That the House call on the government to change its proposed tax cuts by targeting benefits to those who earn less than $90,000 per year, and use those savings to invest in priorities that give real help to Canadians, including dental coverage for uninsured families making less than $90,000 per year.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with someone who truly inspires me, the hon. member for . He will take the floor in the second part of my intervention.
What the NDP is offering today is an opportunity for all members of Parliament to get together to provide support for the one-third of Canadians who do not have access to basic dental care.
What we said in the motion, and what Parliament will be directing the government to do if it is adopted, is to cap the tax changes at $90,000 a year and to provide basic dental care to all those who are uninsured and earning less than $90,000 a year in this country.
I must say at the outset that Canadians already support this policy. A recent poll just last year indicates that 86% of Canadians support dental care for all those who are uninsured in this country. At the same time, other countries like the United Kingdom and the European Union have 100% dental coverage. Basic dental care is covered in those countries. Six million Canadians, when we put aside young people who have the opportunity to access provincial plans, are impacted by this lack of dental coverage.
That means that millions of Canadians will be affected by the motion being moved by the NDP today. Millions of Canadians will be able to access dental care once this motion has been adopted.
Let us hear some of the stories of Canadians who do not have access to basic dental care in this country. I would like to quote from a constituent, Jonathan, a man who works for minimum wage and who talked to me about the importance of having dental coverage in this country.
Jonathan works at minimum wage and cannot afford to get the basic cleaning that he needs as part of basic dental care. That means that because of bacteria in his mouth, he is often in pain. He tried to save up enough money to access the basic dental care that he needed, but then his car broke down. He needed it for work, so he had to make the tough choice between having transportation or getting his basic dental needs met. He simply could not do both.
He has tried borrowing money, but that has not worked either, because it puts him in a debt cycle that he simply cannot afford. He has looked into dental plans, as his family has, but they found that the cost was simply prohibitive.
In this country, half of Canadian families are $200 away from insolvency in any given month. Jonathan and his family are among them. A difference of $100 or $200 a month means the difference between managing to put food on the table, managing to keep a roof over their heads, and managing to pay the bills without going too much further in debt. They simply cannot afford the cost of a dental plan.
Canadian families are the most indebted of any families in the industrialized world, and we have the highest family debt loads in our country's history right now. The reality of Jonathan is a reality that many other people face across the length and breadth of this country.
One thing I should mention about Jonathan is that in addition to the pain, in addition to the struggles of trying to find resources to pay for basic dental care, he also says that he feels ashamed of himself, that because of his broken teeth and because he is in such pain, he simply is not able to smile. The adoption of the motion today would mean that Jonathan, like six million other Canadians, would get their smile back. That is extremely important.
I would like to talk about Elsie. Elsie is not her real name. She did not want me to use her real name because she works for a big corporation that makes a lot of profit and has been held just shy of the number of hours needed to access the company's dental plan. She works in the food and hospitality sector. Her teeth are literally rotting away, but because there is no basic dental care, she is unable to access the dental care that she desperately needs.
I will also talk about what I saw at the University of Montreal a few years ago. The dental clinic at the University of Montreal offers free dental care provided by students of the faculty of dental medicine who are studying to be dentists.
Fortunately, thanks to the University of Montreal, dental care is being provided, but there is a waiting list. People are lining up to get access and many of them are in pain because of the lack of basic dental care in this country.
That is the problem whether we are talking about Jonathan, Elsie or everyone else lining up to get care, not just at the University of Montreal, but all across the country. When there are free dental clinics, people are there because they are desperately trying to get badly needed dental care.
I recently had a meeting with working representatives from British Columbia, workers such as David Black, who is one of my bosses, a constituent of mine in New Westminster—Burnaby, as well as representatives from correctional workers, commercial workers and a teacher. They were all there in my office, and I mentioned that the NDP was bringing forward this motion. They said it was wonderful and that it could make a real difference in this country, and then they asked me what kind of dental plan members of Parliament had. I had to tell them that members of Parliament have granted themselves a good, effective dental plan that covers all of those basic needs.
Now those working people, who are here today, are saying through me to all members of Parliament that if dental coverage and dental plans are good enough for members of Parliament, they should be good enough for all Canadians across the length and breadth of this land.
In terms of cost, people may be wondering how much this dental plan will cost. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has already informed us that it will cost $800 million a year. The cost will be higher the first year, of course, because there are needs that will have to be met, but it should come to about $800 million, or rather $814 million, the first year.
If we take these amounts and compare them to the federal budget as a whole, we can see that they are not that high. Considering all the tax changes that the government wants to implement, this is something that would pay for itself.
Why is that? It is because we already know from emergency room physicians across this country that tens of millions of dollars every year go into last-minute care that is provided in emergency rooms by doctors who are not qualified. People who are desperately seeking dental care go into emergency rooms, and they are given pills or painkillers to get them through the following few days.
Emergency room doctors tell us that we need to have basic dental care in this country and that the absence of basis dental care is costing our health care system over $150 million a year. We are already paying the costs of this emergency care, as well as the costs for all of the people like Jonathan and Elsie who cannot even go to work because of the pain they are experiencing. The six million Canadians who do not have dental care are an incredible charge on our economy and our quality of life, without even considering the impacts on each of them.
Of course it makes sense to cap the tax changes and make sure we are taking care of basic dental care for all Canadians. This is a no-brainer. Members of Parliament need to get behind this idea. We need to make sure every Canadian has access to basic dental care in this country.
Madam Speaker, today we are talking about an opportunity to really transform the lives of Canadians.
My colleague told stories about some people, yet millions of Canadians cannot take care of their teeth. The Liberal government is proposing a tax giveaway, where the majority of the benefit would flow to those who earn over $100,000. If we target that measure and help those who need it most, those who earn less than $90,000, we can free up enough money to cover 4.3 million Canadians who need to take care of their teeth.
That is what we are proposing today. It would transform the lives of people in the ridings of all members of Parliament who cannot get the dental care they need.
I think about a woman who I met when I was walking down the streets of Vancouver. She ran up to me with her hand over her mouth. She told me that she had heard me talking about dental care. I told her that we wanted to ensure people were covered. She said that she never imagined she would ever be able to afford to get her teeth looked after. She told me that once she became older and was no longer covered under her parents' plan, she could not afford to go to the dentist, that her teeth were in a really rough shape now and that she was embarrassed. She was afraid to apply for a new job because she did not think people would hire her if they saw the condition of her teeth. She had tried her best, but there was something wrong with her teeth and she could not afford to get them looked fixed.
I think about her story and the many other Canadians who cannot afford to take care of their teeth. In a country as wealthy as ours, that should not be the way.
I think about what we could do if we made a better choice. We have choices. The Liberal government is making a choice. Right now, it is choosing to give away billions of dollars to people who do not need. It is making a choice to benefit those who do not really need the benefit. The Liberal government is making a choice and we are asking it to choose better. We could take the current proposal for the tax giveaway and put that money toward helping those who need it most. Let us focus on those people. If we do that, we would free up the money.
Let us talk about the choices.
The Liberal government's proposed tax giveaway would cost over $6 billion. If it targeted that measure and focused it on those families that need it the most, we could free up $1.6 billion. The Parliamentary Budge Office costed out how much it would take to cover those families that are uninsured. It found that year over year, it would cost just over $800 million. It would be more expensive in the first year because so many Canadians who did not have access to dental care would rush to get their teeth fixed. That would cost $1.8 billion in the first year, but would stabilize at around $800 million. This is huge.
Imagine the people across Canada right now who cannot get their teeth taken care of. If they go to an emergency room because their teeth are hurting, they are told there is nothing the hospital can do. They are given painkillers and sent home, yet the problem with their teeth remains. If we think about it, it makes no sense that we can go into a hospital and have complicated heart surgery or have our joints rebuilt, but if we have a problem with our teeth, we are sent home with painkillers. That is the only solution so many Canadians have. We need to change that.
A couple of months ago a woman came to my office. She did not want me to share her name because she was embarrassed about her situation. She had a problem with her teeth. However, her problem was even more heartbreaking. She could not afford medication to treat an illness she had and due to the complications of that illness she had lost some of her teeth. She was in pain. This woman had two problems. First, she could not afford medication. Second, she could not afford dental care. When I looked at her, I thought of how we were failing as a society. She thought it was her fault. She told me that she wanted to work hard, that she did not want any handouts and that she was at my office because she wanted to find a way forward.
I told her that it was not her fault, that she was not to blame. The horrible decisions we made resulted in her medication and dental care not being covered. We can change that.
Today we have an opportunity to make a change. The Liberal government is proposing a tax change, and we are proposing a solution. If this measure can target the people who need it most, we can implement a dental care program to help families who do not have access to the care they desperately need.
We have been observing the Liberal government's decisions and choices. Recently, the Liberals spent millions of dollars of public money to help corporations like Loblaws and Mastercard. They often choose to help the rich. The Liberals' proposed change would also help individuals who earn more than $100,000.
