way out of trouble have failed. What should they do now: reduce spending or raise taxes? We all know the answer to this question.
Here is the thing. The Liberals claimed that lowering taxes on one segment of society would put more money back into the economy so we could grow the economy. That is not working, so now the Liberals are going to take that money back in new taxes. It may not be this one, but it will certainly be another one, and that tax will not just be from one segment of society. The proposed health care tax would apply to all segments. I suppose in that sense taking more taxes from everyone is the Liberal definition of tax fairness.
However, to be clear, the Liberals have created a serious problem. They rolled the dice and gambled that their plan to spend their way out of trouble would work to grow the economy, and to be fair, there are some experts who encouraged the Liberals to do exactly what they have done. However, those same experts are now saying—oops—that plan did not work and some new revenue has to be found.
Again, it may not be dental and health care plans being taxed, but eventually, they will find something. The Liberals have said that they are eyeing other tax expenditures.
Because many of those experts are often paid from tax dollars, they seldom recommend less spending. Therefore, how do we raise taxes? The Liberals could be transparent and say, yes, they are raising taxes and tell us why, but it is much easier to call it a tax fairness plan, where everyone pays Ottawa more money because it is fair, in Liberal speak, and it will help grow the middle class, of course, as paying higher taxes always does.
Of course, I am kidding on all of these fronts, particularly when we talk about applying a tax on families that are not earning more than $45,000. In fact, they were cut out of that middle-class tax cut I talked about earlier.
It is not enough for me just to complain. I am going to provide a couple of ideas, because I believe it is important, in opposition, to propose and not only blindly oppose. People with $100,000 to $199,000 incomes do not need a tax cut. A Conservative senator recently tried to put through a proposal that would reverse these upper tax cuts and came up with a truly revenue-neutral plan that would actually better help what most Canadians agree is the real middle class. Let us start there.
Next, let us eliminate the plans for the so-called infrastructure bank that would be financed by private investment, that would require a much higher rate of return, and put Canadians deeper in debt or hit their pocketbooks. After that, let us expedite the 's idea to focus on the bulk buying of pharmaceuticals. Actually, that was originally an idea of the former health minister, who is now the . It is a good idea, so I think if both sides can agree on that, we should push forward on it. It is not a perfect solution, but it is a start to putting more money back into the health care system in savings instead of putting taxes on the service it provides to Canadians.
Finally, let us seriously reconsider the promised billions in funding for other countries' climate change programs, when many of these countries do not themselves have a carbon tax to pay for their own projects.
These are just a few examples, the point being to explore alternatives but not experiment with taxing Canadian employer-provided health care benefits or other important tax credits. Everyone in this room is receiving daily messages of strong opposition, which will appear on those other items as well, so let us start listening to Canadians.
Yes, I have heard arguments from some about why they think this proposal or other proposals of taking away these tax credits is a good idea, often expressing that somehow Canadians who do not have employer-provided health and dental benefits should not be paying or subsidizing those who do. However, they are not paying or subsidizing. The employer is doing that, and that is precisely the point.
The interesting thing about this whole argument is that we do have a situation in Canada where many taxpayers, who do not have pensions, pay for generous public sector pension plans that simply do not exist in the real world—that is, for people who do not work for the public sector. Strangely, the fairness crowd is always silent about that.
On a similar theme, in what other universe but the federal public service can one bank massive amounts of sick days that people with no bankable sick days pay for? Once again, the fairness crowd is silent.
If the Liberals need to raise taxes because of out-of-control spending habits, then they should have the fortitude to tell taxpayers why they are raising taxes and do it in a transparent way. I suggest that they consider alternatives like balancing the budget by curbing excessive spending, by getting infrastructure out there, and by growing the economy so that they can actually have taxes that everyone does not mind paying, because again, growing the economy is how the government should be able to pay for important programs.
That, the motion be amended by adding after the words “overburdened by taxes,” the following:
“such as taxes on carbon, savings, payroll, small businesses and children's arts and sports programs,”
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today in the House for the first time as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and to participate in this debate.
It seems that my opposition colleagues prefer to fight the last war by focusing on a measure that the right hon. said yesterday we were not considering. Nevertheless, I must thank my colleague for this opportunity to outline the important tax measures the government has introduced to help middle-class Canadians.
The government recognized from the start that, even though economic growth has been weak in recent years, Canada has been able to meet those challenges from a position of strength. We are in an enviable financial position. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is well above the average for the G7. That means that we have the flexibility needed to implement our vision of ensuring that Canada's economy works for the middle class.
If the economy works for the middle class, it works for everyone. Measures that support the middle class are what the Canadian economy needs and what all Canadians deserve. Canadians asked for this type of measure and that is what we have given them and will continue to give them.
Since January 1, 2016, the government has been putting more money back in the pockets of nearly nine million Canadians every year. This measure was not just the right thing to do. It was also the smart thing to do for our economy. The tax cut for the middle class and its accompanying measures help make the tax system fairer so that all Canadians can succeed and prosper.
More specifically, the government has taken the following measures: it lowered the tax rate for Canadians in the second personal income tax bracket from 22% to 20.5%; introduced a 33% personal income tax rate on individual taxable income in excess of $200,000; returned the tax-free savings account, TFSA, maximum annual contribution to $5,500 from $10,000; and reinstated indexation of the TFSA annual contribution limit.
Let me very quickly expand on what these changes have achieved.
First and foremost are the personal income tax rate changes. Single individuals who benefited from the reduction of the second personal income tax rate will see an average tax reduction of approximately $330 every year and couples will see an average tax reduction of $540 every year.
Second, only Canada's top income earners are expected to pay more taxes as a result of the introduction of the new top personal income tax rate, that of 33%. As with other bracket thresholds, the top threshold is indexed to inflation. It rose to $202,800 in 2017.
Finally, the government returned the tax-free savings account, the TFSA, annual contribution limit to $5,500 from $10,000, effective January 1, 2016. Returning the TFSA annual contribution limit to $5,500 was consistent with the government's objective of making the tax system fair and helping those who needed it the most. When combined with other registered savings plans, a $5,500 TFSA annual contribution limit will allow most individuals to meet their ongoing needs in a tax-efficient manner.
Indexation of the TFSA annual contribution limit was reinstated so the annual limit would maintain its real value over time.
Another cornerstone of the government’s plan to strengthen the middle class was the Canada child benefit or CCB. The benefit will help parents to better meet the needs of their children. The CCB is simpler and more generous than the old child benefit system it replaced, and it is completely tax-free. In addition, it does a better job targeting the people who need it the most. I firmly believe that the many parents who receive this greatly needed assistance appreciate it.
This year, the CCB will make it possible to lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, more than in 2014. Since the CCB was implemented in July of 2016, nine out of ten families have received more money than they did under the former child benefit system, or an average of nearly $2,300 per year for the 2016-17 benefits. Parents with children under 18 will receive a maximum annual benefit of $6,400 per child under age 6 and $5,400 per child under 18.
Whether these additional funds are used for things like buying school supplies, covering part of the family grocery bill, or buying warm coats for winter, the CCB helps parents cover the high cost of raising their children.
The Canada child benefit will be indexed to inflation starting in 2020 so that families can continue to count on this additional support for a long time, with their benefits keeping pace with rising expenses.
The Government of Canada also reached a historic agreement with provincial governments to enhance the Canada pension plan, also known as CPP. This plays another key part in providing support to middle-class families. The government undertook this after the Department of Finance examined whether families nearing retirement were adequately prepared for that retirement. Finance officials found that of about one in four Canadian families approaching retirement, 1.1 million families were at risk of not saving enough to maintain their current standard of living and the risk was highest for middle-class income earners. Families without workplace pension plans are at an even greater risk of under-saving for retirement. In fact, a third of these families are at risk.
The government is aware of the need to help Canadians save more. Saving more will mean they are more confident about their futures and about their ability for a secure and dignified retirement.
There was a particular concern regarding young Canadians who tended to have higher debt than the previous generation and, in most cases, would live longer than the previous generations. They face the challenge of securing adequate retirement saving at a time when fewer can expect to work in jobs that will include a workplace pension plan. This is why the government acted to strengthen the Canada pension plan.
Strengthening the middle class and creating conditions for long-term economic growth are the government's top priorities. Tax fairness is an important part of these commitments and adjusting the tax system to ensure it is functioning as intended and contributing to an economy that works for everyone.
The basic Canadian value of fairness is also why, as a part of our international effort to combat tax evasion, budget 2016 confirmed that the government's intention to implement what was known as the common reporting standard.
The introduction of the common reporting standard for the exchange of information between national revenue agencies on financial accounts held by non-residents is an important global development. This multilateral initiative will help enhance tax compliance and reduce opportunities for tax evasion by those who seek to find ways to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Under the legislation passed by Parliament last December, Canada is implementing the standard consistent with our commitment to the G20, and similar commitments, by more than 100 other jurisdictions.
Under the new standard, the Canada Revenue Agency will collect information from financial institutions on accounts in Canada held by non-residents. Tax administrations in foreign jurisdictions will likewise collect information from the financial institutions about accounts held by residents of other countries including Canada.
The CRA will formalize exchange agreements with foreign jurisdictions, having verified that each jurisdiction has appropriate capacity and safeguards in place to ensure the confidentiality of its information. The financial account information will be exchanged on a reciprocal bilateral basis.
The budget also announced plans to implement a new requirement for country-by-country reporting. This is an initiative agreed to under a G20 OECD project that aims to address tax avoidance by multinational enterprises through base erosion and profit shifting. Under the new rules, large multinational enterprises will be required to file with tax authorities information providing high level profiles of their activities in each jurisdiction in which they operate. These reports will enhance transparency and assist tax administration in performing effective risk assessments.
