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43rd PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 023

CONTENTS

Tuesday, February 25, 2020




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 149
No. 023
1st SESSION
43rd PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Parliamentary Budget Officer

    Pursuant to section 79.2(2) of the Parliament of Canada Act, it is my duty to present to the House a report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer entitled “Labour Market Assessment—2020”.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to rise in the House this morning to introduce the safe and regulated sports betting act.
    I have gotten great support from across the House. I would like to thank the member for Windsor West in particular for his assistance with this legislation and for the seconding of the bill here this morning.
    There are others in our caucus who have given great support, such as the members for Essex, Niagara Falls and Calgary Shepard, and I would like to thank them.
    This is a historic moment. This is the third time this bill has come to the House. As members know, it passed in 2015 but got stopped in the Senate. Last time, in the 42nd Parliament, it did not make it out. This is third time lucky, as we will join forces with everyone in the House to see if we can move this bill forward.
    Let me be clear that single-event sport wagering already exists in this country, and if members do not think so, they are behind the curtains. The Canadian single-event sport wagering industry is worth over $14 billion, but most of it, 95% of it, exists underground on the black market or through offshore websites. These are unregulated sport-wagering sites. None of that activity is subject to government regulations or taxes; none of it is creating jobs in this country or economic opportunities; and none of it is contributing to consumer protection, education, harm reduction initiatives or support services, which are badly needed in this country.
    This legislation would amend the Criminal Code to repeal the federal ban on single-event sport betting and allow the provinces to implement a safe and regulated betting environment within the provincial wagering and lottery systems. By passing this bill, we can put a stop to the billions of dollars going to organized crime and put that money back into our communities.
    To wrap up, it has all changed since 2018. The United States has allowed it. Sport leagues, like the NHL and NBA, are in favour of sports betting being regulated. It is time this country follows forward. I will have more to say on this bill, but it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House this morning and introduce it.

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

    That was very well done and very informative, but I would remind hon. members to give a succinct explanation of their bill.

Criminal Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to introduce my private member's bill today, an act to amend the Criminal Code, sexual exploitation.
    I would like to thank the member for Portage—Lisgar for seconding this bill.
    This bill was introduced in the previous Parliament as Bill C-424. It is designed to better protect young people and persons living with disabilities from sexual exploitation. This is a direct result of the advocacy, comments and concerns of the people of Perth—Wellington. They were shocked in January 2018 to learn that a person who was employed to work with young people and persons living with disabilities was convicted of a serious sexual crime against a person living with a disability. As a sentence, he received a monetary fine.
    This bill would ensure appropriate sentencing for anyone who commits a serious sexual crime against a young person or a person living with disabilities. It provides for guidance in sentencing if the crime is committed against a young person or a person living with disabilities.
    I look forward to continuing debate on this matter, and I am seeking the support of all hon. members in the House.

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

  (1010)  

Canada Labour Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, almost seven years ago to the day I stood in the Alberta legislature to begin a journey to change compassionate care leave in this country. This legislation successfully passed, allowing thousands of Alberta caregivers to take time off work to care for their gravely ill loved ones.
    Today, I am rising in this chamber to introduce my bill, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (compassionate care leave). This legislation, if passed, would allow caregivers using the compassionate care leave program to take additional time off work following the death of their loved one. Currently, this leave ends immediately following a loved one's death, not leaving enough time for the caregiver to make the practical necessities like funeral arrangements and estate planning and to have the time to grieve. My bill would extend compassionate care leave so that caregivers can take up to three extra weeks off work following their loved one's death.
    This is job-protected leave, so caregivers would not have to worry about losing their employment during this time.
    Caregiving is exhausting work. I hope members on all sides of the House will see the need for this amendment to the Canada Labour Code and support the continued progress of compassionate care leave in our country.

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

Environmental Restoration Incentive Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, today I introduce the environmental restoration incentive act. I thank many members and colleagues for their support.
    Canadian energy producers lead the world in remediation and reclamation but struggling small and medium-sized oil and gas producers are collapsing in real time, leaving fiscal and environmental liabilities.
    The 2019 Redwater decision means at-risk small companies now cannot raise money for that purpose. Municipalities lose major revenue and facilities are left in different conditions. It is not evasion nor neglect by small gas producers, but a stark reality of their precarious economic positions. The number of orphan wells rose more than 300% since 2015. There are more than 130,000 inactive wells in Canada. Cleanup costs are estimated between $30 billion and $70 billion. The current orphan well system is overwhelmed and risks are costing taxpayers 100% of those costs.
    My bill would enable small producers to raise money from investors exclusively for decommissioning oil and gas wells. It would incentivize and ensure private sector proponents can fulfill environmental responsibilities at the lowest public cost.
    My bill is not a perfect remedy for this complex challenge that requires co-operation and ongoing action from federal and provincial governments. I ask all members to partner and prioritize real solutions for all Canadians.
    We can make a real difference right away with a tax credit that can only be used the year a well is decommissioned, will only exist for six years, and will only be for small and medium-sized producers that need it the most, with further measures later on.
    My bill would help the environment, create immediate jobs for oil and gas workers, and protect taxpayers.

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

  (1015)  

Expropriation Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, there has been a disturbing trend in Canada toward what is referred to as regulatory or constructive taking of private property. This happens when government uses its statutory powers to regulate or restrict the property rights of an owner without acquiring title to the land being adversely affected.
     The landowner feels the impact of the regulation as if the land had been expropriated. In Canada, government acquisition of land without owner's consent is not subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Landowners' rights are found in expropriation legislation. The government must follow the law as to what land may be expropriated and must observe the procedures set out in legislation. By setting out exceptions in the Expropriation Act, my bill seeks to remove some uncertainty from the existing legislation as to whether owners can be compensated.
    With this legislation, my goal is to protect the private property rights of average Canadians.

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

[Translation]

Citizenship Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce my first bill in the House of Commons, a bill seconded by the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.
    This bill amends the Citizenship Act to require that permanent residents who ordinarily reside in Quebec must have an adequate knowledge of French in order to obtain citizenship.
    In Gilles Vigneault's masterfully chosen words, “The Francophonie is a vast, unbounded land, the realm of the French language. It exists within us. It is the invisible, spiritual, mental and emotional homeland within each one of you.”
    I thank the House for its support.

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

  (1020)  

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to introduce in the House an act to amend An Act to authorize the making of certain fiscal payments to provinces, and to authorize the entry into tax collection agreements with provinces. I thank the member from Montarville for seconding my bill.
    Tax season is approaching, and citizens and businesses in Quebec will have to file two income tax returns, with two different types of statements, two types of net income and two types of schedules. Everything needs to be done twice. Is it possible to simplify the lives of citizens and businesses by having them file a single income tax return? That is what we are proposing. It would be administered by Quebec, since Revenu Québec is present in every region and already manages the collection of GST and QST. Quebec finance minister Yves Séguin, a Liberal, was the one who first proposed this approach, which now has the support of every member of every party in the Quebec National Assembly.
    This law would also enable Quebec to fight more effectively against the use of tax havens, since Ottawa is dragging its feet in that regard. We want to ensure we can protect and maintain all regional jobs.
    We believe it is entirely possible to secure those jobs by reclassifying the public servants and putting them in other jobs that are currently understaffed.
    The Research Institute on Self-Determination of Peoples and National Independence conducted a study. A single income tax return would save $425 million for individuals, businesses and the public administration. Can we stop making citizens, businesses and the public administration do everything twice? I am confident that we can.

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

Aeronautics Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to introduce my first bill in the House. I am particularly excited about this bill because it builds on what motivates my commitment to politics, namely, the self-government of my nation. I am therefore honoured to introduce my bill on land use and development and environmental protection. Under this legislation, a number of existing laws would be subject to Quebec's laws going forward.
    Let us keep in mind that the protection of Quebec's territory essentially falls under the laws and regulations of Quebec and its municipalities. While Quebec cannot force the federal government to obey its laws, the federal Parliament can set strict parameters on the Government of Quebec in the enforcement of its own legislation. We have the ability to regulate matters pertaining to the environment and the development of our territory. It is inconceivable to me that Quebec should have to defer to the federal government on these matters, because what happens within our borders should be decided by us.

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

Canadian Multiculturalism Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a bill to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act to provide that it does not apply in Quebec. Canadian multiculturalism is a political ideology imposed on Quebec. All it has done is juxtapose a multitude of cultural solitudes and ghettoize difference.
    The Quebec nation wants to design its own integration model. We are open to diversity and we want to create a harmonious coexistence based on shared values, especially when it comes to protection of the French language, separation of church and state and gender equality.

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

  (1025)  

[English]

Employment Equity Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a private member's bill entitled “an act to amend the Employment Equity Act”.
    The Employment Equity Act was designed to ensure that we achieve equality in employment in the federal public service and for large employers in the private sector that come under federal jurisdiction. The fact is that the workforces in these areas still fail to represent the diversity of the Canadian population.
    As it stands, the Employment Equity Act applies to only four groups: women, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and visible minorities. Members of my community, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Canadians, are left out of the act. This private member's bill would make sure we are counted in.
    Once again, I would like to thank the Public Service Alliance of Canada for its strong advocacy on this issue, and in particular Paul Jones of the Union of National Defence Employees in my riding.
    We know that so many Canadians remain under-represented in all levels of employment, and that transgender Canadians suffer particularly high levels of unemployment and underemployment. Adding transgender Canadians to the Employment Equity Act would force employers to address this fact and come up with concrete plans to remove the barriers to equal employment for all.

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

Petitions

Indigenous Affairs 

    Mr. Speaker, this petition calls upon the government to immediately commit to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada by halting all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on Wet'suwet'en territory, ordering the RCMP to dismantle its exclusion zone and stand down, scheduling nation-to-nation talks between the Wet'suwet'en nation and the federal and provincial governments and prioritizing the real implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Human Organ Trafficking  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition in support of Bill S-204 with regard to human organ trafficking.
    Mr. Speaker, I am also presenting a petition today in support of Bill S-204 on combatting organ harvesting and trafficking.

Natural Resources  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting two petitions.
    The first is from petitioners in my riding who are asking for the immediate repeal of Bill C-48 and Bill C-69. One is the anti-pipeline bill and the other is the tanker ban on the west coast. The petitioners from my riding remind the Government of Canada that over 100,000 jobs have been lost in the Alberta energy sector alone.

Taxation  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition also comes from petitioners in my riding. They are demanding that the government stop raising their taxes and immediately commit to rejecting all tax increases to leave more money in the pockets of the people who earn it.

Human Organ Trafficking  

    Mr. Speaker, I am putting forward a petition on behalf of concerned Canadians who want to see Bill S-204 supported. They have concerns about international trafficking in human organs and want to see the government take swift action to make sure that Canadians cannot travel abroad, utilizing perhaps criminal behaviour, to receive organs harvested without consent. The petitioners would like the government to put an end to this, at least from the Criminal Code side.
    Mr. Speaker, I bring members' attention to this petition signed by people from across the greater Toronto area. They want to bring attention to the harvesting of human organs. The petitioners want the government to take action by specifically supporting a number of bills: Bill S-204 and Bill C-350. The petitioners are urging Parliament to move quickly on this matter.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

  (1030)  

Request for Emergency Debate

Cancellation of Teck Frontier Mine Project  

[S. O. 52]
    The Chair has notice of a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Lakeland.
    Mr. Speaker, I am requesting an emergency debate on the economic impact on all of Canada caused by the cancellation of Teck Frontier.
    It is an economic crisis for Canada, because energy is the biggest private sector investor in the economy and creates jobs in every province. However, nearly $200 billion in oil and gas projects have been cancelled or stalled, and 200,000 Canadian oil and gas workers have lost their jobs in the last five years. Every oil sands job creates five other indirect and induced jobs in other sectors in other provinces. Canada has the third-largest oil reserves in the world; 97.3% of which is in the oil sands.
    Teck's cancellation is the 11th major multi-billion-dollar oil and gas project to be withdrawn, and Teck is the latest in a list of 18 companies that have cancelled or frozen their Canadian energy assets in the same time frame.
     This flight of capital from Canada's energy sector represents a bigger loss of investment and jobs than at any comparable time frame in more than seven decades. It is the equivalent of losing both the automotive and aerospace sectors in Canada, which I am confident would rightly be considered a national economic catastrophe and a severe crisis by every member of every party in this House of Commons.
     The cancellation of Teck Frontier will cost Alberta 10,000 badly needed jobs and $20 billion in investment. It will cost 14 indigenous communities, all locally impacted and all supportive, their agreements with financial, education and skills training opportunities. It will eliminate the potential of $70 billion in revenue to all levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal.
     Its cancellation represents a crisis of investor confidence in the fairness, predictability, independence, and certainty of Canada's regulatory system, policy framework, and the economy overall. Teck invested $1 billion while meeting every requirement during eight years of a rigorous multi-jurisdictional review, and even recently took the unprecedented step of self-imposing a goal to be net zero by 2050, far beyond the already world-leading standards of Canada.
    Seven months ago, Teck Frontier was recommended by the independent expert joint panel to be in the public interest of Canada, based on its science, evidence, technical, environmental and economic merits, but within a week of the final political decision, media reported that Teck board members concluded that public safety concerns and political risk in Canada made it impossible to continue to pursue the Frontier project.
     Already this week, economists and commentators are wondering and warning whether any major energy projects can be proposed or built in Canada.
     A painful truth is that it also represents an escalating national unity crisis from the perspective of western Canadians, who see political double standards for oil and gas compared to other sectors and other provinces.
     All these factors combined present a national emergency that ought to seize the attention of every member of the House of Commons. An emergency debate is the bare minimum.
     Previously, emergency debates were granted when Kinder Morgan announced its withdrawal from the Trans Mountain expansion and when General Motors announced the closure of their automobile assembly plant in Oshawa. Every member here agreed those were emergencies that deserved debate in Parliament, and it happens to be the case that Teck Frontier is larger, both in investment and in jobs.
     For these reasons I request again, and thank you in advance for, your consideration for this important emergency debate.

Speaker's Ruling

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I thank the hon. member for Lakeland for her intervention. I am prepared to grant an emergency debate concerning the Teck Frontier mine project.
    This debate will held later today at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion — Proposed tax changes  

    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 Burnaby South. He will take the floor in the second part of my intervention.

[English]

     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.

  (1035)  

[Translation]

    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.

[English]

    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.

[Translation]

    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.

  (1040)  

[English]

    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.

[Translation]

    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.

[English]

    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, I would like to get clarification on the figures to make sure I am reading them right. On our tax bill, people who earn up to $210,000 get some relief, and everyone who makes less than $90,000 gets relief, as would be his case. I am assuming that people who earn less than $90,000 would get the same relief as in the proposed Liberal tax cut, and then the part that would be eliminated would be those over $210,000, because no one over that amount gets anything.
    If I am reading it right, how much money would be saved by taking the tax cut away from people who earn between $90,000 and $210,000?
    Madam Speaker, when we hear the question from the member for Yukon, we certainly hope that means he will be supporting the motion directing the government to bring in basic dental care.
    The savings are about $1.6 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, as I said, talks about a yearly expenditure on basic dental care for those who are uninsured of just over $800 million a year. In other words, there is no additional expenditure for government.
    We can look at the amount of money the government has thrown at the Trans Mountain pipeline, $17 billion and counting. We can look at overseas tax havens, $25 billion according to the PBO. We can look at the $14 billion given to the banking sector 15 months ago. This is a drop in the bucket, but one that makes a significant difference in the quality of life of so many Canadians.
    I hope the member for Yukon will support our motion and we can get this done for Canadians.