We are proposing that this change be scaled down and targeted to the people who need it most, meaning people who earn less than $90,000. If we adopt this measure, we can implement a dental plan that will benefit nearly 4.3 million Canadians.
We know that this is needed in Quebec. Some Quebeckers have dental problems but cannot afford dental care. We want to change that. A federal program would help these people access dental care, which would change many lives.
This is an option, a solution and a choice. We can do this. I urge all members of the House to think about the families in their ridings who need dental care but cannot afford it. I urge them to think about how we can help them. Today we have an opportunity to help them.
I think about the choices we have made and the opportunity we have before us. The motion before the House now is a concrete thing we could do right now.
I would like the members on the Liberal benches, all members, to think about the people in their ridings right now, to think about the families, the young people who do not have benefits and will never have them in their lifetime. I ask them to think about the gig economy and the fact that for many young people, the dream of having benefits is not there for them, the dream of having benefits that will cover their teeth is simply not a reality.
We owe it to those young people to do something to care of them. They deserve to have their teeth taken care of. They deserve to have a healthy life. Dental health is directly connected to their overall well-being and health. We can make this change right now.
I am going to put this to the government one more time.
The Liberal government is proposing a tax change, a tax giveaway to the wealthiest Canadians, those who earn over $100,000. Let us focus the tax change to benefit the families that need it most, those people who earn less than $90,000. With the money we free up, let us put in place a national dental care program that will lift up families, that will allow young people who cannot afford to have their teeth taken care of to get the dental care service they need. It will also allow workers who are struggling in jobs with no benefits to have confidence, knowing they can care for their teeth. This will change the lives of so many Canadians. This is a real choice that we can make right now to lift up people.
I call on the Liberal government to do the right thing, to target the tax measure to help families that are in need, to bring in place national dental care to lift up families, to ensure people can access the care they so desperately need.
That is the choice we have today. I call on all members in the House to support that choice.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about our government's record, about how we have invested in Canadians, including middle-class Canadians and those working hard to join them, about the middle-class tax cuts we introduced in 2015, and about the tax cuts we proposed in 2019.
The economy is strong and growing. Our record proves that, by investing in Canadians, we can have an impact on Canadians' day-to-day lives while growing the economy. However, we are also very aware that too many Canadians are still having trouble making ends meet.
Ever since we took office in 2015, our plan has focused on investing in Canadians and their communities. We are investing in things people need to build a better future for themselves and their families. We are investing in the middle class and those working hard to join it. We know that a strong middle class leads to a strong economy, and a strong economy benefits everyone. Our plan is working.
One of the first actions of our previous mandate was to introduce a tax break for the middle class that is benefiting more than nine million hard-working Canadians. We also introduced the Canada child benefit, which is providing more money to those families who need it most. By doing so, we have helped to lift one million people out of poverty, including 334,000 children, giving them a better start in life.
I would like to talk about how this measure in particular has helped children in my riding. Ottawa—Vanier is one of Canada's most diverse ridings. In fact, I often say that it represents our nation's diversity in one riding. It has some of Canada's highest earners and some of Canada's lowest earners. That is why the Canada child benefit is so important to my constituents. Over 15,000 children in Ottawa—Vanier benefit from the Canada child benefit.
Our government has also increased the guaranteed income supplement to help low-income seniors make ends meet. By working in co-operation and collaboration with our provincial partners, we strengthened the Canada pension plan so that Canadian workers will have more money in retirement. I am sure that hon. members on all sides of the House will celebrate the fact that yesterday Statistics Canada released national poverty figures showing that 73,000 seniors have been lifted out of poverty since 2015.
Furthermore, our government understands that small businesses are the catalyst of our economy. That is why we cut taxes for small businesses to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses and create more good, well-paying jobs. This measure was well received, and small business owners responded. Canada has gained over one million jobs since 2015, most of which are full-time jobs.
I would also like to highlight our government's commitment to ensuring that everyone has a safe and secure place to call home. Our government established Canada's first national housing strategy. We have invested in the construction of more affordable housing in communities across the country and we have helped make it more affordable for people to buy their first home through enhancements to the first-time homebuyers incentive.
We have made tremendous progress by working with Canadians. We have listened to their requests so that we can grow an economy that works for everyone.
Through our investments and Canadians' hard work, our country's economy is strong and growing. Over the past four years, Canadians have created over one million new jobs, and stronger wage growth has helped more people get ahead. However, we know that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Over the past few months, leading up to budget 2020, I have met with Canadians and stakeholders in Montreal, Windsor, Regina, Winnipeg, Kenora and elsewhere to understand the needs of Canadians in different parts of this country. One thing that came up is that too many people are still worried about making ends meet.
The rising cost of living is affecting Canadians from coast to coast to coast. They know what it is like to have their livelihoods put at risk by global economic challenges, and they worry about what the future holds for them and their families. We understand that.
I heard from Canadians that a good quality of life for them means not having to worry about living paycheque to paycheque. It means being in good health. It means living in a safe environment and in a society where diversity is celebrated. It means access to quality housing, child care and education, and an opportunity for all to succeed.
We have made a lot of progress over the last four years to grow the economy while ensuring that the middle class prospers, but we know that there is much more to do.
Economic growth and quality of life reinforce one another. We cannot sustain one for long without the other. We need to think about the future of our communities, about fighting climate change and protecting the environment, and about continuing our path to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. As long as these sorts of challenges are out there, our government will keep working to help Canadians overcome them. That is why making life more affordable for Canadians is a central focus for our government. It has been for the past four years and continues to be.
We are looking to grow an economy that works for everyone, not just the rich. By investing in and strengthening the middle class, we are growing the economy to benefit everyone.
Our plan to increase the basic personal amount will make the cost of living more affordable for more Canadians by helping them keep more of what they earn. That means they will have more money in their pockets. I would like to take a minute to explain how we will attain that objective and how that additional measure will benefit nearly 20 million Canadians.
As my hon. colleagues know, to help all Canadians meet their basic needs, no federal tax is collected on a certain amount of income earned. That amount is called the basic personal amount, or BPA. Under the existing rules regarding the BPA, Canadians can earn close to $12,300 in the 2020 tax year before they have to pay federal income tax.
As our first order of business our government proposed to lower taxes for the middle class and those working hard to join it by increasing the basic personal amount to $15,000 by 2023. We also propose to increase two related benefit amounts to $15,000 by 2023: the spouse or common-law partner amount and the eligible dependant credit.
This increase would be phased in over four years, starting in 2020. As I said earlier, it would cut taxes for close to 20 million Canadians. Importantly, it would mean that nearly 1.1 million more Canadians would no longer pay federal income tax at all by 2023.
To ensure that this tax relief goes to the people who need help the most, we will phase out the benefits of the increased basic personal amount. I will explain what this means in real terms for individuals and families.
It means that a single individual who makes $50,000 a year would pay less tax starting in 2020 with tax savings of close to $300 in 2023. It means that a two-earner couple where one partner works full time at $40,000 a year and the other part time at $20,000 a year would save close to $600 by 2023. It means that a one-earner couple with one child could save close to $600 in 2023. It also means that a single parent who can claim the eligible dependant credit in addition to the basic personal amount could save close to $600 in 2023.
All told, this would put $3 billion back in the pockets of Canadian households in 2020, with this amount rising to $6 billion by 2023. That is $6 billion to help make life more affordable for Canadians and keep our economy growing. That is $6 billion on top of the support that we have already delivered over the past four years.
When the middle-class tax cut, the Canada child benefit and the proposed increases to the basic personal amount are taken into account, a typical family of four could have over $2,300 more in their pockets in 2020 than they did in 2015. Once the changes to the basic personal amount are fully implemented, that family could have over $2,800 more in their pockets than they did in 2015.
That is what we mean when we talk about investing in Canadians. Thanks to the Canada child benefit, a working single mother or father of two earning $30,000 a year now gets $3,000 more in benefits every year than they did under the previous child benefit program. These changes will help more families pay for things that will have a real impact on their children's future, such as healthy food, registration fees for sports, summer camp or music lessons, or even warm clothes in the winter.
Our decision to improve the guaranteed income supplement has provided greater income security for close to 900,000 people, 70% of whom are women.
The guaranteed income supplement has helped lift 73,000 vulnerable seniors out of poverty. Thanks to the implementation of Canada's first-ever national housing strategy, a 10-year, $40-billion investment to provide more Canadians with affordable housing, the housing needs of 530,000 families will be met and chronic homelessness will decrease by 50%.
We will continue to invest in people and in the things that improve their quality of life. The past four years have shown what can happen when we put middle-class Canadians at the heart of our decisions and invest in those areas that make their lives easier.
We have seen that more money in families' pockets, more jobs, more welcoming communities and fewer people living in poverty contribute to our economic growth.
I do not like to repeat myself, but I think it is important to highlight, in both English and French, the results of our government's work to make life more affordable for Canadians. Due to the middle-class tax cut, the Canada child benefit and the proposed changes to the basic personal amount, a typical family of four could be better off by more than $2,300 this year compared to 2015. When the proposed changes to the basic personal amount are fully rolled out, the family could be better off by more than $2,800 compared to 2015.
