The House resumed consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to have the opportunity today to speak to the budget implementation act. Ronald Reagan once said, “Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” That quote is often interpreted as tongue in cheek, but it is a fairly good description of the current government's economic policy: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
With this budget bill, we have an opportunity to discuss a whole range of problems in terms of the government's economic plan, problems that are well summed up in that quotation. I am going to address as many of them today as time allows, the first being the carbon tax and the carbon tax cover-up.
We have a government that is imposing new taxes on Canadians at a feverish pace. In particular, through the carbon tax, the Liberals are requiring every province to impose a carbon tax. If a province will not, the Liberals will themselves impose a carbon tax on that province. This carbon tax is not revenue neutral to the federal government, because we know that the government will collect GST on the carbon tax, and the Liberals have consistently refused calls from the opposition not to collect GST on the carbon tax.
The Liberals believe that this is the right approach, but they also believe that Canadians should not have access to the information they used to make their determination. We have an ongoing carbon tax cover-up in which the government refuses to give Canadians basic information about how much the federal carbon tax will cost. The provinces that have imposed carbon taxes have been, in fact, much more forthright with the data.
I would say that if the government has an opinion on the carbon tax one way or another, it should be willing to present the information and the analysis that led it to that decision so that Canadians can see it, agree with it or disagree with it, and have that discussion. Instead, it is a government that, on the one hand, claims to be confident in the rightness of its position, but, on the other hand, refuses to give this information.
We have in this budget bill the government moving forward with its federal carbon tax and continuing to refuse to give information about how much it will cost the average Canadian family. We know this will impose significant costs on the economy as a whole. Canadians have a right to know, the middle class and those working hard to join it have a right to know, how much the carbon tax will cost them.
There is a discussion on how we support economic development, which is always part of the budget and certainly is quite in discussion today. Our approach, on this side of the House, is to say that the best way to encourage economic development is to think about existing businesses and also to think about businesses that do not yet exist and could exist. It is to create the conditions for economic growth, for investment, and for new, innovative ideas, not to prejudge where those ideas are going to come from or what they are going to look like.
Government is inevitably poorly disposed to fully know where the next big economic opportunity is going to be. Economic growth does not happen because the government decides it is going to spend a whole bunch of money on this supercluster fetish we have. Instead, economic growth happens when individual entrepreneurs have new ideas, and they make sacrifices to make investments in themselves and their communities and their own businesses that then allow for growth and job creation. The approach we take is to favour simplification of regulations and tax reductions for individuals and businesses, especially small businesses, that create opportunities.
Under the previous government, we lowered the business tax rate, which actually led to an increase in business tax revenues. Business tax revenues went up as the rate of business taxation went down, and that shows that giving opportunity and resources and mechanisms to the private sector is how to create jobs and opportunity. Even the government was better off from lowering business taxes. We lowered the small-business tax rate. We had it booked in as being lowered to 9%. The current government broke that promise, and then un-broke that promise, at least for now, as a justification for some of the draconian regulatory changes it wanted to make for small business. The Liberals have an on-again, off-again relationship with supporting small-business tax reductions, but Canadian small-business owners know they can go steady with the opposition.
The way Liberals have approached small business to try to make these regulatory changes that increase costs and reduce certainty for small business is not the way to create confidence in our economy or to attract investment. Our approach was to lower personal income taxes, lower business taxes, and, by the way, always to target those tax reductions to those Canadians who needed them the most.
We cut the GST, which is the tax everybody pays. We lowered the lowest marginal tax rate. By any standard of progressivity, the tax reductions that the Conservative government made were more progressive than any the Liberal government has even talked about. In fact, we know from various analysis that have been done that the Liberal government is increasing taxes through the carbon tax and other changes, including the elimination of tax credits and so forth, that hit those in the middle class and those working hard to join it very hard. It also hits small businesses, the engines of economic growth. These businesses are not looking for a government subsidy. They are not looking for a supercluster. They are looking for the regulatory and taxation environment that allows them to succeed.
The Liberal government's approach is totally different. It thinks that the , in his wisdom, knows best where the next big opportunities will come. The Liberals then pick these areas of government spending to create economic growth, allegedly, while increasing the burden on those small individual operators who do not ask for government subsidies, but simply want to be left alone to create opportunity. It is asking successful small businesses to pay more so that other big, well-connected insiders will pay less.
We do not think that is the right approach, spending hard-earned Canadian tax dollars subsidizing business. We do not think that is fair to other businesses that do not receive those subsidies. We do not feel those policies are fair to ordinary Canadians, who have to pay taxes, that then go to already wealthy companies. That is the Liberal approach, which is subsidizing friends and insiders through corporate welfare instead of creating conditions that allow for long-term economic growth and success through innovation.