  (1045)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby.
    Historically, the fathers of Canadian Confederation decided that health should be the responsibility of the provinces and Quebec. The government has since revealed a very obvious thirst for centralization. Last year, the federal government intruded further and further into areas of provincial authority by exploiting its spending authority. What is being proposed here is a blatant intrusion into Quebec's jurisdiction. The Quebec government has always been against this idea, so much so that it called for the right to opt out with compensation. That element is missing from my colleague's motion.
    My question is very simple. Given that this falls under Quebec's jurisdiction, that you are spending money that should be made available to Quebeckers through the federal health transfers, and that you are spending that money according to your own inclinations, how do you think Quebeckers are going to take this?
    I would remind the hon. member to direct questions and comments through the Chair and not directly to the other member.
    The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby.
    Madam Speaker, that is why I mentioned the University of Montreal. I urge my colleague to go and see for himself the long line of Quebeckers waiting to be seen at the University of Montreal and at Quebec's free dental clinics.
    We know that there are people in Quebec who do not have access to dental care. We know that the federal government should provide full funding. We know that the provinces and Quebec can decide how to manage these funds. Nevertheless, there is a dire need across Quebec and Canada. That is why it is so important to vote for this motion today, so the people who are desperately waiting today outside the University of Montreal and the free dental clinics can believe in the future and know that their quality of life will improve.

[English]

    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.

  (1050)  

    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.

[Translation]

    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.

  (1055)  

[English]

    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, the thoughtful members on health committee have already decided to study dental care, with the wisdom of members of all parties going into that discussion. In the minister's mandate letter, she was asked to look at this.
    My understanding from the answer to my previous question is that every person with a taxable income of less than $90,000 will get the same tax relief under the NDP proposed plan if it were to go ahead. If this does not go ahead, will the member support the Liberal tax cut that would give the same amount to everyone with a taxable income of less than $90,000?
    Madam Speaker, what I am proposing today is an opportunity to help those who need it most. My concern with the Liberal government is that it is often helping those who are the wealthiest. The Liberals have given millions of dollars and billions of dollars to the wealthiest corporations. Here is an opportunity to help those in need.
    My proposal is this. Yes, absolutely those who earn less than $90,000 will continue to get the same benefit as planned by the Liberal proposal. However, we are suggesting that instead of giving the maximum benefit to those who earn over $100,000, we not do that. Let us target those who need it the most instead.
    If we do that, we can free up enough money to bring in place a national dental care program that will actually benefit those who need it most. That is what we are offering today and that is what we are proposing. It would mean a lot to so many families.
    I ask the member to consider those people who live in Yukon and how they are struggling to access dental care. I know it is an issue that impacts everyone in this House. That is what we need to do. We need to make sure people have the access to dental care to take care of their teeth.
    That is what I am proposing today.

  (1100)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, much has been said about the NDP's Sherbrooke declaration, which calls for respect for Quebec's jurisdictions, an asymmetrical model and an automatic right to compensation. We do not oppose the essence of the proposal, but the first chance it gets, the NDP is proposing an intrusion into Quebec's jurisdiction. There is another way. What we are calling for, and what the provinces want, is for the federal government to restore health transfers. The provinces want 5.2%, and we want 6%. That would give the Government of Quebec and the provincial governments the flexibility to manage their health care programs. Otherwise, these kinds of proposals will disrupt health care management.
    What are my colleague's thoughts on that?
    Madam Speaker, we are suggesting a change to the Liberal proposal, which really benefits the wealthy. Giving Quebec the right to opt out with full compensation is part of our values. The measure we are proposing would use that money to help families who need it the most.
    Quebec could have access to the federal program if it wants. If it wants full compensation, that is also Quebec's prerogative. We are proposing something for the common good. We will always advocate for working together to build a more just society. We know we can achieve better results by working together. That is exactly what we are proposing, while still respecting Quebec's jurisdictions. Health is always a provincial responsibility. This is a matter of funding. We want to fund a program to help people who need dental care. That is exactly what we are talking about.
    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.

[English]

    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.

  (1105)  

[Translation]

    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.

[English]

    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.

  (1110)  

[Translation]

    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.

[English]

    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.

[Translation]

    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.

  (1115)  

[English]

    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.

  (1120)  

[Translation]

    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.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I was really taken aback by the fact that the member for Ottawa—Vanier did not mention dental care. In my riding, people are suffering from chronic dental issues. People are not able to address dental emergencies because they do not have a dental care plan.
    With all the tax breaks the government has spoken about, why is it not investing in this basic health care need for Canadians?
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for sharing that information with me. I would like to share that while many Canadians have coverage for dental care through employee health benefit plans, and through federal, provincial and territorial dental programs, we know there remain unmet needs for dental care in Canada.
    For that reason, we welcome the decision of the Standing Committee on Health to study the issue of dental care in Canada. The Minister of Health's mandate letter includes a commitment to support Parliament in this work, which we are pleased to do so we can better understand what the government's role may be in helping to improve access to dental care in Canada. I look forward to seeing the work from the committee.
    Madam Speaker, that was a great speech from the member. You mentioned the middle class several times—
    I want to remind the member to address the Chair and not the member.
    Madam Speaker, the hon. member mentioned the middle class several times in her speech; I marked down at least nine different times.
    I wonder if the hon. member could define what the middle class actually is. Is it income? Is it families? What is the actual definition, in her opinion, of the middle class?
    Madam Speaker, I understand the hon. member's question. I also want to entertain the fact that yes, we have been, as a government, really focusing on the middle class, and we will continue to do so. If we strengthen the middle class, we will grow the economy. As we know, many economists and many stakeholders have been talking about the middle class.
    There is not one single measure that can explain what the middle class is. Why is this? If one looks at Windsor and how families are living, their income and where they live, compared to families in Churchill, for example, they will have a different set of income numbers and costs. The way I look at it is we want to focus on making sure Canadians have a good place to call home, a safe and dignified retirement, a good education for their kids and a good well-paying job. If we have all those factors, we make sure that the middle class is strong in Canada.

  (1125)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the minister spoke about the importance of the middle class and how we need to support it. One way to support the middle class is to provide quality public services. The federal government's role in the health care sector is to ensure that these services have proper funding. However, successive governments in recent decades have made cut after cut to health care funding.
    Can the minister tell us whether her government plans to get health care spending back on track?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.
    Our government has been investing in health care since 2015, for example, through provincial transfers, which were quite significant over the past five years. We also made a significant transfer for mental health care and for home care services. I believe that our government remains committed to investing in health.
    With respect to pharmacare, our government has already done a lot in one generation to reduce drug costs. Now is the time to take another step. We need to sit down with the provinces and territories to implement a pharmacare plan based on the Hoskins report. We will work together to improve health care for Canadians.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I enjoy hearing from the minister, but I am a bit perturbed. I have been door knocking in Ottawa—Vanier, because there is a provincial byelection going on. People in Ottawa—Vanier, the minister's own riding, are talking about the importance of having access to basic dental care.
    What the Liberals are offering this morning is unbelievable, in the same way that for 23 years they have been committing to pharmacare and studying pharmacare and have not been willing to move forward on it. Now there is a bill, Bill C-213, that all members of the House will be voting on in just a few months' time that will enshrine and put into place pharmacare, finally after 23 years, but the Liberals seem to be proposing more studies on dental care.
    There are millions of Canadians who need basic dental care. The NDP's proposal does not increase costs. Why are the Liberals reluctant to endorse the motion we are debating today?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for mentioning my riding. I too have had the pleasure of going door knocking in the past few weeks and years.
    When we knock on doors, the issues we are hearing about, especially lately, are the environment and climate change, the possibility of getting better pharmacare, and the fact that the Canada child benefit is helping people.
    My hon. colleague asked a question about dental care. The Standing Committee on Health is actually planning to study this issue, so we will see what its recommendations are and how they can help the people of Ottawa—Vanier.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, this is the second time in the House that I have heard those on the other side say they introduced the Canada child benefit. In actual fact, child benefits are one of the country's oldest income security programs.
    Why does the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity say this? Is the government trying to pull the wool over the eyes of new Canadians by rewriting history in its favour?
    Madam Speaker, I remind the hon. member that when Liberals were elected in 2015, the first thing we did was give tax cuts to the middle class. We also introduced the Canada child benefit, which has helped lift more than 900,000 Canadians out of poverty and, as Statistics Canada said yesterday, over 334,000 children out of poverty.
    We are doing the right thing, and I hope the hon. member will recognize that.

  (1130)  

    Madam Speaker, I am wondering if my colleague could expand on how important it is for us to support Canada's middle class. Giving the middle class an increase in disposable income helps our economy. Could she provide her thoughts on that?
    Madam Speaker, I have been travelling across the country meeting with Canadians. Everywhere I went Canadians told me that the Canada child benefit has supported them. They also mentioned that the new tax cut we are proposing would make a difference, with more money in their pockets. Many measures we have proposed will help middle-class Canadians in their day-to-day lives.
    We know we still have work to do, and that is why we are working to make sure we propose different measures. We must make sure we understand what Canadians need and which measures we should be proposing next.
    Madam Speaker, I am happy to be splitting my time with the member for St. Albert—Edmonton 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 Prime Minister of Canada.
    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.

  (1135)  

     I know a few organizations that could use this money. Maybe if they ask the Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister'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.

  (1140)  

    Madam Speaker, I work with my colleague on the finance committee. I am a little perplexed by his conclusion. He said that the number of tax changes is relatively small. He is absolutely right about that, but he would know from his riding, as we know from ridings across the country, that people are struggling to pay for basic dental care, while other countries, like those in the United Kingdom and the European Union, provide basic dental care. The cost to the Canadian taxpayer from people who go to emergency rooms for dental care is over $150 million a year.
    I agree with the member that the government could take a much better approach, but in a minority Parliament, Conservative votes can be determinative on this issue. There is no doubt that people in his riding and right across the country need access to basic dental care. We are paying more by not having access to it than we would by putting it into place.
    I gather from my colleague's comments that he might not be prepared to support this common-sense motion that the NDP has put together. If not, why not?
    Madam Speaker, the reality is that the vast majority of Canadians have affordable dental coverage through private plans. There is an issue, granted, with respect to some people who may not have coverage. In my home province of Manitoba, the University of Manitoba has a program in its dentistry school where people who cannot afford dental care or insurance come to have their teeth cleaned or whatever dental work they might need.
    I am happy to hear the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity say that this issue is now being studied by Parliament. I will look forward to the thoughtful report that will come out of that study so that we can make the right decisions for Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, the member made reference to “greatest hits”. I want to reflect on some of the greatest hits: a tax increase on Canada's wealthiest 1%; a tax decrease for Canada's middle class; tax fairness, income sprinkling and passive income; a small business tax cut from 12% to 9%; close to a billion dollars in two budgets to go after tax evaders; enhancing the working income tax benefit by an additional $500 million per year, starting in 2019.
    When we have had tax measures, such as reducing the middle class tax, the Conservatives voted against them. When we had the tax increase to Canada's wealthiest 1%, the Conservatives voted against it. Can the member explain why the Conservatives would have voted against those tax changes?
    Madam Speaker, on this side of the House, at least the Conservative part of this side of the House, we take absolutely no lessons from the Liberal Party when it comes to tax policy. The Liberals have made life so much harder for Canadians and they do not even know it.
    The tax changes on small business were absolutely devastating to small business people all over this country, all of whom were working hard to join the middle class. The Liberals have failed small business owners across this country.
     The carbon tax has made it almost impossible for a number of industries just to get by. We have heard many comments in this House over the last number of weeks about simple things like the cost in agriculture to dry grain. The carbon tax is punishing businesses that have no option.
    We take no lessons from that party when it comes to taxes. We were going to bring in a universal tax cut and scrap the carbon tax. What are the Liberals going to do, other than give people half a cup of coffee a day with this basic personal amount exemption?

  (1145)  

    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 Prime Minister 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 Edmonton Centre 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 Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley 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 Minister of Middle Class Prosperity refer to the Liberal middle-class tax cut, which sounds like a good idea.

  (1150)  

    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 Minister of Middle Class Prosperity 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.

  (1155)  

    Madam Speaker, I have a point of order. The Minister of Middle Class Prosperity misled the House by claiming that her government introduced the universal child care benefit, an initiative her party vigorously opposed when the Conservative—
    That is debate. The hon. member may try to raise it during her questions and comments or during her speech. It is not a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, my colleague speaks very eloquently and I enjoy working with him on the finance committee, but I remain perplexed by the Conservatives' approach on this issue.
    They admit that the offering of those tax changes by the Liberal Party to Canadians would have very little impact on families that are struggling with record family debt. At least half of Canadian families are struggling to make ends meet in any given month. The Conservatives are not prepared to make the logical conclusion that the best way to make sure that this measure has impact on Canadians is to invest in basic dental care for Canadians in his riding and right across the country. I am perplexed by the contradiction.
    Can Conservatives understand the importance of making sure basic dental care is available for all Canadians?
    Madam Speaker, I certainly enjoy working with the member on the finance committee.
    As my colleague the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley said in response to the same question from the hon. member, a vast majority of Canadians are already covered. The government has undertaken to study the issue at the health committee, and I look forward to the study and to reading the report.
    I have a great deal of skepticism that a one-size-fits-all national dental care program is the answer to the few Canadians who are not covered.
    Madam Speaker, I want to reiterate that I am delighted that the health committee, which includes Conservatives, is going to study this idea and that the government made the choice to put it in the mandate letter to the Minister of Health, and now the NDP is onside.
    Could the member talk about the bill? The last two Conservative members, who I assume are the experts on this topic because the party put them up for this opposition day motion, did not mention one word about the bill in their opening speeches. Maybe that member could comment on the bill.
    Madam Speaker, I spoke about the substance of the issue before us, which is the Liberal increase to the basic personal amount. I reiterate it is nothing more than a Liberal middle-class tax gimmick, and we oppose it.
    Madam Speaker, I have a supplementary question. The member stated that he felt that providing dental care would not really help Canadians. I would suggest to him that if he talks to people, he will find that there are literally millions of Canadians who do not have basic dental care now. In reality, that is causing a crisis in emergency rooms because they cannot handle all of the people coming for dental emergencies.
    Does the member understand that it does not make a lot of sense to spend $150 million getting inappropriate health care in emergency rooms when basic dental care will make sure those people are taken care of?
    Madam Speaker, I simply reiterate that I am not convinced that a one-size-fits-all national plan is the answer in the same way I am not convinced that a one-size-fits-all national pharmacare program is the answer.
    If there ever was an opportunity to move forward with a program like that, the Liberal government is making it all the more difficult with its out-of-control spending and massive deficits and massive debt, which I hope the NDP, like us, would encourage it to rein in.

  (1200)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to share my time with my friend and colleague, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean.
    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.

  (1205)  

    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 thank my colleague. I must, however, remind him that there are lineups across Quebec. Quebeckers are waiting for dental care.
    If I understand correctly, the Bloc is saying that this issue is not fixed and that criticism of underfunded health care is warranted. However, the Bloc is choosing to penalize Quebeckers by refusing to support a motion that would provide dental care. The federal government would give this money directly to Quebec, which could decide what to do with it. As the member for Burnaby South pointed out earlier, this measure would include the right to opt out with full compensation, which goes without saying.
    I do not understand why we are going in circles. There is a dental care crisis right now. The money is there at the federal level. If this motion is adopted and if the Government of Quebec agrees, Quebeckers will have access to that money and to dental care services. As I mentioned in my speech, people are lining up at the Université de Montréal to access free care because they have no other option.
    Does the Bloc understand how important it is to give the Government of Quebec this option?