Going forward, Canada will continue to work with the international community to ensure a coherent and consistent response to tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
In addition, budget 2016 also included resources for CRA to address tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. This would enable CRA to enhance its assessment capabilities through the hiring of additional auditors and specialists in order to have the resources needed to ensure all taxpayers pay their fair share of taxes.
Finally, our government is committed to ensuring that tax expenditures are fair for all Canadians, efficient, and fiscally responsible.
In budget 2016, the government committed to undertake a comprehensive review of the federal tax expenditures, recognizing that concerns had been expressed regarding the efficiency, fairness, and complexity of the tax system. This work is ongoing and at its heart is the goal of ensuring we invest to grow the middle class and strengthen our economy. We do so in ways that preserve our enviable fiscal position for future generations.
Once again, one of the first measures we took as a government was to lower taxes for the middle class, something that nearly 9 million Canadians benefited from.
We also introduced the Canada child benefit, which provides additional financial assistance to nine out ten families compared to the Conservatives’ intention of sending cheques to millionaires. We have also taken a series of measures to guarantee tax fairness, which is the responsible thing to do.
These measures are in response to our commitment to help the middle class and those working hard to join it. We will continue to work for these Canadians in order to build a stronger and more equitable economy where all families can grow and prosper.
However, as our indicated very clearly yesterday, this will not include a new tax on health and dental benefits.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to this motion.
I can say that we will be voting in favour of this motion even though we disagree with the wording, especially in the preamble and the amended preamble. I think we can have a discussion to determine whether this is a high level of taxation or not. We think it is not that high in comparison to what we see in other OECD countries.
As far as the last part of the motion is concerned, we agree that health and dental plans should not be taxed—at least not before the government presents a real context for the comprehensive analysis of the tax system that it is supposedly conducting.
It is very important to look at the tax system as a whole. I will quote from John Ivison of the National Post, who, after learning that the government was contemplating taxing health and dental benefits, wrote on December 2, “Dan Lauzon, a spokesman for [the] Finance Minister...said no decisions have been taken and that any moves would not be made in isolation.” However, what he wrote next was actually more interesting. It states, “The employee-sponsored health care tax exemption is being scrutinized as part of a sweeping review of 150 tax credits worth about $100 billion a year in foregone federal revenue.”
The government has said the tax system does not work. We agree. It has said that the tax system needs to be reviewed. We agree. However, reviewing tax expenditures, tax exemptions, tax deductions, and tax credits is not a review of the tax system. What the government is doing is once again raising the expectations of the population that it will address the real problem, the problem of fairness and equity in the tax system. People do not feel that it is a fair system. They do not feel that everyone is treated equally. By examining the whole range of tax credits and tax deductions, the government is saying that it has done its part and that we have a brand new tax system in this country. This is not the first time a government has taken us in that direction.
The Carter commission conducted the last real review of the existing tax system in the 1960s. I will not get into the details of that commission because many people have already done so. The review was very comprehensive and took a good five years.
The report was one of the most well-received reports in the entire world. Serious work was done to determine how the tax system could be adapted to the reality of the day. It is important to remember that income tax has been around since 1917. In 1960 or 1965, we still had a system that was designed during the Second World War. This was serious work. It was commissioned by John Diefenbaker, the Progressive Conservative prime minister at the time, and continued by Liberal minister Lester B. Pearson.
Prime minister Trudeau was the one who got it across the finish line. He took all of the work that was done and condensed it into a handful of recommendations, which were accepted. The very essence of the report, which was that every dollar of income should be taxed the same, got swept under the rug. In the end, a few changes were made, but we ended up with a system that falls somewhat short of the objectives originally set out for this exhaustive study.
I am reminding members of this little bit of history because we are now witnessing a similar attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians. The government is telling Canadians that it understands them and that it will do what it takes to make the system fairer.
However, the proposal to tax private health and dental benefits is a trial balloon. It is not meant to make the system fairer. Rather, it is a way for the government to take money out of one pocket while trying to convince taxpayers that it is putting money in the other.
It is a very important question because it is going to be a defining question for the following years not only for this government but for any government in this country.
The last comprehensive review of the tax system took place back in the 1960s. There have not been any significant changes since, except maybe some brought by the finance minister back in the 1980s, Michael Wilson, who made some changes that did not, in our view, bring any more equity or fairness.
In terms of a comprehensive tax review, right now there are 3,000 pages of complex, unintelligible legal text, which even tax experts, who spend their lives studying this, cannot understand. We are facing a situation, a system, that is actually counterproductive for our economy. It is counterproductive for our level of economic growth. It is counterproductive for our productivity.
I am not the only one saying this. Mainstream economists are saying that the complexity of our tax system gives anyone, any tax expert, the ability to actually build an industry based on finding loopholes, which makes the system less and less equitable, less and less fair, and it is actually a drain on our economy. One of the top priorities of any government at this time should be really simplifying the tax system.
Simplifying the tax system does not mean just bringing forth some gimmicks, like a single-tax rate, or a flat tax, as it is called. We should not just be saying that we will be revising those tax credits and will try to find some savings, savings meaning expenditures lost to the pockets of the taxpayer, the citizen. That is not it. That is smoke and mirrors.
In terms of the commitments made during the last election, the Liberals are showing that they are masters of the smoke-and-mirror strategy.
We saw this yesterday, in the much-discussed announcement about electoral reform, a lofty promise. They went after NDP and Liberal voters by promising electoral reform that would make every vote count. Today, a year and a half later, voters know that they were duped by this government.
Let us take a look at the Liberals' promises, especially those concerning first nations. This government said that it would cease the previous government's legal actions appealing rulings in favour of indigenous children and various first nations communities. These rulings force the government to honour its traditional commitments towards first nations.
My colleagues from , , and my colleague from northern Saskatchewan, whose riding has a very long name, are doing an absolutely incredible job of ensuring that this government honours its promises made to first nations, which they believed.
All the broken promises and unfulfilled commitments are beginning to pile up. Bill is another example. The government was going to change it, abolish it, or transform it, but nothing is being done.
Nothing is being done. Time and time again, the Liberal government campaigned on real change, but compared to the previous Conservative government, its real change involves keeping the decisions and attitude of the previous government.
The Liberals are saying that they are doing it in a progressive fashion. They are keeping the Conservative target for climate change, but those are progressive targets now. They are keeping the agreement with the European Union, but now it is a progressive agreement. Everything the Conservatives did, they are keeping, and they call it progressive. That is what real change means for the current government.
Now we are facing a situation where the Liberals have promised to simplify the tax system and make it fairer. They were right to make that promise and we are making it also.
Why? It is because the system is actually leaking like a sieve, because the system is actually so complex that, as I said, there is a whole industry built on creating tax loopholes and trying to take advantage of any poor writing in one of the 3,000 pages of the Income Tax Act.
We also know that the system is so complex that the compliance costs for businesses and for citizens are becoming higher and higher. They are increasing. It is becoming more and more costly just to face the obligation as citizens, as people of this country, to actually contribute to the well-being of this country. We have to do it, and it is a good thing that we do it, but we are asking people to actually pay more and more, because the system is more and more difficult to understand.
Even worse is that the complexity of the system is actually increasing. One of the main problems we have for our revenue situation is the problem of tax havens and tax evasion. Because of that industry that actually tries to find loopholes, some of them cross the line, where a loophole is no longer a legal loophole but becomes a mechanism, a strategy, for tax evasion.
It is extremely difficult for the Canada Revenue Agency, which actually I have been very hard on, and I will continue to be very demanding. They do not have the proper resources to actually ensure compliance with the very complex legislation.
Those are all problems that we are now aware of. They are problems that we need to deal with and which require a structured response from the government. It was proposed to the Standing Committee on Finance that it carry out an in-depth study of the tax system. That is what the motion says. It does not provide any details or direction. It does not give the Standing Committee on Finance a mandate. Work will begin next Wednesday. What are we going to do? We will listen to various witnesses, including accountants, as well as representatives, I am sure, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and other organizations. I already know what they will say. They will say that the system is too complex, that it has to be changed and simplified.
We will spend three, four, five, or six meetings getting all those witnesses, who will be saying the same things. How do I know they will be saying the same things? It is because I have heard them in the past saying those things. We would be wasting our time in the finance committee, which might be the intention of the motion, actually. We know that the finance department, and we know that from the 's spokesperson, is actually working right now on the same study. However, what they are claiming is a comprehensive tax review is nothing but a review of tax expenditures.
How many pages do tax expenditures take in the whole Income Tax Act? It is maybe a few dozen out of 3,000 pages. We have a system right now that is so complex, as I said, that nobody can really claim to master it all.
I think if the government really had guts and really had the intention of making sure that its commitment to simplify the tax system would be right, it would actually go many steps further. It might actually go, maybe not toward a royal commission, like the Carter commission, back in the sixties, but perhaps toward a blue ribbon commission that hired experts from various fields, including labour, business, and academia, and gave them the task of reviewing the system, because I have very limited faith in the finance department doing it.
I have very limited faith, not because I do not like the people who are part of it but because of the complexity of the task ahead of us, that the finance committee can actually do this work, because we do not have time to do it. We do not have the resources to do it, and we do not have the expertise to do it.
If the government was really serious, and it was not smoke and mirrors and was not just an empty promise that the Liberals will do little about, but claim they have respected, or simply break, because that is what we have witnessed since the government took power, they would look at the possibility of creating that blue ribbon commission, with members who are respected.
