(a) the House has great respect for provincial jurisdiction and trust in provincial institutions;
(b) the people of Quebec are burdened with completing and submitting two tax returns, one federal and one provincial;
(c) the House believes in cutting red tape and reducing unnecessary paperwork to improve the everyday lives of families; therefore,
the House call on the government to work with the Government of Quebec to implement a single tax return in Quebec, as adopted unanimously in the motion of the National Assembly of Quebec on May 15, 2018.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am truly proud to rise in the House to talk about the motion we moved today. I want to thank my colleague Pat Kelly, the member for , for seconding it. He is also the Conservative revenue critic.
To begin with, allow me to read out the motion, so that everyone can understand the sizeable impact it could have on Quebeckers if the government finally decides to drop its paternalistic, centralist approach and instead start listening to the public, the way we on this side of the House listen to the public.
The motion that we moved today is fairly simple, and I cannot understand how anyone could be against it.
I would like to give some background for those watching at home. This is not something we made up. It is a fact. The only place in Canada where people still have to fill out two tax returns is Quebec. This is a critical moment in Canada's history. For the first time, all of the political parties in Quebec—the right, the left, the federalists and the sovereignists—and members of the National Assembly from the regions and urban centres voted unanimously on May 15, 2018, to say that they want to do the same as the rest of Canada and fill out only one tax return in the spring. No one likes filling out their tax return, but we all have to do it.
That is what we heard from people on the ground. That is what MPs, senators and our leader, Andrew Scheer, heard. Our leader kicked off his “Listening to Quebecers” tour last April and wrapped it up two weeks ago with a 75-plus-page report. I myself tabled the report, which details what the people of Quebec's 17 administrative regions told us. We are not making any of this up. We are just moving a motion that addresses the concerns and the wishes of the people of Quebec and those elected to represent them in the National Assembly.
Acting on that evidence, at our first general council in Saint-Hyacinthe last May, the vast majority of Quebec members of the Conservative Party of Canada voted to pursue this matter even further.
Last August, during our national convention in Halifax that brought together 3,000 members from across Canada, Conservative Party of Canada members unanimously voiced agreement with this resolution to support Quebeckers and the National Assembly's call to make their lives easier.
Is it not our job to simplify things for people, cut red tape and ensure that government is working for the people? Surely we are not here to serve the machinery of government and the Prime Minister's ambition, though that is apparently what the Prime Minister and the Liberals opposite would prefer, given how freely they spend our money. Does our money belong to the government? No, it is the people's money. Maybe we can talk about this more later, but the Prime Minister's never-ending deficits speak volumes.
The Conservative Party of Canada leader, Andrew Scheer, clearly stated—
Mr. Speaker, I want to apologize. I know the rules, but believe me when I say I got too excited about the upcoming election and I want to support my leader in everything he is doing. You are quite right, and I will try to be more careful for the rest of my speech.
The leader of the official opposition and, I must say, the future prime minister of Canada, has clearly stated that the day after a Conservative government is elected on October 21, 2018, we will begin taking steps with the Government of Quebec to ensure that all Quebeckers, like the rest of Canadians, will have to file just one tax return in March, when they tackle the task in the spring.
The Liberals and NDP will engage in fearmongering on this issue. They will bring up all kinds of stories rather than listen to the people of Quebec. We on this side will continue working for the people, because the Conservative Party of Canada is a party that recognizes provincial and municipal areas of jurisdiction. We support decentralization and want to put decision-making powers back into the hands of citizens as much as possible, whether that be the patients, the clients, the entrepreneurs, the students, and so on.
The ultimate goal is to decentralize powers and make the process more effective and less expensive to make the public happy. That is our job here in the House. That is why people elected us. They elected us to manage the money they entrust us with.
Barely two weeks ago, during a meeting with the newly elected Premier of Quebec, I heard the say that he would address the issue. Just yesterday, I saw two ministers and a parliamentary secretary unequivocally reject the idea by basically telling Quebeckers this will not be part of their electoral platform in October.
The good news is that an election is coming up and there are candidates working on the ground making a strong and serious case in response to the public's concerns. Our party is working hard every day to propose strong measures that also respect the distinct nature of Quebec society within Canada and provide additional tools to the Government of Quebec so that it may do its job for the people of Quebec.
Even as I give my speech, I hear our opponents whispering that these are merely electoral promises, but in fact, that is not the case at all. Conservative members have been very clear: the day after the October 21 election, once we are in power, we will begin taking steps with the Government of Quebec to ensure, once and for all, that we too can file a single tax return. We think it is ridiculous that our business people have to fill out and mail in two documents that have the same information. The same information is being input twice.
For our part, we believe in the expertise of our federal and provincial employees. They are capable of sitting down together and finding solutions for Canadians. That is what we do in committee when we have discussions, go out into communities and talk to people to find solutions that improve their quality of life. The Liberal government, the , the and the Liberal caucus, in particular the Liberal MPs from Quebec, who did not stand up to tell their Prime Minister that that is what Quebeckers want, do the complete opposite.
I encourage them stand up today and say that this makes a lot of sense. We will work on getting the to listen to reason, to common sense. He needs to understand that we work for the people and not for the government or for our own interests. That is not why we were elected.
Right now, the Liberal government is increasing the cost of living for Canadians by creating the carbon tax and by eliminating the public transit and the sports and culture tax credits. This is important to note, since people need to understand that it was this Liberal government that eliminated these tax credits.
This government also tried to tax the little perks of working in the restaurant industry. Some restaurant employees receive a free meal during their 30-minute break, and the government tried to tax this meal. Why did it do this? The government tried to tax these meals so that it could take even more money from Canadians. That is the reality. No matter how you look at it, the government tried to do this simply because our does nothing but spend, spend spend.
In all of his debates and speeches during the 2015 election campaign, the and the Liberal members repeated over and over that they would run a modest $10-billion deficit for the first two years in order to invest in infrastructure and that they expected to return to a balanced budget by the end of their term. This government inherited a $1.9-billion budget surplus, yet its total deficit now stands at more than $80 billion.
What does that $80 billion represent? Everyone in the House throws these big numbers around, but we do not really understand what they mean. Let me give an example. One year's deficit amounts to about $20 billion, which is how much it would cost to build 50 NHL arenas. That is 50 hockey arenas like the Videotron Centre or the Ottawa Senators' arena. The 's irresponsible spending over the span of a single year is equivalent to the cost of building 50 arenas. At a rate of 50 arenas a year for four years of deficits, that adds up to 200 arenas. The way things are going, every city in Canada could have its own NHL arena. That is outrageous.
The Prime Minister naively suggested deficits are not so bad, they pay for themselves, just like budgets balance themselves. We know better. We all keep budgets. We all work hard for our money, like the people who sometimes struggle to make ends meet. A deficit or a loan has to be paid off. Who is going to pay for the deficits? The public, workers, parents, citizens, and businesses, that is who.
Businesses are trying to create jobs, but they are stuck with a government that is sabotaging all our international relationships. Every business is worried because our relations with China, the United States and India, key players in our economic development, are at risk.
The current government is trying to take more money out of Canadians' pockets to pay for its reckless spending. Let me go even further. Anyone who has been following my work since 2003 knows that it was this type of situation that drove me to get into politics in the first place. I have always said that one of my primary motivations was to work on managing our public finances. I have three children. Most members of the House have children. Our children just want a better world and the same opportunities we had to accomplish their own goals.
The problem is that this Liberal government and the are burying our children and our grandchildren under a huge pile of debt, running recurring deficits with no plan to balance the budget. I do not know how many times my colleagues, our leader and I have asked the and the if they could at least table a plan to balance the budget.
When someone wants to buy a new house, a cottage or a new car, they go to the bank and meet with a financial advisor. They ask if they can borrow some money. The advisor asks them whether they have any collateral. Would a bank lend someone money without coming up with a plan for that individual to pay back the capital and the interest? Never. No one can get away with that, except the , who is managing our money so irresponsibly.
As time goes by, I think that Canadians are starting to realize that. It is a good thing that the election is approaching. On October 21, Canadians will have the opportunity to decide whether they want to spend another four years with this Prime Minister, who manages the public purse this way. The answer is no.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Alain Rayes: Mr. Speaker, people are applauding to show they are happy to say “no”. That is the reality. The party is over.
We are going to clean house. We are going to put money back in Canadians' pockets. We are going to work to make life easier for Quebeckers and Canadians, workers and business people, those who invest their money to create jobs and to support Canadians so that they can achieve their ambitions.
What became evident on this tour was that Quebeckers want a single tax return. We also heard proposals that would benefit everyone, such as prohibiting the dumping of wastewater into our waterways and our environment. In Quebec alone, there have been 62,000 incidents of wastewater discharge into our waterways. We want to put a stop to that.
We want to sit down with municipalities and experts. We want to invest in infrastructure, unlike the current government, which waited until the last year of its term to start making announcements about such projects. The Liberals waited for three and a half years. They talked. Now they are recycling old announcements about projects. Just yesterday, near my riding, they announced an investment in a Revenue Canada building that will not be made in the near future, but in 2024. What kind of timeline is that? It is not even in this mandate. They had four years to make their announcement. It is not even in the next mandate, but in one later in the future. That makes no sense.
On the plus side, at least it will be a Conservative cutting the ribbon, because Canadians have had enough of this government and this Prime Minister.
We want real solutions that will improve the lives of Canadians, which starts with this resolution. Today we moved a motion calling on the government to immediately work with the Government of Quebec to implement a single tax return for Quebeckers as soon as possible. Otherwise, we will take care of it on October 21. We will get things moving and support the public.
Mr. Speaker, once again, the Conservatives are playing politics by making empty promises that they have no intention of fulfilling.
My colleague from —who, I should point out, was mayor of a single-industry town in a region of Quebec that was hit hard by a difficult employment situation—has been accusing me these past few days of fearmongering regarding the single tax return.