  (1210)  

    Madam Speaker, what the Bloc understands is that this is yet another intrusion into provincial jurisdictions. If the member wanted to respect the Sherbrooke declaration, the motion should have stipulated that Quebec and the provinces would have the right to opt out with full compensation. Otherwise, what is the point of the declaration? Was it meant simply to grab votes in Quebec? Then, when it comes time to apply it, it is soon forgotten. Unfortunately, that seems to happen all too often.
    Quebec's social and public services are more abundant and of higher quality than those found in the rest of Canada. We in the Bloc Québécois trust the National Assembly of Quebec to implement progressive policies that will ensure high-quality services for Quebeckers.
    Any time Ottawa comes forward with a social service or progressive measure, Quebec has usually adopted it at least a generation earlier. That is the problem.
    Health is underfunded, and the House of Commons is to blame. The House must first address health care funding.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I will defer to the member's request to not debate dental care here, and I will talk about something else that was brought up during the speech.
    The last Conservative speaker said he was, shockingly, against the tax cut. Conservatives are normally for tax cuts, but he was against the tax cut. Does the member agree with that?
    The motion in question would leave the tax cut in place for everyone with under $90,000 of disposable income, but it would eliminate it for people with $90,000 to $210,000. Does the member agree with eliminating that part of the tax cut?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. The member represents a magnificent area.
    The Bloc Québécois does not support tax cuts for the wealthy. We are in favour of a progressive system.
    In the last Parliament, the government cut taxes for the middle class. When we took a close look, it was clear that the people eligible for the maximum tax cut were those with annual incomes between $110,000 and $220,000. In my riding, there are not many people who earn that much. We would prefer to see measures that support those earning around $50,000 a year.
    Here, we are discussing cutting taxes for those with incomes below $90,000. In my opinion, those earning more than $90,000 should contribute a proportionately higher amount of their income than a person who earns less than that.
    However, the motion is not clear about how this will be implemented. Will those earning $90,000 be taxed incrementally more? Will the $90,000 represent a step increase? In that case it would be more profitable to earn $85,000 than $92,000 a year. Will the tax reduction kick in at $75,000?
    We also need details about this.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I did not want to interrupt my Bloc colleague's speech, but I want to raise this as quickly as possible.
    Earlier the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity misled the House by claiming that her government introduced the universal child care benefit. That is something that was introduced by the Harper government.
    I put forward a unanimous consent motion to table the Universal Child Care Benefit Act of 2006 to show that the minister is incorrect in her representation to the House.
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to table the document?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

  (1215)  

[Translation]

     Madam Speaker, I read the motion moved by my hon. colleague fromNew Westminster—Burnaby. 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.

  (1220)  

    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.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's presentation. He said that he likes apple pie and that this would be very nice, but that, as usual, the NDP did not say how we would pay for it. Well, we have said exactly how we would pay for it.
    The government is proposing to spend over $6 billion on a tax cut for what it is calling the middle class, people with up to $150,000 a year. If we take the top part of that, over $90,000 in income, it gives us $1.5 billion, which would be better spent on people who desperately need it for the dental care they do not have now.

  (1225)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, first of all, the motion does not provide enough detail to indicate how we would get that money.
    Second, this is about areas of jurisdiction. The expression “areas of jurisdiction” includes the word “jurisdiction”. I think that is fabulous. This is Quebec's jurisdiction. What is unfortunate is that it would have been so easy for the NDP to indicate in the motion that Quebec would have the right to opt out with full compensation. It would not have been complicated to write. We were told earlier that that was a given. History tells us that it is not really a given. It would have been so simple to include it in the motion, and perhaps that would have facilitated discussions between our parties. Unfortunately, I sometimes get the impression that too much electioneering goes on in this place. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, our constituents pay the price.

[English]

    First, the Liberal tax cut, which we have talked about a lot today, proposes increasing the exemption ceiling and it would reduce taxes for 20 million Canadians. The Conservatives, of course, have said they are against it, and the New Democrats would reduce some of that. Is the member in favour of that tax cut for 20 million Canadians?
    Second, the health committee has decided to study dental care, which I am definitely in favour of. I wonder what positive contribution the member thinks the Bloc will make to that discussion in the health committee.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, we are in favour of having the wealthy make a greater contribution. It only makes sense. The Bloc Québécois is a social democratic party and we are progressive.
    In answer to the second part of the question, I would say once again that this is a provincial jurisdiction. If I may add something, as my hon. colleague suggested, I would say that Quebec needs to be given the right to opt out with full compensation every time. It is as simple as that. Unfortunately, the Liberals have proven in the past that this is not their cup of tea. The cuts to health transfers came from the Liberals. It was Paul Martin who made the biggest cuts to health, and now the provinces are suffering the consequences. It hurts Quebec and Quebeckers.
    This has been going on for years. This is an opportunity to increase these transfers. We are calling on all hon. members to work together to increase health transfers. That is what we want. Sadly, we have no lessons to learn from the governments that sat in the benches across the way, regardless of political stripe, because the Bloc Québécois is doing its job.
    Madam Speaker, the Bloc asked earlier whether Quebec would have the right to opt out with full compensation. The NDP said yes. The Bloc asked how this would be paid for. We explained, and the motion is quite clear on that point.
    The Parliamentary Budget Officer himself explained how we could pay for this dental care. I do not understand how a self-proclaimed social democratic party can act like this. People are lining up at the University of Montreal. I know people in Saint-Félicien and in Roberval who are experiencing this. I lived in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, and I know a lot of people in the Lac-Saint-Jean area who are truly in need of dental care.
    The Government of Quebec makes the decision, of course. The federal government pays, and we have already found a way to get that money to Quebec if that is what the government wants.
    Why is the Bloc so strongly opposed to a measure that could potentially help many Quebeckers?
    Madam Speaker, what a coincidence, I also know the people of Lac-Saint-Jean. That is my riding. The people of Lac-Saint-Jean like things to be clear. I am looking at the motion in front of me. I will not hold it up, because I am not allowed to. Nowhere in the motion does it say that Quebec would have the right to opt out with full compensation. It does not say that anywhere. They can say it all they want, but it is not written in the motion, and the motion is what we will be voting on. The people of Lac-Saint-Jean like things to be clear. I guarantee that they would agree with me.

  (1230)  

[English]

    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 Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. 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.

  (1235)  

    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, one of the things the Standing Committee on Health looked into last go-around was the issue of a national pharmacare program. It did an exceptional job. We have made significant progress as a result of that.
    I look at what is happening today. Whether it is in a ministerial mandate letter to take this issue into consideration, in terms of what it is we might be able to do, my understanding is that the Standing Committee on Health is also going to be looking into that.
    Does my colleague believe that the standing committee would be able to do some fine work? Maybe we could get it on course, the same way we managed to do with the pharmacare program. We should at least get MPs around the table at the standing committee to see what they might be able to come up with.

  (1240)  

    Madam Speaker, I have been on many committees and I do make recommendations. Recommendations have been made for many years about many things in the House.
    This is an opportunity to do something. It is a first step toward a full national dental care program, but that requires a lot of work. It requires negotiations and fitting it into a full program, including pharmacare.
    This is a first step, but let us do it. Let us take the money that would otherwise be given to people who do not need it and ensure it is available to people right now as a result of a very simple, straightforward measure for which the money is already allocated and which the government has already decided spend.
    Madam Speaker, one thing I have heard from all sides, quite honestly, is the erroneous use of the term “tax cut”. A tax cut is where we take a tax rate and drop it to a lower rate. What the government is doing is proposing a raising of the threshold that is not taxed, so on the exemption from tax.
    Out of concern for accuracy and calling something what it is, what does the member have to say about the proper use of the term “tax cut” or raising the exemption threshold?
    Madam Speaker, the member can call it anything he likes, but the result is paying less taxes. When the hon. member's party was in power, and I was here, the Conservatives called a lot of things “tax cuts”. They were not specifically taking a tax and chopping it; they were actually lowering taxes or doing something else.
    The government has called this a middle-class tax cut, and the Liberals campaigned on it. I do not care what the member calls it or how it is implemented; it is spending taxpayer money that is now being collected and saying that we are going to give it back.
    Tax cuts are actually expenditures of money. We are saying to spend the money on something that people actually need, in fact, desperately need and would change their lives. This $340 will not change the lives of anybody making more than $90,000 a year.
    Madam Speaker, it is the first time a member of Parliament from the Green Party has taken the floor today on this opposition motion, so I am happy to inform the New Democratic Party that we welcome the motion and plan to vote in favour. I hope others will as well to get this motion passed in a minority Parliament. It would be about time.
    I will share my own experience. As a single mother, I did not have much income, being the executive director of Sierra Club Canada through my daughter's whole childhood. The peak of my pay was $50,000 a year. I chose to ensure my daughter had dental care. As a result, I needed to have a whole bunch of teeth pulled. I had to spend a fortune, $4,000, to get ready for the 2011 leader's debate.
     In 2008, I had these flipper things that were the cheap fix for the holes in my mouth, and I could not speak to save my soul. I could not say vérificatrice générale. There were certain words I just could not say with a cheap flipper thing in my mouth. I had to spend the money, because I needed to be okay in the leader's debate.
     The reality is that a lot of people out there are making choices and ending up being in this situation. The member for St. John's East mentioned some people and said that very few of them were actually in a position to hope to become prime minister, while dealing with a mouth that had not seen a dentist for a proper amount of time or with the proper amount of money.
     It is about time we deal with this. I certainly know what it is like and I know a lot of Canadians who are in a very difficult position because of a lack of dental care.
    Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her support and for her personal story.
     I could tell my own stories. I still have gaps in my jaw from the lack of full dental care when I was a child in a family of eight children. I do know of what the member speaks, as I am sure other members do. If they do not know it from their personal experience, they know it from their neighbours, friends and families, which is a good reason to see this as a good and positive measure.

  (1245)  

    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.

  (1250)  

    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 a members of Parliament deserve dental care but 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.

  (1255)  

    Madam Speaker, I appreciated hearing the speech from my hon. colleague. Given that pharmacare and dental care are already matters that will be engaged directly in some manner in this Parliament, I am wondering how taking away this basic deduction from higher-income people will actually help lower-income people.
    Madam Speaker, I think it is quite clear that the way it is going to help lower-income people is by taking the resultant savings of roughly $1.6 billion, which is not just chump change but a considerable sum of money, redirecting it and investing it in people to make sure that they have dental coverage.
    The hon. member has to know what the costs of dental care are, especially for someone who has been suffering from poor oral health. Many people cannot afford that. That is how we would be putting money back into people's pockets. We would make sure that they do not have to pay those upfront costs and that they could go to the dentist like he can, like I can, and not face exorbitant costs. That is how we would invest in people who do not have the wealth and privilege that so many people in this place and other members of Canadian society enjoy.
     People who are earning six figures do not need a tax break. We need to be investing in people who need it. I know who I speak for, and I implore that member to think about the constituents who live in his riding.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech and the NDP for putting this motion forward.
    This is clearly a good idea. There are a lot of low-income people in my own riding who face problems not just with dental care, but with meeting the basic cost of living. A tax cut for people with lower incomes is a good idea.
    My understanding from what I have heard is that the tax cut would not apply to people who earn more than $90,000. It is not completely clear in the motion. I would just like some clarity on that, but I support the idea of ensuring that the funds go toward helping the lowest-income people in our communities.
    Madam Speaker, I also say this for the benefit of my Conservative colleagues.
    For clarification, what we are going to do is make sure that the increase in the basic personal amount of $15,000, which is exempt from income tax, is meant only for people who are earning $90,000 a year or less. It is not $150,000, but $90,000.
    For clarity, that is in fact what we are proposing: putting the resulting savings into a national dental care plan to help people of low means.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
    I have to admit that our concerns are similar to those of the NDP. The Bloc is a progressive party. The main issue we have with the motion is about respect for jurisdiction. The Bloc Québécois might have been a little more open to supporting the NDP motion as presented had it included a provision demonstrating respect for Quebec's jurisdiction.
    Going forward, what I am asking my colleague to do is to take into consideration the need to respect Quebec's jurisdiction.
    Would he agree that their motion, in its current form, is poorly worded?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am very well aware that the delivery of health care services falls under provincial jurisdiction, but where I see the strength of our federal government in matters such as health care is to ensure that Canada does not operate like a patchwork quilt. Much in the same way that the Canada Health Act operates in providing financial transfers to provinces that meet five conditions, I see this acting in a similar way.
    My ultimate goal would be to have it that, no matter what province one lives in, whether it is Quebec, British Columbia or New Brunswick, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and that we all get a standard level of care. I think where one lives should not determine the type of health care one receives.

  (1300)  

    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 Prime Minister. 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 Prime Minister'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 the reduction of the costs of medications, in particular for hospitals and institutions, through the way in which we purchase prescribed medicines.

  (1305)  

    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 Prime Minister sent the Minister of Health 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 Minister of Health, 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 Prime Minister 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 Minister of Finance 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.

  (1310)  

    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 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 Minister of Middle Class Prosperity 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 Prime Minister 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.

  (1315)  

    Madam Speaker, I want to put it on the record, just to be clear, I do not think I have ever agreed with that member. However, there are a few points in his speech that I agree with today. I certainly agreed that the NDP ridiculed the Liberal national housing strategy in 2015. The member said that we said it was not enough, and I certainly agree with that. It was not enough because there was nothing there.
    The problem with the Liberals is they think that if they keep saying something it will become true. When we kept trying to find out where the national housing strategy was, we had the national housing strategy person, the member for Spadina—Fort York, who got up very defensively, said that they had helped over a million Canadians. We wanted to know where the million Canadians were. Then when the member was questioned on it, it turned out he had just made that up. He said it was for rhetorical advantage, to misrepresent numbers about a basic housing strategy.
    If we listen to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, someone the Liberals seem dead set against and have tried to undermine, his latest comments on the Liberal national housing strategy are that they maintain “current funding levels for current activities and slightly reduced targeted funding” for current activities. If we get through the bureaucratese and economics of that, it means the Liberals have basically been putting jack squat into a national housing strategy and they plan to maintain a jack squat national housing strategy.
    That leads me to my final point. I agree with the member that the Liberals are always willing to put money in the pockets of people they think need it the most, like Galen Weston, $12 million to fix his fridges. The Liberals think he needs that the most. We are here talking about people who cannot get dental care.
    I do not know if the member understands what it is like to be without dental care, but I meet people without dental care all time and they are not people in the Liberal universe. We are here to say we could have a reasonable strategy to help with dental care or we could have more and more of this kind of Liberal rhetoric for advantage that helps no one.

  (1320)  

    Madam Speaker, when the member makes reference to rhetoric, for almost 20 years I sat opposition in the Manitoba legislature, and for roughly 15 of those years the NDP was in government.
    Many, and particularly members from the Bloc, will say that the provinces do have a role to play in dental care. Some of the saddest stories we could hear are from northern rural Manitoba, and a lot of the inner city areas in Winnipeg North. The need is there, and it is very real. I have said that. The Prime Minister has acknowledged that. The Minister of Health has acknowledged that. All Liberals recognize the issue. For years and years, the NDP in Manitoba never got it done. It refused to address that particular issue.
    Now the NDP in opposition here in Ottawa is saying that we have to deal with it. The standing committee is going to be dealing with it. There is going to be a study in regard to it. We are very hopeful and optimistic that if we can work with provinces and support provinces, we might be able to do something.
    We are starting the ball going forward, which is more than I could have said during the 15 years I was in opposition, when the NDP was in government and when it virtually ignored the issue completely.
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to enter the debate with my colleague opposite. The member raised the dynamic where the NDP sees the government doing something and says it is never enough.
    From a Conservative viewpoint, we have a very similar observation when members on that side get pressed for the way they conduct their business. Immediately, the point their finger and start blaming Mr. Harper for areas that were directly under their control. It is interesting that this member still does not see that.
    While I am on the subject of things that the member may not see, I do appreciate the member's commitment to the House and his engagement on so many files, but he is not doing his rookie members any favours by constantly getting up and robbing them of the chance to defend their government and to actually cut their teeth in this place.
    In all seriousness, the member did raise the subject of tax cuts versus raising the threshold, saying a tax cut is a tax cut is a tax cut and it is all the same. If we agree with that, it is effect and not the actual substance that matters, the government continues to say things like “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” and yet it keeps talking about working for the middle class.
    I am getting very tired and frustrated with this. I want everyone in Canada to do well. Utilizing the term “middle class” kind of stratifies people into little boxes. I would ask the member, who served as an MLA and as an MP, whether he would ever go into his constituency office and say, “You're middle class, so I'm going to help you. You're not middle class, so I'm not going to help you. You're making too much money, so I'm not going to help you” or would the member say it is his duty to stand up and try to make sure that everyone could get ahead, that everyone's children and grandchildren could be better off.