They might be divergent, in terms of belief or in terms of political leanings, but they will actually have the same objective, the same view, the same vision, which is to actually adapt an antiquated system, a system that was built in the mid-20th century, before computers, before the mobility of capital, and before globalization, and do what Carter did back in the sixties and adapt it for our times.
I dare the government to actually take that step. I dare the government to actually make us believe that it was not, once again, an empty promise to make Canadians feel comfortable about it but that it understands that we know the system is not fair.
Canadians have a decreasing trust toward the Canadian tax system. They do not believe it is fair anymore. They do not believe everyone is paying their fair share. Nobody likes paying taxes. We can all agree on this. It is always something difficult to accept. People will accept it if they know that their tax dollars are actually well spent, that they are spent for the common good, and that they are spent for the common projects we have in this country.
People will also accept it if they know that everybody is paying their fair share. When we talk to Canadians, one of the first things they say is that they feel they are being had, that there are two systems: one for the rich and one for them. The system for the rich, for the most affluent, is for those who can afford to pay some firms to tell them how to invest their money in the Bahamas, in Switzerland, in Luxembourg or in the Isle of Man, as we have seen, while they are required to pay.
Here is another example to illustrate how unfair the system is. Those people who hide their money away on the Isle of Man, in the Bahamas or elsewhere, knowing full well that they are hiding income from the taxman—if they get caught, they are told that it is no big deal, that they can simply return the money to Canada and pay the taxes that are owed and all will be forgiven. However, if a taxpayer who does not have the means to do that gets caught or even makes a technical mistake, it is a sure bet that the Canada Revenue Agency will not stop until that taxpayer has paid what he or she owes, in addition to interest and penalties.
We can therefore forgive taxpayers and Canadian citizens for thinking that there is a system for one class of people and another system for them.
The thing is that we tried to actually bring up this topic in the finance committee. We, the NDP. We did it in the past too with other NDP members of the committee. We are the ones who actually bring, constantly, motions to study the tax system and tax havens. The last was on the scheme involving KPMG and the Isle of Man.
The first meetings went fairly well, and I will say that all members were really into it. By the fourth meeting, basically all questions, except maybe from this side, were mainly softballs. That does not really help to increase the faith of Canadians in the system and the ability of this House to tackle this very important topic.
In brief, we need to remember that the issue currently being debated is one that the government itself brought forward, that is, the prospect of taxing benefits, such as health insurance and dental insurance, provided by employers. The justification for this was the need to conduct a systematic and thorough review of the tax system. When the pressure became too much, the Liberals rejected the idea. It was a trial balloon.
However, a systematic review of the tax system remains extremely important. It was promised by the government. What I am trying to say is that I am very afraid that this is just another promise like the one about electoral reform and all the others meant to persuade Canadians that the Liberal Party listens to their wants and needs. In the end, these promises were only meant to get people to vote for them so they could change sides and then manage expectations.
That is why I am hoping for real action from the government, either on the Standing Committee on Finance or through the department.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
We hear again and again, day after day, about how the government is going to help the middle class. The stands whenever he is here to talk about the middle class. I am not sure that anybody can believe anything that comes out of the Prime Minister's mouth, because he has not been very good at keeping his promises. Remember, this is the guy who promised just a little $10-billion deficit and to balance the budget within the mandate. Now we will see maybe $30 billion this year, and stretched out to 2055 that we will be in deficit.
This was the guy who was going to restore home mail delivery. We have not seen that yet. The various promises go on and on, such as the last election under first past the post. I could spend my whole 10 minutes talking about that, but that is not the point. The point is that the Liberals talk a lot about the middle class, but really do not even know who is in the middle class. I might be able to help with that.
In my opinion, the middle class is made up of people who are not poor and not the richest. In our country, we have a definition of who is poor: single people who make less than $23,000 or families who earn less than $40,000. We know who is rich. Those are the people in the highest tax bracket, which might be north of $138,000. There is a really good way to help the , who seems to have so much trouble figuring out who is in the middle class, so that Liberals could understand whether they are really helping them.
The latest suggestion is that they are going to put a tax on health and dental benefits, striking at the heart of what is important to Canadians. Canadians value health care. They think everybody should have access to basic health care. People need to be able to buy prescription drugs and get their teeth fixed, things the government should not be interfering in, because there will be serious consequences if we start taxing these kinds of benefits.
First, some employers are already squeezed. I will rage on that later in my speech. It does not take too much to get to the tipping point, when they will refuse to offer benefits anymore. Then there will be people who will not have any benefits at all. This is a horrible situation that many Canadians are already in, that they do not have benefits to start with.
Then individuals are going to have to pay an extra $1,000. My colleague, the member for , mentioned that people making $45,000 would have to pay an extra $1,000 if this tax were put in place. These people simply cannot afford to have additional taxes put on them. That is not to mention the fact that if taxes are put on these types of health benefits, with some people being less well than others and having a lot of health benefit claims, that would drive employers in a direction that is very dangerous in terms of determining whether they would provide coverage to someone who is extremely unwell. This is just a bad idea.
I was extremely happy to hear the state that the government was not going to follow through with this tax. However, with the question being asked 14 other times, hearing the skippity-do, getting no real answer, and then having everybody who responded to questions about that after the do that same dancing routine, I am a little concerned. It is definitely a bad idea and we do not want that, because people are already overtaxed.
A former member talked about the complexity of the tax act, the number of pages, and how nobody can really understand what is in it. When Canadians see their tax bills this year, they are going to be hugely surprised. All the rhetoric has been that the Liberals are helping the middle class, they have created a great child benefit, and they are lowering taxes on the middle class. They are giving people $900 and then taking away $1,100 for CPP taxes.
People with two kids in university would lose $10,000 of tax credit for education and another couple of thousand dollars for books. People who have two or three kids in hockey would lose nearly $3,000 of tax credit. A full-time employee whose spouse only works part time now cannot do income splitting. That is maybe $13,000. When we start adding all of that up, we are talking about thousands and thousands of dollars in additional taxes that people who have not been paying attention would not be aware of. When they get that bill, I think there will be rage in the machine for sure, because it is totally unacceptable.
On top of that, the Liberals want to squeeze small businesses, the generators of jobs. The whole point of going into deficit was to create jobs. Not one net new full-time job was created, but that was the whole point of all this spending. They started taxing small businesses, and that is another broken promise. They did not reduce the tax rate for small businesses. Then on top of that, the Liberals have added the CPP costs to employers, another cost that small businesses will have to bear. Now they are talking about a carbon tax. It is never ending.
The carbon tax will drive prices up on everything for everybody, for the people of Canada as well as for employers. When business people see their taxes this year, they are very squeezed. With what is happening in the U.S. right now, we are becoming uncompetitive. The U.S. is going to lower corporate and personal taxes, and it does not have any carbon tax. I do not know what is so complicated about this, that somebody who is supposed to be the cannot figure out this will make us uncompetitive.
I will give some specific examples from my riding that might help illustrate how this goes. With the threat of the Ontario cap and trade carbon tax, the $100 million expansion at CF Industries in my riding was cancelled. The company was quoted as saying it was for that reason. My riding has a $2 billion project with NOVA Chemicals that is scheduled to go ahead. It may create as many as 3,000 jobs in my riding. The company has said that with two levels of carbon tax, that project will likely go to the Gulf Coast. That is 3,000 Canadian jobs moving south. The carbon footprint does not leave the planet, but 3,000 jobs are moving south.
CF Industries takes natural gas and turns it into carbon dioxide and fertilizer. With the new carbon tax, it will be hugely burdened, and there is no way it can do anymore than it has already done. In the last 10 years, the company has made exponential reductions in its emissions and its environmental controls, and it is at the limit of its technology. With this extra carbon tax, we expect the facility will be shut down and will open its expansion in Donaldsonville, Louisiana where there is no carbon tax and there will be lower taxes for the corporation. Once again, the carbon footprint is not leaving the planet, just Canadian jobs.
In addition to that, I have a number of refineries in my riding. I hear the say on a regular basis how Shell definitely supports a price on carbon. The refinery manager in Sarnia—Lambton believes that with the two levels of carbon tax we will see and the environment right now for oil and gas, the company, which has six other plants in the U.S., could de-bottleneck and shut this facility down just like it shut the facility in Montreal a few years ago.
I hear the rhetoric, but once again, that carbon footprint will not leave the planet, but jobs from Canada will move to the U.S. The carbon tax is a bad idea, and the government really needs to rethink that in light of what is happening in the south.
The Liberals are getting a lot of advice from people telling them what to do. The Chamber of Commerce is the representation of all our businesses across Canada. It has said that a carbon tax is a bad idea as are these health and dental taxes. The Liberals are getting that input from the chamber. They are getting it from the Canadian group of municipalities, the FCM. All of these people are giving the government excellent advice, saying that it should not do these things, that they are bad for small business, which creates most of the jobs, and for the people. I do not know about the other MPs here, but I get letters on a daily basis from people complaining they are on fixed incomes and have no more room to move.
I am happy for an opportunity to talk today, but I wish somebody on the other side of the aisle were listening and would actually take action, do the right thing for Canadians and eliminate the carbon tax, reduce the tax burden on people, and reduce the tax burden on small businesses, so we could do what the government was elected to do, which is create jobs for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of my people of the riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke in this unfortunate debate regarding the latest tax target of the federal government, the 13.5 million Canadians who have private health care plans.
Increasing the tax burden on ordinary working Canadians represents a fundamental shift from the tax policy of our previous Conservative government. Under a Conservative government, the policy was to decrease the tax burden on ordinary working Canadians, particularly Canadians in the low to mid-income range.