The approach of the government, on the one hand, trying to constrain the private sector and, on the other hand, wanting to then subsidize things is most evident in the case of its approach to pipelines. All the government had to do, if it wanted pipelines to succeed, was to continue with the successful policies under the previous government, which got four pipelines built and led to a fifth one being approved. The Liberal government will tell us that the Conservatives did not get any pipelines to tidewater except, except.
It was under the Conservative government that every pipeline project that was proposed was approved. It stretches the imagination to think how it expects pipelines that were not proposed to have been built. We approved pipelines through a strong, fair but clear and accessible process to be built. Under the Liberal government, it immediately acted to kill the northern gateway pipeline.
Canadians are probably wondering why the government is buying out and subsidizing one pipeline to the west coast, while it intentionally and then further through legislation is killing another pipeline to the west coast. If it just got out of the way, perhaps we would have two pipelines proceeding to the west coast. Certainly we would have one.
There is the energy east pipeline, which, by piling additional burdens and challenges on, the government stopped. Then, after killing pipelines, intentionally, directly through government policy, it decided that there was actually one in which it wanted to look more interested. We still do not know if the strategy is going to bear fruit. It is spending $4.5 billion buying the existing pipeline, not building a new pipeline or even expanding one. It is spending $4.5 billion buying existing pipeline infrastructure. Then the government says that it will spend a whole bunch more, billions of dollars more, on a project that when the previous government was in place, the private sector was quite ready and keen to build. Now the Liberal government says that it is going to spend all this money to build it.
What happens if it does not work out at some point along the way? It is very likely the government will just be pouring more and more money into something that could have and should have been done by the private sector.
The government's approach to the economy is a failed approach. It is to tax and regulate success, while piling on money in subsidy to everything else. We in the opposition present a strong alternative that will actually lead to economic success in the long term for Canada.
Mr. Speaker, we are proud of the tax cuts we have implemented as a government.
We reduced taxes on the middle class. How did we do that? By increasing taxes on the top 1%. We also reduced taxes on small businesses, and we are proud of that. We know the importance of small business in this economy.
With respect to the child benefit, we increased it, so nine out of 10 families benefit from the increase. Millionaires do not get cheques anymore, but that is because millionaires do not need the cheques from the child benefit. However, nine out 10 families benefit, and it has lifted over 300,000 children out of poverty.
We are so proud of these accomplishments that we have attained through this budget and previous budgets. Also, in this budget, as the member knows, we will be indexing that child benefit, which will start in July.
However, the member's speech today focused a lot on the pipeline question. I have two specific questions for the member with respect to his focus. Is climate change real? If it is, what is his plan?
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had an opportunity with this implementation act to build an economy that would lift everyone up, people who counted on them, instead of just the wealthy few at a top with their tax havens. Unfortunately, the Liberals decided instead to defend the interests of their corporate and privileged, consigning the rest of Canada to the back seat.
Budget 2018 and Bill reveal once again the Liberals' true nature.
I remember in 2004 the damage done to our country after 13 years of Liberal rule, most of those years in majority governments that accomplished little to nothing in the way of fairness and equity for working Canadians. Those Liberals made the most drastic cuts to our public broadcaster, did little to nothing in the way of implementing a universal child care program, nothing to reverse the devastating effects of colonialism on indigenous peoples, except as a last ditch effort to stay in power, and undermined the health care system with cuts to transfer payments to the provinces.
We hoped for more progress than setting the bar at red book promises unfulfilled. For close to three years now, the NDP caucus has been calling on the Liberals to actually be the progressive, positive government they promised us in 2015.
This bill betrays all women who believed the so-called “gender budget” would include much anticipated pay equity legislation, because it does not. The Liberals promised pay equity 40 years ago, again in 2016, and again a month ago in the budget speech. Canadians want to know when the Liberals will finally deliver pay equity.
Despite the smearing of its image by right-wing ideologues, the fact is that the public service has done more than the private sector in achieving gender equity in Canada. While there is still work to do on the equity front, women and men from historically disadvantaged groups, such as disabled persons, indigenous peoples, single parents, seniors, young people, and people of colour, are all represented in the public service workforce in greater percentages than they occur in Canada's population. They are employed at all levels of management and labour in the workforce more proportionately than in the private sector.
Labour researchers and academics have pointed out that this advantage is at least in part the result of the fact workers in the Canadian public service have union representation guaranteed under our Constitution. However, recent reports indicate that the equity and fairness established in the public service is eroding as a result of austerity measures, privatization, and contracting out. The effect of this offloading, besides being inefficient, is that public sector workers are beginning to experience greater levels of workplace precarity. We know too that this precarity impacts diverse members of the workforce who can least afford it.