  (1325)  

    Madam Speaker, actions speak louder than words, and all one has to do is take a look at the Canada child benefit program and look at the way in which Stephen Harper worked it under the old system. Millionaires were being subsidized, and it did not matter if one made $10,000 a year or $150,000 a year: There was no difference in terms of amounts.
    One of the first actions we took and have enhanced since then was to recognize that some individuals need more than others. That is reflected in the policies. It is the same thing we are doing with the tax changes this year by increasing the basic exemption.
    There are many examples I could give. I can tell my friend across the way that we always try to arrange it so that whoever walks into my office in Winnipeg North walks away happier than when they came in. We do not necessarily resolve every problem we get, but we try. I would like to think I advocate for 100% of my constituents.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, there is someone whom my colleague opposite did not mention in his fine speech, and that is unfortunate. I am referring to Paul Martin, who practically invented the fiscal imbalance.
    I do not know whether my colleagues remember this, but from 1996 to 1997, immediately after the referendum, which was a very important date for us, Paul Martin significantly restructured the transfer payments. Again and again, he made cuts to transfer payments to Quebec that amounted to almost $2 billion, which led to what is known as a fiscal imbalance. Even today, intense pressure is placed on provincial governments when the federal government can more or less balance its budget by reducing transfer payments.
    If my colleague is so open-minded and concerned about the middle class, why does he not agree to increase health transfers to 5.2% annually, as requested by various provinces?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I actually have a history on that particular issue.
    There was a time in the early nineties when there was an agreement we would have a tax change. Provinces were given a tax shift, given more money through taxes, and in return the money was taken away from health care transfers. Jean Chrétien said no, and said that we would establish a floor to ensure the federal government would always have an interest in providing support for heath care for the provinces throughout the country.
    If we take a look at the many years we have been in government since then, particularly the last four years, we see that today we give more money to health care than we have ever given before. Not only do we do that, but we also highlight issues we believe are important to all Canadians, including mental health. This is an area that we talk a great deal about. We talk about the issue of palliative care, on which we have had much debate inside this chamber, and issues such as dental plans or pharmacare plans.
    These are important issues for all Canadians. It does not matter where they live. If there is an interest, this government is listening. Where we can act, we act. We have demonstrated that. Every day we work as hard as we can to deliver good-quality services for Canadians, and we have a heck of a good civil service to make sure that happens.
    Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Timmins—James Bay.
    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.

  (1330)  

    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.

  (1335)  

    Madam Speaker, I have a distributional analysis from the PBO. I looked at 2024, as an example. If we capped it at $97,000, meaning $97,000 and up, there would be savings of about $934 million, which is not insignificant.
    My question is about dental coverage, because there is a question about spending that $934 million on dental care when it has not been fully studied in this place and it is really within provincial jurisdiction. I am not discounting it as a priority, but why would we not look to something like the Canada workers benefit, which would have a direct impact on poverty and be much better targeted? It is within the purpose of the motion and it would clearly be within federal jurisdiction.
    Madam Speaker, the motion is about dental care and the need we have seen across the country for dental care. While there are a number of different things that the NDP has been fighting very hard for, in this motion we are looking at dental care and how we can support people who need some support for their dental care.
    We are not saying this should apply across the board; this is for families that actually need dental care support.
     I thank the member for bringing up options for other ways we can support Canadians.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, Bloc Québécois MPs are progressive and in favour of social democracy. I like the idea of helping the least fortunate. I am sure everyone here likes that idea.
    However, it would have been so simple to include the right for Quebec to opt out with full compensation. If that had been in the motion, the Bloc Québécois would probably have voted in favour of it.
    I would encourage the NDP to amend its motion. That way, we might manage to accomplish something together.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am glad that the Bloc is a progressive party. It is nice to have them on our side of the room.
    We would like to see a plan that would be national in scope. We are looking for dental care that would be available to any Canadian who needs it. Whether or not there is an opportunity to discuss that further, I would have to talk to my colleagues.
    Madam Speaker, I have been listening to Liberals speak today and the message seems to be hurry up and wait. The fact is right now we have a lot of Canadians who are suffering from poor oral health who need this care right now and yet, the Liberals do not want to go all the way because they believe half measures are appropriate. It is a party that has taken 23 years to get to pharmacare and now wants to delay dental care when it is evident that so many Canadians need it.
    I am hoping my colleague can illustrate how great this need is and what the result in savings will be to some of the lowest income Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague that, unfortunately, we are used to hearing the right words from across the floor but do not necessarily see the actions to follow through with them.
    I could tell members anecdote after anecdote from the people I have talked to who would benefit so much right now from having access to dental care. I have talked to people who are so ashamed that they cannot afford dental care that they cover their mouth when they speak. They are so ashamed that they cannot pay for this basic ability to take care of their own dental hygiene that they will not apply for jobs and are hesitant to go out in public.
     These things are happening in Canada in my riding and it is really quite devastating. We have proposed such an easy fix. We can do this.

  (1340)  

    Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and I think that if you seek it, you will find consent for the following motion:
     That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the Opposition motion in the name of the Member for New Westminster—Burnaby, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Wednesday, February 26, 2020, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès): The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès): Resuming debate, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
    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 Minister of Middle Class Prosperity. If this were a drinking game, and every time the Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 middle class prosperity minister 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 finance minister, 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 finance minister 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.

  (1345)  

    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 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.

[Translation]

    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.

[English]

    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.

  (1350)  

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the element of the motion that suggests the basic personal amount should be targeted more specifically to people in need and middle-class Canadians. I would like to think I had a middle-class upbringing, having been raised by two teachers, and I think that should be the focus of our efforts.
    Some of my concern comes from looking at the distributional analysis of the PBO. In 2024, those with incomes above $97,000 will only receive less than 14% of the benefit. It is a bit disingenuous to suggest this will only flow to upper-income Canadians or principally to them.
    My other challenge is with the math from the NDP in this instance. Over five years, the distributional analysis suggests that for incomes over $97,000, the basic personal amount will be about $3.5 billion, yet the dental care promise in the NDP platform is $5 billion. These numbers do not add up and that is my fundamental challenge with this motion.
    Madam Speaker, I am glad that my hon. colleague was raised by teachers as I am sure he can do math. I had one teacher in my family, my father, who was very good at math, but he would say his son was not so much. That is why I rely on the Parliamentary Budget Officer as well. When I look at the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report, it says the benefits do go to those making above $90,000, just as the previous tax cut went to those making above $90,000.
    There is always a reason for the Liberals not to do the right thing, but when we see the costs of this figured out, it would probably cost $1.8 billion in the first year and then probably about $800 million. That may be low, but the impacts on society are going to be much better.
     I would ask my hon. colleague how much of a benefit we are getting from the $12 billion or $15 billion that was signed off on with respect to the pipeline. Has he done a cost-benefit analysis of how that is helping the middle class? That is probably a question he gets asked all the time in his riding.
    Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech of my hon. colleague from Timmins—James Bay and appreciate some of his comments. He mentioned the middle class quite often in his speech and commented on the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity. He said there is not really a definition from our Liberal colleagues on what the middle class is.
    Can the hon. member give me a definition of what the middle class is according to the NDP? What would the average income per household be? I would like to know if the New Democrats have a definition for what the middle class is within their platform.
    Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question. Rather than talking about the middle class, which I think has become so damaged, we have to start talking about the new working class, which is no longer only blue-collar but also white-collar workers.
    There are professors who are basically getting minimum wage and working on endless contracts. At one point, being a professor was considered the ultimate white-collar job. We are seeing more and more white-collar workers on these perpetual short-term work cycles.
    Therefore, this myth that there is a middle class that we are all part of has become problematic. We have seen a deterioration of that class, and the new working class is no longer just a blue-collar situation. It is also people who are on these endless contract cycles and burdened with student debt. Once we start talking about the real relationship of class, I think we can start to talk about targeted solutions for them.

  (1355)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, as I listened to our hon. colleague, I could see how devoted he is to his people, and I really appreciate that.
    People have been talking about collaboration for a while now. We proved it last week by accomplishing something major for the people of Quebec and the other provinces.
    What the Bloc Québécois is saying is not complicated. If the New Democrats amend their motion to say that they support Quebec having the right to opt out with full compensation, the Bloc Québécois could potentially get on board.
    Madam Speaker, the NDP believes that the principle of asymmetrical federalism is fundamental to Canada. Quebec has many progressive programs to defend the values, interests and quality of life of Quebec residents. That is obvious to the NDP.
    With regard to the question about the motion, the member will have to speak to his critic. However, the NDP feels it is necessary to implement a program that will give people in Quebec and other regions of Canada access to dental care.
    Madam Speaker, I want to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.
    I am very pleased to rise to speak to the motion moved by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby. I am glad to see that he took note of the new tax cut that the government gave middle-class Canadians. This tax cut will put more money in the pockets of nearly 20 million Canadians. It is a commitment we made during the last election campaign, when we promised to make life more affordable for Canadians. We made that promise and kept it, because we know that this tax cut will help middle-class families and those working hard to join it.
    First of all, I believe it is worth pointing out that Canada's economy is strong and growing. I would like to cite some statistics. More than 1.1 million jobs have been created since the fall of 2015. The unemployment rate is at its lowest in more than 40 years. Wages are rising faster than inflation. The poverty rate in Canada is at an all-time low. The results of the 2018 Canadian income survey show that between 2015 and 2018, more than one million Canadians were lifted out of poverty, including 334,000 children and 73,000 seniors. This is the largest three-year reduction in Canadian history. Canadian businesses are turning a profit. In fact, their profits are making them more competitive. This means that employers can continue to create more well-paying jobs. In the end, middle-class Canadians are the winners.
    Nevertheless, there is more work to be done. The cost of living is increasing, and too many families still have a hard time making ends meet. That is why we want to help Canadians keep more of what they earn.
    It is also why, in 2015, we gave Canadians the tax relief they deserved. We put hundreds of dollars in the pockets of middle-class Canadians. We also asked the richest 1% to pay a little more. In 2020, our government is more committed than ever to providing more support for the middle class and for the most vulnerable Canadians, achieving tax fairness and investing in people. That is the best way to grow the economy.
    That is why we have taken steps to help families buy their first home. It is why we have enhanced support for Canadian families. As I mentioned yesterday, 9,000 families in Hochelaga have received monthly tax-free payments.
    Order. The hon. member will have six minutes and 52 seconds to complete her speech when we resume debate after question period.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

  (1400)  

[English]

Translation Bureau

    Madam Speaker, in light of the recent tensions in this House, I wish to call attention to a bright patch in the Canadian record, something we can all be proud of. Today, I want to honour and congratulate the Translation Bureau.

[Translation]

    The Translation Bureau's staff support the Government of Canada in its efforts to serve Canadians by communicating in both official languages, but their efforts go far above and beyond that mandate. I was touched to learn how incredibly inclusive, respectful and committed their work is.

[English]

    A fine example of their efforts is the new gender and sexual diversity glossary, a free glossary that lists the English and French equivalents of 193 concepts on gender and sexual diversity.
     The Bureau also offers translation for international languages, sign language and five indigenous languages and counting, including recent work to include Wolastoqey latuwewakon, a language with only a few hundred speakers in my home riding.
    [Member spoke in Wolastoqey and provided the following text:]
    Wolasuweltomuwakon, Nuhkomossok naka nmuhsumsok, Woliwon ciw latuwewakon, Kisi monuwehkiyeq ‘ciw nilun, nilun oc tokec nuleyutomonen, ciw weckuwapasihtit. Nit leyic.
     [Member provided the following translation:]
    Maliseet language honour code, grandmothers and grandfathers, thank you for our language that you have saved for us. It is now our turn to save it for the ones who are not born yet, may that be the truth.

Winter in Long Range Mountains

    Madam Speaker, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow has certainly been the theme song in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador this winter.

[Translation]

    Indeed, all this snow has given us a magnificent white blanket for the winter carnivals.
    I would like to think all the volunteers and groups in my riding, Long Range Mountains, who organized winter festivities in their communities.

[English]

    This is also a huge boost to many not-for-profits as well as small businesses, especially those in the tourism industry.
     Let us embrace winter and lace up our skates, go ice fishing, try downhill or cross-country skiing, or jump on a snowmobile and experience the hundreds of miles of groomed trails. The more adventurous can try zip lining, take a thermos of hot chocolate and go sliding with the family or, my favourite, snowshoeing with dogs.

[Translation]

    There is nothing like a nice, hot cup of broth in the forest to make any winter outing a success.

[English]

    Whatever their fancy, people can get out and enjoy, and we can continue to let it snow.

Master Breeder Shield

    Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize the accomplishments of three dairy farmers in my riding. Oxford is a unique riding that has a strong presence in both the manufacturing and automotive industries, but Oxford is also known as the dairy capital of Canada.
    Today I would like to recognize the hard work and dedication of Larenwood Farms, Darcroft Farms and Wilmarlea Farm, which were recently awarded Master Breeder shields. This prestigious award is presented to dairy farmers who have achieved excellent health, productivity and longevity for their herd of cattle. A Master Breeder shield is a lifelong dream of many dairy farmers and serves as a testament to years of hard work and dedication.
    Again, I would like to congratulate these three Oxford farms, as only 19 farms across Canada received this award in 2019. Oxford is truly the dairy capital of Canada.

[Translation]

Multicultural Community Radio Station

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate one of the wonderful institutions in my riding of Outremont, Radio Centre-Ville.
    Radio Centre-Ville celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. Radio Centre-Ville is a multicultural radio station that encourages an exchange of ideas and gives a voice to those who are often forgotten by other media outlets. That is the case for programs like Radio Centre-Ville's Fraîchement jeudi, which recently celebrated its first year on the air. Fraîchement jeudi is an inclusive program that lets Montreal's LGBTQ community exchange ideas and enhance their media representation.
    Our local media outlets play a key role in the everyday lives of our communities and I am always delighted to recognize how they enrich our lives.

Gaétan Boivin

    Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute to a forward-thinking man from my riding, Gaétan Boivin, president and CEO of the Port of Trois-Rivières.
    He won the male personality of the year award at the Radisson gala presented by the Mauricie chamber of commerce last Friday.
    Mr. Boivin has successfully modernized the Port of Trois-Rivières by working with his team to implement the On Course for 2030 plan. Thanks to his efforts, the port now has integrated modern, productive infrastructure. With its deep water capacity, the Port of Trois-Rivières is one of the largest ports in Quebec and eastern Canada. It employs thousands of people and contributes $270 milion to the economy of Trois-Rivières.
    I want to congratulate Mr. Boivin, a visionary pioneer who has made the Port of Trois-Rivières a remarkable place.

