Madam Chair, I will be sharing my time with the very hon. member for .
Throughout this pandemic, we have been focused on people. We knew that the pandemic's impact on people would be that they would not be able to pay their bills and would struggle to put food on the table. Everything we have done during this pandemic has been to push the government to deliver more help to more people.
We knew in the beginning that EI would not cover enough Canadians. We knew that EI only applied to 40% of Canadians, so we needed to do more than that. We needed to push the government to do more than just expanding EI.
Therefore, we pushed the government to create CERB and have the amount set at $2,000 per person. When the wanted to cut off CERB and leave families uncertain about their future, we fought back, and we won. However, we are not out of the pandemic yet. We still need to do more.
Throughout the pandemic, people have been struggling to pay their bills. They are having a tough time putting food on the table and paying the rent. We are not yet out of this crisis, this pandemic. Families and our economy need support to keep going.
Come August, after our fighting and pushing for the extension of CERB, there are still going to be many families that cannot go back to work. There is no work for many people to go back to. Canadians, our families, the economy and Canada need that support to continue.
With today's fiscal snapshot, we are going to hear from Conservatives, who have already laid out an argument saying that help for Canadians must end. We know that the Liberals will also use the fiscal snapshot as an excuse to cut help to Canadians, to families that need the help.
This fiscal snapshot, though very serious, presents a very important opportunity for a choice. The choice is this. Any time there is difficulty, we see government after government, which in this case is a Liberal government, while in the past it was a Conservative government, quickly move to putting the pressure on working families and putting the brunt of the pain on everyday families. However, they have never moved to ask the wealthiest, those at the very top, to pay their fair share.
If the government needs to cut costs, it should cut the costs of billions of dollars in giveaways to the wealthiest Canadians. If the government needs to cut costs, and I think the government should, then it should cut the cost of allowing billions of dollars to be lost to offshore tax havens. If the government needs to increase revenue, which I believe we need to do in this difficult time, we know there are significant companies that have made massive profits during this pandemic, such as Netflix and Amazon, that pay almost no tax in Canada. We know that the wealthiest, those at the very top, continue to amass fortunes, so we ask the government to put in place a wealth tax on those who have fortunes of over $20 million.
Let us ask the wealthiest to bear the brunt of the pandemic, not the families and the working people who are struggling to get by.
We are going to hear the Conservatives and Liberals use today's fiscal snapshot as an excuse to cut back on the support that people still depend on. Instead of looking for ways to cut support to those who need it most, the and his Liberal government should stop letting the ultra-rich avoid paying their fair share by giving them massive tax giveaways and turning a blind eye while they hide billions of dollars in tax havens. If the government needs to cut costs, it should cut the cost that tax havens represent to our economy. By making better choices, the Liberal government could get the wealthiest Canadians to pay their fair share.
Again, let us look at the choices.
In a difficult economic situation, it is time for difficult choices, but far too often the difficult choice seems to be to cut the programs and services that families depend on and that families desperately need. That seems to be the choice of Conservative governments, and often Liberal governments. They quickly go to cutting the services and programs that families in need are desperately relying on.
Instead of that choice, I put forward another choice. Instead of cutting the services and programs to families in need, the government can cut the massive giveaways to the wealthiest. We have just heard the parliamentary budget office talk about the $27 billion or more hidden in offshore tax havens. We know that the wealthiest Canadians continue to enjoy more and more wealth. Let us do two things: end offshore tax havens, and ensure that the wealthiest Canadians, those with fortunes of over $20 million, pay their fair share. Tax their fortunes of over $20 million, and use that revenue to pay for programs instead of cutting the services that families need.
For New Democrats, the choice is clear. We will always be on the side of working people. We will always be on the side of people and will not side with powerful, large corporations or the super wealthy.
Throughout this pandemic, we have heard the and the Liberal government say some nice things. Even before that, we heard the and the Liberal government say some nice things, but when it comes down to it, those nice things that they said turned out to be just empty words. I want to frame these choices and how the words of the have been so empty.