These changes have been focused on those Canadians who need it most. The effect our plan has had on child poverty and seniors in need has been clear and is documented. We know that more work needs to be done to improve the quality of life for Canadians.
The way we have structured these changes to the basic personal amount clearly shows we are striving to target our efforts to be as effective as possible.
The reason we have focused on housing and the tax system is the flexibility those changes offer to Canadians. By providing tax cuts for those who need it and by providing the Canada child benefit directly to parents and caregivers, we are giving Canadians the tools to make the changes they feel they need.
We will also continue to work with indigenous peoples to help deliver a better quality of life for their families and communities. We will build on the progress achieved for all people in Canada, moving forward with investments that will make a real difference. We will do so in a way that is fiscally responsible and continues to reduce the federal debt relative to the size of our economy.
Canada's net debt-to-GDP ratio is low and sustainable. That puts Canada in an enviable position, especially compared to our G7 peers. Our relatively low level of debt gives us a serious competitive advantage, one our government is fully committed to maintaining. Even though our economy is doing well, we need to be ready to respond to whatever challenges might arise. We need to continue to build confidence in Canada's economy, making sure the world continues to see Canada as a great place in which to live, work and invest.
Canada has a AAA credit rating from the three most recognized credit rating agencies. This strong rating reflects the confidence others have in Canada's economic strength. We took timely action during our previous mandate to improve business tax competitiveness in this country. To make it easier for small businesses to succeed and create more jobs, we have cut taxes for small businesses twice. As a result of federal and provincial actions, Canada has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7.
Our government's objective is to maintain these competitive advantages while implementing measures to make life more affordable and to invest in Canadians. We are building an economy that works for everyone.
We know what can happen when we invest in Canadians: They benefit through their hard work. In just four years, this has resulted in a strong and growing economy that has generated more than a million jobs with a historic low unemployment rate.
These are real changes that help improve the quality of life and well-being of all Canadians. Making it easier for Canadians to get ahead is at the very heart of our plan for the prosperity of the middle class.
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank you for letting me speak about this important matter today. I welcome questions from my colleagues.
Madam Speaker, I am happy to be splitting my time with the member for today.
I would like to thank my friends in the NDP for bringing this motion forward and giving us the opportunity to talk about the Liberal government's failed record when it comes to tax policy.
As some members know, I enjoy listening to music, from bands like The Guess Who, who happen to hail from my hometown of Winnipeg, and The Beatles, and from artists like Jim Croce and Frank Sinatra, to name a few. When artists have been around long enough, they will usually release a greatest hits album. Today, I would like to produce a greatest hits album for the Liberal government. I think an appropriate title would be “the Liberals' greatest hits of failed tax policy”.
Although this album was not supposed to be released yet, I will spend the next nine minutes or so giving my colleagues a sneak preview. The lead-off track on this album, which is one of my favourites, is called “the budget will balance itself”, written by the professor of peoplekind himself, the .
As a follow-up, he hiked up taxes on low-income families and then said they do not pay any taxes, seemingly unaware of the fact that they do. During a time of economic prosperity, the Liberals are running massive, endless deficits that will force even higher taxes on Canadians.
There are higher Canada pension plan premiums. They also eliminated the children's fitness tax credit and children's arts tax credit, making it harder for young families to afford these important programs. Despite the fact that their mantra has become “low carbon”, they axed the public transit tax credit, which means fewer people can afford transit passes. They are paying $600 million to the media, picking and choosing which media organizations are winners and which are losers, an Orwellian plan, to be sure, and one all Canadians should reject. It is no wonder half of Canadians say they are $200 away from insolvency each month. They are literally being taxed into bankruptcy.
Then there is the carbon tax, a massive tax grab that makes life more expensive for everyone and will not do anything to reduce emissions. In the last election, Canada's Conservatives put forward a real plan to protect the environment, including measures like the green home tax credit, which would have encouraged Canadians to make their homes more energy efficient. It would have incentivized green tech, making Canada a world leader. Since the Liberals came to power, 81% of middle-income Canadians are seeing higher taxes.
I am happy to note with respect to the environment that more Canadians voted for the Conservative Party of Canada's environmental plan than any other party. Our plan, unlike the Liberal plan, did not include an unfair carbon tax that penalizes Canadians for everyday activities. Especially given the winters we have in Manitoba, a carbon tax will do nothing other than penalize people who have to heat their homes when it is -30°C.
There is some potential relief on the horizon. Yesterday, the Alberta Court of Appeal found the carbon tax to be unconstitutional. I hope the federal government listens to the Court of Appeal and respects its decision and its jurisdiction. Part of the majority 4-1 decision read as follows: “The Act is a constitutional Trojan horse.” That is strong language from the court. It continues, “Almost every aspect of the provinces' development and management of their natural resources...would be subject to federal regulation”.
The next hit on the hit list is “welfare for billionaires”. What a concept: We tax the poor to pay the rich. The Liberals are like a reverse Robin Hood. Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor, and for some reason the Liberals have it backward. They tax the poor into bankruptcy and give the money to billionaires.
They gave $12 million to Loblaws to buy refrigerators. My guess is that Loblaws can afford to buy its own energy-efficient fridges. I checked, and as of 4 p.m. yesterday, Loblaws had a market cap of $25.2 billion. There was also the $40 million given to BlackBerry. As of 4 p.m. yesterday, BlackBerry had a market cap of $4.2 billion.
Then there is my favourite. I call it the $50-million trifecta. There was the $50-million handout to Mastercard. As of 4 p.m. yesterday, Mastercard has a market cap of $322.8 billion. Also, $50 million went to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which repeatedly engages in funding anti-Semitic activities. There is also the $50 million that went to a late-night TV host, Trevor Noah, by tweet.
There is $50 million here, $50 million there, $50 million everywhere. I wonder who is next.
I know a few organizations that could use this money. Maybe if they ask the nicely, he will tweet yet another $50-million pledge. It is worth a try.
Then there is the CRA. The government's motto should be “Pay us more; we'll treat you worse.” In the recently released “Serving Canadians Better” report, the CRA reported that 83% of Canadians had an experience that did not meet their needs. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business gave the CRA a grade of D, and 41% of those who called the CRA received incomplete or incorrect information, a sad state to be sure.
Had it not been for the Conservative Party's pressuring the government from this side of the House, we would have had policies like reducing the accessibility to the disability tax credit for type 1 diabetics from 80% to 20%. Also, in October of 2017, the CRA tried to list employee discounts as taxable benefits, going after waiters and waitresses and restaurants for their employee discounts. In December of 2016, it came to light that the Liberals were considering taxing employer-provided health and dental plans.
Let us talk about the small business tax changes. It was in the middle of the summer of 2017, when Canadians were enjoying the hot weather and spending time with their families, that the government decided to quietly table tax changes when it did not think anyone was paying attention. These changes would drastically alter the lives of thousands of small business owners and families. Yes, small business people who were part of the middle class or working hard to join it had the rug pulled out from under them.
The government tried to hike taxes by 73% on small business investment, made changes to the taxes on splitting income and passive income and refused to make intergenerational family business sales easier, making it more expensive to sell a business to a stranger than to a family member. Remember that hot weather I mentioned? While Canadians were enjoying a nice cold beer in the sun, what did the government do? It raised taxes on beer too. This is sacrilege. I cannot think of anything more Canadian than an ice cold beer.
More recently, the government proposed an interest deductibility cap for businesses. This would be a disaster for all businesses and would have serious marketplace repercussions for banks, REITs, publicly traded securities and pension funds, to name a few.
I will start to wrap up now, but I want to let my colleagues on the other side of the House in on a secret. My goal today was to not only address the motion from my friends in the NDP, but eviscerate the government's failed tax policy initiatives and finish with a flourish.
At the end of the day, the Liberal proposal to increase the basic personal amount is a nice gesture. As Conservatives, we believe that people should pay less tax and get more value for their dollars. Canadians deserve to get ahead and not just get by.
It is not easy to find a humorous quote about taxes, but I think I might have. Here it is: “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” Who said that? It was the greatest genius of the 20th century, Albert Einstein, who discovered the theory of relativity. This man is the father of modern physics and he could not understand the tax code. What we truly need is tax simplification and comprehensive tax reform, not delivering tax policy on a piecemeal basis, as this measure does.
What do we get for these exorbitant taxes? We get runaway deficits; a budget that, contrary to the 's belief, does not balance itself; and Canadians who are less than $200 from insolvency at the end of the month. It seems that the more we pay, the less we get. The hill of beans and half cup of coffee per week the Liberals have proposed for 20 million taxpayers will do little to relieve the massive tax burden that the government has foisted and piled onto Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the NDP motion regarding the Liberal plan to increase the basic personal amount from $12,298 to $15,000.
Before I address the substance of the motion, this is the first time that I have had an opportunity to rise in the House since the last election to give a speech, and I want to thank the constituents of St. Albert—Edmonton for their vote of confidence. It was an overwhelming vote of confidence of 61%, which was 16% higher than in 2015, and I am very humbled by that.