  (1405)  

[English]

Loran Scholar

    Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to congratulate Govind Deol from L.A. Matheson Secondary School on receiving the prestigious Loran scholarship award. Govind was selected from more than 5,000 students from across Canada as one of 36 Loran scholars awarded a $100,000 scholarship that will go toward post-secondary education.
    Govind started a basketball program for elementary students, volunteered at Camp Next, did patrols for the Surrey Crime Prevention Society, helped the Kinsmen Lodge and raised funds to build schools for an NGO called the Sikhi Awareness Foundation. He is a Matheson Mustang and an exemplary Canadian.
    To Govind I say, congratulations.

Addictions Advocate

    Mr. Speaker, approximately eight million Canadians suffer from addiction. Most suffer alone and in silence, but my friend Natalie Harris is trying to change this.
    Throughout my time in Ottawa, I have had the honour of meeting countless mental health champions. Few have touched my life the way that Natalie Harris has.
    Natalie's struggle with PTSD and addiction has been well documented, but what people do not know is how truly amazing she is. Natalie is a kind and compassionate individual whose journey from the abyss to her work today is a testament to her driving will to survive and help others.
    Natalie's new project, writing get-well cards for those suffering from addiction, is a direct effort to help those in need and at the same time raise awareness of this important issue.
    Tomorrow, after caucus from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m., please join colleagues from across all party lines as we host Natalie in the Speaker's lounge in West Block, Room 233-S.
    We are working together to bring awareness to the terrible disease that is addiction. It is my hope that the words of encouragement we offer may help to build confidence, break the cycle of addiction and maybe, just maybe, we will save a life.

Coldest Night of the Year

    Mr. Speaker, every Canadian deserves a safe, affordable and accessible place to call home. To raise awareness about poverty and homelessness in Brampton South, I took part in the Coldest Night of the Year walkathon hosted by Regeneration Outreach Community.
    I want to thank Ted Brown and all of the organizations and volunteers that made this event a success and that make a difference in our community every day.
    On Saturday, 425 walkers raised more than $100,000 for those in need.
    I want to recognize Pastor Jamie Holtom, the Boys and Girls Club, Rotary Club, Peel police and first responders, and teams from Grace United Church, St. Paul's United Church, Christ Church and many others.
    I am also proud that our government is doing its part by investing in real change that has lifted over one million Canadians out of poverty since 2015. There is more to be done to ensure that every Canadian has a fair chance to succeed.

Rural Health Care

    Mr. Speaker, I attended the funeral of my niece Cheryl two weeks ago and, six months before that, the funeral of her father.
     Cancer impacts all families. It does not care about age, income, job, dreams for the future or where one lives.
    In rural Canada, it is often difficult to access health care in a timely manner. Add in the additional challenges of Canada's more remote places, where air travel to see a doctor is often a requirement and complicates access even more. Our health centres and staff can do amazing work, but they have their limitations.
    I really want to make sure we proceed with our platform promise, to “make sure that every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health care team,” and to improve “the quality of care for the nearly five million Canadians who today lack access”, because our lives depend on it.

[Translation]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister told environmentalists he would plant two billion trees by 2050, that was a simplistic solution. He tried to fool Canadians in order to get elected. He has never been able to tell the truth, and the truth is that his Liberal government will not meet its Paris targets. It is weak to talk nonsense, but that is how it goes with this Liberal Prime Minister.
    I would like to remind him that he has already planted thousands of trees, and that is not enough to protect our environment. If there are trees left over that need planting in Canada, we could use some around Lake Saint-Augustin in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. The town of Saint-Augustin wants to protect the environment and has a tree planting project to protect its lake.
    Where can tree planting projects be found? We in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier really want to take meaningful action to improve our environmental footprint.

  (1410)  

[English]

Special Olympics

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a happy occasion.
    This is the first day of the Special Olympics in Thunder Bay, which are going to run for the next four days.
    I want to thank the very many volunteers who have made this happen. I want to thank the coaches and the parents of all the athletes for their considerable contributions. Most of all, I want to congratulate the athletes.
    I would tell the athletes to try hard and do their best, but most of all to enjoy it.
    I ask the whole House to join me in giving a big round of applause to all the Special Olympic athletes this week.

Tomlinson Lake Hike to Freedom

    Mr. Speaker, today I rise to recognize the immense contribution of black Canadians as part of our month-long celebration of Black History Month.
    The great riding of Tobique—Mactaquac is home to the northernmost route of the underground railway. Brave men and women fleeing slavery found their way to Fort Fairfield, Maine, where they were given refuge in places such as Friends Church.
    Once they were able to make their final journey to freedom, they would set out through the woods until they reached Tomlinson Lake in Carlingford, New Brunswick. Once there, they knew they were safe and began their new lives in Canada as free people. They overcame many challenges and contributed immensely to a better Canada.
    Passionate and tireless volunteers have worked to preserve these stories and valuable parts of our history. They hold an annual hike in the fall where families can walk the trails and learn the stories. I would encourage all members to learn more about this part of Canadian history at tomlinsonlakehiketofreedom.ca.
    Although freedom was reached at Tomlinson Lake, the journey to true equality and recognition continues.

Cattle Industry

    Mr. Speaker, Saturday night, I was delighted to attend Beef Bash 2020. This was an opportunity for ranchers and those related to the cattle industry to come together before calving season. We enjoyed prime rib, filet mignon and beef ribs, followed by a night of cowboy dancing.
    Our hard-working ranching industry participants create a high-quality and delicious product. What many people are not aware of is their role as environmental stewards. Ranching has a significant positive impact on grasslands and carbon sequestration. I invite members to watch the video Guardians of the Grasslands.
    This week, the cattlemen are here in Ottawa. It is important to do a special shout-out to my constituent David Haywood-Farmer, who is finishing his two-year term as president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and has done so much important work promoting the industry here and abroad.
    I thank David for his leadership, and Bonnie and family for allowing him to dedicate himself to this important role.

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, today almost 400 delegates from the Canadian Labour Congress are on Parliament Hill talking about issues facing workers.
    Workers need this government to finally make good on its promise of a universal pharmacare program. They need a $15-an-hour minimum wage and they need laws to protect their pensions and benefits.
    On this government's watch, when Sears failed, the lives of thousands of workers and retirees across the country were devastated. What did this government do in response? It did nothing. Workers and retirees are still at risk.
     Workers still get ripped off when companies go bankrupt. Just last month, Barrymore Furniture in Toronto claimed bankruptcy and abruptly closed its doors. Because the Liberals failed to fix the laws, close to 50 workers not only lost their jobs, but they lost out on the severance and benefit payments they were owed. For some of them, that was close to $50,000.
    When will the Liberals take action and keep their promises to workers?

  (1415)  

[Translation]

On behalf of Jenny Salgado

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of rapper, composer and performer Jenny Salgado.
    

A moment of your time? We deserve to be heard.
A moment to reflect. We are listening.
Our words may not reflect your views,
You may not see yourself in our words like you see your reflection in the mirror.
That’s because the “us” here, that hangs suspended from our lips,
Will be but muffled noise to the world.
Millions of words, people and tomorrows that can't get along.
The struggle to be understood.
Why the suffering when we claim togetherness?
As a country, as a people!
Just a moment to unite us,
To talk about the “us” that is dying to tell you
About the division that pulls us from our history.
Nothing good can come of it.
Thank you for listening.
The mike is now yours.
But never forget,
We always have a voice.

[English]

Carbon Pricing

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled in a four-to-one decision that the legislation that brought in the federal carbon tax erodes the authority of the provinces, calling it “a constitutional Trojan horse.”
    Our country is based on the rule of law and the division of powers. The Liberal government knew from the start that its carbon tax encroaches on the rights of the provinces, yet it passed it anyway. Not only is the carbon tax a cash grab scam that does nothing for the environment, charges a tax on a tax and cuts into the bottom line of Canadian businesses and households, but it is a power grab by the federal government.
    The truth is Canadians are struggling to make ends meet under a government that opposes resource development, allows radical activists to ignore the law and charges a carbon tax on everything.
    If the Liberals really cared about the Constitution and Canadians, they would scrap the carbon tax right now.

Manyok Akol Fundraiser

    Mr. Speaker, on Sunday I had the pleasure of joining a remarkable group of young people in my riding who represent the best in our community.
     When tragedy strikes a community, as it did on January 8, when 18-year-old Manyok Akol, or Manny to his friends, a popular football player and rapper, was killed, it can either divide a community or bring people together.
     On Sunday, over 200 youth came together at the Boys and Girls Club for a basketball game to raise funds for Manny's family. In the face of unspeakable loss, these young people brought together sponsors from 10 different community organizations, including Ottawa Community Housing and the Britannia Woods Community House, to raise thousands of dollars and help heal a community that has been through so much pain.
     These youth already know something we should all remember: that we are stronger together. We thank all the volunteers who showed us how a community can persevere, and find comfort and strength in the face of tragedy.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was a teacher before he got elected, and he has taught protesters a valuable lesson. They can hold illegal blockades—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order.
    This session is not really starting off well. I wanted to point that out, ask everybody to take a deep breath and we will go back to the Leader of the Opposition.
    Mr. Speaker, we know he is a teacher, because we have all seen his picture in the yearbook.
    We know that he has taught protesters a valuable lesson. They can bring our economy to its knees and they can hold illegal blockades, holding up our rail traffic leading to layoffs, and he will do absolutely nothing.
    Does the Prime Minister realize that his weakness has caused the situation to spiral out of control?
    Mr. Speaker, it is certainly not weakness to demonstrate a strong commitment to dialogue and reconciliation.
    Last Friday, the Prime Minister could not have been clearer. He acknowledged and recognized the impact that these blockades are having and he said unequivocally that the barricades must come down and the law must be obeyed.
    As members know, we do not instruct our police officers in their operations, but we trust the police to do the job that they are currently doing for us. We urge all Canadians to obey the law, to allow the trains to start moving again and to come back to the table to resume that important dialogue.

  (1420)  

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's weakness has emboldened these protesters. It took him days before he would even call them illegal. In the first two weeks, he was telling police not to do their job and not to move in and remove them.
    It is not just his weakness that is affecting the blockades, it is also affecting important investments in our energy sector. The Teck mine had its application approved by an independent regulator. It was sitting on the cabinet table for months, since July.
    Why did the Prime Minister wait so long before making a decision on Teck Frontier?
    Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is aware, this was a decision made by Teck. We respect that decision and I am sure it was a difficult one. The decision made by Teck Resources—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order.
    The hon. minister can continue now.
    Mr. Speaker, the decision made by the company and the letter sent to me by the company's CEO demonstrate clearly the need for all levels of government to be working together to deliver on climate action and on clean growth. We need to take action on climate change to reduce pollution, and in doing so we will provide business certainty.
    The minister does not seem to realize that he is part of the government that created the regime that forced Teck to pull out. It was the government's decision to wait months before making a final decision on Teck. It is not just his energy approvals process that is causing problems; it is also his signature policy, the carbon tax.
    Yesterday, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled, “We recognize there may well be those who favour ending further oil and gas development and even shutting down the entire oil and gas industry. Chief amongst them would be Alberta's foreign oil and gas competitors.”
    Why is the Prime Minister doing the dirty work of Canada's foreign competition?
    Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to set the record straight. The Teck Frontier review was actually done under CEA 2012, the process put into place by Stephen Harper's government of which Jason Kenney was a minister of the Crown.
    The decision that was made by Teck Frontier was independent of the review, but I will say that one of the problems with CEA 2012 was that it forced all of the various difficult issues to the back end. We have fixed that through the Impact Assessment Act, by ensuring that the big issues are dealt with early on in the process.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the government keeps talking about reconciliation with first nations. The best way to achieve reconciliation is to work hand in hand with first nations.
    Unfortunately, because of this government's inertia, 14 Alberta first nations have now been left high and dry because the Teck Frontier project no longer exists. For nine months, the Liberal government did everything it could to stymie the project, and now those 14 first nations have nothing.
    Why did the government drag its feet for nine months?
    Mr. Speaker, the decision was made by Teck. We respect the decision, and I am sure it was not easy to make.
     The decision made by Teck Resources demonstrates clearly the need for all levels of government to work together to deliver on climate action and clean growth. We need to take action on climate change to reduce pollution and thereby provide business certainty.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the minister on his French. However, just because he says something in French does not mean I agree with him, especially when he talks about working together. Fourteen first nations were prepared to work together in partnership with Teck Resources to ensure the $10-billion Frontier project would be carried out, to promote this project that would have created up to 10,000 jobs. For nine months, this government came up with reasons why this would not work. As a result, this is not working.
    Why did the government work against the 14 first nations that were invested in this project that would be good for Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, this decision was made by Teck, and we respect their decision.
    As Teck Resources indicated in its letter, global capital markets are changing rapidly, and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions that have a framework in place to reconcile resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible products.
    We agree with that assessment. Productivity is good for certainty and good for Canada's competitiveness and Canadian workers.

  (1425)  

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday you mentioned a wonderful expression from back home that means “cruising for a bruising”. The other side of the House seems well versed in that.
    Is it not time to admit that the management of the rail crisis has been a failure? I cannot call it the indigenous crisis, because it is not just their fault. I cannot call it the government's crisis, because it has all kinds of crises on its hands. Yesterday the Minister of Indigenous Services said that he worried the situation could escalate.
    Will the government admit failure? The Prime Minister has been invited to meet the Wet'suwet'en people in British Columbia, so will he go?
    Mr. Speaker, the answer is no. We have always been focused on finding a peaceful, lasting resolution and on establishing trust and respect among everyone involved.
    Mr. Speaker, in Kahnawake, Lennoxville, Restigouche, Kanesatake and, a few days ago, Saint-Lambert, among other places in Canada, will the government try something else that does not end in failure? Can the government call for a temporary suspension of police intervention? Will the Prime Minister get his ministerial tushie on a plane, take his ministers to British Columbia and negotiate a resolution, please?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have engaged and will continue to engage in dialogue on this issue. It is also very important to acknowledge and recognize the impact that these rail disruptions are having on Canadians right across the country: access to chemicals to keep their water clean, getting products to factories so people can continue to work.
    We urge the people at those barricades to lift the barricades to allow the rail services to resume and to obey the law, and in those circumstances where it is not, we trust law enforcement across this country, who are properly instructed and properly led, to uphold and enforce the law.

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, I met a senior in Quebec City who told me that she needed dental care but could not afford it. Meanwhile, there are long lineups of people waiting for free dental care at the University of Montreal. Clearly, people need dental care but cannot afford to pay for it.
    Does the Prime Minister recognize that people need dental care but cannot afford it?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I understand that the health committee is preparing to undertake a thorough study on dental care, and I look forward to receiving its recommendations. I thank the member for his advocacy.
    Mr. Speaker, those are some pretty words, but the Prime Minister has an opportunity to do something about it right now. There are millions of Canadians who cannot take care of their teeth because they simply cannot afford it. The Liberals are planning a massive tax giveaway, where the most benefit flows to the wealthiest Canadians. Our plan is to target that measure to benefit those who need it most, allowing us to fund national dental care.
    Instead of helping the wealthiest Canadians, will the Prime Minister work with us to make sure 4.3 million Canadians can take care of their teeth?
    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, my mandate letter specifically tasks me to look at the possibility of dental care for Canadians and the health committee is one of the best places to do that. It is obviously made up of partisans from across the aisle and it is going to be a very thoughtful and reflective study. I look forward to hearing the recommendations.