What we are saying is that we are always prepared to work with the Government of Quebec to make life easier for Quebeckers, but we will not blindly do so at any cost.
The Conservatives would rather use fear, instead of science and thoughtful action. As I told my colleague yesterday, I need only remind the House of when the Harper Conservatives tried to bring in their EI reform. The reform forced workers to find jobs that paid 30% less, were far from home, and were in fields unrelated to the workers' skills.
I remember that their human resources minister misled Canadians, saying that her investigators did not have a quota to meet. However, Le Devoir got its hands on an internal document from her department, which stated that each investigator had been tasked to recover $485,000 a year from seasonal workers.
That creates a climate of fear.
When I see the Conservatives ready to dive head first into a matter as complex as Quebeckers' income tax returns and ready to do anything for a few votes, it takes me back to the era of the Harper Conservatives.
It will come as no surprise to realize that today's Conservative Party is prepared to leap into this single income tax proposal without doing any studies or collecting any facts. One would think that they learned their lesson given the results of the last election, and yet, away they go again as though they need Canadians and Quebeckers to tell them once more that they are not interested in their reforms. That is quite all right. There is another good opportunity coming along this fall.
Contrary to what the Conservatives would like people to believe, we are not fixated on one option. We are open to having discussions, but with the facts on the table. We are not going to dive head first into a lake without checking how deep it is.
If the Conservatives were serious about simplifying Quebeckers tax return, they would not have cut Canada Revenue Agency services. Over a 10-year period, they cut staff, stopped mailing income tax forms to Canadians' homes, closed service counters and cut call centre hours.
We are not the only ones saying so. I would like to quote a report by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada entitled “Undermining Tax Fairness”:
The single most destructive event occurred as a result of the 2012 budget when, in one fell swoop, $250 million and 1,200 jobs were cut from CRA's budget. All told, successive austerity initiatives resulted in almost $900 million in projected cuts and the scheduled elimination of almost 3,000 jobs.
I will take no lessons—and I mean none—from the Conservatives on improving services to Canadians. Today the Conservatives are trying to say that one measure alone will make it easier and more accessible for Quebeckers to file their tax returns, namely, instituting a single tax form in Quebec.
They are wrong. Currently, the federal government, nine provinces and the three territories have harmonized their definition of income. Quebec has different definitions, different rules and different exemptions. To have a single tax return in Quebec, either the federal government, the nine provinces and the three territories would have to harmonize their framework with that of Quebec, or Quebec would have to harmonize its framework with that of the rest of the country. Are the Conservatives going to have the same message in Montreal as they do in Edmonton? I doubt it.
What is the Conservatives' real plan other than to buy Quebeckers' votes? Spoiler alert: they have no plan, just like they have no plan for climate change.
The Canada Revenue Agency employs more than 5,500 people in Quebec and is a major economic driver in towns such as Shawinigan and Jonquière. Let me be clear: unlike the Conservatives, we are not going to jeopardize those jobs. Yesterday I was in Shawinigan along with my colleagues, the and the , to announce the construction of a new building that will house the 1,350 or more CRA employees in Mauricie.
We delivered a very clear message to the Agency’s employees and their families. I would also like to say that we reassured the employees we met yesterday, unlike what the Conservatives are doing. They are sowing fear. We are investing in Shawinigan because, unlike the Conservatives, we believe in the importance of maintaining and creating decent jobs in Quebec’s regions. My colleagues and I are working hard to improve the quality of life of Quebeckers, no matter where they live.
That is why we have reached out to our Quebec counterparts by making ourselves available to them. We have initiated bilateral discussions and confirmed our commitment to continue a constructive dialogue based on co-operation and respect. Most importantly, we have confirmed our commitment to action and results.
Since 2015, our government has increased major federal transfers to Quebec by $3.3 billion. Today, these funds amount to nearly $24 billion. As part of our commitment to protecting infrastructure, our government has pledged to lend $1.28 billion over 15 years to fund the Réseau Express Métropolitain, REM, a major rapid transit project that will provide the Greater Montreal region with a more efficient and environmentally friendly means of transportation. This loan is administered by the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
We have reached an agreement to transfer responsibility for the ports of Gros-Cacouna, Rimouski, Matane and Gaspé to the Government of Quebec. We will provide $163 million to help with the operating and maintenance costs of these ports. This transfer will take effect on March 30, 2020, and it will certainly benefit us at home, in the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands.
In December, we announced that our government would invest $230 million in SCALE AI to create nearly 16,000 jobs in this Montreal-based artificial intelligence innovation centre. This initiative is at the heart of the strategy of—
Mr. Speaker, this initiative is a key component of the government's export diversification strategy, and it provides irrefutable proof of our support for Quebec's artificial intelligence sector.
As part of our efforts to improve infrastructure across Canada, we plan to invest upwards of $7.5 billion in major infrastructure projects in Quebec over the next decade. Furthermore, in 2018-19, Quebec should receive $504 million for municipal infrastructure.
By 2023, $293 million could be injected into strategic initiatives in Quebec under the Canada-Quebec bilateral agreement implementing the Canadian agricultural partnership. Sixty per cent of the funding will come from the Government of Canada, and 40 per cent will come from the Government of Quebec.
The Government of Canada will provide $2.5 billion by 2022 for home and community care under the Canada-Quebec asymmetrical agreement on health care funding.
We have also made a commitment to transfer more than $262 million to the Quebec government between 2017 and 2020 under the Canada-Quebec asymmetrical agreement on early learning and child care.
We are negotiating new agreements to improve the employment and housing situation in the province. We proposed an investment of over $5 billion for training and skills development in Quebec between 2017 and 2023, as well as an investment of nearly $2 billion over the next 10 years to help respond to housing needs.
When it comes to immigration, under the Canada-Quebec accord relating to immigration and temporary admission of aliens, the Government of Quebec received $490 million in 2017-18. Negotiations are under way to compensate Quebec for costs related to the temporary accommodation of asylum seekers in 2017 and 2018.
These are just a few examples of completed, in-progress or proposed funding and partnership programs that the Government of Canada established with the Government of Quebec. We will continue to work in close co-operation with the province to strengthen Quebec's economy and improve people's lives.
Efforts to restore and strengthen ties between the Canadian and Quebec governments have been very successful on several fronts.
Rather than making empty promises, we, on this side of the House, will continue to invest in services that make a real difference in the lives of Quebeckers.
We on this side of the House know that access to services is what really matters, regardless of where one is in the country.
It is with that objective in mind that Canada Revenue Agency and Revenu Québec have long been working together as part of a collaboration that dates back nearly 30 years. This long-standing collaboration allows the two agencies to share best practices and ensures that all recipients of benefits across Canada receive the best possible service.
Contrary to what the Conservatives would have us believe, collaboration with Revenu Québec is based on a solid foundation and has resulted in concrete improvements for Quebeckers.
Collaborative efforts between the two agencies resulted in new, secure self-service options that were introduced in October 2018 for GST registrants in Quebec.
To date, the new service has resulted in over 1.5 million transactions, which is a huge step forward for businesses. Such progress would not have been possible without that close collaboration.
I would also like to point out that Canada Revenue Agency is responsible for administering a fair and efficient tax system that serves all Canadians, including the residents of Quebec.
It is with that objective in mind that Canada Revenue Agency has implemented a number of new services designed to make it easier for all Canadians to file their tax returns.
Many of these new services are designed to improve access for Canadians who file their tax returns electronically. It is clear that Quebec residents are also benefiting from these improvements, as more than 85% of Quebec taxpayers file electronically. Many services such as auto-fill my return, file my return, express NOA and ReFILE have already been put in place to make it easier for Canadians to file their returns.
Other benefits for Quebec residents include updates to the tax preparation software to make it easier to complete both forms. The basic information that is the same for each form can be automatically generated using the new features. That is what co-operation with Quebec looks like.
The important thing is to ensure that Canadians receive the best possible services so that they can easily file their income tax returns and receive the benefits and tax credits they are entitled to. We will never renege on that commitment.
Where were the Conservatives for 10 years? They were certainly not in the Gaspé or the Magdalen Islands. For 10 years, they terrorized seasonal workers in my riding by treating them like criminals, when all they did was apply for employment insurance. For 10 years, they totally ignored our crucial fishing sector. For 10 years, they neglected rural infrastructure. For 10 years, they treated the people in my riding like second-class citizens. That is the Conservative legacy for people here and other regions of Quebec. There is no difference between the Harper Conservatives and today’s Conservatives.
It was their leader himself who said he was “Harper with a smile”, “Harper 2.0”. That is scary.
In the coming months, we will see two categories of Conservative promises: promises in Quebec and promises in the rest of Canada.
Divide and conquer is the same tactic that Canadians rejected in 2015, and it is the same tactic that they will reject again in October.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the issue.
I am pleased to remind parliamentarians and all Canadians that it was our party that began the debate in Canada a year and a half ago with our “Listening to Quebeckers” tour. It was our party, gathered for a provincial convention with nearly 500 people, that decided to propose the idea of having a single tax return. After that the four parties at the National Assembly voted in favour of our proposal. Then there were the 3,000 party supporters from coast to coast, from British Columbia to Newfoundland, the vast majority of whom, or 90%, voted in favour of this proposal. Contrary to what some are saying, people in Vancouver, Quebec City, or St. John's, Newfoundland, are saying the same thing in English and French.
Earlier, the minister spoke about the good relations between Quebec and Ottawa and between Ottawa and the premier. I am not sure that the Minister of Revenue heard what her boss said earlier. He was, once again, fearmongering, saying that jobs would be lost. Our leader, the future prime minister of Canada, was very clear, just 10 days ago in Montreal. No public servants will be laid off. Anyone who claims the opposite is flat out lying.
Why does the minister think that everything is going well with Quebec, when this morning, her leader, her , and, unfortunately ours for the remaining months, once again sowed the seeds of fear in Quebeckers and directly attacked the duly elected Premier of Quebec?