We pushed the government to commit to helping Canadians who live with disabilities without delay. The then released a plan that did not help all Canadians, and it came months after the last thought was to help out Canadians with disabilities. The Liberals completely ignored them. Then, when they provided a plan, that plan would not help all people living with disabilities. In fact, it would not even help the majority of Canadians living with disabilities.
The Liberals had a choice. They could have included everyone who needed help. They had a choice to include all Canadians living with disabilities. The Liberal government had a choice, and had the time to develop a plan that would help everyone in need: people getting the CPP disability, veterans getting support, students and people receiving social assistance payments from provinces or territories.
The Liberal government chose to make Canadians living with disabilities wait for help. At the same time as it told Canadians living with disabilities that they had to wait and would not get the help they needed right away, it immediately moved to help large corporations with, effectively, no restrictions. It would not even restrict help to a company that was overtly cheating the system by not paying its fair share. Other countries have banned or would not provide any help to companies using offshore tax havens, but Canada failed to do that. The government helped big corporations instead of helping working people. It did not restrict help to companies by limiting the bonuses paid to CEOs to $1 million, and it was willing to give money to help the largest corporations.
When it comes to his well-connected friends, the will stop at nothing. People living with disabilities, however, are still waiting for the government to take action.
I will quickly talk about some comparisons.
Again, Canadians living with disabilities were told to wait while friends of the government in WE received $1 billion in the blink of an eye. The government and the talk about being feminist, but we know that in this pandemic women have been disproportionately impacted. There is no recovery in this economy if we do not accept the gendered lens of the impact and put forward a plan that addresses that gendered impact, and that means there is no recovery without investment in child care—
Madam Chair, any Canadian who wants to know the attendance figures can look on the House of Commons website. There they will see the respective parties and which party, which will remain nameless, had only 40% attendance during the course of the last month. The member who just spoke could perhaps defend that record at some point.
I am pleased to speak today about the fiscal snapshot.
I would like to mention, as did the NDP leader earlier, that we cannot say that the strategy put in place covers everyone, because there are no measures to help people living with disabilities get through the pandemic. Close to $750 billion has been invested to help bankers, but no money has been allocated for people with disabilities, even though three million Canadians are living with a serious disability. This measure must be changed. The government must take action.
I know that the NDP leader and his entire caucus continue to work on this file. We must provide support to all people living with disabilities in Canada.
I will not repeat the very eloquent words of the leader of the NDP, who talked about an economic snapshot and the reality that the government is not addressing, in any way, the revenue side that allows us to make the investments that will help people. He spoke very eloquently. I think his words stand.
What I would like to talk about is the moment we are in at this time in this country. The just stood in the House and said that all hands are on deck, that we are all in this together. Given the many neglected groups that we have been mentioning in the House, it is very clear that this is not yet the case, and it is not the case that Canada is responding the way it should to this pandemic.
To understand what we need to do now and what we need to do moving forward, we can look at the historical precedents of the great generation from the Second World War. In the 1920s, we had, as we do today, incredible inequalities. There was a concentration of wealth that has not been repeated until now. In 1929, it reached its zenith. Today, as we know, because the Parliamentary Budget Officer has told us, 1% of Canadians now possess as much wealth as 80% of Canadians. That was the case in 1929, and that was one of the reasons we had the Great Depression, the collapse of our economy. Then Canadians joined the fight against fascism and went overseas. Many left their lives. Many did not survive. Two members of my family are on the cenotaph in New Westminster in front of city hall. So many other families across this nation sacrificed.
The generation of that time said they were at a watershed moment. They did not want to go back to the old normal, the normal of inequalities, with the great economic meltdown that they saw. They wanted to build a better society.
I am not pretending that the great generation was perfect. Of course, they did not deal with the reality of colonialism and address reconciliation with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. They did not address systemic racism. They did not address those realities, and the devastation is still felt today.
Despite the fact that this generation was not perfect, it did have a vision. That vision was based on public investments and making sure that, as far as possible, nobody was left behind, that we would build with public investment a better country. They set to work.
In my home in New Westminster, the house that my family and I reside in, built in 1948, was part of the 300,000 affordable housing units that were built across the length and breadth of our country after the Second World War by the people of that great society, who decided that they were not going to return to the old normal. They were going to build a better society, a more equitable and fair society. They built affordable housing. They built the network of hospitals and health care centres.