While giving lip service to the middle class, Liberal policy favours wealthy Canadians, the type who can afford to pay the high admission cost to the pay-to-play fundraisers used by lobbyists to gain special access for preferential tax treatment.
The tax changes in the last Liberal budget resulted in the maximum tax break going to individuals with income between $89,000 and $200,000, with some people with an income over $200,000 seeing their taxes reduced also. So much for believing anything this government says when it comes to tax fairness. The 's vapid talking points on the middle class is another fake promise from a party that wrote the book on fake news.
One of the first acts of our government was to create the parliamentary budget officer. The PBO is a non-partisan agency with a mandate to provide financial information to parliamentarians and all Canadians in a factual manner. The PBO has documented for all Canadians the fact that low and middle-income earners benefited the most from Conservative tax policy. Conservatives returned billions of tax dollars back to Canadians, and we did so with a balanced federal budget.
Those tax changes included reducing the GST for all Canadians, a tax reduction that has been wiped out by the federal carbon tax and the decision by the Liberal Party to increase the tax burden on families by eliminating Conservative family-friendly tax credits. Our tax changes, as noted by the non-partisan PBO, were progressive, benefiting low and middle-income earners the most.
The PBO identified low and middle-income earners as households where the annual income was between $12,200 and $23,300 a year. Those incomes are much less than the $90,000 the government thinks is middle class. The irony is that the wealthy friends of the Liberal Party, who attend the Liberal pay-to-play fundraisers, are some of the high-income earners who fled the country with their capital when the Liberals took office, in the largest flight of capital since records began to be kept.
Low to middle-income earners enjoyed a real increase in their after-tax income at a rate higher than the richest 10% of Canadians, with Conservatives in government. Conservatives are the best friends of millions of everyday Canadians with just an average size paycheque.
Canadians, for the first time, are net creditors of the United States and have much to lose by the amateur way the government is conducting relations with our largest trading partner.
The Liberal tax targeted at health plans is the latest example, like the elimination of the family-friendly tax credits, and demonstrates, once again, the Liberal Party appetite for new taxes is insatiable. It will not stop until every last dollar in the pockets of taxpayers has been gobbled up.
The latest tax target, the subject of today's supply motion, is employer-sponsored health plans. The Liberals are looking to treat health plans as income, and tax them as income.
Health plans cover important preventive care measures like vision care, mental health services, prescription drugs, and physiotherapy. Taxing health plans could very well end up costing taxpayers money in addition to health care costs. As health care is a provincial responsibility, it is a sneaky way of implementing a tax grab and then downloading the social cost of this tax policy onto the provinces. It is sort of like the carbon tax two-step the feds just negotiated with the provinces, so the provinces would get blamed for their new tax on everything carbon taxed.
When the Province of Quebec began to tax these health plans, companies cut back and the number of people with additional health coverage dropped. With an aging population, the last thing we need is for Canadians to have less health coverage.
Just as with the Netflix tax, the Liberals are trying to spin this new tax by saying it is about fairness. For Liberals, the fair solution to any problem is for everybody to pay higher taxes.
Once again, the reckless spending of the Liberals is putting Canadians' health at risk. We need to tell the that health plans should not become the latest Liberal tax target. Liberal plans to tax employer-sponsored health plans will be especially painful for retired Canadians on fixed incomes.
Some companies still offer health benefits to retired employees. While more companies require pensioners to pay for portions of their health benefits, they still provide large tax-free benefits. According to a Conference Board of Canada report, the average cost to a company to provide a plan is about $8,330. Depending on how much pensioners contribute to their health plans, they could have an additional tax burden of $800 to $1,600 per year.
For pensioners on fixed incomes in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, already facing the January 1, 2017, federally mandated Kathleen Wynne carbon tax, this new health tax could wipe them out financially. If they opt out of the health plans to avoid being hit with this tax, they put their health at greater risk.
Seniors' health is already being put at risk by energy poverty. They do not have the luxury of avoiding the cold by spending a lavish holiday on a private island paid for by a wealthy friend in the Bahamas, as the did. The Liberal Premier of Ontario wants seniors in my riding to spend their winters in a cold, dark house, because the high cost of electricity means they are afraid to turn on the lights or the heat.
Retired Canadians paid tax all of their working lives, and much of it went to pay for Pierre Trudeau's reckless spending. Having worked hard their whole lives, now they will be punished for the son's reckless spending.
If this new health tax could hurt any of the Canadians who are listening to this debate, I ask them to share this information with anyone else they know who could suffer from this tax as well. We can stop the Liberals from sneaking this new tax into this budget, but only if more Canadians know about it and speak out.
The Liberal scheme to tax employer-sponsored health plans would disproportionately harm employers. The Liberals have never been fans of small businesses. They attacked them during the election. The cancelled planned cuts to the small business tax rate, and is now telling some businesses, such as family-owned campgrounds, that they are too small to qualify for a business tax rate for small business. If that is not enough, taxing health plans might hammer the final nail into the coffins of many employees of many small businesses.
When Quebec started taxing employer-sponsored health plans, it saw a 20% drop in the number of businesses providing coverage. Broken down by size, 26% of the companies with fewer than 20 employees stopped providing health plans, while only 7% of the companies with 500 or more employees dropped their health coverage.
After hearing from a number of small business owners who are worried about being the latest Liberal tax target, it is easy to understand why this tax will burden small businesses more than large corporations. Small businesses that can afford to provide health benefits do so by purchasing group insurance plans. The more employees enrolled in the group plan, the cheaper it gets to provide coverage to each employee. A minimum number of employees is required to qualify for a group plan, and it could be that if someone opts out the minimum level for a plan would be too low for anyone in the business to be covered. What is worse, if the health plan gets more expensive, the Canada Revenue Agency, which the empowered in the last budget to raise billions more in taxes by increased tax enforcement, might argue that the value of the benefit has increased and tax those left in the plan even more. If the tax rate goes up, more people drop their plans, and the group plan costs go up, on and on in a downward spiral until the company drops the plan altogether.
Just like the Liberal carbon tax, a tax on private health care and a Netflix tax will raise prices for Canadians while undermining innovation and leave us at an economic disadvantage.
Bad spending does not justify tax increases. The time has come for the current government to quit mortgaging the future of our young people.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for .
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his motion. As the clearly stated yesterday in the House, the government is not considering taxing health care and dental plans. However, I am delighted to take this opportunity to speak to some of the measures we have taken to support and strengthen Canada's middle class since we took office in late 2015.
Our government is committed to growing the middle class, as we believe that a strong economy that works for everyone starts with the middle class. That is why building an economy that works for middle-class Canadians and their families is the government's top priority. Budget 2016 introduced measures that built upon the progress that we launched with the middle-class tax cut, which I will return to shortly. In particular, budget 2016 announced the introduction of the new Canada child benefit. The CCB is simpler than the system it replaced. It is fully tax-free, more generous, and targeted more effectively to those who need it most.
Nine out of 10 families are receiving more in child benefits than they did under the previous system. For the 2016–17 benefit year, these families will see an average increase in benefits of almost $2,300, or about $190 extra per month.
The first CCB payments were issued last July. More than 3.2 million Canadian families receiving these monthly payments now have increased means with which to raise their children. With the introduction of the CCB, about 300,000 fewer children will be living in poverty in 2017, compared with 2014. This translates into a reduction of about 40% in overall child poverty, which is a major step forward toward the goal of ensuring that all children in Canada have a fair chance at success.
Finally, by indexing the CCB to inflation, starting in 2020, we will ensure that families can continue to count on this support over the long term.
Even before budget 2016, one of the first actions we took after becoming a government was to introduce a tax cut for the middle class. This tax cut is already benefiting nearly nine million Canadians. By reducing the 22% federal income tax rate to 20.5% for 2016, and subsequent taxation years, single individuals who benefit will see an average tax reduction of $330 every year and couples who benefit will see an average tax reduction of $540 every year.
To help pay for this important tax relief for the middle class, the government raised taxes on the wealthiest Canadians by introducing a new top income tax rate of 33% for individuals with a taxable income of more than $200,000 per year.
We also undertook further measures to ensure that the tax system is fair for middle-class Canadians. For instance, we introduced measures to address underground economic activity, tax evasion, and aggressive tax planning, as well as measures to improve the government's ability to collect outstanding tax debts.
Budget 2016 announced legislative and other actions on both the international and domestic fronts to enhance the integrity of Canada's tax system.
Also, to ensure the tax system is fair for Canadians, efficient, and fiscally responsible, we are undertaking a review of the tax system to determine whether it works well for Canadians, with a view to eliminating poorly targeted and inefficient measures.
Our government also wants to ensure that Canadians who work hard all their lives are rewarded with a secure and dignified retirement; so we are helping Canadians realize this goal. Budget 2016 increased the guaranteed income supplement, or GIS, top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for low-income single seniors, who are much more likely to be low income than seniors generally. This enhancement more than doubles the current maximum GIS top-up benefit and represents a 10% increase in the total maximum GIS benefit available to low-income single seniors. We also cancelled the previous government's increase to the eligibility age for OAS and GIS benefits, which will put thousands of dollars back in the pockets of Canadians as they become seniors.
We also took steps to enhance the Canada pension plan. Last June, the federal government and our provincial and territorial counterparts came to a historic agreement to enhance the CPP to ensure that future generations of Canadians can count on a strong public pension system in their retirement years.
At maturity, the CPP enhancement will increase the maximum CPP retirement benefit by about half, which in today's dollars will represent an increase of nearly $7,000, to a maximum benefit of nearly $20,000. Because of this, more Canadians will spend more time with their grandkids, rather than worrying about how to pay their rent. The Government of Canada looks forward to the provinces issuing the necessary orders in council to bring the legislation into force shortly.