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to speak to the opposition motion moved by the Conservatives. I, too, moved a motion yesterday, but on a different matter. I am pleased that the Conservatives are changing the subject. They are obsessed with taxes, a balanced budget and the carbon tax. They are always harping on these three topics, but there is never a substantive debate or any concrete proposals. They just keep rehashing ideas.
That is why they deserve some credit for deciding to debate a very interesting subject. Much has been written publicly about this issue, which has drawn the attention of several stakeholders, especially the Government of Quebec. The National Assembly of Quebec has also taken an interest in this matter. The Conservatives are finally interested in having a serious debate on an important issue, rather than fruitless debates on the same subjects every day.
The idea behind the single tax return is that Quebec taxpayers would be treated the same as taxpayers in the other Canadian provinces and territories, who file a single tax return every year. This return is processed by Ottawa, and the tax revenue is then distributed to the provinces, based on their individual tax rates.
This issue has been raised in the public arena in the interest of fairness. A number of stakeholders, such as accountants and people who have an interest in tax collection and the effectiveness of this system, started to talk about it to see what could be done to make life easier for Canadians and, in this case, for Quebeckers.
I think that, ultimately, every member in this House has good intentions and wants to make life easier for Canadians. Taxpayers in other provinces definitely have it easier when it comes to filing taxes. There are a number of potential solutions for making life easier for taxpayers by allowing them to submit a single tax return.
That is why this idea has stuck around for years through good times and bad, but it was only when the NDP brought it up that it became a hot topic. No offence to the Conservatives and the member for , who wanted to take all the credit for being the first to raise the issue, but this idea has been around for a long time, and it was the NDP that first proposed exploring it. Initially, the idea was to explore it in Ottawa, and then the NDP adopted a resolution during its February 2018 national convention to make this proposal.
I will now read the resolution adopted in February 2018, well before Quebec's National Assembly voted on the issue on May 15, 2018. A lot happened between February and May. For example, the Conservatives realized they might want to take an interest in this idea. Our resolution read as follows:
WHEREAS having two tax returns in Quebec is costly, inefficient and an exception in Canada; WHEREAS simplifying Quebeckers' returns would result in major savings in public funds; WHEREAS having a single tax return would enable taxpayers and businesses in Quebec to save time and money; WHEREAS having a single tax return would enhance Quebec's fiscal autonomy, which is perfectly consistent with the principles set forth in the Sherbrooke declaration...
Let me just note that the Sherbrooke declaration is part of our official policy. Without getting into too much detail, it respects Quebec's autonomy and its decisions. I will continue with the resolution.
...WHEREAS various stakeholders and specialists have worked to bring about this change for many years; WHEREAS the Government of Quebec is already responsible for collecting GST for the federal government...
This is where we get to the heart of the matter, our February 2018 resolution, which reads as follows:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the NDP propose the idea of a single tax return administered by the Government of Quebec, which would subsequently transfer federal tax to the federal government.
Today, I want to focus on the second “be it resolved” statement in the convention resolution, which shows the merits of the work done by members of the NDP before proposing this resolution. It states:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the implementation of this idea must not result in a loss of employment within the federal public service, and therefore this policy proposal must be made in collaboration with the unions and representatives of federal public servants.
The second part of the resolution specifically seeks to ensure that the federal government collaborates with representatives of federal public servants so that this idea is implemented without any jobs being lost in Quebec. The potential loss of jobs in Quebec if this proposal is adopted is something that keeps coming up in today's debate. This condition was put in place by members at the convention. Their intelligence and quick thinking led them to include this condition in the resolution to ensure the maintenance of these high-quality, well-paying jobs, which are an economic driver for the regions.
The NDP then took steps to find the ideal solution, one that would make life easier for Quebeckers while protecting federal public service workers, particularly those working for the Canada Revenue Agency in Quebec’s regions. That was when we started a frank and open discussion with union representatives to explore the viability of this idea. During these long discussions, we came to understand that, if this proposal were implemented under the current circumstances, there would be few options for safeguarding jobs in Quebec. There are several reasons for this.
It would not be possible to transfer employees from the Government of Canada to the Government of Quebec. Jobs cannot be transferred to Revenu Québec to handle the resulting workload, because the conditions of employment and benefits are very different. Another solution that was explored was to offer alternative assignments to the affected CRA employees. Again, employees have skills in different areas, whether it be audits, collections or investigations. They do not all have the same skills, and they cannot learn to do another employee’s job overnight. They cannot exchange work, because certain skills and requirements are needed for certain positions. It was obvious that this was not a good option.
We therefore realized that, under the current circumstances, it is difficult to support this proposal because we cannot meet the condition of protecting jobs in Quebec.
Today, the Conservatives are raising the same issue in their motion. I have the impression that they are taking up the issue for reasons different from ours, reasons that they have not admitted.
At the end of my speech, I will propose an amendment to the main motion. It will allow us to see the Conservatives' true colours. The amendment seeks to protect the federal public service jobs in Quebec. The Conservatives say that they want to protect jobs. They keep saying that their leader has said as much in various forums, that the jobs will be protected, that the federal public service employees need not worry, that everything will work out and there will be no job losses. We shall see whether the Conservative leader's words translate into action and into protecting the federal public service jobs in the text of the motion. It is all well and good to say that these jobs will be protected, that no one needs to worry, and that all CRA employees will be able to keep their jobs. When it is time to put their money where their mouth is, we will see how they really feel about this issue. We will finally see the Conservatives' true colours.
Although they will not admit it, the real reason the Conservatives proposed this motion is that they want to bring back the austerity of 2011. If that is not true, let them prove it. If they do not support this amendment, then we will see that the real goal of the Conservatives' motion is to bring back the austerity of 2011, when thousands of federal public service jobs were slashed on the pretext of balancing the budget. That is what we are going to see in the 2019 election campaign. They are going to propose an austerity agenda in order to balance the budget by cutting public services and public service jobs. According to current figures, 5,000 federal employees of the Canada Revenue Agency are located in Quebec. That is why the jumped on this proposal. He spotted his chance. Here are 5,000 jobs that can be axed overnight, using Quebec's request for a single tax return as an excuse.
The Conservative leader thought that would be a key piece of his election platform to achieve a balanced budget once he is elected to power. What the Conservatives will not admit, is that the single income tax return has the support of the Conservative leader and Conservative MPs across the country because they see this as an opportunity to introduce a new austerity program. Here is a chance to easily get rid of 5000 jobs that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. That is the real reason why the Conservatives support this motion. We will see what they say later. If they accept my amendment, we will see that they are more concerned about the overall public well-being by making Quebeckers’ lives easier and protecting good jobs that drive the economy in important regions, including that of my Conservative colleague from . I think he would be very sad to see the Conservatives vote against an amendment that aims to protect jobs. He must receive a lot of phone calls and emails from his constituents. He will have the opportunity to say it later in his speech. I think that his constituents will be concerned about the motion if we do not include a condition protecting jobs. The Conservatives will have their say, and we will see what they really believe in.
A large number of taxpayers are angry. They are angry because of they way our tax system is managed in general. Taxpayers who pay taxes every year usually tell me that they are angry with the Liberal government’s laissez-faire approach toward those who are better off, those who can afford to hire lawyers, tax specialists and accountants specializing in tax avoidance. They are angry, and that is why they insist that the government listen to their demands. These taxpayers do everything they can to pay their taxes when they are due. Sometimes, because of errors made in good faith or because of an omission in a form, they are set upon in record time by the Revenue Agency demanding arrears plus interest. However, they read in the paper that wealthy taxpayers, who do business with companies like KPMG, create tax evasion schemes with the Isle of Man to send their money to another country where income tax rates are low if not non-existent.
A major scheme of this sort was uncovered by the Canada Revenue Agency. These millionaire taxpayers are given amnesty or backroom settlements. A secret deal is made, and everything is settled. They are asked to pay what they have owed for a number of years, then the books are closed, all is forgotten and they go on as if nothing had happened.
The Canada Revenue agency never offers the average taxpayer this sweet deal. The average taxpayer is pursued and hounded by public servants who do what the Canada Revenue Agency asks them to do. It is not their fault, but they do their job and hound taxpayers.
The goes after people with disabilities who merely want the tax credit for persons with disabilities. She treats them like criminals. Earlier, the minister said that agency employees, victims of Stephen Harper’s EI reform, were viewed as criminals.
That is exactly what the Minister of National Revenue is doing to people with disabilities who claim their tax credit. They are seen as criminals who want to take advantage of the system.
Standing here today, I understand why taxpayers are angry and why they are insisting that the government be more attentive to their demands. This motion is an important potential solution. We must consider it and continue to try to find a solution to make Quebeckers' lives easier while protecting jobs in Quebec.
That is why we adopted a responsible approach. We did our homework, discussed the issue and spoke with the people involved in order to help simplify the lives of Quebecers filling out their income tax returns.
The Conservatives have not done that. We will see later on where they stand on the issue of protecting jobs.
We assumed our responsibilities and did our homework, unlike the government. Rather than doing its homework, sitting down, reading the documentation and speaking to representatives of Quebec and the union representing employees, it decided to shut the door without discussion, as if making Quebeckers' lives easier were unnecessary and not a priority, despite what my constituents in are telling me. I am certain that, in all of my colleagues’ ridings, people are saying that they want to simplify their tax returns.
The government simply refused, as it has in other areas, and slammed the door on Quebec. It said no thanks, it is not interested in Quebec’s proposal, since it does not agree with it. End of discussion.
That is a prime example of the government's condescending attitude towards Quebec. It is the same condescending attitude we have seen in several other areas when it comes to respecting Quebec and its autonomy.
That is very different from our respectful approach, which aims to find effective solutions for Canadians who pay their income tax every year and act very responsibly and in good faith—only to be slapped on the wrist at the first opportunity. That is why the underlying principle is good. We want to simplify life for Quebeckers and at the same time respect public servants.