As we know, that great generation following the Second World War also, under the leadership of Tommy Douglas, in a minority Parliament much like this one, put in place our universal health care system that stands today as a pillar, as one of the things that Canadians are most proud of.
New Democrats built the system of education with colleges, universities and high schools. We built highways and public transit. We ensured that there were water systems in many places. We neglected first nations communities, there is no doubt, but there was a desire to build a new normal that was better than the old normal.
We are facing that same watershed moment today. As the leader of the NDP, the member for , has said so eloquently in this House, we have to build a better normal, a new normal. We have to be inspired by the great generation and how it responded to the Second World War.
What does that mean when we talk about a new normal? It means no longer accepting the idea that we are not going to, in a very real sense, end colonialism and put in place true, meaningful and lasting reconciliation with first nations and Métis people.
It means that we must fight. The member for is the foremost leader in the House of Commons on this issue. We must fight and eliminate systemic racism in all our institutions and in our society.
We must be inspired by the great generation in terms of public investments, ensuring that nobody is left behind, whether we are talking people with disabilities, first nations communities or single-parent families. We need to make those public investments so that our new normal is different and much better than the old normal.
There are sobering statistics of the last few decades, after the great generation had finished its work. Subsequent governments, and I criticize equally Liberals and Conservatives in this regard, cut into pieces all that had been built following the Second World War. They cut into pieces that public financing. They cut into pieces what was a fair tax system, where everybody, rich or poor, paid their fair share of taxes and profitable corporations were not able to take their money offshore. Instead, they invested it here in public investments. That was cut into pieces in subsequent decades.
Now we have this watershed moment of great sacrifice. We are seeing our front-line health care workers and first responders putting their lives on the line every day. We have seen the devastation in our long-term care facilities. We have seen how people have stepped up, but we have also seen the horrible results and consequences of the thousands of lives lost in Canada.
The lives lost must stand for something, and that means we need to step up during this pandemic to make sure that nobody is left behind. As the member for said eloquently just a few minutes ago, that starts with people with disabilities, who have received no supports during this pandemic.
It also means coming out in the rebuilding phase. We have to build that new normal to be much better than the old. That new normal will be one that addresses the needs of everybody in this country, that ensures meaningful national reconciliation with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, and that eliminates the systemic racism we have seen afflict our country, like so many others.
We have to make sure that we put in place all the investments that need to be put in place for the recovery, investments in things such as child care, access to post-secondary education and the kind of job creation that comes with moving to a clean energy economy, which the member for Burnaby South has also spoken very eloquently to.
We have a new normal to establish, and the NDP caucus is ready to work with all members of Parliament so that coming out of this pandemic we will have a much better country than we did going in.
Madam Chair, I want to begin by acknowledging that we are on the territory of the Algonquin nation and once again express deep appreciation for their patience and generosity. Meegwetch
Today, we look at the first ever economic snapshot tabled in the history of Canada by a minister of finance. We used to see full budgets and then have economic statements. However, I am not going to find fault with the fact that we have a snapshot at the moment because it is hard to know what else we could have. More economic information is always helpful. More transparency is always helpful, and it is clear that the has made himself available to all parties in this place on a very frequent basis as we chart uncharted waters.
Nothing has been perfect. Everything would have been better if delivered faster, but no one has ever gone through anything like this; no other government, no other generation has. I supposed we could look at Black Death, but we did not have access to Zoom meetings then and we did not have the ability to chart our course at all. Therefore, I would say that on balance we have been doing as well as, or in many cases better than, any government or any country around the world. That is saying something, but it is clearly a dismal economic forecast.
We now have over a trillion dollars in debt and we have a deficit this year of $343 billion. It is not going to be easy to get out of this crisis, but it is very clear that our economic health is intrinsically tied to our personal health.
As is stated in the report, “the recovery path is uncertain and fundamentally linked to the equally uncertain health outcomes.” It is now clear that we are living in a pandemic.
These are not normal times. This is not normal spending. Nothing about this is normal, but it is not disastrous. We have a path out of the economic disaster that is completely dependent on our path out of the health nightmare in which we find ourselves.