We have made important progress, but we have more work to do. Canada must look to the future and provide middle-class families with the confidence, tools, and opportunities to ensure that they have a real and fair chance at success. Our government will build on the successes of the past year or so, and we will continue to make smart and necessary investments to spur long-term growth and strengthen the middle class.
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure I rise to debate the motion advanced by the Conservatives. I expected there might have been a change to their plans overnight, given the comments from the .
It is an interesting process. The Conservatives like to give a bit of a scoop, that the Liberals will do this or the Liberals will tax that, but they have really lost the theme of what this government has been telling Canadians. Maybe I should remind them.
One of the very first things this government did was to make it clear that we are here to serve Canada's middle class and those who are striving to become a part of Canada's middle class. That was demonstrated very clearly in the very first piece of legislation we introduced, which was to implement that tax break. It is interesting to note that the Conservative Party voted against the tax break for Canada's middle class.
The Conservatives can say what they will, but whether we are talking about our health care workers, many of our factory workers, many of our first time responders, Canada's core middle class was given a tax break. That tax break put money into the pockets of Canadians, and the Conservatives voted against it.
I would suggest that we do not have to take any advice from a Conservative Party that has lost touch with what Canadians are thinking and what Canadians want. I truly believe that the Conservatives have lost touch with Canadians. At the end of the day, if we look at the overall presentation that this government has made on budgetary policy, the biggest benefactors will be Canada's middle class through that tax break. There is also the Canada child benefit plan for our children, the additional dollars that are being spent on that program. The expanded on that quite well, I think. We are going to lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty because of that plan.
We could talk about the GIS, something which I have spoken about in the House on numerous occasions. Again, there is a substantial increase in what some of the poorest and most vulnerable seniors in Canada from coast to coast to coast are receiving. For poorer seniors, there is in excess of $900 a year more going into their pockets.
That covers just a few initiatives that were presented by this government in the last year.
On the other side, the Conservatives now realize they kind of blew it on this health tax idea, and personally, I think they were the ones who were thinking of it. It had nothing to do, from the best that I can tell, with the Government of Canada looking into it, and the made it very clear yesterday that we are not moving ahead with any sort of tax on health and dental plans.
Having said that, they brought in a friendly amendment, which was accepted by the Conservative Party. It was an internal change that they made and accepted. Now they want to focus on small businesses. The just finished going to town halls across Canada. I had the good fortune to have him show up in Winnipeg to participate in one of those town halls. That is real accountability. Please correct me if I am wrong, but can the Conservatives tell me when the former prime minister, Stephen Harper, did anything of that nature?
The former prime minister was inside a glass bubble and Harper did not go outside of it. Now we have a who is not scared of accountability, who believes in transparency. We have seen demonstrations of that ever since the last federal election back in October 2015.
What we hear is very real, because it is coming from Canadians. It is not only the of Canada who has town halls. He has challenged all members, particularly members of the Liberal caucus, to stay connected with their constituents. We do that in many different ways.
I will now reference something that I have commented on in the past. The Conservatives and New Democrats talk about small businesses. If we were to ask small businesses what they want more than anything else, they would say they want customers. The best way to get them more customers and more consumer spending in their stores is to ensure that they have more disposable income. That is, in fact, what this government has delivered through its tax breaks to Canada's middle class and those striving to become part of it. Hundreds of millions of extra dollars are going into the pockets of Canadians that are allowing them to increase their disposable incomes just through that program, not to mention the other two programs I mentioned.
Combined, the billions of dollars that are now in the Canadian economy are a direct result of this government's policies to put more money in the pockets of the middle class, which allows more money to be spent in the economy. Liberals believe that, ultimately, if there is a healthy middle class, there will be a healthier economy. That is, really and truly, what Canadians want. If the Conservatives would go outside of the former Harper bubble, or possibly the Ottawa bubble, and actually consult with constituents, they would find that the important issues before us today that people are really concerned about are issues like jobs and the economy, which continue to be of the utmost importance for this and this government.
The , now with the new , has done a phenomenal job reaching out to Canadians in many ways to ensure that the ideas being generated for discussion in cabinet, in the Liberal caucus, or within the chamber are ideas being generated by average Canadians. That is why I believe that we will be able to deliver a budget in due course that will reflect the wants and needs of Canadians.
We talk about tax fairness. There is no doubt that Canadians, as a whole, want tax fairness. I have heard members from the New Democratic Party talk about it, in particular. The last budget recognized, as I believe most of Canada's wealthiest people recognize, that they, too, have an obligation to pay for the many different programs that Canadians expect to be put in place and supported. That is why we increased the tax on Canada's wealthiest.
What I find most interesting about all of this is that even though there are substantial increases in taxes, in other cases substantial tax decreases, and, as I just referenced, an increase in tax on Canada's wealthiest, which we on this side understand and take that holistic approach, time after time, members across the way vote against these types of initiatives. If we listen to members across the way talk about tax fairness or dealing with the inequity of the distribution of wealth in Canada and then look at the actions of this government, it is somewhat confusing as to why they would not, at the very least, support some of the actions in a more tangible way.
A number of members on the Conservative side have talked about the deficit. The best way I can reassure all who might be listening is for them to realize that no one added more to the debt than former prime minister Stephen Harper, a total debt well in excess of $150 billion. We do not need to take lessons from the Conservatives. When Mr. Harper took office he actually had a multi-billion dollar surplus. He converted that awfully quickly to a deficit, and he never did get to a surplus position.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise today. I will make one solemn promise to the House that I will not scream and yell as I give my statement today on the motion. The motion says:
That, given the average middle class Canadian is already overburdened with taxes, the House call on the government to abandon any plans it may have to in any way tax health and dental care plans.
Make no mistake, this is and was the plan of the government in spite of what the said yesterday. I will acknowledge that he stood up here and said that there will be no tax on health and dental care plans, but given the events of the last couple of days I find it very hard to believe, as do many of the colleagues on this side of the House, anything that the Prime Minister says.
It is kind of ironic as well that today is Groundhog Day, because we are talking about Liberal tax increases and the potential thereof. Those of us who live in Ontario and those of us who represent Ontario understand full well the impact that the Ontario Liberal government has made with respect to tax increases and service cuts. I will remind everybody again that Ontario is the most indebted sub-sovereign borrower in the world. To think that we are not on that path with the current government is foolhardy, naive, and a mistake on all of us not to recognize that. Ontario is $315 billion in debt; $22,500 per person is the share of the debt. That is 50% more than California's per person share of debt.
The Liberal government has spoken about debt and deficits. The Liberals promised a balanced budget by 2019. We now see that is not going to happen. In fact, the debt, as projected by the finance department, is going to be $1.5 trillion in 15 years, which is going to work out to about $42,000 of debt per person, per Canadian. Let us think about that. Let us think about the young people, and there are some in the gallery today, who are going to be shouldering the burden of that debt. By contrast, the Conservative plan for debt was that it would have been gone by 2038, and there would have been a $1.7-trillion surplus by 2015 and a balanced budget by 2055.
The reality is this. We have seen this in Ontario and it should come as no surprise to anybody in Ontario that this is happening federally. There is one person who lurks in the shadows of the Prime Minister's Office who has initiated a lot of the failed policies in Ontario, and his name is Gerald Butts. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If 1,000 people do something stupid, it is still stupid. The policies of the current Liberal government that it is following with the Ontario Liberals are going to put us in a position of bankruptcy, in a position of significant debt. Those numbers are not numbers that I am taking out of the air. They are numbers that are quantifiable.
Here is what happens. Taxes go up, services go down. We are already starting to see that. In fact, I know that the Liberals talk about the budget in 2016. Here are some of the losers of that budget: the children; arts and fitness tax credits; the Liberals have cut the education and textbook tax credit; new mortgage rules making it harder to get approved for a home loan; a national carbon tax has been announced; Canada pension plan tax hike; cancellation of the small business tax cut; and elimination of the hiring tax credit.
The thing that really bothers me is that one tax credit because I come from a riding where there are a lot of single-income families. In fact, prior to being elected to Parliament, I was one of those families. The fact was that I was able to split my income with my wife by $2,000. The Liberals eliminated that. Therefore what the Liberals give, the Liberals take away.
I will remind the House that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
The Liberals give with one hand and take away with the other.
I have said many times in the House that effectively, what the Liberals are perpetrating on Canadians is middle-class tax fraud.
Why are we here today? It is because we hear this narrative all the time: the middle class and those working hard to join it. The reality is that when they pile on debt and deficit the way the Liberal government is, how are the middle class and those working hard to join it ever going to get to that point?
We have also heard that the cannot even define middle class, so how do the Liberals know what the middle class is? It is a pure talking point. If they say this narrative over and over again, it will somehow be true.
We talk about the potential for tax increases, in this case the employer health benefits and dental benefits tax, but there are others the Liberals could look at as well. I am talking about tax credits for employee stock options, a public transit tax credit, the Canada employment tax credit, the volunteer firefighter tax credit, the dividend gross-up tax credit, partial inclusion of capital gains, and the mineral exploration tax credit.
Do members know what buzz words the Liberals' use, again, as part of this narrative? They talk about it in terms of fairness and simplification. What does that actually mean? It means taking money out of Canadians' pockets. Hard-working, middle-class Canadians are having money extracted out of their pockets under the guise of fairness and simplification.