Since my speech is coming to a close, I move, seconded by the member for , the amendment that will show us what the Conservatives really believe in: I move that the motion be amended by adding the following after the words “May 15, 2018”: and must not result in a loss of employment within the federal public service.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
First off I would like to point out to the government that many employees at the Jonquière tax centre fear that their centre will be sacrificed in favour of the one in Shawinigan. Their level of concern following yesterday’s announcement of a new, larger, modern building, has increased tenfold.
I would also like to remind my colleagues that, despite the 's promise to build a respectful relationship with federal public servants, the fact remains that negotiations for CRA employees’ next collective agreement are at a standstill. That is another broken promise, and another mistake made by the Liberal government.
Conservatives keep their promises. That is why, in the first term of a Conservative government, we will introduce a single tax return after negotiating with Quebec, while maintaining employment levels at the Gilles-Marceau building in Jonquière.
I therefore support the motion introduced by my colleague, the hon. member for , which asks the government to work in tandem with the Quebec government to introduce a single tax return.
The Conservative Party is the party that is most attentive to the provinces and regions. We believe in the importance of good, stable jobs and the benefits of decentralizing the economy in favour of the regions.
Come tax time, the Canada Revenue Agency employs almost 1,000 people at the Jonquière tax centre in the riding next to mine. A number of these brave workers live in my riding and studied at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, also located in my riding.
Yesterday, the members of the Saguenay city council ratified a resolution asking the Premier of Quebec to formally commit to maintaining current employment levels at the Jonquière tax centre should Quebec introduce a single tax return.
Although I appreciate the level of confidence of the members of the Saguenay city council, with a newly elected Conservative government attentive to Quebeckers’ needs in October 2019, there will still be work to be done.
The motion asks the government to work in tandem with the Quebec government to introduce a single tax return.
The process will have to be negotiated, and will be implemented gradually. The Conservative Party undertakes to harness the expertise of the Canada Revenue Agency and ensure that the transition does not involve any job losses in Quebec’s regions.
To be even more clear, the level of employment at the Gilles-Marceau building in Jonquière will be maintained. My leader, a real honest leader who takes his responsibilities, has said so. Public service jobs will not be eliminated. We need public servants to ensure that our federal laws are upheld. We can also make more effective use of the people who work for the federal government. Those who are currently working on processing Quebeckers' federal tax returns might work on something else instead.
Employees of the Jonquière tax centre and the Chicoutimi tax service office are skilled and for the most part bilingual.
These employees are also model citizens who are engaged in democracy and involved in the community whether by contributing to the United Way, promoting blood and plasma drives, or making donations to soup kitchens. They work hard and will not be out of work.
However, in light of our deficit situation and our government's reckless spending, we have to be responsible and ensure that none of the work is duplicated.
It is also important to point out that it is hard to find skilled labour. There is a reason the Government of Quebec would like to have the more than 5,000 CRA employees working in Quebec for the province.
However, we believe that the Public Service of Canada will always need its 5,000-plus competent employees who work for the Canada Revenue Agency in Quebec. Those jobs are there to stay.
The Canada Revenue Agency's mission is to administer tax and benefits programs, and to ensure compliance on behalf of governments across Canada, thereby contributing to the ongoing economic and social well-being of Canadians. It has a very broad and important mission.
Right now there are workload duplications because of the two tax returns, but there will be no shortage of work with a single tax return.
All Canadians will benefit from this new efficiency on the part of the CRA, because the agency ensures compliance across Canada and administers benefit programs, such as the Canada child benefit and the disability tax credit.
The government will be able to allocate more resources without increasing its spending in order to simplify life for all Canadians, improve the CRA's services and fight tax evasion.
These new financial resources, obtained without any increase in government spending, will open up new opportunities for the CRA and will result in better jobs in terms of employment stability and wage security.
Of course, this will not reduce the cost of the accounting software or the accountant's services. However, this measure will make life easier for Quebeckers.
Who can explain why the income reported in box A of my RL-1 slip is not the same as that reported in box 4 of my T4? Why are business-use-of-home expenses not calculated in the same way for the Quebec return and the federal return?
Unlike the Liberals, who will have to increase Quebeckers' and Canadians' taxes to manage their spending spree, the Conservatives are looking for solutions so they can do more without increasing government spending and reduce the tax burden on families.
Quebec families would save hundreds of dollars if the Government of Quebec would adopt the federal government's definition of income and stop collecting tax on the taxable benefit consisting of the employer's contribution to health and dental insurance.
We want to make life easier for Canadians and Quebeckers. We want to responsibly manage government spending. We want to reduce the tax burden on Quebec families. A Conservative government would sit down with the province's representatives and have a constructive discussion to make this request a reality.
The Conservatives respect provincial jurisdictions and have full confidence in provincial institutions. There is already an agreement with the province concerning the administration of the GST.
Quebec is the only province in Canada where people have to fill out two tax returns. That is a major irritant for Quebeckers and we, the Conservatives, are the only ones showing any leadership on this issue. We want to correct this situation.
The Liberal government and the NDP are being irresponsible by wrongly raising the spectre of job losses. As I said throughout my speech, they should instead be focusing on listening to the provinces, simplifying life for Quebeckers, improving the Canada Revenue Agency's services, fighting tax evasion, and maintaining stable, good-quality jobs at the Jonquière and Shawinigan tax centres.
In closing, I would like to remind members that the principle underlying the Canadian Confederation is that of a contract between the provinces for the management of common interests. It is founded on the power of the provinces.
The Conservatives have always understood that principle. They will continue to decentralize and to listen to the provinces, particularly Quebec. We learned through our “Listening to Quebeckers" tour that a single tax return is a priority. A Conservative government would begin negotiations with the Government of Quebec and make that a reality.
Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to take part in the debate on the motion moved by my colleague from on a request that is very important to my constituents in Lévis—Lotbinière and to all Quebeckers.
This motion addresses a clear and legitimate request from Quebeckers and the National Assembly, namely to cut the paperwork burden on Quebeckers significantly by allowing them to file a single tax return. Currently, all Quebeckers are required to file two tax returns as soon as they start earning an income, even if they have not reached the age of majority.
This noble and legitimate request for a single tax return will save time and money for Quebec families and all Quebeckers. Let us be clear: Quebec is the only province in Canada that still has to take on this onerous task. The Liberal government does not seem moved by this fact by one iota, because saving time and money is simply not part of its values.
I have a real-life example. Not so long ago, all our children were still living under our roof. That meant 14 personal tax returns for a single household, in addition to the two returns I had to file for my small farming business. Think about it. That adds up to 16 tax returns for one humble abode. Families, students and young workers are being asked to do repetitive, counterproductive work when they just want to be active on the labour market.
We Conservatives are loyal to our values, and we care about making Quebeckers' lives easier and saving them time and money. By contrast, the Liberals keep raising taxes more and more to feed their insatiable appetite for spending money here, there and everywhere, all over the planet, in the hope of burnishing their image at our expense.
We, the Conservatives, are capable of building bridges and ships and making sure that Quebeckers only have to file one tax return. It takes leadership and political willpower to change people's lives in a lasting and positive way.
The Liberals are so eager to do whatever it takes to help their buddies get rich that they managed to legalize marijuana, but when it comes to doing something that would help all Quebeckers, they are totally against favouritism and preferential treatment. Their adamant refusal is baffling.
The comes back to us in the House with simplistic arguments, such as the fear of massive job losses, but all those claims are unfounded. There is no evidence that this would change anything for the millions of students working across Quebec.
A Liberal government that starts dancing just in time to get noticed simply does not deserve to be in power.
With all due respect to the role of minister, I cannot help but think that the 's only role is to serve as the spokesperson for a centralizing government that turns a deaf ear to Quebeckers' legitimate demands.
Fortunately, on October 21, 2019, Quebeckers will be able to decide who is more likely to listen to their wishes, the Liberals or the Conservatives, and who will be more likely to work for a more productive Quebec, a stronger Quebec, a richer Quebec, a Quebec that is a partner in Canada's success, a Quebec that is proud of its culture and heritage, a Quebec that is worthy of the French language, a Quebec that is respected by the Conservative Party of Canada for what it has achieved, a proud partner in the success of all Canadians from all provinces.
As my mother always said, beauty does not put bread on the table. October 21 will see the end of the Liberal government and its princely and spendthrift Prime Minister, who does not respect provincial jurisdiction or, by extension, Canadians, and who refuses to accept perfectly reasonable requests like having a single tax return.
Historically, the Conservatives have said yes to Quebec’s requests. We said yes to the construction of the new Champlain Bridge, yes to the future third link in Quebec City, yes to the Asterix and Obelix ships for Davie, yes to more power over immigration for Quebec, yes to a single tax return.
That is open federalism. That is a government working for the people. Imagine what life and the future will be like for Canadians with this collaborative federalism supporting concrete, positive actions for the benefit of all Canadians.
The Conservative Party proved it once and is prepared to prove it again, since we have always said what we would do and done what we said we would. We have always kept our promises, even at the risk of losing Liberal support.
Our first concrete action will not be to imitate the grasshopper from the fable or to take selfies, but to deliver a single tax return for all Quebecers.
Canadians’ future is their own, and it will soon be time to decide. This will be a historic turning point for Canadians, and I can assure you that the voters of Lévis—Lotbinière understand that a vote for any party other than the Conservatives would only result in the re-election of a princely, extravagant and arrogant Prime Minister. Canadians will soon have real hope of seeing a healthy, competent administration make sound choices for future generations. Canadians deserve only the best, and they deserve an efficient administration to lead our country.
I believe that representing Canadians in the House of Commons is an immense privilege, an honour and a serious responsibility. It is high time that our reflected these values, which only the Conservative Party of Canada can translate into concrete action.