It would not have been possible without all of the individuals who worked so hard on my campaign, who believed in me. While I cannot name all of them, I will name two who worked harder than anyone other than perhaps myself and they are my parents, Tom and Rita Cooper. In fact, they may have worked harder than I worked.
I will say to all of the residents of St. Albert—Edmonton, just as I did in the last Parliament, that although I am not perfect, I will do everything that I can to take their issues and priorities here to the House and be their voice in Ottawa.
Turning to the motion before the House and the issue of increasing the basic personal amount to $15,000 from $12,298, let me say that this is nothing more than a Liberal middle-class tax gimmick. This is a government that talks a good game about the middle class. Indeed, the even appointed a minister responsible for middle-class prosperity to demonstrate the Prime Minister's apparent concern for middle-class Canadians, how caring he is and always from the heart out.
It is certainly interesting that, when the minister appeared before the finance committee, she was unable to explain her mandate. She was asked by my colleague, the member for and again today in the House to define what constitutes a middle-class Canadian. She could not answer the question. However, I digress, because the fact is, despite all of the talk, what matters is not words but action, and the actions of the government time and again are to make life less affordable for middle-class Canadians.
For a government that is so preoccupied with the middle class, it sure has a strange way of showing it. This, after all, is a government that scrapped tax credits that benefited middle-class Canadians. This is a government that scrapped the children's fitness tax credit, the children's arts tax credit, the student textbook tax credit, the public transit tax credit and I could go on.
However, not to be outdone, the government decided to jack up CPP, taking $2,200 out of the wallets of the average middle-class Canadian family. This is some way of showing its love for the middle class, nickel-and-diming them and taking money out of their wallets.
Of course, there is the massive tax on everything, the carbon tax, which as my friend, the member for noted just yesterday the Alberta Court of Appeal determined to be a “constitutional Trojan horse.” Nonetheless, the government is adamant about imposing a massive tax on middle-class Canadians. The government would say, “Don't worry, be happy, we delivered a middle-class tax cut.”
We heard the refer to the Liberal middle-class tax cut, which sounds like a good idea.
Who could be against a middle-class tax cut? Like anything, the devil is in the details. For example, if one earned between $62,000 and $78,000, how much would that Canadian save under the Liberal middle-class tax cut? That sounds like a middle-class Canadian to me. The answer is $117. Now, is that $117 a day, a week or a month? No. It is $117 a year. How much does that work out to a week? The answer is $2.25, not even enough to purchase one extra-large regular coffee at Tim Hortons. So much for the Liberal so-called middle-class tax cut. The Liberal so-called middle-class tax cut is a Liberal middle-class tax gimmick, not to be outdone by the latest Liberal middle-class tax gimmick of increasing the basic personal amount.
I say, with respect to the increase that the Liberals are proposing, it is too little, too late. It is too late because Canadians would not see the full benefit for four years. I say it is too little because by the time they do, a large part of that increase will be gobbled up by inflation. While the benefit to Canadians is not going to be all that much, having regard to inflation, the government says $550, $600 for the average Canadian family. That is less than the average $800 that middle-class Canadians have seen in terms of their taxes going up, not down, under the Liberals. For this nominal benefit to some middle-class Canadians, it is going to come at an enormous cost.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the cost of this Liberal middle-class tax gimmick will be $21 billion, at a time when the government is running a deficit of $26.6 billion, $7 billion more than projected with nearly $30 billion of deficits for the fiscal years ahead, with no end in sight. The talked about the government's fiscal anchor, debt-to-GDP ratio, which she says is going down, except it has actually gone up this year from 30.8% to 31%, and that is before taking into account the $55 billion of spending promises that the Liberals made in the last election.
What middle-class Canadians deserve is action. They do not deserve more talk. They do not deserve more empty promises. They do not deserve more gimmicks. Canadians deserve broad-based tax relief. It is something that Conservatives committed to. It is something we intend to deliver on should we be entrusted with the confidence of Canadians, which I expect will happen, and cannot happen soon enough.
In the meantime, we will hold the government to account for the fact that it has made life more unaffordable for everyday Canadians, all the while mortgaging the future generations in Canada with higher taxes, higher deficits and more debt.
Madam Speaker, I would like to share my time with my friend and colleague, the member for .
The Bloc Québécois is a social democratic party. We feel strongly about redistributing wealth and ensuring equal opportunities for all. We fully support the principle of progressive taxation, and we believe it should be implemented to a greater degree. The idea is that the wealthiest contribute more to funding public services, which are universal and used by everyone.
On that note, it troubles us that the big Canadian banks are not taxed heavily enough. It is not like these companies could relocate to another country. They are in a protected market. Furthermore, I cannot overlook the fact that these multinational corporations and banks still have legal access to tax havens, which means they do not contribute as much to the public purse as they should. The rest of the population suffers, because they receive lower-quality services while paying more taxes and fees.
As everyone knows, we think quality health care is important. We believe that a person who falls ill has basic needs and is entitled to comprehensive care. Unfortunately, the current lack of funding means that many people do not have access to the care they need. That goes for prescription drugs and dental care too. In this day and age, it makes no sense that a person with dental problems would not be able to get the care they need and see a dentist. Dental problems can be very painful.
Today's motion is problematic. Dental care is an aspect of health care, and health care is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces and Quebec. Ottawa's role with respect to public services and health is to provide as much funding as possible, but Ottawa has not been doing that for quite some time. This problem goes all the way back to 1996, which, as it happens, was after the Quebec referendum.
Ottawa decided to deal with its debt problem by slashing transfers for health, social services and education, even though expenses are rising faster in those areas than anywhere else, as we can see from budgets tabled by Quebec and the provinces. Health and education costs go up year after year, but Ottawa is providing less and less money to cover those costs.
Originally, Ottawa promised to cover half of our health care spending. Ottawa was supposed to match every dollar spent by Quebec. This equality was completely wiped out at the end of the 1990s and the federal government has been retreating year after year ever since no matter who is in power in the House. Even though the total amount increases every year, the percentage of the federal government's contribution keeps decreasing. Quebec is now asking that Ottawa fund at least a quarter of health care spending. We are well below that and the percentage keeps going down every year.
In the last Parliament, the Liberal government pompously announced a plan to reinvest in health care. At the end of the day, it just cancelled the Conservatives' cuts and added a few crumbs, all while interfering in this jurisdiction. At the time, Quebec's health minister, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, even accused the Liberal government in Ottawa of engaging in predatory federalism. Coming from a Quebec Liberal minister, that is saying something.
There is a consensus on this in Quebec City. Every year, the Government of Quebec asks Ottawa to make an annual reinvestment of 6% to make up for lost ground and get the federal government's share to a quarter of health care spending. There is also a consensus among provincial governments who are all calling for an annual increase of 5.2% in federal spending on health. Between Quebec and the provinces, everyone agrees that it is important for the federal government to make up for lost ground.
On that, we have to take into account the aging population, since seniors require more health care, which is more expensive. At the other end of the spectrum, young people get more money for education, which only makes sense.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has made several updates to his “Fiscal Sustainability Report 2018”. He noted that Ottawa is the one with the fiscal flexibility, and that the provinces have no more wiggle room. This is true to such an extent that, even if the government chose to incur massive debt and run up the debt, it would have the means of maintaining the net debt at its current level. Based on future projections, the Parliamentary Budget Officer expects that Ottawa will have completely reimbursed its debt, while the provinces will still be drowning in massive debts because funding needs in health and education are increasing, but Ottawa is contributing less and less. That is a big problem.
The motion we are debating here infringes on provincial jurisdiction. We are not opposed to the idea of funding dental care, but we believe that that decision is up to Quebec, which does not have the money to fund all general health care services. When it comes to pharmacare, Quebec has a system that works, even though it is far from perfect. Obviously, a dental program is also necessary, but we should not be discussing it here. Our role here is to decide to increase health care funding so that the provinces can move forward with their plans.
I would like to read out a brief passage on this subject. I will then ask the members a question.
This asymmetry vis-à-vis du Québec can be applied in real terms through opting out with compensation. The right to opt out applies where the federal government, on its own or with the agreement of the provinces, intervenes in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction (in particular health and social services, education, family policy, housing, municipal infrastructure, etc.). In such case, no conditions or standards should be applied to Québec without its consent, obtained after consultation and negotiation. The principle of opting out is very important, as it makes it possible to reconcile the exercise of federal spending power for provinces that want it with respect for Québec's constitutional jurisdiction.
As members may have guessed, I was reading a passage from the Sherbrooke declaration adopted in 2005 by the Quebec wing of the New Democratic Party of Canada. It is odd that after adopting those principles, the NDP is now moving a motion in Parliament that encroaches directly on provincial jurisdiction and does not mention that Quebec should automatically be allowed to opt out with full compensation if the federal government implements this measure.
Sadly, our party is no stranger to this treatment. If former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe were here today, he could remind us how many times motions like these, ones that encroached on areas of provincial jurisdiction, have been moved.