Carbon Pricing

    Mr. Speaker, it turns out the Liberal carbon tax is not only useless and is driving away jobs, but an Alberta court said yesterday it is also unconstitutional. The court ruled federal and provincial governments are co-equal. The federal government is not the parent and the provincial governments are not its children. In other words, the Liberals have no right imposing a carbon tax on Alberta or on any other province.
    When will the Liberals respect this ruling, respect the Constitution, respect the provinces and cut the useless carbon tax?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, we have already heard from the courts of appeal in Ontario and Saskatchewan, both of which determined that the federal plan is well within federal jurisdiction. The Alberta Court of Appeal's decision is one step in this process. We look forward to the Supreme Court of Canada's deliberations in March and are confident that the price on pollution is fully within federal jurisdiction.
    Tackling climate change should not be a partisan issue. It is a scientific issue. It is not an aspirational issue. We need to focus on addressing climate change and this is an important measure in doing that.
    Mr. Speaker, the carbon tax does absolutely nothing to combat global emissions. It hurts commuters. It hurts farmers. It hurts small businesses and it is putting a huge strain on national unity in this country. The court in essence said that if it were upheld, hypothetically the government could dictate to individuals the temperature of their home or whether they drive a car or not. Clearly, no one trusts the Prime Minister with that kind of power.
    Again, when will the Liberals scrap this useless, unity-killing, job-killing carbon tax?
    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House as an MP from Ontario, but also as a grateful daughter of Alberta. Let me say, I understand the despair in Alberta and I believe passionately—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, order.
    We are good to go. The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe passionately that a strong Alberta is essential to a strong Canada. Let me say what we need for that, and I am going to quote the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, “We need real, decisive action on climate change.... The success of our businesses, the well-being of our families...depend on it”.

[Translation]

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, for 20 days, there have been blockades across Canada, and things are only getting worse. Freight trains are blocked and paralyzed. Tensions are rising.
    Pierre Dolbec, the president of Corporation des parcs industriels du Québec, said in an interview that this situation is totally ridiculous and that if it goes on, more vulnerable companies may not make it through the crisis.
    The prime minister's lack of leadership is seriously harming companies in every region of Quebec, and there is no end in sight.
    When will he take action?
    Mr. Speaker, we fully understand the impact on the economy and on those who have been laid off. We are very aware of the situation.
    The Prime Minister has been taking action from the start. We are working very hard to end the blockades. They are, of course, a provincial responsibility in the three provinces affected. We are working to have the blockades removed as quickly as possible.
    Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the Minister of Transport said, the Prime Minister is not doing anything to resolve the crisis.
    Meanwhile, Resolute Forest Products is planning to halt production at some 20 sawmills in Quebec and Ontario. Two Resolute sawmills are located in Haute-Mauricie. Up to 5,000 workers could be affected.
    The Prime Minister wants to lecture other countries, but when there is a crisis here at home, he does nothing.
    Is there anyone across the way who can step up and do his job?
    Mr. Speaker, we are here to resolve the problem. As my colleague said, we are aware of the impact this is having on many industries, including the forestry industry, the lumber industry and the agricultural industry. We are very aware of the situation.
    That is why we have started to make progress. For example, part of the track was reopened yesterday, and the first CN train was able to travel between Toronto and Montreal. We hope that all of the trains will soon be running again all over the country.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's weakness has emboldened those who continue to illegally blockade our ports, roads and railways. The Prime Minister is also blocking investments in this country by cancelling approved projects and creating insurmountable political uncertainty for others. Hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs right across the country have been lost as a direct result of his weak leadership.
    When will the Prime Minister finally stand up to the anti-energy activists in his own caucus, stand up to those blockading our economy and stand up for Canadian jobs?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, our government has been steadfast in its support for the hard-working men and women in our oil and gas sector. It is why we approved the Line 3 replacement project and why we always supported Keystone XL, where construction will soon begin in the U.S.
     Let us remember that there were thousands of good, well-paying jobs that we created in Alberta and B.C. because we did the hard work to get TMX right. We believe in the workers, the sector, the families, and we have their backs.

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's weak leadership is also failing indigenous communities. When he killed the northern gateway pipeline, he stole a 33% equity stake and $2 billion in economic benefits from northern indigenous communities. When the Teck Frontier mine was cancelled because of the political uncertainty he created, the Prime Minister tore economic hope out of the hands of the 14 indigenous communities that had signed agreements in place.
    How does it advance the cause of reconciliation when the Prime Minister does everything he can to keep northern indigenous communities in poverty forever?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, this was a decision taken by the company. We respect that decision. I am sure it was a difficult one. I will say that during the environmental assessment process that was conducted under CEAA 2012, the company did incredibly good work in engaging indigenous communities in Alberta near the project. That is certainly something that can be a model for companies going forward.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, since this government abdicated its leadership responsibilities on the rail crisis, the situation has deteriorated. More blockades are going up in Quebec and elsewhere. When the Prime Minister decided to hide from this dispute last Friday, he said that he wanted to engage in dialogue, but that it takes two to have a dialogue.
    My question is simple. What are the two indigenous affairs ministers doing here right now? Why are they not on site having a dialogue to resolve this crisis?
    Mr. Speaker, we recognize the urgency of this situation and the significant impact it is having on Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We remain hopeful for a peaceful resolution to the blockades. That is why I was in regular contact with the hereditary chiefs all last week. I indicated that we were available to meet in person any time.

Economy

    Mr. Speaker, workers are paying the price for the Prime Minister's incompetence on the rail crisis. In my riding, Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, Resolute Forest Products was forced to lay off 200 people in Senneterre and Lebel-sur-Quévillon on Monday, with no date set for a return to work.
    What does the government plan to do? That is 200 families that have to go without an income while they wait not only for the blockades to be lifted, but for the network to get back to normal.
    Why is this government not doing everything it can to resolve this crisis?
    Mr. Speaker, we understand the situation very well. That is why we have been working day and night to resolve this problem from the start. It is important to have a dialogue. It is also important for the blockades to come down so that our rail services may resume. That is what we have been doing from the start. We are working on a resolution for both the short term and the long term.

[English]

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, oil and gas projects are being built all over world, except in Canada.
    With Teck being forced to cancel, 14 indigenous groups lost out, and 10,000 new jobs are gone. I would call this a failure, but we know the Liberals view this as a win.
    Will the Prime Minister acknowledge that Teck Resources' Frontier oil sands project was killed as a result of his government's anti-oil and gas policies?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I have said a few times, the decision was taken by the company itself, not by the government. I know it was a difficult decision.
    Teck Resources' decision, in the letter that was provided by their CEO, shows the need to have serious climate plans that incentivize innovation, cut pollution and ensure our economy stays competitive for the long term.
    We are doing just that with a price on pollution. We are moving to exceed our Paris targets and working to be net zero by 2050. We have a serious climate plan, and we will be working with Alberta and working with the oil and gas sector to ensure that we can meet it in a way that will incent the development of a clean energy sector.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's weak leadership, anti-energy policies and delay tactics continue to drive investment away from Alberta.
    In fact, expenditures in the energy sector are now $42 billion lower than they were under the previous Conservative government. With the cancellation of the Teck mine, the Prime Minister has overseen almost $200 billion in cancelled energy projects.
    When will the Prime Minister stand with Albertans and our first nations communities, defend the interests of Canada and stop killing Alberta energy projects?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said, Line 3 is complete and in service in Canada. We did the hard work necessary on TMX, and construction is under way, creating thousands of jobs. There has been over $8 billion in new petrochemical projects. Thousands of jobs are linked to those projects.
    These are real investments in our energy sector, and real results for Canadians and Alberta workers.
    Mr. Speaker, after 10 years, Teck cancelled its Frontier project, five days before the government had a deadline to render a decision. Why?
    Was it because the government had been telegraphing that it would cancel it and reject it? The member for Kingston and the Islands across the way was promoting a petition against it last week.
    Frontier was balancing the environment and the economy, something the Prime Minister often inanely repeats.
    Why is the Prime Minister turning his back on the 14 first nations that are supportive of Teck Frontier in favour of dirty oil from other countries?
    Mr. Speaker, this decision was a decision taken by the company. We certainly respect that decision. I am sure it was a difficult one.
    As Teck's CEO said in his letter, we need to move past jurisdictional and partisan fighting. We agree, and we are working with all orders of government across Canada and with the resource sector to ensure that we create good jobs and ensure clean and sustainable prosperity for all.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's weakness, dithering and delays are what forced Teck out, and it harms the whole country.
    Yesterday the Liberals could have said a resounding, passionate yes to me about Alberta, but only Conservatives fight for all of Canada.
    The value of oil and gas to Ontario's economy is more than half the auto sector. Oil sands companies buy the most supplies from B.C., Ontario and Quebec. Atlantic Canadians and Albertans are inextricably linked. Every oil sands job creates five jobs in other provinces and other sectors.
    Why are the Liberals puppets for anti-energy activists who want to phase out the oil sands and shut down Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, I very much hope, and I rely on the hope, that one thing we can agree on on both sides of this House is that we all believe in the importance of national unity. We all understand that the economies of Ontario and Alberta and of Quebec and Alberta are intimately connected.
    That is a firm conviction of our government. That is why I would urge the members opposite not to make national unity a partisan football.
    I just want to remind hon. members that when somebody asks a question, we want to hear what it is, but we also want to hear what the answer is.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, last Friday the Prime Minister could have saved a lot of time and asked the Conservative leader to hold his press conference for him. Their plan to send the police in is not working. Chase is not on the case.
    For weeks, we have been calling on the Prime Minister to name a mediator, sit down with hereditary chiefs and de-escalate the situation. CP Rail is recommending that. Industry is recommending that. Indigenous leaders are recommending that. What is the holdup? When will the Prime Minister admit his Conservative plan is not working?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important to acknowledge that there is some very important work going on in British Columbia with the British Columbia government; a former member of this House, Nathan Cullen; and our ministers in discussion. The RCMP, the hereditary chiefs and the leadership of the Wet'suwet'en community are at the table.
    There are important discussions going on, but at the same time, we have to recognize and acknowledge the impact these barricades are having on Canadians across the country. It was important to ask the people at those barricades to recognize the impact their actions are having on ordinary Canadians and to take down those barricades. It is the responsibility of the police of jurisdiction where the law is not being obeyed to uphold that law. We have confidence in their ability to do so.

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, Hamilton's light rail project is a rare opportunity that has the shared support of city council, big business and organized labour in the community. It is a much-needed investment in public infrastructure and mass transit. It will create jobs, help the environment and uplift the economy. However, the Gong Show Doug Ford government recklessly pulled provincial funding and derailed this critical project.
    Time is running out. Will the government partner with the City of Hamilton and help get our LRT funded and back on track?
    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be part of a government that is making historic investments in public infrastructure. We support local governments in their work to improve local infrastructures. In fact, my hometown of The Hammer, Hamilton, has secured over $500 million in federal investment in infrastructure money and other projects.
    We are a committed funding partner; however, on this specific project, we have not yet received a formal request from Ontario. We remain eager to work with the province and the city to get public transit built.

Social Development

    Mr. Speaker, without question, our government has made bold and unprecedented investments to grow the middle class and help those working hard to join it, but we know that far too many Canadian families are still struggling. In a country like Canada, one family living in poverty is one too many.
    Will the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development update the House on the work being done to combat poverty in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, since we got into office, we have prioritized the fight against poverty and growing the middle class, and our plan is working. Through key investments in Canadians and according to the Canadian income survey, we have achieved our goal of helping over one million Canadians to escape poverty.
    That is the largest reduction of poverty in Canadian history. We will continue to work toward a future where each and every Canadian has—
    The hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis.

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, this government's lack of leadership shows in its approach to everything from the rail blockades to the coronavirus. According to Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, the signs are worrisome. The World Health Organization is talking about a possible pandemic, but what is the government doing? Nobody knows. Radio silence. This situation is very worrisome. This is a serious, high-risk issue, but the Liberals are twiddling their thumbs.
    What is the government's plan for helping Canadians protect themselves from the coronavirus?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to say that Dr. Tam is working very closely with our international partners, but more importantly with our provincial and territorial partners.
    As the situation evolves and as the World Health Organization raises its alarm around a country's ability to contain the virus, we shift our focus to domestic preparedness and making sure that provinces and territories have what they need to respond to any potential outbreak.
    Let me be clear: This is a situation of great concern for the world, and we are on it.
    Mr. Speaker, with at least 33 countries reporting cases, 11 cases confirmed in Canada and over 80,000 global cases, we are now being told to prepare for a possible COVID-19 pandemic.
    Other countries stopped flights in and out of China; Canada did not. Other countries immediately introduced strict screening measures; Canada did not. We are now being told the window of opportunity for containment for stopping the global spread of this virus is closing.
    Can the health minister confirm that she is satisfied with the actions taken to date?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, the measures the member opposite is talking about are ones that are found during the containment phase. In fact, we did have screening for passengers who were coming from the most heavily affected regions. However, now that we find the coronavirus in at least 35 countries, many that may not be tracking the virus, those measures are less effective. It is time to turn our attention and our resources to making sure we are prepared on the domestic stage.
    I will remind the member opposite that Italy had some of the most restrictive travel quarantine. In fact, it has two significant outbreaks and two communities under quarantine.

Carbon Pricing

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Alberta Court of Appeal struck down the federal carbon tax as unconstitutional. The majority opinion called the carbon tax a “constitutional Trojan horse”, as it would set no limits on federal government power.
     For the Liberal government to impose an expensive public policy unilaterally, when it is of clear national importance with national unity implications, was reckless and tone deaf.
    When will the Prime Minister work to actually reach environmental targets and scrap this unconstitutional carbon tax?
    Mr. Speaker, we have already heard from Ontario and Saskatchewan courts that this approach is fully within federal jurisdiction. The Alberta Court of Appeal's decision is one step in the process. This will be adjudicated in March before the Supreme Court of Canada and we are very confident that federal jurisdiction will be upheld.
    I do find it odd, however, that the party opposite, which professes to be a party that believes in the market, rejects a market mechanism, which is the most efficient way to reduce emissions, in favour of a more expensive regulatory approach or perhaps just an aspirational one.
    Mr. Speaker, the carbon tax is bankrupting Canadian farmers across the country and the numbers are only going to get worse unless something is done.
     Ontario grain farmers paid $12 million in carbon tax last year just to dry their grain. The carbon tax will cost hog farmers $22 million by 2022.
    A grain operator in my riding contacted me last night. He is going to be paying close to a million dollars in carbon tax over the next two years. Enough is enough. The Alberta courts have found the carbon tax to be unconstitutional.
    When will the agriculture minister cancel her farm-killing carbon tax?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I know how concerned our farmers are about all the stress factors they have been dealing with, including bad weather in 2019, international trade, and issues stemming from the rail blockades.
    I understand the situation, and that is why we created a suite of risk management programs. I am working hard with my provincial counterparts to improve those programs.
    We also implemented measures for certain sectors, such as exempting fuel used on farms from the price on pollution.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, while the WHO is worried about COVID-19 becoming a pandemic, health care professionals in Canada are worried about the federal government's lack of preparedness. Infectious disease specialist Karl Weiss is criticizing Ottawa for not implementing any effective coordination efforts.
    If the government manages this public health crisis as badly as it is managing the rail crisis, we have every reason to be worried. Can it reassure the public and explain its emergency plan as a leader in the fight against COVID-19?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have been working very closely through the pandemic plan that Canada developed after the time of SARS, which has many permanent structures in place and other urgent structures that can be raised up in situations like COVID-19.
     I am very confident that under the leadership of Dr. Tam and the Canadian Public Health Agency, we are working closely with our federal and provincial territories to understand and know what they will need to respond to the outbreaks as they may happen.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am actually going to quote Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. She said that “we have to prepare across governments, across communities and as families and individuals, in the event of more widespread transmission in our community.”
    The federal government has a crucial role to play when it comes to public health, transportation and border security. What is it doing to prepare?