It cannot be denied that the Liberals are doing everything they can to hinder the sound, fair and equitable representation of Quebeckers and all other Canadians. They have taken over a bureaucracy that jealously guards its budgets so they can use it for their own partisan interests. That is unacceptable and unjustifiable. I would ask my esteemed Liberal colleagues to open their eyes and, above all, not to forget why they are here: to serve Canadians fairly and honourably. Following the lead of a Prime Minister who thinks nothing of spending taxpayers’ money freely is no longer a viable option, since we are already feeling the consequences.
In conclusion, my message to the people of Lévis—Lotbinière is that they should consider an easier day-to-day life, consider our children, consider tomorrow, and consider the Conservative Party, which can deliver a bridge, a ship and a single tax return.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my esteemed colleague from . Before I get to my speech, there are a few things that I heard here in the House that I cannot help but comment on.
When the member for was asked what would happen to the 5,500 Canada Revenue Agency jobs at risk in the regions of Quebec, he told us that this is a detail to be ironed out. The 5,500 families who depend on these jobs do not see this as merely a detail. When asked how the Conservatives would solve this problem, he said that he believes in his leader. Quebeckers are not fooled. They know very well that before the election, the Conservatives try to sweet-talk Quebeckers. They smile broadly and try to sell them on the concept of open federalism.
We heard the member for talking about the Conservatives’ yeses in Quebec and giving a list of promises for the future. However, historically, the Conservatives said no to appointing bilingual judges to the Supreme Court. The Conservative government appointed two unilingual anglophone judges to the Supreme Court of Canada despite the opinions of the National Assembly, the entire legal profession, and Quebeckers. They appointed unilingual anglophone officers of Parliament. In Quebec, they destroyed the data from the firearms registry, while the National Assembly and the entire political class in Quebec wanted to keep it. That was the open federalism of Stephen Harper’s government that they are so proud of. Quebeckers are not fooled, and they have a long memory. They will not soon forget it.
In short, unlike what the member for and the bunch opposite are saying, 5,500 jobs are not mere details.
I will now get to my speech on the motion before us today. This may sound attractive, but the issue is much more complex than my colleagues on the other side of the House think. I wish to begin by enlightening them on a few aspects of their motion.
The Canada Revenue Agency is our national tax administrator and has developed a great deal of expertise in harmonizing the federal tax rules with the various provincial and territorial ones. The CRA has signed a number of ever-evolving collection agreements across the country, so it understands best what kind of flexibility is needed when considering the social and economic policy objectives of each province or territory.
So far, the federal government, nine provinces and three territories have harmonized their definitions of income and have a single tax return for individuals, which is administered by the federal government. Quebec has different definitions, different rules and different exemptions. For Quebec to have a single tax return and for these taxes to be administered effectively, harmonization would be required. However, the Conservatives are not saying how this would happen. They are saying that, just like with the jobs, these details can be sorted out later, and that they believe in their leader. They cannot tell us how this harmonization would work. Would Quebec harmonize with the rest of the country, or vice versa? This was my first point.
Second, since it administers harmonized regimes, and like any good administrator, the CRA was able to achieve economies of scale. In fact, administrative costs for managing the provincial and territorial programs are covered by the federal government when the programs are identical.
We can agree that administering two programs that are not harmonized costs money. That is the rub. Harmonizing two programs comes at a cost. The Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec agree on that. However, if the Premier of Quebec asks for a refund for the administrative costs borne by Quebec for administering the federal program, as he said he would, that is where the two governments no longer agree. Why pay that kind of money?
The CRA is more than qualified to administer its federal tax program. We can see why the Government of Canada thinks that this type of scenario would not be beneficial to Canadians or Quebeckers.
Third, my colleagues across the way seem to be unaware of the CRA's considerable expertise internationally, even though they formed the government for 10 years. The Canada Revenue Agency is a world-class tax administrator and represents Canada among many international partners. This expertise is put to use for fighting tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
Over the past three years, our government has invested over $1 billion in the fight against tax evasion. Clearly, the Stephen Harper government, which the Conservatives are so proud of, never made fighting tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance a priority. In fact, the revenue minister of the day, Mr. Blackburn, even told the Journal de Montréal last summer in a burst of candour and honesty that, under Mr. Harper, the fight against tax evasion was never a priority and they did not even talk about it. It was not important to them. Obviously, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
On the contrary, the government is determined to ensure that all individuals and all businesses pay their fair share of taxes. We are determined to make it much harder for those who choose to avoid paying their taxes.
Because of the over $1 billion in investments that we made in the past three budgets, the CRA now has the tools and means to work and exchange financial information with tax authorities around the world.
We also greatly surpassed our goal to recover $319.5 million in additional tax revenues in 2017-18 by recovering $500 million in additional taxes. We made investments in the CRA to hire over 1,300 more auditors, enhance infrastructure development, improve the risk assessment system, and strengthen its capacity to target cases of tax evasion for investigation and criminal prosecution purposes.
As soon as the investments were announced in 2016, my colleague, the , announced the creation of an independent advisory committee on offshore tax evasion and aggressive tax planning. Thanks to those investments, the CRA now has better data and better approaches for combatting tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, and it is achieving better results.
Canadians and Quebeckers can be proud that this country now has one of the largest tax treaty networks in the world, with 93 tax treaties and 24 tax information exchange agreements with other nations around the globe.
The CRA also plays a leading role as a member of the Joint International Tax Shelter Information Centre, a network of close to 40 countries, in which Canada works closely with other tax administrations to coordinate tax compliance activities across the spectrum of international tax risks.
Our collaboration with our international partners is vital for successfully fighting tax evasion. However, only Canada can ratify international agreements. As a signatory to international tax treaties and tax information exchange agreements with other countries, Canada has a key role to play. Like the other provinces and territories, Quebec does not have the same legal means as Canada does to recover money it is owed that is held in other territories.
That means that if a taxpayer decides to transfer their assets to another province or country, Quebec would have neither the legal standing nor the extraterritorial jurisdiction to follow those assets outside Quebec's territory. However, as I mentioned, Canada does have that authority.
For all of these reasons, I invite my colleagues opposite to follow the NDP's lead and reconsider their position on this matter.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to speak. I have been waiting a long time for the opportunity to take part in a debate that not only concerns a very important issue for Canada, but is also central to our respective visions of the role of government. I am referring here to the role of the Government of Canada, and to the role of government in the daily lives of Quebeckers and Canadians.
I want to talk about this party’s total disregard for our public servants and the modern machinery of government, but first I will talk about the issue at hand, which is tax collection. Obviously, the average Quebecker would like to have to file only one tax return, just like everyone else in the rest of the country, in the nine other provinces and three other territories. There people only have to file one return. However, the Robillard Commission, which was set up by the Government of Quebec not so long ago, pointed out that Quebec taxpayers could save about $400 million by harmonizing with Revenue Canada, which currently enjoys economies of scale across the country.
The Government of Quebec could give $400 million back to its taxpayers while maintaining the social and economic objectives mentioned by my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis. It would mean keeping an eye on these objectives, while at the same time saving Quebec taxpayers money. This deserves our attention.
We say yes to co-operation and to making life easier for all taxpayers in Quebec and Canada. I note that 85% of taxpayers, when they file their returns, do so electronically. They press a button, and their federal return is sent to Revenue Canada, their provincial return is sent to Revenu Québec, and that is it. That is our perspective on this issue.
I want to talk about the contempt that is expressed every day on the other side of the House for the state, for the Government of Canada. Since this is an election year, I think it is important that all Government of Canada employees, particularly those in the National Capital Region, hear what the Conservative Party is really saying.
My colleagues from the national capital region will be running in an election this year. They will be running against Conservative opponents who are going to promise unicorns and rainbows, but here is what the record says.
What did the Conservative Party leave us? They left us crumbling infrastructure. They left us office buildings with bricks falling off them so that we have to put netting on them. Why? It is because they would not invest, they said, in federal infrastructure, in offices for bureaucrats.
Here is what else the Conservatives left us: The member for , their esteemed colleague, left that dreary DRAP program, which yielded what?
Let us talk about job losses. Let us talk about the Phoenix pay system. Let us talk about the order given by Stephen Harper to summarily fire 700 public servants.
They laid off the 700 most experienced compensation specialists without notice and left us with a computer system that could not pay civil servants.
It is not a problem for the Conservatives, since reducing the deficit is the only thing that matters to them.
What about the Government of Canada jobs not only in the national capital region, but across the country and Quebec? Today, we are talking about the 5,500 families that have one member working for the Canada Revenue Agency. I have met people who work for the CRA and for all Canadians in the regions of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, Mauricie and Matane, and at the Promenades de l'Outaouais mall in Gatineau. Quebeckers here in Gatineau or Ottawa and in the various regions of Quebec are proud to contribute to shaping this magnificent country. They are proud to do their part to help make Canada the best country in the world.
The cynics across the aisle are telling us that a single tax return is what matters, not jobs in the regions. I was surprised to hear my colleague from say that.
I asked him what he would do to protect his constituents. First, he said that he believes in his leader, a guy from Regina. Then he told me that the thousands of jobs are just a detail. These jobs are not a detail at all. Yesterday, I met with the president of the Union of Taxation Employees. He does not see these jobs as a detail. He does not see working conditions in Chicoutimi as a detail. The people of Chicoutimi certainly do not see the future of their jobs and the well-being of their families as a detail either.
The members opposite feel contempt for civil servants. They despise the Government of Canada's bureaucracy, infrastructure, employees and computer systems, which are all details for those who belong to the Conservative Party. Earlier, they were patting themselves on the back for having the support of the Bloc Québécois. A proud party, whose leader at the time was among the founding fathers of Canada, is delighted to get the formal support of the Bloc Québécois in the House. I cannot believe my ears.
Not only people in Ottawa and Gatineau but all employees of the Government of Canada need to understand and listen very carefully to what these people talk about when they talk about government programs and the people who deliver them and the ways that we do that work.