Aaron Wudrick, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said, “Unfortunately, there are worrying signs that [Minister of Finance]'s real intent is to use 'simplification' as political cover to hike taxes by stealth for millions of Canadians”. In the case of this particular tax increase, it could potentially affect 13.5 million Canadians.
The truth is that there is only one party that protects the middle class, and there is only one party that has protected the middle class for as long as I have been an adult. The Conservative Party is the only true party that protects the middle class, and it is the reason I am a Conservative.
The Liberals often talk about taxing the top 1%, but again, this is more false information. That tax increase on the 1% was supposed to be revenue-neutral. The reality is that in six years, there will be a deficit of $8.9 billion. Who is going to pay that? Services go down, taxes go up. Ultimately, the middle class ends up paying for that.
What is interesting, and I have said this here before, and I know that the member for has argued this, is the reality that those who benefit the most from the Liberal so-called middle-class tax increases have been every one of the 338 members of this Parliament. It is actually those I would classify as upper middle-class Canadians, those earning $160,000 to $200,000, who have benefited the most from this. Those earning $45,000 have received nothing. I urge members across the way to stop this false narrative and tell Canadians the truth about what is going on.
There are other broken promises. There was electoral reform. We heard about that yesterday. There were going to be deficits of less than $10 billion annually. We know that story. There was going to be a balanced budget by 2019, but it will not be until 2055. They were going to save home mail delivery, another broken promise. They were going to immediately invest $3 billion over four years in home care. They were going to reduce the small business tax from 11% to 9%, another broken promise, and scrap the F-35 program. I could go on, but I know my time is short.
By the time the Liberals are done with the middle class, the Conservatives will have to clean up the mess and build the middle class back up, just like we did before. The Conservatives did this the last time a Trudeau was the prime minister, and we will have to do it again.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion today calling on the government to abandon any current and future plans to tax health care and dental care benefits. We need to ensure that the Liberal government stands in this House and supports our motion, to give some comfort to Canadians that their health and dental plans will not be taxed. These benefits lower the tax bills of 13.5 million Canadians and cost the Liberal government nearly $3 billion in foregone revenue.
Until yesterday, the Liberals were planning to tax the health and dental benefits of Canadians. We want all members in this House, including the Liberal members, to support our motion and hold the to account on his word.
We have seen time and time again promises being broken. There is no trust. In the 's election platform, he promised electoral reform, saying over 1,000 times that the 2015 election would be the last first past the post. All we wanted as Conservatives was to have a referendum so the people of Canada could decide how they wanted to elect their representatives. Yesterday, the entire election promise was scrapped, citing “no consensus”.
In the 's election platform, he promised to reduce small business taxes from 11% to 9%. Instead, the Prime Minister chose to ignore that promise and say that small business is only a tax haven for the rich. Maybe that applies to the Prime Minister. However, small businesses are the backbone of this country. Over eight million Canadians are employed by small businesses, a number that makes up nearly 50% of Canada's entire workforce and over 70% of the private workforce.
As well, the has committed $7.3 billion outside of Canada, plus an upcoming commitment of $2.9 billion to an Asian infrastructure bank to build infrastructure in Asia.
The committed to all Canadians that he would run a very small, tiny deficit that would go towards infrastructure and to stimulating the economy. He also promised that the budget would be balanced by 2019, but we can see now that none of this is true.
This morning, the parliamentary budget officer released a report called “Following the Money”. This report focused specifically on the Liberals' new infrastructure plan. The parliamentary budget officer outlined several concerning issues, including that the Liberals had no framework to evaluate the program's performance and limited transparency on how the money is being spent. He also confirmed that there is a shortfall of $9 billion in infrastructure funding and that the government will not meet its economic growth and GDP targets outlined in budget 2016.
The Liberals' infrastructure program was supposed to be the key focus of their economic growth plan. This is how they were going to balance the budget. Clearly, this is no longer going to happen, and it is no surprise. The and his Liberal government have spent so much money that the books will not be balanced until 2055.
The financial federal debt will hit $1.5 trillion by 2050. That means that those who are 18 years old today will not see another balanced budget until they are 56 years old. Who will pay the tab? It will be the next generation, the generation this purports to be supporting, making sure they have jobs. That is who is going to pay the tab, our children.
Let us remember that the bill has to be paid. Let us look at how the Liberals might do that.
The Liberals have already increased the CPP premiums for employers and employees. They have scrapped the small business tax. Why on earth would we want to help anyone who is actually creating jobs? They have cut the contributions to the TFSA because seniors and young families do not really need to save for their future or retirement. They have increased the down payment requirements for first-time homebuyers to make it harder for young families to purchase a home and enter the market. They have squandered the $2 billion surplus and two balanced budgets handed over by the Conservatives. Instead of using a common-sense method and regulating or fining heavy polluters, what have the Liberals done? They have decided to implement a national carbon tax that will be paid by the taxpayer in higher home heating costs, groceries, and gas, while giving exemptions to those who actually need to reduce their carbon footprint.
The Liberals cite that this carbon tax is revenue neutral, but it is clear that it will only be revenue neutral for the government, not for the taxpayer. What did the forget to factor into the last budget? Indexing the Canada child benefit at a cost of $22.3 billion. He forgot to include the fighter jets at a cost of between $5 billion and $6 billion. He forgot health care transfers at a cost of $11 billion. Forgot a contingency fund at a cost of $3 billion to $6 billion.
Currently, the finance ministry is undertaking the review of all benefits and tax credits under the guise of simplification. The Liberals have already done away with the child tax credit on art, fitness, and textbooks. Therefore, when look at the economic strategy of the government, it is met with much trepidation. The Liberal government is looking for any and all ways to tax the people of Canada to pay for its out of control spending. The Liberals need to cover the cost of a $1.2 million renovation of the minister's office for Status of Women, another $800,000 for the renovation of the 's office, $220,000 for moving expenses of the chief's staff, and limousines for his ministers.
We must have concrete motions in the House of Commons to prevent and to try to control the Liberals' spending. We must curtail their urge to follow greed and their economic policies. We have all seen how that ended. Canadians deserve much better from the Liberal government and we as the official opposition will ensure that this occurs.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is my pleasure to rise in the House today to debate something that is so important to Canadians and the Canadian economy.
I would first like to reassure the many residents of who have contacted me, the Oakville and Burlington Chambers of Commerce, and business and labour leaders, by reiterating what the stated yesterday. There will be no tax on health and dental benefits in the 2017 budget. I have advocated for maintaining the tax-free status of these benefits since it first hit the news.
It is important in today's debate to focus on what our government is doing.
Our government has introduced significant tax cuts to support the middle class and those working hard to join it. With these tax cuts, we are restoring hope, optimism, and creating new opportunities for inclusive growth that will make Canada stronger today and for the long term.
In fact, one of the first actions we took as a government was to introduce our middle-class tax cut. Today, nearly nine million Canadians are benefiting from lower taxes on every paycheque. By reducing the second personal income tax rate to 20.5% from 22%, a 7% reduction, our middle-class tax cut represented a major first step in our commitment to strengthen the middle class, but it is no means the last.
Budget 2016 advanced our vision of a stronger middle class with the introduction of the Canada child benefit.
For families in , the tax-free Canada child benefit means more money to spend on things that matter, things like new winter clothes, or healthier groceries, or sports programs. The Canada child benefit is particularly significant in providing enhanced support for low-income families, including many single parents. In fact, about 65% of families receiving the maximum Canada child benefit are single parents, the majority of whom are single mothers. This makes the Canada child benefit an effective ladder out of poverty for hundreds of thousands of Canadian children.
With this new support, it will be easier for them to stay healthy as they grow, to succeed in school, and to succeed in life. Our kids will have more opportunities available to them to go on to raise their own families in a country that is more prosperous and fair. This is just one of the many things we are doing for Canadians.
These investments in Canada's middle class are already paying dividends, not just for Canadians but for our overall economy.
The International Monetary Fund, for example, projects that Canada will be among the fastest-growing economies in the year ahead. This remarkable performance is being driven, in part, by the middle-class tax cut and the introduction of the Canada child benefit, not to mention our historic investments in infrastructure. These investments are the foundation upon which we are building a better and fairer Canada in which all have the opportunity to not only succeed, but to share in our success.
If we are going to speak about young people and keeping them healthy and active, as the member of Parliament for , I am working with my community members to encourage investments and the use of active transportation, such as bike lanes. These investments are good for our economy, our health, and our environment.
Oakville's Crosstown Heritage Trail will receive a significant upgrade, thanks to funding from the Canada 150 community infrastructure program. The important investment in the trail and its pedestrian and cycling facilities is part of the federal government's activities to honour Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017.
The Canada 150 community infrastructure program will preserve and improve our community infrastructure so Canadians and their families can enjoy moments of culture, sport, recreation, and leisure for years to come. I am proud to see my community benefit from this program.
Thanks to the Canada 150 funding, residents in will soon be able to stop and read first nations information stations in Bronte Creek Provincial Park and along the Sixteen Mile Creek trails. The Oakville Community Foundation will be partnering with our indigenous community members to share aboriginal stories, verses, and culture revolving around the land, water and sky.
In honour of Canada's 150th birthday, I will be participating in many active and healthy events in my riding. ParticipACTION has created an ultimate play list to get Canadians moving, 150 activities that define our land and people, from sledge hockey to lacrosse, walking, cycling, skating, and more.
On my website, it is possible to sign up for my e-newsletter at MPDamoff.ca or visit my social media sites to find out what I will be doing and join me. I encourage all Canadians to go to participaction.com to check out the list, try as many activities as they can, and track their activities.