In closing, the Bloc Québécois is a social democratic party. We believe in quality public services, but the role of the House is to provide health funding. It is up to Quebec to decide how to invest that money, whether in emergency care, dental care or pharmacare. It is not up to the House to encroach on areas of provincial jurisdiction. That is why we will be voting against today's motion.
Madam Speaker, I read the motion moved by my hon. colleague from . I must confess to this honourable House that I was blown away by this motion.
For a moment, I felt like I was in Quebec’s National Assembly or a Canadian provincial legislature. It was so surreal that I asked my assistant to pinch me. I asked him if Québec Solidaire had just tabled a motion in the House of Commons. He replied that no, it was the NDP.
Under the circumstances, before I even go into what I think of how the motion is worded, I would like to remind the House that this is 2020. The fact that we are once again debating a motion that falls under provincial jurisdiction in Ottawa is incredibly sad. It shows a lack of respect for the legislators that should legitimately make those decisions based on their values and their resources. Perhaps you have heard the expression “a leopard cannot change its spots”. This is a perfect example of that concept.
In 2005, after spending 45 good years fighting for the centralization of legislative powers in Ottawa, the NDP adopted the famed Sherbrooke declaration, in which it claimed to recognize asymmetrical federalism and it intended to give Quebec the systematic right to opt out.
Today, five or six elections later, with one MP back home, they have written off Quebec and its legitimate right to legislate its own affairs.
The NDP and the member for New Westminster—Burnaby know perfectly well that health is not a federal jurisdiction. Nevertheless, they are still trying to impose social programs that Quebec and the Canadian provinces have the authority to bring in if they want.
No one here is against apple pie. I love apple pie. No one here is against pandas. We all love pandas. However, imposing dental care coverage through, I assume, the Canada Health Act, is nothing short of overriding the Constitution that allows us to be here—a Constitution that Quebec has never signed, by the way.
A few seconds ago, I chose the verb “assume”. That was not a coincidence and that brings me to my second point. This motion is so vague it feels like we are heading into murky waters.
The motion talks about wanting to implement dental coverage for families whose income is less than $90,000. The motion also says that benefits would be made available to individuals who earn less than $90,000 a year. With all due respect, the motion's wording is so vague that it almost contradicts itself. It does not take much imagination. One example that I am very familiar with is my own experience from around 15 years ago.
I was 23 years old. I had just had my best year in the film industry. I had been working in the industry for four years. I earned more than $90,000 that year. I bought myself a triplex with my sister. Then, my wife, Mylène, gave birth to our son Émile Duceppe, our first child. My wife was in school that year. The following year, in 2004, I earned about $30,000 because I was freelancing. I was a contract worker.
Since my wife was still in school and I had a mortgage to pay and we had a young boy to raise, if I had had any kind of dental problem, my previous year's income would have been used and I would not have been entitled to the dental coverage proposed today.
I am sorry, I lost my train of thought. Someone I know is here and that stressed me a little.
An hon. member: Is it me?
Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe: No, Madam Speaker, it is not my colleague.
We were not rich, but we were doing well. According to the NDP, I would not have been entitled to dental insurance. That is exactly why Quebec and the provinces are in the best position to develop social policy. The provinces manage those sorts of things. They are closer to the people and should be the ones to administer the program. They have a legislative scalpel and not a bazooka.
Once again, there is no respect for the true lawmakers in this area.
While the NDP wants to give orders to Quebec and the other provinces, the provinces are asking the government for just one thing, an annual increase of 5.2% in health transfers. The provinces are not asking to have another health care program rammed down their throats. They are simply asking for an annual increase of 5.2% in health transfers. This is not rocket science.
While health care systems across Canada are groaning under the burden of the aging population, the NDP is talking about dental care in the wrong legislature.
The Quebec National Assembly even unanimously adopted a motion calling on the federal government to do its fair share with regard to health care. This does not make any sense. While the Government of Quebec estimates that the health transfer deficit will be $13.7 billion by 2027, the NDP is insisting on talking about dental coverage without even knowing how it will be paid for.
The federal contribution to health was 23% in 2018. Today, it is 21% and, in 2027, it will be just barely over 20%. The federal government's real problem is not the details of the health care coverage. The problem is that the House is not contributing to the rising cost of health care. What is worse, the federal government has been gradually pulling back for decades, whatever its political stripe.
Right now, federal health transfers are going up by just 3% per year. Health care costs are going up more than that, so the provinces are essentially getting less money.
Health transfers should have no strings attached. Only Quebec can determine its own priorities. Health transfers must be sufficient to provide care for our people.
The worst thing about this motion is not just that Quebec does not want it, but that unions regard federal programs as interference. During the 2018 national consultation on implementing pharmacare, both the FTQ and the CSN emphasized the importance of taking Quebec's unique needs and independence into account.
I would like to quote from their brief, which summarizes the situation and is relevant here. I am sure this will be of interest to our NDP colleagues.
The federal government has consistently interfered with provincial jurisdiction over health ever since the early days of the welfare state. The Canada Health Act is an instrument of that interference because one of its objectives is to establish the conditions the provinces must meet to receive federal funds.
The brief then goes on to say the following:
...our two organisations [the FTQ and the CSN] cannot ignore the declining federal contribution to health care funding. Rather than negotiate a new health transfer agreement, as promised during the election campaign, the Liberal government opted to maintain the Conservative reforms, which limit transfer increases tied to GDP growth to 3% annually. Previously, those increases were capped at 6% annually.
Lastly, it also states:
To ensure the sustainability of Quebec's health system, the federal government must first increase its contribution to health care funding to an adequate level.
The issue of drug coverage is pretty much the same as dental care. The federal government cannot go shopping on behalf of the provinces when it is not paying its fair share for the current system. That is not how it works.
I will wrap up my comments, as I am sure my colleagues are eager to seriously debate this matter with me.
As the House devotes precious time to debating this proposal, can we at least agree to respect the sharing of legislative powers? That is why we were elected.
The Bloc wants to work collaboratively. We like that, and we proved it last week. However, when we are forced to work on somewhat vague and incongruous texts that are written almost deliberately to be rejected by certain parliamentary groups, it seems to me that our debates lose some of their relevance.
Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to have an opportunity to speak to the motion before the House. The motion calls upon the government to reallocate a portion of the resources that will be spent on a tax cut for what is called the middle class to people who really need it and do not have dental care.
It is my pleasure to do this because this is a historic occasion. It is not very often that members of the House of Commons have the opportunity to pass a resolution that would benefit millions of Canadians now and in future generations. This is the first step in ensuring greater equality in this country, an equality about something that is extremely important to individuals.
Dental care is pretty basic for people who can afford it. Their income allows them to pay for the services of a dentist to get their teeth cleaned, annual inspections, X-rays, if needed, and whatever else goes with that.
Madam Speaker, I am sharing my time with the hon. member for . I am very happy to do that and I look forward to his speech as well.
He, along with me and other members of our caucus, are very much in favour of ensuring that everybody in Canada has access to quality dental care. It should already be a part of our health care system. In fact, in 1964, it was part of the design of medicare to include dental care, but during the negotiations and when it was passed, dental care was left out.
What we have is a gap. When someone breaks his or her wrist, the person can go to a hospital or a doctor and have a cast put on. The person can get the physiotherapy at the hospital that is needed. The person can be looked after. However, when people have a cavity or they break a tooth or they need work done to ensure their oral health, they have to pay for it. Why is that? There was a failure to follow through on the promise and hope of a general health care system that would include dental care. Of course, pharmacare was also part of the original design.
I go back to generations ago to the great leader, the first leader of the national NDP when it was formed, Tommy Douglas. He campaigned for many decades to ensure there was greater equality in obtaining health care for people in this country. That is exactly what this motion is aimed at as well.
We joined the campaign. We put this forward as an idea that we would want to put in place. We campaigned on it. We let it be known. People were very interested for reasons that were fairly obvious to me, knowing as I do, and I am sure hon. members know that when we talk about the middle class in this country, that is a pretty vague notion. I do not think the minister is able to tell us who is included in that.
We do know that the people who do not have and cannot afford dental care know who they are and they do not think they are in the middle class. They know they are not in a position to have what others have and are entitled to. This motion would give all those people the right to dental care just the same as everybody else.
This motion comes about because of the Liberal government's plan, and it promised this, of having a middle-class tax cut. What do the Liberals mean by that? We do not know, but we do know the plan the Liberals put forward is going to cost in excess of $6 billion per year once it is fully in place. That $6 billion is a lot of money. It is essentially taxpayers' money that is now being collected which the government proposes to spend out of general revenues to give a tax cut to certain people.
That tax cut would go to people who earn up to $130,000 per year. The maximum benefit is $347 per year, I believe. That would go to the people who are in the upper income bracket. The lower we go down on the scale, the less the benefit is. When one gets down below $40,000, I think the benefit is about zero.
Who is this benefiting? Is this benefiting people who do not have an income to pay the kind of tax that would benefit from this? Is it going to people who do not need it?