In the next election the Conservatives are going to be talking a lot about these things and will never say what their agenda is, but that is what we will be talking about, because we have starkly different visions about the role of the Government of Canada.
We believe that the Government of Canada and the people who serve it are there to serve people, to make people's lives better—and yes, to catch tax cheats all over the world, and yes, to make sure people get across borders safely, and yes, every day to build that infrastructure and those things that help make Canada the number one country in which to live.
The people who serve the Government of Canada in this Chamber will always have our support.
People in the regions of Quebec deserve as much support as people here in the capital, especially from their MPs.
That is why I, like all my colleagues, will tirelessly travel around Quebec and across the country to talk with people, reassure them, and provide them with the tools and infrastructure they need to do the work they are very proud of, namely to serve all Canadians, help us build this country, and make Canada a fairer, more prosperous place. That is the issue at the heart of today's debate.
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
What I am hearing from the members across the way is unbelievable. The Liberals are out of touch with reality, and they are not working for Quebec. It saddens me.
I would like to remind the House that our political lieutenant for Quebec tabled a motion this morning. I am very proud that the member for tabled a motion that is in the interest of Canadians, especially Quebeckers.
We are here to stand up for Quebeckers. We are the Quebec caucus within the national caucus of the Conservative Party of Canada, and our colleagues listen to us very carefully. However, that does not seem to be the case across the aisle. As Conservatives, we work together in the interest of all Canadians, but today in particular, we need to think about the interests of Quebeckers and the single tax return.
I would like to remind the people listening to us at home what topic we have been discussing this morning in the House. As I was saying, my colleague tabled the following motion this morning:
(a) the House has great respect for provincial jurisdiction and trust in provincial institutions;
(b) the people of Quebec are burdened with completing and submitting two tax returns, one federal and one provincial; and
(c) the House believes in cutting red tape and reducing unnecessary paperwork to improve the everyday lives of families; therefore,
the House call on the government to work with the Government of Quebec to implement a single tax return in Quebec, as adopted unanimously in the motion of the National Assembly of Quebec on May 15, 2018.
In my view, letting people file a single tax return is the least we could do. I do not understand why the Liberal government are so stubbornly opposed to the idea. Quebeckers are the only people in Canada that have to do twice the work in February, March or April when they file their tax return. I do not understand the motives behind the Liberal government's decision to say no to Quebec, no to Quebeckers and no to a single tax return. That is unacceptable.
What is the basis of that refusal? The Liberals justify it by saying that they want to protect 5,500 jobs in Quebec, meaning the jobs of Canadian public servants working for the Canada Revenue Agency.
Before being elected to the House, I was an entrepreneur. If entrepreneurs in Canada and Quebec acted this way, it would be irresponsible for the future of their companies.
It is 2019, and the technology exists. Can we at least consider the possibility of finding a solution so Quebeckers have less paperwork to fill out? The Liberal government’s position is a categorical no. Why is this centralizing government saying no to Quebec? To protect jobs.
The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, the leader of the official opposition in the House of Commons, has very clearly said that no jobs would be lost. It must be said that we have a better record of keeping our word than the Liberals do. When the Liberals say things and make promises, we have our doubts, because they have a long list of broken promises.
However, when our party, the Conservative Party of Canada, formed the government, we kept our promises, whereas the current government has caused a mess over the last three years. Our “score” is almost 100%, which is excellent.
What is important to understand is that we must undertake a reflection. Personally, I think that the 40 Liberal members from Quebec, and I am not talking about Ali Baba and his 40 thieves, should be realistic and fair. They should have the trust and willpower to get things done. They should respect Quebeckers.
It is acceptable for the GST. Revenu Québec can collect the GST and remit it to Ottawa, but maybe the Liberals see Quebeckers as second-class citizens when it comes to filing tax returns. The Liberals have not even considered the possibility of finding a solution and studying the feasibility of a single tax return. Is that trust? I do not think so.
We need to be realistic. As I mentioned earlier, there is reality. It is 2019, and the technology exists. We can reduce the paperwork today. It is a matter of putting numbers in columns, but the exercise must be multiplied by two and by the number of residents of Quebec. How many additional returns is that?
Where there is a will to make things better, there is a way. Where there is no will, excuses will certainly be found. Scare tactics will be used. We need to be realistic. Being realistic means looking at the system that exists now and considering the feasibility of the issue. However, the Liberals' answer is a categorical no, and they refuse to commit.
Why ask twice the effort from Quebeckers in the name of fairness? Quebec is the only province to complete two income tax returns. To be fair, will the Liberal government announce a tax credit in its next budget for Quebeckers who are required to pay an accountant twice as much because they file two tax returns? Maybe we will have a surprise in March when the tables his budget. If we follow the government’s reasoning regarding fairness, there should be compensation for Quebeckers.
What is lacking is political will. The minister is hiding behind the argument of lost jobs. I repeat, as our leader mentioned, that no jobs will be lost. I asked the Prime Minister a question last week. We were discussing the income tax return and the reason why he was saying no to Quebeckers. I will read his answer to my question in the House. I do not know what planet he was on, but he replied, “Mr. Speaker, how interesting. The Conservatives are saying one thing in French and another in English.”
I do not know if he was talking about the Liberals. We Conservatives are saying only one thing.
I can speak English and French.
We will work for Quebec and to meet the needs of Quebeckers. Quebec has a labour shortage. More than 1,000 positions are vacant according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. We will continue to work with Quebec on its files.
Here in the House last Wednesday, the Prime Minister himself said that there was a labour shortage. The says she wants no lost jobs. I have quite a few ideas for her to consider. Take employees and send them to work on tax evasion. For three years, the Liberals have invested millions of dollars without any results.
Why not use that expertise? Public servants are skilled workers. We will respect Canadian public servants, and we will ensure that they are paid, which is very important. At the very least, public servants need to be paid by the government for the services they provide.
I am getting carried away. I should return to my notes. Speaking of the Minister of National Revenue, a few months ago, she developed a new slogan, “the net is tightening”. Last week it became, “Chop, chop, chop”. This is not the theatre; this is the House of Commons. This is serious. Quebeckers deserve our respect. This is unacceptable behaviour on the part of a minister. It is as if she were on a stage. She is putting on a play. It is unacceptable as well as irresponsible.
I do not understand how this Liberal government can say no to Quebeckers and no to a single income tax return.
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my pleasure to speak to today's motion, and to follow up on that great speech from my colleague for .
In the 2015 election, the Liberal Party made a number of promises. Many of their best-known promises were spectacularly broken early on in their government, like the promise to run a relatively small deficit, strictly for the purpose of building infrastructure, and then to balance the budget by 2019. They blew every part of that campaign promise.
They promised they would create a brand new voting system. They promised to do away with the first-past-the-post system. They promised to hold an open competition to replace Canada's aging fighter jets. They promised to hold themselves to the highest possible standards for openness and accountability.
We know that all of these promises have been thoroughly broken. The government does not even admit to having ever made any of these promises in the first place.
However, today I want to draw to the attention of members of the House and those who are watching this debate or who will read about it in Hansard, that the Liberals in 2015 promised to deliver a “client-focused Canada Revenue Agency”. That was their promise. I would like to draw everyone's attention to page 33 of the Liberal Party's platform, where it says:
The Canada Revenue Agency exists to serve Canadians. We will overhaul its service model so that people who interact with the CRA feel like valued clients, not just taxpayers.
Today's opposition motion is a perfect opportunity for the government and its Liberal caucus to actually deliver on an election promise, and at the same time give Canadians in Quebec something that will make their lives simpler and less expensive: a single tax return. Most Canadians who have never lived in Quebec probably did not know that Quebeckers have to file two separate tax returns and have had to do so for decades.
This is a long-standing irritant to Quebec tax filers and something that any Canadian can understand. Nobody relishes filing their tax returns. It is complicated enough just to file one return, so today the opposition calls upon the government to work with the Government of Quebec to implement a single tax return in Quebec, as adopted unanimously in the motion of the National Assembly of Quebec on May 15, 2018.
All parties in Quebec support the idea of the Quebec government working with its federal counterpart to give Quebeckers a single return. This is not a controversial proposal in Quebec. Quebeckers are tired of having to file two forms or having to pay a third party to file two forms. The Liberal government that has done so much to make life more expensive for all Canadians, including Quebeckers, has an opportunity today to make good on its promise to make the Canada Revenue Agency more client focused, and give Quebec a single tax return.
After being elected with a campaign promise to improve the taxpaying experience of Canadians, let us examine what the government has done over the past three years. The government started out by giving a mandate letter to the , which said, “As Minister of National Revenue, your overarching goal will be to ensure that the CRA is fairer, more helpful, and easier to use.”
Giving Quebeckers a single tax return certainly might be one way to make the CRA easier to use, but the mandate letter also goes on to say that the minister is to “lead the government's work to overhaul its service model so that people who interact with the CRA feel like valued clients, not just taxpayers”, which is right from the Liberal Party platform.
Again, this opposition motion gives the minister a perfect opportunity to actually take a concrete step toward fulfilling her public mandate and an election promise, yet the minister and the government have completely given up on even pretending to keep their election promises or carry out the tasks contained in their mandate letters.
The minister's mandate letter, of course, also contains the standard line about upholding the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, ensuring the highest standards for ethical conduct, and upholding the principles of openness and transparency. These are all laughable now, given the numerous conflicts of interest, the ethical lapses of her cabinet colleagues, and both the minister's and her department's failures to be open and transparent in this House, at committee, in Order Paper questions, and in response to access to information requests.
The minister and the department under her management have been anything but open and transparent. Today's motion is again a perfect opportunity for the minister and the government to make amends with Quebec tax filers, who, like other Canadians, have been subject to the spectacular failings of the minister and the department under her watch.
Since being sworn in as a minister under a promise and with a mandate letter to establish a more service-oriented agency, the minister has lashed out at some of the most vulnerable Canadians while making absolutely zero measurable progress in the fight against tax avoidance and tax evasion.