Canada's public health care system is an example of what Canadians can accomplish when given the opportunity. It is a source of great pride that not only sustains our health, well-being, and prosperity, but defines us as who we are. I am proud that our government is working with our provincial and territorial counterparts to finalize a new health accord.
In my community, the auto industry is critical, and the Government of Canada's innovation agenda will deliver on an ambitious automotive policy agenda to attract investment and position Canada as a leader in innovation in developing the car of the future. I am looking forward to working with my fellow MPs and colleagues from and on transit, and I know we will be sharing information about more investments very soon. We are also working together with our municipal partners on phase two of our infrastructure investments to improve our communities, create jobs, and grow the economy.
In my riding, I am fortunate to have many young people, who will become leaders in the community in the near future. When I speak with their parents, I hear the concern about their children finding good jobs. Each year, the Canada summer jobs program helps employers create valuable summer job opportunities for full-time students in Oakville North—Burlington while strengthening local economies and communities across Canada.
Employers in my community know how important it is for students to gain much-needed skills and experience and contribute to our community. Our government doubled funding for the Canada summer jobs program, and last year 97 students were employed across Oakville North—Burlington. Groups like Habitat for Humanity Halton Mississauga employed 12 students, who assisted with everything from family intake to producing videos for volunteer and donor recruitment; it was a win-win for both the employers and the students. I have been working with non-profit agencies and small business to grow this program in my community, and I am looking forward to another successful summer this year.
All Canadians deserve to find meaningful employment and earn a decent wage, including those with disabilities. This is an issue that I am very passionate about, and I have been working with my colleagues in Parliament to change the culture in our country so that people of all abilities are able to contribute to our economy and receive a fair wage for their work. Our government is committed to improving inclusivity in employment.
In budget 2016, the federal government committed to a full review of the Canadian tax system, looking specifically at tax expenditures, to ensure tax fairness for the middle class and to simplify the tax code. This is a critical exercise for our government.
The residents of Oakville North—Burlington and Canadians from coast to coast to coast recognize that the environment and the economy go hand in hand. They know that to succeed in the new economy, we must be well placed to take advantage of the growing renewable energy sector. This sector will be creating jobs for our young people and ensuring our prosperity for years to come.
I am proud to be part of a government that is looking to the future, not the past. Our government is creating jobs, growing the middle class, and protecting our environment. This is what Canadians expect from us, and this is what we are delivering.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to participate in a debate for the first time in 2017.
May I say, first, that normally I like to stick to the motion. The motion did read:
That, given the average middle class Canadian is already overburdened with taxes, the House call on the government to abandon any plans it may have to in any way tax health and dental care plans.
That was a good motion about this time yesterday. However, during question period, the Conservatives had an oops moment when the announced that this particular tax expenditure was not under review.
Just as a point of information, there are about 180 tax expenditures that are in the tax code. As budget 2016 announced—so it is hardly a secret—all of those tax expenditures are under review. Most tax expenditures are put in for perfectly good reasons. They are trying to achieve some sort of social good of one kind or another. However, sometimes they do not work the way they are supposed to work, and sometimes they create a whole other level of inequities.
Let me just use the one that we were supposed to be debating today, which we are now not debating today, namely the health and dental issue, as kind of an example of where there is an inequity that was probably unintended by the original drafters. If I am an employer with an employee and I have a health and dental plan, I can deduct the cost of that plan as an employer, and on the other hand, the employee does not have to declare that benefit as income, and therefore it is tax-free. However, if I as the employer say to my employee, “Here is $1,000 to go and buy a health and dental plan”, it is deductible in my hands as an employer, but it is taxable in the hands of the employee.
Therefore we see that there is an inequity that is immediately set up; hence the government's desire to review all expenditures on a continuous basis because of unintended consequences. Those unintended consequences create real inequities for Canadians. For Canadians who are fortunate enough to work for an employer who has a health and dental plan, versus one who does not, there is an inequity that is created there.
However, we are talking gossip, and the motion yesterday was founded on mainly gossip. It does seem kind of regrettable that the Conservatives would even introduce a motion based on gossip. The Conservatives have now amended their gossipy motion to read “such as taxes on carbon, savings, payroll, small businesses and children's arts and sports programs”.
The taxing of carbon is largely done by provinces. About 80% to 90% of the population already, one way or another, pays a price for carbon pollution, so it is hard to know what the Conservatives are talking about there, other than anticipated gossip. I have no idea what they are talking about with savings, payroll, or small businesses. Let me just go on to talk about the children's arts and sports programs, which on the face of it is a good idea, encouraging children to participate in sports and arts programs. However, it may well be that individuals either do not have a child so it is not beneficial to them, or if they have children, they would like to put them in a tutoring program or a reading program or something else that might actually cost money. Those individuals would not actually qualify under a sports and arts program. Therefore there may be a better way to achieve a social benefit by the review of a tax expenditure such as that.
The second inequity is that people in the upper tax brackets can afford sports and other programs for their children, but people in the lower tax brackets frequently cannot. Again, an inequity is created among Canadians based upon their income.
Therefore, what exactly are we talking about today, other than the Conservative posturing that would have us believe that they are the only ones capable of managing the economy and the fiscal framework. The mantra usually has something to do with taxes and hard-working Canadians.
The presumption of the motion is that somehow or another the Harper Conservatives were absolutely brilliant with their tax brackets, but if we compare the tax brackets between 2015, the last year of the Harper regime, and 2016, the first year of this Liberal government, we can note that on the first bracket, which is 15%, both brackets remain the same and are quite comparable, however, the threshold has moved up $500 under the Liberals. In effect, people have to earn $500 before they leave that 15% bracket.
The second bracket, and this is where the dramatic change is, under the Conservatives was 22%, but under the Liberals it is 20.5%, a significant change in the bracket, which is inaccurately referred to as the middle-class bracket. In addition to the drop of 1.5 points between the percentages, people have to be earning a further $1,000 before they leave the bracket under the Liberals. It is a double benefit.
The 26% bracket, which is the third bracket, remains the same, as does the 29% bracket, but there is a new bracket that is created under the Liberals that taxes income over $200,000 at 33%. It is a major initiative, and it is an attempt to offset some of the costs of lowering the brackets in the lower brackets so that there is not a huge hit on the fiscal framework.
The second major initiative was under the Canada child tax benefit on which the tax was eliminated to the benefit of nine out of 10 Canadians, including my own grandchildren. The rhetoric does not match the rates.
Then we can look at the fiscal situation that was passed on to the Conservatives back in 2006. Prime Ministers Chrétien and Martin reduced the national debt by $90 billion. Under the Harper regime, that was not only reversed but increased by a further $60 billion. So, $90 billion down by Chrétien and Martin; $150 billion up by Harper.
The Conservatives would like us to believe that this was all due to economic circumstances, such as in 2008. Actually, it was a self-inflicted wound, because, foolishly, against every advice given by every economist in the country, the Conservatives cut the HST. That was $14 billion a year, right out of the fiscal framework. The reason they did that was political rhetoric and nonsense. Hence, the difficulties we are now faced with, having to increase the national debt by a mere $150 billion.
As I finish up here, we are basing our discussion on gossip. I cannot support a motion that is based on gossip. I cannot support a motion that is based on amended gossip. The motion does not seem to understand the difference between taxes, tax rates, and tax expenditures. The proponents of the motion have no credibility on tax rates, on deficits, or accumulated debt.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to divide this speech into two components. The first component is that the Liberals have raised taxes significantly for Canadians, and have done that while increasing spending to unsustainable and crazy levels. The second component is that they have more to come. That should be of great concern to any of our constituents, because we know that Canadians are having a harder time making ends meet, and certainly the people in the province of Alberta, who are facing a severe job crisis. Enough is enough. That is what this motion today is about.
We know that the Liberals have raised taxes. Canadian families are probably paying about $2,200 more this year per household because the Liberals have increased the CPP premium. That means $2,200 right off of their paycheques because of that tax hike. Small businesses are saying that that tax hike will cause them to decide whether or not they hire another employee or let one go.
With respect to the carbon tax, not only is it a tax that affects every part of something like the food delivery chain, it affects everything. It will not materially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Liberals have not been able to show any price elasticity data showing that the demand would decrease at the price they have set. All they have done is increase the cost of everything for Canadian families. We estimate that to be another $2,500 per household. Therefore, we are at about $5,000 per household so far.
The Liberals cancelled the arts and fitness tax credit, so for anyone wanting their kids to play hockey this year, that tax credit is gone.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
What is also interesting is that the Liberals have cancelled the education and textbook tax credits. There are people in my life who are going to school and asking me why this universal tax credit, which helped everyone, was cancelled by the Liberals. That is costing roughly about $440 per person for those who are in university or studying a trade.
The Liberals also cancelled the family tax cut, which is about $2,000 per family.
Therefore, we know that through the cancellation of all of these tax credits, and the imposition of the carbon tax, the Liberals have significantly raised taxes. Regardless of one's political stripe, when we do the math to figure out how much that impacts our family, the Liberals have a lot of explaining to do because they have increased their spending on the other end of that, and for what? We are looking at deficits that we have never seen before in this country. This is not short-term targeted infrastructure spending for one particular project to get people back to work in a region. There is no intent on the part of this government to get back to balance. There is no intent on the part of the government to have any sort of fiscal sustainability.
I will say this. Canadian families or small business listening to this today are saying, “I have to balance my budgets and spend within my means.” All the government seems to understand is how to take more money out of the pockets of Canadians and spend it on bureaucracy. Regardless of one's political stripe, Canadians are saying that is enough.