  (1455)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear the member opposite quote Dr. Tam, who is of course the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. She and I, and many other officials, have been working very closely to do exactly what he is proposing, to have a substantial plan that deals not just with outbreaks of coronavirus as they may occur across the country, but to prepare Canadians for what that means in terms of disruption to their lives and to ensure our systems across government are prepared as well.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, the illegal blockades have held our country hostage for over 20 days and every day the situation gets worse.
     The Prime Minister's weak leadership has emboldened these radical activists. They know that they can shut down bridges, highways and other critical infrastructure without consequence. Now they have shut down the Lakeshore West GO Train, preventing thousands of commuters from getting to work. The situation is spiralling out of control.
    When will the Prime Minister end these blockades?
    Mr. Speaker, as I think most people would understand, there are injunctions in place and there are laws that need to be obeyed. The Prime Minister has been very clear, urging people to obey the law and to take down those barricades.
    We also have confidence in the law enforcement officers of jurisdiction, who are well trained and understand their responsibilities. They are endeavouring to resolve these barricades and these blockages in the most peaceful way possible.
     We will continue to maintain our confidence and to support law enforcement and the provinces in their jurisdictions as they endeavour to clear these blockages and resume service for all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, last evening. at the peak of rush hour in the GTHA, another blockade was set up on the tracks near York Boulevard in Hamilton.
     These illegal protestors are disrupting the GO train service to Hamilton and Niagara, and it continues today. This adds to the already unbearable gridlock that my constituents face daily.
     Meanwhile, the elected representatives of the Wet'suwet'en people support the projects these protestors are actually opposing.
    When will the Prime Minister act and end these illegal blockades?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like the member opposite to understand that the responsibility for actually enforcing the law with respect to those blockades is the responsibility of the police office of jurisdiction operating within the provincial jurisdiction of authority.
     It has been made very clear, and the police is doing that job, but it is doing it in a very responsible way. Its responsibilities require that it be done peacefully and effectively.
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday illegal protestors blocked the West Coast Express commuter train in the Fraser Valley again. The B.C. public safety minister declared, “Police do not need an injunction to clear and arrest the blockaders.” When the B.C. New Democrats call out illegal activity and advocate for police action, the Liberal government has to know that it is asleep at the switch.
    I never thought I would say this, but when will the public safety minister take a page out of the B.C. NDP playbook and get our rail lines cleared?
    Mr. Speaker, I recall a time when the Conservatives actually believed and entrusted law enforcement to do its job. As a matter of fact, as I have quoted in the House, they have previously stated that they have full confidence in the judgment of the RCMP and they respect its operational independence.
    Our government continues to respect the law and those who have been tasked with upholding it.

[Translation]

Digital Government

    Mr. Speaker, in an age of rapidly evolving technologies, the government has new tools it can rely on, such as artificial intelligence, to improve services to Canadians.
    Could the Minister of Digital Government tell the House how the government is using artificial intelligence to improve services to Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Orléans for her question.
    Canada is a world leader in artificial intelligence. The government is using its expertise to improve services to Canadians. From tools for improving safety in marine transportation to technology for revitalizing indigenous languages, we are using artificial intelligence to better serve Canadians.
    We have mechanisms in place to ensure that its use always lives up to Canadians' expectations in terms of values and ethics.

  (1500)  

[English]

Revenue Canada

    Mr. Speaker, seniors, rural residents and those without Internet have been unable to access the information and the tools they need to file their taxes. The Liberal member for Winnipeg South Centre's office said it best, “This is a very poor reflection on an organization that is already viewed by many as being very insensitive to the clientele it is trying to serve.”
    The minister has failed Canadians for five long years. When will she stand up to her agency and fight for everyday Canadians who are just trying to file their taxes?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the CRA certainly is not overlooking the 1.7 million Canadians who choose to file paper tax returns.
    Since 2018, the CRA has mailed out tax packages directly to those who filed paper returns the previous year. Anyone who has not received a tax package can call the dedicated telephone line and order one, and the package can also be downloaded or ordered on the CRA's website.
    There is no need to make a mountain out of a molehill.
    Mr. Speaker, for once, could the minister side with Canadians who just want to fill out their tax returns?
    Revenue Canada goes all out to make its own work easier and make things harder for seniors and rural residents who do not have access to the Internet. People across the country are angry, even people in the riding of the member for Winnipeg South Centre, whose office says that Revenue Canada is already considered to be very insensitive towards the clients it is trying to serve.
    When will the minister ensure that Revenue Canada cleans up its act?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleagues opposite that they were the ones who cut the information packages that Canada Post was supposed to deliver to all clients across the country. Since 2018, we have sent 1.7 million tax packages to rural residents, seniors and individuals who file their tax return on paper.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister has said several times that all parties involved were consulted extensively in discussions on CUSMA and its implementation.
     Yesterday, in an appearance at the Standing Committee on International Trade, Dairy Farmers of Canada clearly said that they had not been consulted at all. The current government continues to neglect this agricultural sector. The government has given up sovereignty and oversight of the dairy sector.
    Why did the Deputy Prime Minister not consult Canada's dairy farmers?
    Mr. Speaker, it was a Liberal government that created supply management, and it was a Liberal government that protected it.
    I should point out that at the beginning of negotiations, the U.S. government wanted to completely dismantle this system. We defended our supply management system, and we will continue to do so.

Agriculture and Agri-Food

    Mr. Speaker, last year, the government announced Canada's first-ever food policy, which aims to give everyone in Canada access to sufficient amounts of healthy food.
    Every day, community organizations across Canada try to make a difference by improving access to healthy food. Through this policy, $50 million has been allocated to creating the local food infrastructure fund.
    Could the minister update us on this program?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform you that 240 projects were approved under the first stream of the local food infrastructure fund.
    These projects will help more Canadians access good food, which is the goal of our food policy. Other projects will be approved soon, and a second call for proposals will be launched in the spring.

[English]

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, indigenous people are standing up across the country demanding respect and justice. Their message: Enough is enough.
    The reality on first nations is getting worse. This week, a seven-year-old boy died in a house fire in Garden Hill, a community with third world housing, no running water, no all-weather road in a region of 13,000 people without a hospital.
    When is the government going to recognize that systemic racism and underfunding is killing people? When is the minister going to act to ensure justice for the Knott family and for indigenous communities across the country?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, my deepest condolences go out to the family and the entire community of Garden Hill First Nation for their loss.
    My department has been in contact with the first nation's leadership to identify and deliver support to ensure the well-being of the community. We understand the stressful nature of the situation. I will continue to work with first nation partners on timely and appropriate supports.
    As a matter of policy, as government, we are striving to close that socio-economic gap that has existed for far too long. With historic investments in infrastructure and housing, we strive to get there, and we will get there.

Transport

    Mr. Speaker, the waters around the southern Gulf Islands are being used as a free anchorage for freighters waiting to enter the port of Vancouver. The environmental damage, pollution, bright lights and noise from these freighters are impacting Island communities and wildlife. Some of these vessels are waiting to load U.S. thermal coal for export, because Pacific U.S. states refuse to export thermal coal from their ports.
    Will the government mandate improvements and efficiencies at the port of Vancouver and ban the export of U.S. thermal coal through Canadian ports?
    Mr. Speaker, as the member is probably aware, the new interim protocol for anchorage was developed in partnership with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Pacific Pilotage Authority Canada, industry stakeholders and communities to respond to the immediate concerns of certain coastal communities.
    The government's long-term strategy will be aimed at improving the management of anchorages outside of public ports with a view to ensuring the long-term efficiency and reliability of the supply chain and mitigating environmental and social impacts.
    I want to thank the member for his advocacy on the file.

Presence in Gallery

    I have two points that I would like to bring to the attention of members.
    One hundred years ago, in the winter of 1920, the very first parliamentary security corps was formed. Until then, the Dominion Police, which merged with the Royal North West Mounted Police in 1919 to become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, had patrolled the grounds of Parliament Hill. When the parliamentarians of the day decided they no longer wanted an official police presence in their buildings, a contingent of six individuals from the RCMP remained to create what would become the Senate Protective Services and the House of Commons Protective Services.

[Translation]

    Today, just as it did a century ago, the Parliamentary Protection Service supports parliamentarians and protects our democracy. It focuses on striking a careful and effective balance between access, openness and security. It is a constant challenge, and I am grateful to the men and women of the service for their dedication to their work and for ensuring that the Parliament of Canada is able to work for the good of Canadians.

[English]

    I would like to draw to the attention of members the presence in the gallery of several past and present members of the Parliamentary Protective Service.
    Over the years, they have faithfully watched over Parliament Hill and its occupants. They have worked to keep us safe while making visitors feel welcome and comfortable, and they have helped ensure that the heart of Canada’s democracy remains open. We are grateful for their service to our country.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

    I would also like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of our distinguished former colleague and leader of the opposition, the Honourable Gilles Duceppe.

  (1510)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe I heard the parliamentary secretary to the House leader question my integrity in question period like he did yesterday on a point of order. I just want to be clear about one thing. Yesterday, he alleged I threatened Canadian unity in the House. Let me say this to be clear. I am fighting for Alberta and for oil and gas, which means I am fighting for a strong Canada—
    I believe we are getting into debate right now.

Privilege

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-7  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege today concerning the premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding medical assistance in dying, introduced yesterday.
    As you know, it is a well-established practice in the House that, when a bill is on notice for introduction, the House has the first right to the contents of that legislation.
     In a report circulated prior to question period, and hours before Bill C-7 was read a first time in the House, the Canadian Press published an article that detailed specific information contained in Bill C-7.
    In the article it states:
     The bill [would] scrap a provision in the law that allows only those already near death to receive medical assistance in dying—as ordered by a Quebec court last fall....
    Sources say it will drop the requirement that a person must wait 10 days after being approved for an assisted death before receiving the procedure. And it will drop the requirement that a person must be able to give consent a second time immediately prior to receiving the procedure.
    The reporter gives credence to the fact that contempt has occurred by revealing later in the article:
     The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal details of the bill prior to its tabling in the House of Commons this afternoon.
    After the sources indicated to the reporter that they were aware of their guilty actions, they boldly and defiantly continued their affront to Parliament by providing even more detail of the bill.
     I quote again from the article, which states:
     Sources say today's bill will not deal with broader issues that were excluded in the new law and that must be considered as part of a parliamentary review of the law that is to begin this summer.
    Those issues include whether mature minors and those suffering only from mental [illness] should be eligible and whether people who fear losing mental capacity due to conditions like dementia should be able to make advance requests for medical assistance in dying.
    It will, however, propose a measure intended to deal with a situation in which a person is given consent and who has been approved for an assisted death loses the mental capacity to give consent a second time immediately prior to receiving the procedure.
    After carefully reviewing the contents of Bill C-7 following its introduction in the House, when I and other members of Parliament got to see the bill for the very first time, the details reported by the Canadian Press hours earlier were indeed contained in Bill C-7.
     Ironically, my first precedent to present to you is from the last Parliament, brought to the Speaker's attention on April 14, 2016. It was with respect to Bill C-14, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other acts regarding medical assistance in dying.
    It would appear that the Liberal justice team just has not learned any lessons as it was pointed out on April 14, 2016, as I am pointing out today on Bill C-7, that specific and detailed information contained in Bill C-14 was reported in a newspaper article and elsewhere in the media before the bill had been introduced in the House.
    On April 19, 2016, the Speaker found that there was in fact a prima facie case of privilege regarding Bill C-14. He stated:
    As honourable members know, one of my most important responsibilities as Speaker is to safeguard the rights and privileges of members, individually and collectively. Central to the matter before us today is the fact that, due to its pre-eminent role in the legislative process, the House cannot allow precise legislative information to be distributed to others before it has been made accessible to all members. Previous Speakers have regularly upheld not only this fundamental right, but also expectation, of the House.
    The Speaker's concluding remark on April 19, 2016, was as follows:
    In this instance, the chair must conclude that the House's right of first access to legislative information was not respected. The chair appreciates the chief government whip's assertion that no one in the government was authorized to publicly release the specific details of the bill before its introduction. Still, it did happen, and these kinds of incidents cause grave concern among hon. members. I believe it is a good reason why extra care should be taken to ensure that matters that ought properly to be brought to the House first do not in any way get out in the public domain prematurely.
    On October 4, 2010, on page 4711 of the House of Commons Debates, Speaker Milliken noted:
    It is indisputable that it is a well-established practice and accepted convention that this House has the right of first access to the text of bills that it will consider.

  (1515)  

    Getting back to my point about the Liberal justice team not learning any lessons, there was a similar case from March 19, 2001, regarding the Department of Justice briefing the media on a bill before members of Parliament. In that reading, Speaker Milliken said, at page 1840 of the House of Commons Debates:
    In preparing legislation, the government may wish to hold extensive consultations and such consultations may be held entirely at the government's discretion. However, with respect to material to be placed before parliament, the House must take precedence. Once a bill has been placed on notice, whether it has been presented in a different form to a different session of parliament has no bearing and the bill is considered a new matter. The convention of the confidentiality of bills on notice is necessary, not only so that members themselves [will] be well informed, but also because of the pre-eminent [role] which the House plays and must play in the legislative affairs of the nation.
    The Speaker found another case of contempt on October 15, 2001, after the Department of Justice again briefed the media on the contents of a bill prior to the legislation being introduced in the House.
     Maybe, in this minority House, members can finally take these characters in the Minister of Justice's office to task for their continuous disrespect of this Parliament. Given the facts presented and the clear precedents on this matter, I believe, Mr. Speaker, you should have no trouble in finding a prima facie case of privilege. In that event, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.
    I want to thank the hon. member. I will take this under advisement and return to the House, should I see fit.