It was under the minister and the Liberal government that the agency mused about taxing employer health benefits. It was under the minister and the Liberal government that the agency targeted retail and service employees by announcing its intention to tax retail employee discounts and complementary meals for restaurant employees. It was under the current government, under the minister's watch, that the agency began targeting tips earned by minimum wage-earning restaurant servers and their employers.
It was under the current government and this minister that the agency targeted parents, especially single moms and dads, with onerous, sometimes impossible requirements just to prove that they are parents and entitled to child care benefits. It was under the current government that the decided to go to war with small businesses, calling them tax cheaters, creating new and onerous requirements for family-owned corporations, and attacking their life savings through draconian new taxes.
It was under—
Mr. Speaker, I finally have the floor. I could not wait to talk about this motion. I will share my time with the hon. member for .
I am pleased to rise today to debate the implementation of a single tax and benefit return for Quebeckers, to be managed by Revenu Québec.
I must say that I was a bit surprised earlier to hear someone from Calgary speak for Quebeckers and know what Quebeckers want. That was very hard to fathom.
Collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners is essential to build a stronger economy and create good jobs for all middle-class Canadians.
Our government is well aware of the fact that provincial and territorial governments face the same challenges as the federal government. We also acknowledge the crucial role that communication plays in making sure that the efforts we are making to overcome these challenges come to fruition. Efficient governance requires partnerships between all levels of government. Only by working together will we bring about positive change.
Since the election of a new government in Quebec last October, our government has been focused on building a relationship based on trust and open dialogue. The met with the new Premier of Quebec a few days after the election during the Sommet de la Francophonie in Armenia.
It was a major opportunity, during which countries and governments of the Francophonie gathered to tackle common issues, especially building economies which are beneficial for all, addressing climate change and reinforcing democratic institutions. During their conversation, the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of Quebec agreed to work together to face common challenges, like attracting foreign investments and creating new opportunities for all Canadians.
Our common priorities were clearly established: together, we continue standing up for workers, creating good jobs and building a strong economy for all regions of Quebec. We have worked with provincial and territorial governments no matter what party they belong to. Improving the lives of Canadians is not a partisan issue.
In Canada, provincial and federal ministers quickly set up a dialogue and, since then, have met several times multilaterally, which means federal-provincial-territorial meetings, as well as bilaterally, in order to discuss and advance issues of common interest.
Last December, during their meeting, the Prime Minister and the premiers identified fields of interest common to all governments, in particular the economy, the environment and transport. The meeting took place in Montreal, and it was the first time a first ministers meeting occurred in Quebec in half a century. This shows our will to give new impetus to our cooperation.
In January, at a cabinet retreat in Sherbrooke, Quebec, federal ministers had an opportunity to participate in meetings and round tables with Quebeckers, local representatives, and representatives from the private and non-profit sectors. This retreat provided a unique opportunity to hear directly from Quebeckers about their concerns, priorities and daily lives.
During this visit, the met with the Premier of Quebec to discuss issues of mutual concern, such as strengthening the economy; investing in infrastructure, which is very important in Quebec and in the rest of Canada; addressing the skills shortage in Quebec; and dealing with immigration. The skills shortage is a big issue in Quebec.
As an aside, I want to address the member for 's comments that he is prepared to have the 5,500 employees in question relocated. I cannot get over his interpretation of what it means to improve lives. It is not easy to relocate 5,500 employees, especially when they are in Jonquière and Shawinigan.
Of course, immigration was also discussed. That discussion highlighted two important issues for Quebec, namely immigration and the essential role that skills development plays in growing Quebec's economy.
As is the case across Canada, needs are increasing due to an aging population and changes to trade agreements and new technology, which are all significant factors in the Montreal area.
The Quebec economy is now stronger than it was three years ago. I can testify to that because three years ago, in my riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, my constituents told me that, for couples, one of two jobs was always precarious. Since our government came to power, the economy is doing a lot better.
Over the last three years, the Government of Canada has signed a certain number of bilateral agreements with the Government of Quebec, including important asymmetrical agreements in the health care sector. Those agreements dealt primarily with mental health—and we know how important that is—home care for our elderly, early childhood education and child care.
We also worked closely to meet needs related to infrastructure, agriculture and the environment.
Several bilateral negotiations are under way regarding federal government compensation for temporary housing of asylum seekers, labour market transfer agreements and an asymmetric housing agreement.
We have seen encouraging results, and we have built a relationship with the new Government of Quebec that is based on collaboration and that should help us sign those and other agreements in the coming months.
We are proud to help build a Quebec that addresses the concerns of its citizens. Whether it be infrastructure, agriculture, health care or the fight against climate change, the Government of Canada wants Quebecers to know that it is their partner.
The decades-long partnership between the Canada Revenue Agency and Revenu Québec ensures that Quebeckers have an efficient tax system that respects Quebec’s autonomy and ensures good jobs in the regions. I will say it again, we are talking about 5,500 jobs in Quebec, in the Shawinigan and Jonquière regions.
Quebec is the only province in Canada with a separate tax administration to collect its personal income and business taxes. That is the choice that Quebeckers made and we have respected it.
We have made a lot of progress in restoring and strengthening ties between the Canada and Quebec governments. We always will to that. Quebeckers deserve nothing less.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to talk about the important work the Canada Revenue Agency and Revenu Québec have undertaken to reduce red tape for Quebeckers.
The Conservatives think a single measure will make filing tax returns easier and more accessible for Quebec residents. They think having Quebec taxpayers fill out a single tax return administered by Revenu Québec is the solution. In other words, they want to pay more for work the CRA is already doing. They want Canada's nine provinces and three territories to adopt the Quebec model because harmonization would be essential. Unfortunately, it is painfully clear that they are desperately trying to win votes in the province of Quebec.
In contrast, Liberals are willing to work closely with Revenu Québec to find workable solutions that will make Quebeckers' lives easier at tax time. Rather than make cuts to services, staff and call centres like the Conservatives did for 10 years, we believe access to services, no matter where a person lives in Canada, is what matters most.
My colleagues will also give the impression that relations between the Canada Revenue Agency and Revenu Québec are not strong. I stand before the House today to say that the complete opposite is true.
The Canada Revenue Agency and Revenu Québec have been working together for a long time, for nearly 30 years. Because these two agencies have a long history together, they are able to share best practices and make sure that all taxpayers and benefit recipients across the country have access to the best service they deserve.
Unlike what my colleagues would have us believe, the relationship between the agencies is solid and ongoing, and it applies to both personal and corporate income tax administration.
To give an example, the federal government worked closely with Revenu Québec in the lead-up to the GST agreement that was signed in 1990. Since then, the Canada Revenue Agency and Revenu Québec have continued to work together to make sure that GST registrants in Quebec receive the same level of service as those who live in other parts of the country. Further, the Canada Revenue Agency and Revenu Québec have a proven collaborative relationship in ensuring that the tax administration of the goods and services tax is consistent nationwide.
I should also point out that the Canada Revenue Agency is responsible for administering a fair tax regime used by all Canadians, including residents of Quebec. With this objective in mind, the agency has implemented new services designed to simplify the tax return process for all Canadians, including Quebeckers.
Many of these new services are designed to improve access for those Canadians who choose to file their returns online. Quebec residents obviously benefit from these improvements, considering the fact that more than 85% of Quebec taxpayers file electronically.
Why is that important for this debate? Tax preparation software already proposes simplification and presentation of the two declaration forms in one process by auto-filing the information in both declarations when the system requires the same information, already simplifying the process for the 85% and more of Quebeckers who file their taxes online every year.
The Conservatives mentioned the complex nature of the returns, but seem to be completely unaware that few Quebeckers use paper forms anymore. Quebeckers now have updates for the software packages used to prepare their tax returns, which make it easier to fill out the two forms. The information on the forms can now be automatically generated, thanks to new features. In other words, all boxes are automatically filled out.
Many initiatives such as auto-fill my return, file my return, express NOA and ReFILE have already been implemented to simplify the tax return preparation process for all taxpayers and benefit recipients.
With these digital services, Canadians can file or change their income tax and benefit returns online through one simple process, and as just discussed, 85% of them will be using an online tool, and those numbers just continue to go up.
For example, Canadians use NETFILE and EFILE to file their returns online. ReFILE allows them to submit amendments through the service. Auto-fill my return helps individuals and authorized representatives using certified software to automatically fill in parts of a return. Express notice of assessment allows individuals and authorized representatives to view the notice of assessment in their software right after the return has been received and processed by the Canada Revenue Agency.
Moreover, the file my return service helps low-income Canadians and those on a fixed income. It makes it possible for eligible Canadians to file their returns by answering a few questions through an automated phone service. In 2018, 50,000 returns were filed in Canada with this service, which will again be available during this tax season.
I would also like to mention the improvements made to services for entrepreneurs and small businesses operating throughout Quebec and in other provinces. I am referring to the liaison officer service. Owners of small businesses can ask to meet with a liaison officer to discuss their taxes. This service is free and gives business owners the opportunity to get answers to their questions.
These results speak to the long history of close collaboration between the Canada Revenue Agency and Revenue Quebec and to the commitment of our government to making filing one's income tax and benefit return easier.
Let me reiterate. Our efforts to simplify the tax return process in Quebec have been strong and are ongoing.
Above all, it is very important to ensure that Canadians are using the best services available so that they can file their tax returns easily and receive the benefits and credits to which they are entitled. Let us be clear: we will never renege on this commitment.
In closing, I would ask my Conservative colleagues to do their homework. Like the NDP, they should reconsider their position. I am talking about the Conservatives not just from Quebec, but also from Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the three territories. They should take the time to look at the details. A single tax return is not just a matter of an administrative agreement. It is about harmonizing one system with another. It is about using the same definitions for income, asking nine provinces and three territories to change their ways, and using taxpayers' money to pay more for a service that the Canada Revenue Agency already provides.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for , who will certainly build on what I have to say.