The Liberals can say they are going to have a middle-class tax cut, and they will fulfill their promise, but this is a Parliament that is supposed to work together. We could make a significant improvement to this plan by saying that the Liberals could do their tax cut but we should ask why they are giving it to people who are already making $90,000 or more a year. That $300, or $340 maximum, is not going to change their lives. They might like to have $300; who would not? However, I question whether they need it in the same sense as people who are in a situation where they cannot afford dental care, and do not have access to it. It could change their lives.
I say that because dental care is extremely important to one's health and well-being. Not only is it important to one's health and well-being, but if we think of children growing up who do not have access to dental care, it affects their well-being, their health, their digestion, and their social standing.
Everybody in this House knows there is a big divide in this country. There is a divide between people who have good teeth and people who do not have access to the care that is required to make sure they have proper oral health. That is not fair. It is a great inequality. It is one of the most unequal aspects of health care in Canada, because most dental care is not covered by public health insurance. Some emergency care is. Someone may have an abscess in a tooth, because the person has not had the opportunity to go to a dentist to have proper dental care, or to have cavities filled and the person is forced to wait and endure the pain that comes with that. The person will go to a hospital emergency room and have an emergency extraction which costs the health care system several hundred dollars, but the person no longer has a tooth. Then the person is affected by that for the rest of his or her life.
That is the reality. That is unfair and it is unnecessary. It is an inequality that can be fixed. We, in this House of Commons, have an opportunity today to pass a resolution that would allow that to change. We do not need to give a $300 tax break to someone making $125,000 a year. However, we do need to ensure that everybody has fair access to health care.
During the campaign, we announced our platform and we announced that program in particular. People were coming up to me in the streets. They had heard about this and wanted to know more. They thought it was great. I do not want to try to paint too weird a picture, but people asked me to look at their teeth and asked whether I thought they could get a job with the way their teeth looked. That is the reality. People know they are excluded from employment and certain social activities. It affects their lives in many ways.
I remember an older gentleman in his seventies was almost crying, telling me how he had had cancer and as a result had serious problems with his teeth. He had to get a couple of teeth replaced or refilled. He had some done that he thought were paid for by the province, but they were not. He had to pay for that himself. He said that he had to wait two years to save up enough money to fix his other teeth. That was terrible. He was not interested in voting or in participating. I told him that the way to change things was by voting for something he wants and needs. I hope he did. I did not check with him afterwards.
We are here now, and we have this opportunity to do this. I am calling on all members. This is a real historic opportunity for members on all sides of the House to say that this is something we could do collaboratively that would change the lives of millions of people in this country.
Madam Speaker, it is a great honour again to stand in the House and speak on behalf of my wonderful constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.
I am going into my fifth year as a member of the House and during my time here, I have known nothing but a Liberal government. I did work for a previous member of Parliament during the time the Conservatives were in power.
Over the last numbers of years, I have watched the Liberal government make a number of choices. I will start with what it calls a middle-class tax cut, which in fact sent the lion's share of the benefits to people making six-figure incomes. I remember at the time telling Liberal MPs in this place that they gave themselves the maximum tax cut and that people who earned the median income, which is just over $40,000 per year, would receive nothing. That is just a correction for the record.
We also have the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, and the Liberals have only implemented a handful of those 94 calls to action. This is a government that chose to spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money to buy the TMX pipeline. It has inadequate climate targets. It is waffling on pharmacare. Today we are getting lukewarm support for what the NDP is proposing for dental care.
Governing is about choices. I think back to the words of the late Jack Layton, when he said that we could not just be a party of opposition, that we had to be a party of proposition. That is exactly what today's motion would do. It is the NDP bringing forward a motion to the House, which would have real and tangible benefits for many Canadians suffering from a lack of care.
If we go back to the throne speech, there was a cursory mention of dental care, as follows:
The Government is open to new ideas from all Parliamentarians, stakeholders, public servants, and Canadians—ideas like universal dental care are worth exploring, and I encourage Parliament to look into this.
We are looking into this. We took the words of the Governor General, and we are doing precisely that. In fact, regarding the proposal for dental care, a poll was done last year by IPSOS. It showed that around 86% of Canadians would support providing publicly funded dental care to those without insurance coverage. Eighty-six per cent is a pretty comfortable majority of Canadians. I know that no matter what side of the political spectrum one represents, constituents in every riding of the country need dental care. They are suffering because of poor oral health.
Our proposal is very simple. One of the first things the Liberal government proclaimed it would do was with regard to taxes. The Liberals want to essentially take the basic personal amount and raise it in stages, so the amount of income a person would not pay taxes on would rise to the first $15,000 by the year 2023. This would then slowly slope off to the cut-off income of $150,000 a year.
People who are earning six figures are going to receive most of the benefit. The NDP proposes that we take that proposal but instead limit it to people who earn $90,000 a year or less, in other words, to people who actually need it.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has estimated that if the proposed Liberal tax change comes into effect with the income going up to $150,000, it will cost the Canadian treasury $6.2 billion by the year 2024-25 after the full impact has kicked in. I remind all hon. members that tax changes actually cost money. If we are just giving a rather small benefit to the people who do not need it, then what measurable benefit are we giving Canadian society?
Meanwhile, a huge number of Canadians do not have any dental coverage. They do not have that oral health. We have a real opportunity here to take something, shift it slightly so there still is a tax change, but use the resultant savings to invest in a national dental care plan and get people the help they require.
For my constituents back home, I want to read into the record our motion of today. It says:
That the House call on the government to change its proposed tax cuts by targeting benefits to those who earn less than $90,000 per year, and use those savings to invest in priorities that give real help to Canadians, including dental coverage for uninsured families making less than $90,000 per year.
We need to look at some of the statistics to understand why this proposal is so important. We know that emergency room visits due to dental emergencies cost taxpayers at least $155 million annually. According to Statistics Canada, in 2018, 35.4% of Canadians reported they had no dental insurance, and 22.4% of Canadians, which is roughly 6.8 million people, avoided visiting dental professionals due to the cost.
We know the health literature studies have linked poor oral health to serious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, diabetic complications, renal disease complications, premature birth and low birth weight.
We can look at where we can make those targeted investments in society that will have real impact. Yes, the upfront costs will be quite expensive, because we are going to have to bring a large portion of the population up to a standard of care. However, those costs will start to go down over time. We will see the results in savings in our medical system when we do not have to spend the money to deal with much more complicated health problems down the line.
This is a real opportunity for us to come together and make a difference in this place. I ask members to look at the situation in their own ridings, at what so many of their constituents are facing and to make a real difference by passing this motion. We have a choice before us. Are we going to spend our limited time in this place to give money to people who do not need it or are we going to make that investment to ensure Canadians are getting the help they need?
I have been listening to the debate today and members who spoke previously brought together a lot of personal stories, of meeting constituents, residents in their communities who had to cover their mouth because they were embarrassed by the state of their teeth or had further complications going down the line, which had led to multiple hospital visits.
In many ways, oral health is still very much a class issue. People who have means, who have income, have good teeth. People who do not have that source of income usually have poor oral health. This is an opportunity to give people another rung on social mobility, to give them the ability to go forward, to have confidence in seeking a new job, to be more open, to really participate in society.
Our dental care plan as members of Parliament is very generous. In fact, we have so much privilege in this place. We command an amazing salary. We have incredible health and dental benefits. Why do we feel comfortable as parliamentarians to give ourselves that coverage, yet we balk at the cost of giving it to our constituents?
Can we honestly make that argument to the public when in our constituencies, that we as members of Parliament deserve dental care that they do not have? I do not think many of us can. If members are going to make that argument, I would think twice about sitting in this place, because constituents might have better ideas.
I know my time is coming to a close, but I will end by imploring all of my colleagues, no matter which political party, to seriously look at this proposal, look at the good it will do for the people of Canada and take this moment to come together in this minority Parliament, pass the motion and get our country onto a path where we can cover people for dental care, which will have a very real and measurable impact in their lives.
Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to stand in the House and represent the residents of Winnipeg North. I rise to provide some comments that are fairly widely accepted, at least among Liberal members of the House of Commons. I would suggest that through working on all sides of the House we have been able to bridge some common support for good initiatives.
I would break what we are discussing today down into two issues. The first is dental coverage. Depending on which member is speaking, the New Democrats and the Bloc members spend some time talking about dental coverage. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have more of a fixation on taxes. I have good news for both the official opposition and my New Democrat friends. I hope to address both of those issues.
I will start by talking about the election of 2015. Back in 2015, we had a real change in course through the change in government with our current . It was a change for the first time after many years under Stephen Harper. I know I should be somewhat careful when I say that, because it tends to scare a few people. When Stephen Harper was the prime minister, it was very rare for us to see anything of a progressive nature taking place, whether it was regarding health care, our environment or any other type of initiative.
Since 2015, we have had, for the first time in many years, an opportunity to see a number of areas progress. One of which I am very proud is the issue of pharmacare. For many years I sat in opposition here in the House of Commons. For even more years I sat in opposition in the Manitoba legislature. Health care was a very important issue. Dental care was an important issue, even back then. In 2015 the government, from the 's Office right through, indicated that we wanted the standing committee of health to look at a national pharmacare program, or something of that nature, that would be able to provide more affordable medications for Canadians in all regions of our country.