It has never been clearer that the economy is taking a back seat to nature. Nature is the boss now.
We are living in a time that reminds humanity, if we needed reminding, that we are not in charge. We can have the best economic plans, we can have the best fiscal plans, we can have, as we had before this pandemic, the best debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. We had full employment; we now have significant unemployment.
None of this was foreseeable. A microscopic virus, a parasite, has attacked humanity. It leaves the animals alone, for once. It is focused on humanity. We spread it through our travel, we spread it through our communities. We have learned all these new phrases, and we have had to flatten the curve.
The spending, for the most part, that we find described in this document was spending agreed to by unanimous consent, which speaks so well of us as parliamentarians. We rolled out extraordinary measures. We now know their names, including the CERB, which we are used to now, our COVID emergency relief benefit, to millions of Canadians. We rolled out help to businesses in the CEBA. We rolled out help in the wage subsidy. These things have prevented our economy from being worse off than it now is, holding the drop in GDP to probably about three percentage points less of a drop than it would have been. That is what the economic snapshot tells us. Our economy is doing better and our health is doing better, because our health and the economy are completely linked.
I want to make the other point, of course, that our economy is also not in charge of the climate emergency. We as human beings can no more rewrite the genetic code of the COVID-19 virus than we can rewrite atmospheric chemistry. We cannot rewrite the rules of physics that mean that the climate emergency is a larger threat to our long-term survival than COVID-19.
We can revisit and potentially rewrite some of our economic rules, because we made those up. Humanity invented those and we can revisit them. We could certainly, for instance, consider that now might be a good time for this. When we talk about unprecedented threats and unprecedented economic downturn, frequent reference has been made, including by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, to the fact that the comparisons of where we are now are not against where we were in 2008-09, but more reasonably the end of the Second World War and during the Second World War. Our spending matches more of what we saw then, and our recovery will also match more of what we saw then.
I mentioned in the House a few months ago, and I will mention it again, that Canada should step up in a lead role globally, or at least be a catalyst, and ask whether it is time to have something akin to the Bretton Woods Conference again. Do we not need to rethink the role of the World Bank? The Bretton Woods institutions were created then to help chart the global economy to recovery post-war. The International Monetary Fund used to set fixed currency rates. Since the Bretton Woods Conference, the IMF has been relieved of fixing currency rates. We rewrote those rules. Maybe we need to rewrite some other rules.
We are looking at a threat to life globally in a post-pandemic famine, a threat to hundreds of millions of people around the world. I know it is conventional wisdom for Canadians to say that we cannot ask people, when they are suffering in Canada, to think about the poorest of the poor, but we have to. We will emerge from this economic crisis and the COVID-19 crisis better off than almost any other country on earth. If hundreds of millions of people are dying from lack of food all around the world, that will not fail to reach our shores somehow, but we also have a role to play. We need to talk about forgiving all developing country debt from all around the world so the countries that are the poorest of the poor have a fighting chance, with additional help for food security to avoid the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, which are now predicted by United Nations relief and food agencies.
We also need to rethink the fairness within Canada. This document makes it very clear that Finance Canada understands the need for child care as I have never seen any Finance Canada document understand the need for child care. It is clear that people who are looking at our economic health and recovery understand that parents cannot go back to work if schools are closed, or if schools are not safe, or if day cares are not open, or if they do not have a day care space.
It happens that there are a number of women MPs in the House at the moment, and men who understand it too. Mothers are the ones who are more likely to be staying home. This is a demographic threat, an economic threat the likes of which we have not seen since the 1960s, the idea that if things are bad and there is no child care, women will stay home. We know this is an economic blow we cannot risk, and we know this is a step back in women's rights that we will not accept. We need child care for every child, and we need to be really creative about how we get there.
This document points to what is called a “safe restart agreement”, which is $14 billion not yet allocated, not yet spent by the federal government to assist provinces. However, $14 billion will not cover the seven items on this list, such as child care, sick leave, health care capacity and specifically looking at long-term care homes.
I was recently talking to Sharleen Stewart, who is the head of a union that represents 60,000 workers, including long-term care workers across Canada. She told me that most of those workers are not yet back at work, because they do not think the long-term care homes are a safe place for them to work.