It is always an honour to speak in the House. I want to say hello to the people of Beauport—Limoilou who are watching us. Today, we are debating a single tax return for Quebeckers.
The member for has said some pretty unbelievable things. He asked why the Conservatives raised this topic this year, which is an election year. In reality, we actually talked about this matter in May last year, at our general council meeting in Saint-Hyacinthe. There were 400 Conservatives at this meeting, including members of the Bloc Québécois who were tired of the pointless bickering. The Bloc Québécois will never be in power. At this general council, we adopted the motion calling for a single tax return. The motion received the support of the vast majority, 90%, of attendees. It was quite popular.
That said, introducing this motion at the Saint-Hyacinthe general council was not a casual idea plucked from thin air. Our political lieutenant for Quebec and other Quebec Conservative MPs held public consultations, consultations we called “Listening to Quebecers”.
We held consultations in about 40 municipalities all across Quebec, covering all of Quebec's regional districts. Quebeckers themselves told us they wanted us to simplify their day-to-day lives. Then, a month later, in May 2018, Quebec's National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion calling on the federal government, regardless of the party in power after the October 2019 election, to start working on an administrative agreement that would enable Quebec to collect federal taxes and then transfer that money to the federal government. The ultimate goal was to make Quebeckers' lives easier and give them a much easier way to do things.
I would like to re-read the motion for those watching at home because it may not be written out in full at the bottom of their screen. The motion states:
(a) the House has great respect for provincial jurisdiction and trust in provincial institutions;
(b) the people of Quebec are burdened with completing and submitting two tax returns, one federal and one provincial; and
(c) the House believes in cutting red tape and reducing unnecessary paperwork to improve the everyday lives of families; therefore,
the House call on the government to work with the Government of Quebec to implement a single tax return in Quebec, as adopted unanimously in the motion of the National Assembly of Quebec on May 15, 2018.
That is the motion that our political lieutenant, the member for , moved this morning.
Why do we want the House to adopt this motion? As I said, over the past few months, we consulted with most Quebeckers as part of our province-wide consultation process. They told us that they needed this to happen because they are fed up. That is what they said. They are fed up with filling out two tax returns.
The Conservative Party of Canada has always had one fundamental goal, which we pursued under the leadership of Mr. Harper when we cut taxes through 163 different measures. Clearly, the most popular measures were the ones that cut the GST from 7% to 6% and then from 6% to 5% and those that sought to cut red tape in half for all federal departments. It just so happens that the Liberals kept this administrative formality because they know how important it is. It is one of the good things they have done so far.
We are also moving forward with that, because it reflects the desire of all elected officials from Quebec. That desire was reiterated a year ago, as I said at the start of my speech.
There is a bit more of a personal reason that residents of Beauport—Limoilou may not be familiar with. I have knocked on 40,000 doors in my riding. I continue to do so. I even did it this Saturday in -20°C weather. I once again thank the volunteer who was with me that day. He was brave to follow me. The member for also went door to door. All the Conservatives in Canada did that.
Saturday, I knocked on the doors of about 50 homes and the topic came up many times. That idea was put forward publicly by the Conservative Party before the Bloc Québécois began talking about it and well before the unanimous motion in Quebec’s National Assembly, because we had heard about it on the ground and we respect Quebeckers. Our fundamental goal in politics is to make life easier for all Canadians, and particularly to avoid them having to pay for the 's mistakes in the future.
Today, we have learned something important in the House, and I asked the member for a question about this, namely, the fact that the true identity of the Liberal Party of Canada is clear for all to see. Perhaps it does not reflect on all of its individual members, although they are part of it, as they are involved in it, but fundamentally, it is a centralist party that does not care about the demands of Quebeckers for greater control. It does not care about the constitutional anguish and anxiety of Quebeckers. In particular, there is no desire to improve the lives of Quebeckers and Canadians through its government policies.
On the contrary, we have never seen a government spend so much money on so few results for individual Canadians. We sometimes get the impression that the government is working for the bureaucracy and government programs instead of working for Quebeckers and Canadians in general. We have seen that identity throughout history. In 1867, George Brown and the Red Party did not want a large federation like Canada created by two founding peoples working hand in hand
From 1867 to today, we Conservatives have maintained our constitutional and political openness to the grievances of both founding peoples and the legal grievances of the Province of Quebec. Remember the total affront by the Liberals in 1982 when they repatriated the Constitution without the consent of Quebec’s National Assembly. We see history repeating itself.
In 1982, Quebec’s National Assembly did not sign the Constitution. As the bastion of the Francophonie in North America, Quebec certainly had a prominent place at the table. Even political conventions and jurisprudence clearly reflected Quebec's crucial role in the matter of the repatriation of the Constitution, but the Liberals, in their arrogance, brazenly repatriated the Constitution without Quebec’s signature, just as they are now brazenly and shamelessly dismissing the unanimous request by the National Assembly regarding a single income tax return.
Under Mr. Mulroney, we resumed an honourable and enthusiastic dialogue. We made every possible effort, despite the extreme pressure on all sides from the elder Mr. Trudeau. We reached the Charlottetown and Meech Lake accords; we tried to bring Quebec into the fold. Later, Mr. Harper entered into administrative agreements, because the time was not right. People did not want a constitutional debate. Just as our leader, the member for , would like to do, Mr. Harper entered into administrative agreements that helped Quebeckers in their everyday lives, while waiting for the time when we might see a constitutional debate. Later, he got a seat for Quebec at UNESCO, the last thing the Liberals would have done, and the Bloc Québécois would never have had the power to do, as they will never be in power.
Not only did we get a seat for Quebec at UNESCO, but we also acknowledged the existence of the Quebec nation in this assembly, in this Westminster Parliament, on North American soil. We acknowledged that the Quebec people formed a nation within a united Canada. Mr. Harper did that. It was not the Liberals or the Bloc Québécois, who could never do it, as they will never be in power.
What party increased its number of seats in Quebec in the last election? It was not the Bloc Québécois, it was the Conservative Party, which won 12 seats. Unfortunately, due to their many promises, the Liberals were able to win many seats. However, that will change, as they are unable to keep their promises. As the deficit will not be eliminated this year, they will raise taxes over the coming days, months and years if they are re-elected.
By all appearances, this is the same party as it was back in the day. By its very identity, the Liberal Party of Canada has no respect for Quebeckers or for areas of jurisdiction.
A few days after being elected, the and member for Papineau went to New York and told a newspaper that Canada had no national identity. Really? Canada has no national identity? That is not what Quebeckers think. Quebeckers will never be well served by the Liberal Party of Canada. With our leader, the member for , we will give them more independence in their areas of jurisdiction when they seek it.
I heard some other voices while you were speaking, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, they were the voices of Quebec MPs from the Liberal Party of Canada. They were saying that five minutes is more than enough. Five minutes is never enough to talk about the interests of Quebec. I could talk about that all day. Five minutes is not enough.
Of course they do not want us to talk at length about this because having to hear Quebec's demands inconveniences them. It inconveniences them when we take up an issue that Quebeckers want, that the National Assembly voted on unanimously, that the Premier of Quebec wants, that the majority of Quebeckers want. Our supporters want it. The majority of their supporters want this too, but they would never admit it. They say that five minutes is enough for the MP. I will talk about this for five minutes and I will talk for another five minutes. I will talk about this all day. I will talk about this for as long as I can.
The Liberal members will remain silent on this, especially the ones from Quebec because they do not stand up to defend the interests of Quebec.
I heard the 's speech this morning. I debated whether I should raise a question of privilege or rise in the House about something she said at the beginning. I did not really understand her remarks, which started as follows:
My colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable—who, I should point out, was mayor of a single-industry town in a region of Quebec that was hit hard by a difficult employment situation—has been accusing me these past few days of fearmongering regarding the single tax return.
That is all she said. How am I supposed to interpret that? Is that supposed to be some kind of threat, because I stood up for the people of Thetford Mines, when all of the asbestos mines shut down after the then leader of the Liberal Party of Canada said that asbestos had no future in our country? Is that it? How am I supposed to interpret that?
Mr. Michael Ignatieff was the first leader of a major political party in Canada to say that asbestos was finished. Since then, thousands of workers have been laid off in my riding.
Today, I hear the accuse us of having fought for our jobs. That is totally unacceptable. I will always stand up for people in Quebec, but I will especially stand up for the people of . I will not accept statements like that.
Since this debate started, the minister has shown us that she is completely disconnected from the reality of Quebeckers, who want a single income tax return. On several occasions, the accused us of fearmongering. The only ones who threatened anyone with losing their jobs was her, her Prime Minister or the people on that side of the House.
It has been clear to us from the beginning that it is possible to do away with one form without affecting public servants. It is simple enough with a bit of good will and a simple willingness to trust Quebec and Quebeckers. Why would it not be possible to agree, to have a meeting, discussions and exchanges to make an entirely legitimate request by Quebec possible, namely the possibility of Quebeckers filing a single income tax return?
They will say that we say something different in Quebec from what we say in other provinces. In other provinces, there is only one income tax return. It is not that we say two things, but there is a single tax return in every other province and we only want one here, in Quebec. What do the members opposite not understand about that?
We want a solution. There is a problem for Quebeckers. We want a solution and we will not be held hostage by a centralist government's desire to hoard all the power. We are prepared to trust Quebec and Quebeckers with a single income tax return, but we are told no.
In the beginning the Prime Minister said that the Liberals were open to discussion. Then, he suddenly changed his tune. This morning, he said that he does not share the same goal as the Government of Quebec and its premier. What caused this shift? The fact is that the Liberals realized that it made sense and that they would lose a bit of their power if Quebec was allowed to have a single tax return. There is the problem. They do not want to let go of their power. They are addicted to it. History tells us as much.