Why is it so important for the government to vote for this motion to say that it will give Canadians some assurance that it will not raise their taxes? It was noted in the Liberal campaign platform that the Liberals would review all tax expenditures. This came up during the campaign. What does that mean? What is this platform commitment? What are the Liberals doing? I would say this was a hidden agenda, except it is right there in their platform. They are looking at ways to eliminate tax credits, those things that Canadians depend upon to make ends meet. Not only was it in their platform, the made an announcement that he would do this review. We know that he contracted a third-party agreement in secret, because the Liberals have not released the report that was done. There was a secret panel that looked at all of these tax expenditures, and now there is a list of all of these things to cut, which will raise taxes for Canadians. They want to do that so that they can take taxpayer money and put it into the hands of bureaucrats. That does not help Canadian families at all. That is math that I can do, and it is very bad math.
What are some of the things we think the government is looking at given its campaign platform and the 's announcement? Is the government going to eliminate pension income splitting? We are fairly certain that was in the review. What about the tax credit for employee stock options, the public transit tax credit, the Canada employment tax credit, the foreign employment tax credit, the volunteer firefighter tax credit, and the non-taxation of capital gains on principal residence tax credit?
Then of course there is the dental and health benefit tax credit. There may be those who are watching who would say, “Come on. The Liberals could not seriously be cutting all of this stuff. They could not seriously be raising my taxes.” When this issue came up two months ago that this report looked at dental and health benefits, it came out in a National Post article. I received hundreds of emails almost instantly saying that the government cannot be serious about this.
It was only after intense political pressure across party lines from average Canadians saying that enough is enough, the government sheepishly said that maybe it would not. I think the even qualified his answer in question period yesterday. Why did it take them so long to deny that they were not going to do it? It is because they were considering it.
What else was in that report? Why are the Liberals hiding it? The Liberals know they have spent into oblivion, that they have spent our grandchildren's future away, so they are trying to think of how to pay for this. They are not looking at balance. They are just trying to make sure that they can potentially get re-elected down the road with some semblance of order. This is what the Liberals are doing. They are looking to take their mismanagement of Canada's finances and mismanagement of government and put it on the backs of average, hard-working Canadians.
The people in my riding who are out of work because of the Liberals' ideological opposition to the energy sector are saying, “Enough is enough. First of all, you are impeding our access to jobs. You are taking away investment and certainty in the energy sector and so many sectors across this country. You are mishandling trade files. You are not doing anything to retain skilled workers in the province and now you are going to raise my taxes for nothing? Come on. Enough is enough.”
Why did we put this motion forward today? It gives the government an opportunity to stand and say, “Canadians are right. Forget one party or another; Canadians are right that we do not need more tax hikes right now.” Here is my guess. The government is going to say it knows what is in that report and what is going to be in the budget at some point this month, and it is going to be a large amount of tax increases for Canadians. I bet we will see many tax credits cancelled. That would have a huge impact on Canadians at a time when Liberals have no plan for creating jobs in this country. We have seen nearly 200,000 jobs in the energy sector disappear under their watch.
If the government wants to see government revenue increase, I suggest it look at the opposite side of the equation and grow our economy. If Liberals want to see more revenue come in through things like job-creating companies that are paying their share of taxes, then allow a fiscal environment where companies can grow and invest. Do not put more pressure on them through things like a carbon tax that will not work, or CPP premium increases. Allow people to have the fiscal space to take risks and to invest and be confident in this country. Right now, consumer confidence, the confidence of average Canadians that things are going to get better for them is at an all-time low. Why? It is because the government keeps increasing taxes and making it more uncertain for businesses to work here in Canada. That is just wrong. That is the opposite of what the government should be doing, but because the Liberals are so self-interested in their own projects and expanding government, I think they have forgotten what really matters.
The Liberals are so entrenched in the Langevin Block that they have forgotten what matters and that is the people of this country.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and address this important motion, and more broadly the issues around it in terms of the government's tax policy.
We are having this discussion at an interesting moment in light of what the government is doing. I am a relatively young member. I am the youngest member of the Conservative caucus. I know many young people actually voted for the government with high expectations based on promises made and based on the 's effort to strike an optimistic tone, yet we are seeing through the actions of the government on the economic front and other fronts the real cynicism of the Prime Minister and the government in the shameless way in which they are throwing promises over the side. They are throwing out their commitments. They are defending that as if it were not a problem, not a big deal at all.
The said in question period yesterday that he was going to do what he perceived to be in the national interest, not just act to tick a box on a platform. That shows quite a bit of disdain and disregard not only for the platform the Liberal Party ran on, but also for the Canadians who voted based on what was in that platform. We see the cynicism with which the Prime Minister has thrown the electoral reform question over the side, and the cynicism of the government's budgetary policy commitments. It made clear commitments to run $10 billion deficits for three years and then to return to a balanced budget, and yet there are massive deficits that far and away exceed those commitments, with no plan to balance the budget for decades into the future. That is real cynicism coming from the government, and it is hard to take.
The government also promised cuts to taxes for the middle class, and yet people making less than $45,000 a year, certainly the middle class and those working hard to join it, are suffering because of new taxes imposed by the government.
The Liberals' platform promised to lower the small business tax rate to 9%. The first budget said, “Well, we do not need to do that. It is not in the national interest and we are not going to be bound to checking boxes on the platform.” The impact of effectively raising taxes on small business does not just have an impact on business owners, but it also has an impact on people who work for small businesses. Most Canadians work for small businesses. It has an impact on Canadians who are unemployed, who might otherwise have the opportunity to get jobs working for small businesses.
The government also did away with the small business hiring credit. It passed legislation to raise payroll taxes. In so many ways, we see the government introducing the worst possible kinds of taxes: taxes on jobs, taxes on people of modest means who are working, who now will have a harder time retaining their job or finding a new job because of these taxes.
The government lowered the amount a person can invest in a tax-free savings account. The data show that those who use tax-free savings accounts are more likely to be of relatively modest means, likely because of the relative advantage of saving in a TFSA versus an RRSP for those who are of relatively modest means.
We have all these different areas in which the cynicism of the government is on display. We see how much disdain the Liberals have for their own platform and for Canadians who voted based on that platform.
It is ironic, because we hear often from the Prime Minister in particular about getting young people involved in politics. When we see these cynical actions of the government, it really can be discouraging to young people who may have volunteered, or who voted thinking they were getting one thing from the government and in fact what they are getting is the opposite. They are getting effective tax increases for those in the middle class and those of relatively modest means. They are also getting a complete denial of commitments the Liberals made with respect to electoral reform and other areas.
What we are talking about in this opposition motion is the fact that we have seen all of these efforts of the government to indirectly, but, at the same time, in a very concrete, practical, and impactful way, increase the taxes that people pay. Thank goodness we have a very effective opposition here, because up until yesterday, the government was musing about the possibility of introducing a significant tax on health and dental benefits.
Canadians may not know all of the procedural mechanics of this place. When the opposition proposes an opposition day motion, it puts that on notice a couple of days before. Today is Thursday. On Tuesday, Conservatives put notice of a motion forward that on Thursday there would be a debate about the government's plan to increase taxes on health and dental benefits. Then, all of a sudden, on Wednesday, the announces in question period that the government is not moving forward on that. If we had more opposition days, think of how well we would be doing, but, alas, we only have so many days allotted.
While we are having this discussion, let us recognize the reality of the timing of what the government did. I wish that was all it took to make this a great budget. We have improved the budget a little, but I suspect that there will still be issues in the budget that Conservatives take issue with. Perhaps the government will take their advice again and actually check that box in the Liberal platform by following through on the tax reduction for small businesses. Maybe it will restore the hiring credit to help people in my province, especially those struggling with high levels of unemployment, and across the country get back to work.
Let us hope that maybe it will reverse course on some of these major tax increases it has brought in. Maybe it will reverse course even on the carbon tax, a punitive tax against those who would like to heat their homes, a punitive tax against the mother in my riding who actually cannot walk to the grocery store because she has two little kids. These are the people who are suffering because of the carbon tax that has now been imposed in Alberta and that the government wants to force a subsequent provincial government, which some people are looking forward to, not to do away with. That is a real problem on all of these different fronts: the government looking to impose new taxes to raise taxes.
I want to draw the attention of members as well to the fact that over the summer the asked people to do a review of what are often called tax expenditures. Effectively, these are the mechanisms in the tax code that allow people to reduce their taxes by claiming different deductions. Experts have proposed all kinds of so-called tax expenditures to eliminate. We need to know what the government is actually planning to do, because I know a lot of people are concerned about it. They are concerned that there may be changes with respect to tax credits on charitable donations.
The Conservative government brought in a volunteer firefighter tax credit to encourage people to be involved in their communities and do what they can to be part of fighting fires in their communities. One of the recommendations from the experts has been to get rid of that. There is the public transit tax credit. Here is an idea. When we are trying to improve the environment, instead of levying a tax on people to improve the environment, let us cut their taxes in order to improve the environment. That was the approach that Conservatives took, to have a green tax cut instead of a so-called new green tax. In fact, when the current government thinks green, all it is thinking about are ways of taking more money from Canadians.
There was a proposal with respect to pension income splitting from one of the experts. I hope the government does not go down the road of eliminating pension income splitting. Of course, Liberals said during the election campaign that they would not, but maybe 2015 was the last election in which the Liberals said they would not get rid of income splitting for pensioners. Maybe that is what we will be hearing later on, because checking boxes on their platform just does not seem to matter to the or the government anymore.
Canadians are suffering because of tax increases, and they are suffering because of the shameless cynicism of this . Thank goodness the opposition was able to make a difference on this health and dental plan issue. Hopefully the government will start to listen to us on other measures as well.