As members of the House will know, the standing committee came up with an excellent report. I have had the opportunity to review some of the comments that came out of that particular report, and over the last few years we have seen a great deal of lobbying. A good percentage of that lobbying, in a very effective way, took place since that report. I have heard this from unions, and more importantly from constituents. Day after day in the last session, I brought forward petitions with hundreds of signatures from residents of Winnipeg North saying they wanted to see some form of a national pharmacare program.
We need to recognize that it is not as simple as some would try to imply. Back then, the New Democrats would tell us to just wave our wand, and we would have a national pharmacare program. They know better. We cannot just click our heels and make things happen like that. We have to work with the different levels of government. We have to try to present the case, and ultimately it is going to take a great deal of work to bring in a system.
We have invested literally tens of millions of dollars trying to further this, so that we will have some form of a national pharmacare program. Prior to this administration, I do not ever recall hearing the debate on national pharmacare, and the idea behind it, to the degree to which we have been hearing it in the last four years. I am glad to see the progress we have made. We have had ministers of health who have had a profoundly positive impact on the reduction of the costs of medications, in particular for hospitals and institutions, through the way in which we purchase prescribed medicines.
We now have a motion on the floor that in part deals with a dental plan. Again, the NDP is in a dream world. My friends often say New Democrats are like Liberals in a hurry. This is the type of thing that cannot just be wished into being. We have to do the background work. The sent the a mandate letter in which he asked her to look into how we might be able to expand the debate of how we could do what we started with pharmacare, taking dental care into consideration.
The Standing Committee on Health is going to study this issue. When I posed a question to my NDP friend, he said standing committees do all sorts of reports and so forth. Over the last four years our government has demonstrated that, when it comes to the pharmacare issue, we take it very seriously. Not only was the pharmacare issue mentioned in the mandate letter to the , but a standing committee is going to deal with it. If it is doable, we are interested.
We recognize that not all Canadians have dental coverage. We also recognize that while there is some direct benefit to dental coverage, we have to look at the best way to realize dental coverage for those individuals who will be in need of that service in the future.
Whether it is the mandate letter, the standing committee or the dialogue, pharmacare has been mentioned many times. I have had the opportunity to talk about pharmacare on many different occasions here in the House. I have even had the opportunity to reference dental care. I have talked about it with my constituents.
Our wants our caucus members to get a sense of what our constituents want. He wants us to bring their asks and what they are feeling in our constituencies back to Ottawa, whether on the floor of the House, in standing committees or in our caucus discussions. He wants to ensure that our constituents' concerns are brought to Ottawa so that we have an understanding of them. Not everything takes place in the Ottawa bubble.
That is why we have seen this government take a number of progressive actions dealing with not only health care and the environment but also taking progressive steps toward developing our country through infrastructure. We could talk about the CPP.
When we talk about pharmacare or a dental plan, we have to talk and work with the provinces, because there is a jurisdictional area there. The Bloc has already highlighted that on several occasions. There is a sense that we need to work with the stakeholders, and the provinces in particular.
We have a good example of just how successful we were on another progressive issue: the Canada pension plan. For years, Stephen Harper ignored it. He did absolutely nothing. Many years before he was prime minister, one would question whether he even supported the CPP and the idea behind it.
Within a couple of years, through the and other members of cabinet working with the provinces, we were able to get an agreement that enhanced the CPP. The workers of today will have more money when it comes time for them to retire. That is an example that really demonstrates how this government treats those issues that are of critical importance to Canadians. We are looking at those issues.
I want to give some attention to Conservative members, who at times underestimate what we have been able to do while making progressive changes with regard to taxation and the redistribution of what I would classify as wealth in Canada.
Remember that within a couple of months of the 2015 election, one of the very first pieces of legislation we introduced, and I know the House is familiar with it, was the tax break to Canada's middle class. That was a tax cut. At the time, the Conservatives voted against those middle-class tax breaks. What is interesting is the Conservatives stand up and say they want more tax breaks, but when they actually had a chance to vote for tax breaks, what did they do? Every one of them stood up and voted no.
Then we heard that the 1% wealthiest should pay a little more in taxes, so we brought forward a votable item to increase taxes on Canada's wealthiest 1%. Not only did the Conservatives vote against that, which surprised me, but so did the NDP.
That is why I find today's motion interesting. The New Democrats are saying we should not give a tax break in one area so we can funnel that money into another area. I have heard that before. They believe we should have a tax for corporations here, put a tax there, click our heels and make things happen.
In the 2015 election, the New Democrats talked about a multi-million-dollar housing strategy proposal. We came up with a multi-billion-dollar first-time-ever housing strategy that goes for 10 years. It is the single greatest investment in housing. How did they respond to it? They said it was not enough, yet it was 10 times the amount they were talking about in the election. That was the election where they were advocating for balancing the budget. I think it is because they have this sense that whatever the government does they have to try and one-up it. If we say we are going to build 1,000 homes, they will say they will build 5,000 homes. If we say we are working toward a national pharmacare program, they will not only say it was their idea, but now they want a national dental care program. When it comes to my NDP friends, it is never-ending. That is something I witnessed when they were in opposition.
When I was in the Manitoba legislature, it was quite the opposite. It may be hard to believe, but I believe the Manitoba government gave six tax reductions on corporate taxes in 15 years. That is more than the Conservatives did. I would suggest that the NDP in government and the NDP in opposition are two different animals.
When we look at the bigger picture of what we have been able to accomplish by working with Canadians over the last number of years, the said it well. We had the middle-class tax break. We had the tax increase to Canada's wealthiest 1%. We had the Canada child benefit program enhancement. As I have often said inside this chamber, that particular program saw over $9 million a month going to the riding of Winnipeg North to support our children. We had the increase to the guaranteed income supplement, lifting hundreds of seniors out of poverty in the riding of Winnipeg North alone. We just had a report from Stats Canada that indicated that the number of people who have been lifted out of poverty in three years is over one million. Never in the history of Canada have we ever seen, in a three-year period, one million people lifted out of poverty.
That tells me that the government is doing it right, that by working with Canadians we are making a positive difference.
When we look at why it is so important that we get it right, and we look at where those tax dollars and those tax breaks and the enhancement of the child benefit and our seniors program are going, the reality is that they are putting dollars into the pockets of the Canadians who need them the most. When we do that, we are increasing their disposable income. By increasing Canadians' disposable income, we are allowing Canadians to spend more in their communities.
That in itself assists in building the economy. That is why the and other Liberals will say that by supporting our middle class and giving our middle class strength, we are strengthening our economy. Again, the proof is in the pudding. By working with Canadians, we have created well over one million jobs since 2015, and most of those are full-time jobs. I would compare our record with the Stephen Harper record, any day on anything.
Mr. Tony Baldinelli: Done.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: The member might not want to say, “done” too quickly because they will be embarrassed if they accept that challenge.
Madam Speaker, we look at the policies that have been put in place, both on the progressive side in terms of programs like the CPP and budgetary measures such as tax cuts. If we look at the investments in Canadians, specifically the record amounts of money in infrastructure, we see that unlike the former government we actually believe in infrastructure. A healthier infrastructure is good for the economy. We know that.
On this side, we get it. By addressing all three areas, we have witnessed a relatively healthy economy over the last number of years that has generated record numbers of jobs and has reduced unemployment rates to historical levels in certain areas of the country. These are the types of things that are having a positive impact on Canadians.
In the most recent budget, we are talking about increasing the basic allotment amount from just over $12,000 to $15,000 over the next few years. My Conservative friends will say that is not a tax cut. I always say a tax cut is a tax cut is a tax cut. It is, in fact, a tax cut. Those individuals will be paying less tax, as a direct result, once again, of another Liberal initiative. That is incorporated and coming up. We are going to see some wonderful things in the not-too-distant future. Those are the types of things that will keep us on the road that we are currently on.
We, collectively on the government benches, understand the importance of working with Canadians, consulting with our constituents and coming up with the ideas that are ultimately going to take form in different ways through legislation, through budgetary motions and just through government policy in general. We are in contact with ministers and we provide direct input, whether inside this chamber, in our caucus or in the standing committee.
I will leave it at that, but I would suggest that we are going to get a lot more when we get the chance to look at the next budget.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for .
I would like to thank my NDP colleagues for using the first opposition day to urge the government to work collaboratively for working-class Canadians.
In this minority Parliament, the Liberals have a choice. They can provide a tax break to people who are making more than $90,000 a year or they can offer dental coverage to families making less than $90,0000 annually. In fact, if I were the Liberals, I would be jumping at the chance to support an opportunity to work so well for Canadians. What we have been able to provide here is an opportunity for the Liberals to see what they could accomplish instead of giving a few more dollars to people who do not actually need the money.