We need to consider the legacy we are leaving to future generations, those who leave post-secondary and graduate schools with a burden of debt that is insurmountable only to face a world where jobs are scarce. When work can be found, it is more often than not part-time, underpaid, without benefits, and short-term. We need to give future generations more than the 's statement, telling them to suck it up and get used to a lifetime of precarious work.
Future generations will need a robust economy because they will incur the burden of supporting us in our dotage with their tax dollars. We need to seriously consider the legacy we leave. However, we also know it is bigger than that.
We need to take care of each other for everyone to thrive. We need to create a Canada where no one experiences the isolation and degrading health consequences of homelessness, poverty, or mental illness, a Canada with free and equal access to education, health care, child care, pharmacare, housing, clean air, and clean water.
We know what works and what does not. If what we want is to create a healthy sustainable equitable economy where every citizen has equal access to opportunity and is able to thrive and prosper, the Canada we know is possible, the Canada that can be, the work begins now, with federal budgets. Sadly, the Liberals' budget implementation act is even more timid than the budget. It offers no real plan to reduce inequities or build an economy that would benefit all Canadians.
I would like to take this opportunity today to speak about the ways in which Bill could have addressed inequalities and build an economy that would benefit all Canadians.
This legislation could have contained provisions to assist rural communities. It does not. The Liberals had an opportunity in their 2018 budget to help rural communities, but instead chose to focus on the interests of their rich friends and their own ridings. In the meantime, they tell people in rural communities to wait for improved employment insurance, cellular infrastructure, and broadband Internet access.
In just the past few days, we have seen announcements from big banks about closing branches in Burford, Blyth, and Clifford in Ontario, and Kipling and Preeceville in Saskatchewan. These closures will leave Blyth and Kipling with no local banking options. In Saskatchewan, the nearest TD branch to Preeceville is an hour to an hour and 45 minutes away.
All of these communities have post offices. A postal banking system would allow members of this community access to banking services that are affordable and competitive, not to mention profitable for Canada Post. In the U.K., corporate banks have actually reversed their opposition to postal banking, because they know it absolves them from the community ire they would experience when they close branches in rural and remote communities, which these banks say do not reap enough profit.
When will the government see the postal banking light? We will have an opportunity in that regard later this session when my motion M-166 comes to the floor of the House for a vote. I urge every member here to support it. We have the opportunity to make effective and progressive change, even if the government avoids it in budget implementation acts. We will have that opportunity very shortly.
A postal banking system would address inequality in this country, something Bill does not do, even though that should be the goal of government in a social democracy such as ours. Instead we see Canadians who live in rural and remote communities, Canadians with low income, and first nations peoples living on reserve forced to use predatory lenders or to rely on the whim of a local business person or local variety store to access their own money.
A universal pharmacare program would create equal access to life-saving and life-enhancing medications for all Canadians as well. I see nothing in this legislation that addresses that need. In fact, we continue with a patchwork system of access to abortion and birth control that creates inequality and forces Canadians who require those services to either pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs or travel unreasonable hours to access these services. Monday was International Birth Control Day. It is the federal government's responsibility to ensure equal access for all Canadians needing birth control, but the government has failed. Access is neither universal, equal, nor affordable across this country.
I give the following by way of example: the NuvaRing is available on public formularies in five provinces and one territory, but not the others; IUDs are available in three provinces, but not everywhere; emergency contraceptives are covered only in Alberta; and Quebec covers the patch, but no other province or territory does.
Canada has a human rights obligation to ensure that everyone in every province or territory has the same access to the highest quality medications. Why then does a woman in Manitoba and Quebec have access to more birth control methods than a woman in Saskatchewan? Making all birth control and all sexual and reproductive medications free for all of us is about fairness and gender equality. That is the reason I introduced M-65 to continue the push for equal access to birth control for all Canadians.
My constituents in London-Fanshawe do not believe the economy is working for them. What they see instead is an uneven playing field, where only the few at the top can benefit, at the expense of everyone else. They struggle to pay their bills and care for their parents and children in a community gutted by the loss of well-paid jobs moving offshore as a result of globalization, with no protection from either Liberal or Conservative governments.
Finally, this 556-page-long bill amends 44 pieces of legislation. During the last election campaign, the Liberals promised to abolish omnibus bills because they are undemocratic, yet they chose to restrict the length of debate on this substantial bill at the finance committee. This is not democracy and it is a far cry from the sunny ways promised to Canadians in 2015.
We can do better. We are here to do better. Canadians demand better. Do not let the Liberals tell us it cannot be done.