Response by Justice Minister to Order Paper Question   

    Mr. Speaker, I am rising to address the question of privilege raised by the member for Timmins—James Bay in respect to the government's response to Order Paper Question No. 163.
    I would point out that the member for Timmins—James Bay has presented different estimates as to the government's litigation costs related to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision respecting the first nations child and family services program.
    The member presents three sets of information: the government's response to Question No. 163, which I would point out has been calculated using a consistent formula that the government uses for litigation costs in responding to Order Paper questions; a compilation of a number of responses to ATIP questions over the years, which has been compiled by Dr. Blackstock; and an estimate prepared by the Assembly of First Nations.
    The government does not have a clear line of sight into how either Dr. Blackstock or the AFN calculated these costs nor what was included in their estimates. This in no way suggests that the calculations were done in bad faith or that the minister deliberately misled the House with the government's response to Question No. 163.
    This amounts to a debate as to the facts, and therefore should not be considered a legitimate question of privilege.
    This brings us to the broader issue. While we may have different political views on issues before the House, we are all here for the same reason, to work in the interests of Canadians.
     When a member feels that the information the government has provided appears to be inconsistent with other sources of information or may feel that the information is incomplete, the simple and civil thing to do is talk to the minister or parliamentary secretary responsible for the file.
     If that approach does not yield the results that a member expects, it is perfectly legitimate for members to raise these matters as points of order. What I have witnessed of late is that members are unfortunately using questions of privilege instead of more appropriately using points of order.
     I would hate to suggest that members are using these important questions of privilege simply to score political points. I would also like to point out that raising these matters as questions of privilege is tantamount to a direct personal attack on a member's character.
     There are but few examples that can be found where a member has deliberately misled the House. More often than not, a misleading statement arises when there is a mistake made, an omission or a simple misunderstanding on an issue. To assume that members and ministers deliberately seek to mislead the House is a false assumption.
    Let us remind ourselves of the important role we play in our parliamentary democracy and treat each other with the respect that we all so thoroughly deserve.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, I do not normally rise immediately following the interventions of the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, but it is the job of the Speaker to determine what is or is not a valid question of privilege. For this member to suggest that members are uncivil or somehow derelict in their duties for bringing up important questions of privilege for you, as the Speaker, to decide sends a chill from the government that once again it does not want to hear from members of Parliament and it does not want to be challenged.
    When we on this side of the House, and in this case it was a member of the NDP, believe that we have been misled by a government answer to an Order Paper question, we have every right to raise that.
     You, Mr. Speaker, not a representative of the government, will determine whether that was the right course of action or whether a breach has actually occurred. That is an important thing. We have to stand up for the rights of members of Parliament, and I am disappointed that this member would undermine that with his statement here today.
    I want to thank the hon. member for his input. I will take it under advisement.
    The hon. member for North Island—Powell River.
    Mr. Speaker, you can also refer to me as the NDP whip. Hopefully, that will help with this process.
    I rise on a point of order. I too just want to thank the Conservative whip for his intervention. This does send a very chilling tone to this House. When we are in a minority Parliament it is important that we work collaboratively together and not see this kind of standing up in the House and, in my estimation, accusing another member of behaviour unbecoming. Therefore, I hope that the member will take the point to reflect, and allow you, Mr. Speaker, to do the job that you were elected in this place to do and not put those kinds of ramifications.
    The reality is that for the NDP there is a strong desire to see some reconciliation done in meaningful ways, specifically around the issue of indigenous children. I certainly hope that the tone of this place would reflect what, hopefully, is all of our intention, which is to support indigenous children.
     Hopefully, we will hear back from you, Mr. Speaker.
    I want to thank the hon. members for their input. We will continue.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Proposed Tax Changes  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, I will pick up where I left off before question period.
    That is also why, as the first act in its new mandate, our government tabled a proposal to once again lower taxes for the middle class. All Canadians must be able to reap the benefits of our economic growth.
    This new tax cut targets the basic personal amount, as the government indicated this past December when it tabled a notice of ways and means motion. The basic personal amount is a technical term that is not always easy to understand but essentially describes something very simple: It is the amount of money that a person can earn before paying federal income tax.
    At this time of year, many Canadians are preparing to fill out their income tax return for 2019. When they do it, they will see that the basic personal amount for 2019 was $12,069. The plan we are proposing will raise that amount to $15,000 in 2023.
    Let me be clear. Canadians will see a difference beginning this year, in 2020, since this increase is spread over four years. Once these tax cuts are fully implemented in 2023, single people could save nearly $300 in taxes every year, and families could save double that, or nearly $600.
    That is not all. Nearly 1.1 million more Canadians will no longer pay federal income tax in 2023, including seniors living on a fixed income and low-income workers, for example.
    Our proposal increases two other related amounts at the same time: the spouse or common law credit and the credit for an eligible dependant. Conversely, Canadians in the highest tax bracket will not get this tax cut. Nonetheless, this cut will put more money in the pockets of nearly 20 million Canadians.
    The Canada child benefit reduces the financial pressure on families and has lifted approximately 300,000 children out of poverty. As I said yesterday in my statement in the House, more than 9,000 payments were made in Hochelaga and more than 15,000 children benefited from these payments, which averaged $640. In total, $5,769,000 in tax-free payments were made in Hochelaga, and they have certainly helped families, including single-parent families. When I was a young mother, I would have loved to have access to that kind of funding.
    As the Minister of Social Development said, Canada's poverty rate has fallen to a historic low. According to Statistics Canada, it was one of the sharpest declines on record: Canada's official poverty rate dropped from 12.1% in 2015 to 8.7% in 2018. The Minister of Social Development said that it was the largest three-year reduction in poverty in Canadian history and that poverty is at its lowest point on record in Canada.
    It is thanks to programs such as the Canada child benefit, as well as increases to the guaranteed income supplement, that Canadians have more money in their pockets.
    I would like to use my remaining time to tell members about what the government has done to help Canadians, including the most vulnerable Canadians.
    As I said, we created the Canada child benefit, which has lifted 300,000 children out of poverty.
    The enhanced guaranteed income supplement means that some 900,000 seniors now enjoy greater income security. That lifted 57,000 seniors out of poverty.
    Canada's national housing strategy, an investment of $40 million over 10 years, will enable more Canadians to find safe, affordable housing. The strategy will meet the needs of over half a million households over the next decade.
    The Canada workers benefit puts more money in the pockets of low-income workers.
    Thanks to the middle-class tax cut and the higher basic personal amount, a typical family of four will have over $2,300 more this year than in 2015. Once the changes have been fully implemented, that typical family could have $2,800 more than in 2015.
    The government invested in Canadians, and that is what matters to them. As a result, our economy is more vigorous and our people get better support.

  (1525)  

    What we need to do now is make sure that even more people benefit. That is exactly what the new middle-class tax cut announced in December will do.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I often meet people in my riding who cannot get a job because they have problems with their teeth, when the image of them with teeth missing is making it difficult for them to get jobs, especially on the front lines of employment. I meet employers whose employees cannot go to work because they are sick from a tooth infection or even worse. It then becomes a health issue.
    We know that this costs the GDP and hurts the Canadian economy. We are deeply concerned. We are learning about the Liberals' middle-class tax cuts and all we are asking them to do is cap that at $90,000. That would save $1.6 billion to the Canadian taxpayer, which in turn could be used for a dental care plan that would help one in five Canadians who cannot access dental care.
    The Liberals have a choice to provide a tax break to those who are making more than $90,000 a year or to offer dental care coverage to families making less than $90,000 a year. It is a simple choice, but this would make a huge difference in the lives of people from coast to coast to coast. It is good for the Canadian economy.
    Will my colleague support our proposal today and do the right thing? This would help our economy and help people in her riding as well.

  (1530)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my opposition colleague for his question.
    I am proud to be part of a government that in 2015 presented a clear proposal to help a segment of voters who had just experienced 10 years of vulnerability as a result of the Conservative cuts.
    I have a brother who is severely handicapped. For 10 years he did not receive any help from the government with home care or health care. For 10 years he suffered from the Conservative government's health care cuts.
    In 2015, we gave Canadians the choice to invest more in health care and home care, support seniors and vulnerable people and introduce a benefit to lift Canadian children out of poverty. We are an ambitious, progressive government that believes in the possibility of getting money from people who have more of it and giving it to those less fortunate.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, could my colleague provide her thoughts in terms of the Standing Committee on Health? It did an outstanding job in regard to the whole issue of pharmacare and has laid the tracks for the government to look at ways in which we could move toward a universal pharmacare program. From what we understand, the health committee is now going to be looking at the dental plan. Does she see it as a good thing, at least as a starting point, from the House of Commons' perspective?

[Translation]

    I thank my colleague for his question. In fact, it should be noted that in her mandate letter, the Minister of Health was asked to study the issue of dental care. I think that the Standing Committee on Health will also study the issue. Our government has certainly—

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am sorry to have interrupted the answer that was coming, but I think it is important that we always make sure that no member misleads the House. It is customary to give members a chance to withdraw and clarify.
    The parliamentary secretary, in answer to a question, claimed it was the Liberals who created the universal child care benefit. I have a document in my hand, and if necessary, I would ask unanimous consent to table this document, which clearly shows that the Universal Child Care Benefit Act was enacted in 2006 by the former Conservative government and not the Liberal government.
    As the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge did pose a question at the end of his comments in respect to unanimous consent to table a document, does the member have the consent of the House?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: I expected that.
    Concerning the point of order the member raised, this could be construed as debate. There will be opportunities for hon. members to bring those points into debate at a later time this afternoon, as the question is before the House.
    The time for questions and comments is now completed.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.

  (1535)  

    Mr. Speaker, that was a great intervention that we heard from the Conservatives. I am really happy to pick up on it. Let us chat a little on that topic.
    It dovetails really nicely into an article that the Canadian Press put out today. It talks about Canada, according to Statistics Canada, having the lowest rate of poverty in Canadian history.
     I have news for the member across the way: That has very little to do with the former Conservative universal child care benefit and a lot more to do with the Canada child benefit that was introduced by this government. As a matter of fact, members do not even have to take my word for it; we can listen to what all of the professionals are saying. Let us look at what Statistics Canada is talking about as it relates to how far we have come.
    With regard to this specific motion, I actually do not have a big problem with the various components that are in the motion. What I have an issue with is the way in which it was presented.
    Do I look toward a day when we can have a meaningful discussion about dental care? I absolutely do. I always think that it was one of the natural next steps in health care, back when it was introduced back in the 1960s. It was in a minority Parliament situation, I will say, when we had the opportunity to discuss and bring forward that very important piece of legislation. Now we are talking about pharmacare, which was, in my opinion, the next natural step, although unfortunately, it took as long as it did.
     I do want to have a discussion and I am very happy to see that it is within the mandate of the minister to start having that discussion. Indeed, I am sure parliamentarians will, at the appropriate committee, want to talk about dental care and where that falls into this.
    However, let us get back to the topic at hand and where this motion is really going. This motion is attempting to zero in on doing as much as we possibly can, in particular for those who are struggling to make it. I would argue that through a number of the pieces of legislation that the government has introduced over the last four and a half years, we have seen significant strides in terms of lifting people out of poverty and in terms of seeing the lowest recorded levels of unemployment in Canadian history. We are talking about the economy growing at a pace that leads among the G7 countries.
    I heard a very interesting discussion between a Conservative member and an NDP member prior to question period, in which the Conservatives seemed to be asking why we are only talking about the middle class and why it is just the middle class.
    An hon. member: You do not even know what the middle class is.
    Mr. Mark Gerretsen: Look at this. Through their heckling, they are asking the same question again.
     I am surprised that Conservatives do not understand the economic principle of supporting those who drive the economy forward. They are basically asking what is in it for the 1% and saying there is nothing in it for the 1%. Despite the fact that they tout themselves as the economic saviours of Canada, they do not realize that when a nation has a strong middle class, when we help people who are struggling to get out of those circumstances, we will see our economy grow, and who is going to benefit the most from a fast-growing economy? It is the 1%.
    An hon. member: Do we have one?
    Mr. Mark Gerretsen: Do we have one? I am happy to answer questions now if the member would like. Do we have one? We have one of the fastest-growing economies in the G7. We have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. Do we have a fast-growing economy? This economy is among the best that we have seen. Notwithstanding the heckling that is coming from the other side of the House, I would beg to differ with my colleague who made that comment.
    I will say that this is why something like amending the basic allowance for personal income before taxes is so key. It is because this takes it another step forward.

  (1540)  

    This is to help those who are struggling to make it. It lets us give them a break.
     The numbers that we are talking about here would put $3 billion back into the pockets of Canadians in 2020 and up to $6 billion by 2023, which will affect 1.1 million more Canadians who would pay zero in federal income tax. What we are doing is putting money back into the pockets of Canadians. Some people who need it the most would be getting an additional $300 per year. Families would be saving, through the reduction in taxes, an additional $600 a year.
    What are those people who are getting an extra $300 a year going to do? This is a rhetorical question to my colleague from British Columbia, but they are not going to put it in a tax-free savings account. They are not going to be putting it into an investment that does not help the economy work. They are going to be putting it right back into the economy by spending that money.
    Who does better when people are spending money in the economy? The government does better. Guess what the government can do when they do better? They can start bringing in more policy like this to give more breaks, and that is what we are seeing.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Mark Gerretsen:I really feel as though I am making progress here, because a Conservative member across the way is starting to get it. I really feel that this has been an effective discourse despite the fact that it has involved some heckling, some of it what we might consider to be unparliamentary. I am really happy to see this.
    However, going back to the motion, what we know is that when we put the necessary tools in place to help grow our economy, to help people who are struggling, to help the middle class in particular, we are going to see meaningful changes to our economy that are going to be for the betterment of all Canadians.
    When we talk about dental care and where the NDP is trying to go with this opposition motion, I am fully supportive of the idea of looking into dental care and figuring out, as we have been with pharmacare, what the advantages would be in going toward a system like this. I applaud the NDP for always being the champions of issues like this.
    I am willing to be quite frank here. It was the NDP, the former CCF, and Tommy Douglas who led the charge on health care. We would not have the amazing health care system we have in this country right now had it not been for that member, and I stand by that.
    This is not a partisan thing; it is the reality of the situation. I applaud the NDP for always pushing forward on this agenda. What I have an issue with in this particular motion is the way that the motion is construed to try to tie these two together. In all honesty, I think it does a disservice to the work that needs to be done to properly examine where we need to go with dental care and the impacts that some of these policies genuinely have on Canadians.
    I will leave it at that. I look forward to answering any questions. I am happy to engage on a personal level with some of the Conservative members if they would like to learn a little more from me. I am always willing to share my wisdom.
    Mr. Speaker, it is difficult, because the Liberals are talking about how great the economy is for many people in our country, while of course the Conservatives are arguing about how much better they are at managing the economy. What we do know is that we are here for the one in five Canadians who cannot get a dental plan. The system is not working for them, either when the Conservatives are in government or when the Liberals are in government.
     We keep hearing the Liberals promising their middle-class tax break. In the last Parliament, they brought forward a middle-class tax break whereby if someone earned $45,000 a year or less, the person got nothing, but if someone earned over $100,000, that person got up to $700. This time, if someone earns $143,000, that person will get the maximum.
    All we are asking for is capping the middle-class tax break at $90,000 and thereby ensuring that Canadians who do not have a dental care plan do get a plan.
    I got a note today from Veronica Morgan in Port Alberni. She is from Huu-Ay-Aht. She wrote, “My wonder is if there is anything gearing towards supporting those who can't afford dental support, for those who aren't on income assistance but don't have a dental care plan.”
    Bruce Smith wrote, “Yes, dental and optical should be part of our health care for sure.”
    I am urging the member to support this motion like Tommy Douglas did on health care. Let us move forward and make sure that every Canadian has dental care.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's passion. When I was a municipal politician, we used to take property tax dollars and put them into funds to help people get their teeth fixed who could not afford to do it because they did not have coverage. I understand the pressures. Quite frankly, it is not a thing that property taxes should be paying for.
    This is something that should be done at the provincial and federal level, by putting the necessary tools in place with the necessary legislation and support for all Canadians. I am more than willing to have this discussion. My only reservation is the manner in which this is presented. It seems to bring two separate issues and somehow link them together.
    Unfortunately, I do not support this, but I do very much support pushing forward and doing that in partnership with the NDP to make sure that we have good, meaningful discussion and dialogue around dental care.
    Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of the member's speech, he picked up at the end of the intervention I made regarding the previous Conservative government as the government that brought in the universal child care benefit. I even looked up a headline from the CBC at the time that said, Liberal apologizes for saying that people will take their child care money and spend it on beer and popcorn. We know that the government does not trust Canadians with their own money and they want to have programs for Canadians, rather than what members freely use themselves.
    I want to point out that the member took credit for the lowest level of poverty in Canadian history. In the last government the definition of poverty was changed. The goalposts, so to speak, of the statistics were moved. Is the member aware of that and does he want to comment on how the government may have affected the definition of poverty?
    Mr. Speaker, if the member wants to talk about the universal child care benefit, let us talk about it. It was a benefit that was designed to give every single Canadian the same amount of money. It did not matter if one made $15,000 a year or half a million dollars a year; one got the same amount of money.
    I understand that is Conservative policy and those are Conservative ideas. I get it. It is just a difference of opinion as to how to implement policy like this.
     Our version of that is maybe the millionaires do not need that $1,500 a year and maybe we should be giving more to people on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Here is the kicker to it. What Conservatives do not understand about it is that they might get a short-term gain, because they can give $1,500 a year to some members of their base, but they are not doing anything in the long term for the economy.
     When we invest in people, the middle class and those who are struggling to make it, we will see that money kick in as we are seeing now. It will grow the economy and it will support everybody in Canada.