We know right now that we are leaving millions of Canadians behind. They cannot afford to go to the dentist. We know that this is causing incredible stress on our emergency rooms. We are spending $155 million annually on dental-related emergencies. These are preventive things. This is money we would not have to be spending if we had dental care for people who need it.
By providing access to oral health, we would also ensure that we are preventing other serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, diabetic complications, renal disease complications and premature birth and low birth weight.
We need to start protecting all Canadians, particularly those who are most vulnerable. I have spent a great deal of time in my riding of Edmonton Strathcona, which is a very diverse riding. There are large number of students in my riding, and there is a large diversity in socio-economic status. I have spent a lot of time on doorsteps talking to people, and I am unbelievably surprised by the incredible support for a dental program in this country.
What is interesting to me is that it is not just those people who would benefit from a dental program who are so supportive of it. It is, in fact, Canadians of all economic backgrounds, whether they can afford their own dental care or not, who recognize that we have an obligation to make sure all people within our community are taken of.
I spoke to a constituent of mine, a young father who lived in a lovely home and clearly had a level of income that is quite comfortable. He had two daughters. He spoke to me at length about his support for medicare, pharmacare, mental health care and dental care. I said to him that he obviously had the money to take his kids to the dentist and asked him why he was worried about dental care. His response to me, which is something every person in this House needs to acknowledge, was that his children's well-being and his well-being depend on his community and country doing well. He was worried about the kids at his daughters' school and their ability to access dental care.
If Canadians like this young father can be generous and understand the obligation we have to represent Canadians and do what is best for Canada, I really find it problematic that there are people in this House who do not recognize it. We know that across Canada there is incredible support for a dental program, and the majority of Canadians who have elected us to represent them in this House have asked for and supported dental care. What right do we have to not support that? What right do we have to not support dental care when the people who put us in this building to represent them have said that they want dental care?
It is also really important, and people have brought this up before, that we talk a bit about how the Liberals say that there is no money for things that they do not want to put money into while there is always, always money for the things they think are important. This is not the first time that members will hear this, but Loblaws does not need Canadian taxpayer dollars. Mastercard does not Canadian taxpayer dollars. The ones who do need it are young families who cannot afford their dental care and university students and families who are struggling to make ends meet in my province, where 19,000 people were laid off in January. Those people need support. They need support to be able to access dental care.
A budget is coming out in our province today, and it is not going to get better there. There are people hurting in Alberta, and this is a concrete thing that I and all members can fight for on behalf of our constituents.
I would also like to take a moment to offer to my Conservative colleagues the thought that millions of Canadians do not have dental care, but the biggest benefits from the Liberal tax cuts go to the wealthy. Conservatives talk a lot about standing up for working Canadians, so I can only assume that they will be supporting our plan to cap the cut for the wealthiest and invest those savings in a dental care plan that will benefit millions of hard-working Canadians.
I am so proud to be a New Democrat, to represent Edmonton Strathcona and to have a proposal that would immediately help 4.3 million people and save our health care system tens of millions of dollars each year. It is time we started delivering on the needs of everyday Canadians and it is time we started investing in Canadians and their needs. Dental care is health care. Canadians should not have to choose between taking care of their teeth and taking care of their health.
Madam Speaker, I am always honoured to rise in the House to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay.
For the folks back home, what we are discussing today is something on which the Liberal government has promised to work collegially, in this minority Parliament, to try to bring solutions, without our throwing brickbats at each other. However, as we are seeing throughout this debate, the Liberals are absolutely dead set against a reasonable solution. The solution is for a serious problem: the lack of dental care for more and more Canadians across this country.
I talked to a young woman the other day who said something that I thought was very powerful. She said that in Canada today the economic dividing line is between those who have dental care and those who do not. Those who do not have dental care are put at such a basic sense of risk, and there is also a risk of damage to self-worth. From knocking on the doors in my region and in my community, I have seen the impacts of not having access to dental care. In the great regions in the Far North, in the communities of the Cree, the dental crisis is a serious medical crisis.
What are we proposing? Whenever we come forward with a reasonable suggestion, the Liberals say, “There is the crazy NDP, pie in the sky. It is never good enough.” They tell us to stick with the Liberals, who make all the great promises but do not ever actually deliver. The pharmacare promise came so long ago that I think I was a child at the time. At least emotionally I was a child. The Liberals are still promising pharmacare, but we just have to wait a bit longer.
A great analogy for this relates to a loaf of bread. Why fight for a big loaf of bread? We can cut half a loaf of bread and give it to Galen Weston and tell everyone else they are loved and cared for. We are so cared for that the Liberals now have a . If this were a drinking game, and every time the said “middle class” we had to take a drink and then a shot for the follow-up line “those trying to join it”, people would be bombed at the end of a four-minute speech by a member of the government.
I say that in all seriousness, because the grew up in a very different middle class than my father and mother did. I do not know the middle class he grew up with in the town of Mount Royal, but my mother and father were the children of hard rock miners. My mom quit school at 15 and got a job. My dad quit school at 16 and got a job. He became a member of the middle class at 40, when he could go to university. My mom would type his notes when he would come home after 12 hours on an all-night bus to Timmins. By getting a university degree, he became a professor of economics. That was the middle class.
Middle class meant that my dad could buy a little house. It was not a big house, and it took him 25 years to pay it off. We had one car, and when that car died it just stayed in the driveway. My dad never got another one. Middle class meant that his kids could go to school and come out without debt, because he had a summer job. That was the middle class.
When we ask the what the middle class is, she says it is hard to define, that it is for people who have stuff. That is it? She says it is for people who have kids in hockey. What about the families who do not have kids in hockey? What about the families who are working three jobs full time and are not able to pay their rent?
It is called the gig economy. The , who is pretty much the minister of the 1%, tells us to get used to it; it is the new normal. It is not the new normal. It is the direct result of deliberate economic policies by the Liberals and the Conservatives, going back and forth, policies that have deteriorated the once strong middle class that was the basis of the economic engine in this country.
When we talk about dental care now, with people who have to make a choice among paying their rent, looking after their children, getting their car fixed so that they can get to work and getting their teeth fixed, we are in a very different economic reality. What is the solution? It is quite simple. The Liberals, whenever they do not know what to do, give money to wealthy people and tell us that we will all benefit. The first thing the did was give a tax cut to the middle class and those wanting to join it. In other words, those making $150,000 a year are going to love the Liberals, and for those making $40,000 a year, they have nothing but a lot of nice affirmations.
The minister of the 1% has given us $14 billion in tax cuts over the last five years. These are cuts to revenue that could be used to invest in things the Liberals say they support, like pharmacare, and address the horrific shortage in national housing. They keep saying housing will receive the greatest and most incredible investment ever, but they are just not spending money on it. They do not even know where the money is because they gave it away in tax cuts.
What about their latest tax cut? Those who make $150,000 a year will do very well, but those who make less will get very little to diddly-squat. The reasonable alternative is to say that those making $90,000 or more do not need the extra money and to take that money and put it into a national dentistry fund to help 1.4 million Canadians.
The Liberals seem to think these finances are shocking. The finances were not shocking when they wrote a cheque of $4.5 billion to Trans Mountain to get it to go away. Then we bought ourselves a pipeline, and now they are adding $1 billion every few months, no problem there. They did not have to factor that out. They did not have to cost it out. Now they are asking how to cost out a national dental care program. What we know is that in the first year it will be used by a lot of people, but then it will settle in at about $800 million a year.
It is pretty clear that if we decide not to give more benefits to the rich, the people who so-called have all the stuff, and put in a dental plan, it will make life much better for many Canadians. It is doable, but it is about political will.
The other issue is about federal and provincial jurisdiction.
Quebec clearly has a lot of credibility when it comes to providing services to its people. The NDP upholds the principle of asymmetrical federalism. If the Government of Quebec decided to offer a program, it would be able to develop a plan and receive federal funding. That is reasonable.
To the other provinces, like Jason Kenney's Alberta, which would love a national dental care plan and then would give it to some oil executives, we would say no, that the money has to go to dental care. We have to protect the rights of citizens in this. If we are going to change how we tax money to help people, we have to make sure it will go there.
In my 16 years in the House, I have seen a continual deterioration of the middle class through deliberate policies, like the policies that downloaded the cost of university tuition onto students year after year so that students are now coming out with $50,000 or $60,000 to $100,000 in debt that they cannot get out of. I have seen the rise of the so-called precarious gig economy, precarious because it favours corporations, as it does not require standards to be in place for employment. It is crippling the young generation that is carrying those costs. I have seen the rise of housing prices in urban areas and in rural areas like mine, where right now 2,000 homeless people are in the area of the city of Timmins, a city of 44,000 people. Despite all the volunteers we have, they cannot address that crisis without a national investment. What do we get from the government? It says we have the greatest national housing investment ever, but we are not seeing any buildings.
This is about choice. It is about the choice to invest in housing. It is about the choice to invest in our students. It is about the choice to invest in infrastructure. Here we have a clear choice to not give to the rich and make a plan to establish a national dental care plan.
I appeal to my Liberal colleagues to do the right thing, work with us and send the message that this minority Parliament can work together.