As long as long-term care homes are in the hands of for-profit enterprises, we cannot be sure that our seniors are going to be well cared for, nor that the workers who go in to take care of them, the front-line workers, are safe. That is not to mention what kind of food people are served when long-term care homes decide to cut corners every which way to make a profit.
We need to take a look at this federally. We need to figure out how to apply the Canada Health Act to create national standards for long-term care homes. There is not even enough money in this $14 billion for what the municipalities need by themselves, and they are one item out of seven on the list. We need to do more. We need to be prepared to spend more.
With that, I am going to now focus on a point made earlier by my colleague from . Although money for people with disabilities is mentioned in here as though it is spent, we still have not done a single thing for them. The document we have in front of us was written as though the events on June 10 in this place had gone differently.
On June 10 in this place, the government agreed to split something out of its bill, a bill that was not acceptable because it involved clawbacks and criminal penalties related to the CERB, which was the main thing I found objectionable. It split out the one-time, tax-free payment for Canadians with a valid disability tax credit. To do that, we needed to make a legislative change in this place so that information could be shared from the CRA to allow the one-time benefit to go to people receiving the disability tax credit. Bear in mind that this is not the full range of people living with disabilities in Canada who need help, but at least it was a step.
I wanted to take that step, and when we asked for unanimous consent we did not get it. Shame on those who said no. We had that one step to take. The put it before us for unanimous consent, and it should have gone through. We have to figure out how to get help to people with disabilities, and we have to do it quickly. There are a number of areas that remain unmet. There are needs that are unmet, and that is in the context of the immediate crisis. When we get past the immediacy of the crisis and build toward restarting our economy, we really need to think big.
I do not know how many members noticed the column by Brian Mulroney that appeared as a full-page ad in The Globe and Mail, on the back page of one day's paper a few weeks ago. I was pleased to see him call for a guaranteed livable income. My colleagues in the benches of the New Democratic Party all agree with this, as Greens do. We are firm in our desire to see the CERB transfer over time, and quickly, to a guaranteed livable income. In the other place, the leader of the independent Senate group asked the parliamentary budget office to look at this, and it found that doing so would be cheaper than the CERB. That is even without taking into account the savings that would accrue to our public health care system and our corrections system. We need to move to a guaranteed livable income as part of the next transformative step.
The member for talked about what happened in the House in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Tommy Douglas, David Lewis and the government of the Right Hon. Lester B. Pearson put in place the fundamentals of our social safety net. We have not taken a significant transformative step since.
We need to bring in pharmacare. We need to bring in a guaranteed livable income. These are the steps we need when we reimagine our future, post-pandemic. We can build back to build back better. We can make sure we do not bounce back but bounce forward. There are many ways that these phrases are circulating these days in this very active and robust discussion. That discussion is not on the fringes when it is Brian Mulroney, our former prime minister, a Progressive Conservative, who is talking about what we need to do. We need to think big and be bold. I really loved his takeaway line: “Incrementalism builds increments.”
We are not in a place right now, dear friends, to build increments. We need to rebuild our economy, we need to restart our economy and we need to do it in a way that leaves no one behind, including the poorest of the poor, wherever they are around the world.
We need to step up and take a role that says “the climate agenda cannot wait”. The climate emergency does not wait. The climate negotiations for 2020 are postponed until 2021, but if we decide that climate action can also be postponed to 2021, we will certainly play a dangerous game of Russian roulette with our children's future.
We need to ensure that as we go forward, and yes we will need to continue spending, we invest in renewable energy and in energy efficiency for all our buildings and retrofits. We need to also look at things according to global studies on what stimulates the economy best, gets people back to work and makes a big difference, including things as simple as tree planting, and a lot of it.
As I look at this economic and fiscal snapshot, I find it encouraging. Very few people could look at a fiscal snapshot that says a $343 billion deficit and find it encouraging, but we are facing it. In looking at the economic indicators and our own strength as a nation in being able to handle this, we can.
We are very fortunate that we went into this with the economic health and strength that we had. We have a lot of companies that are still struggling. We have to help avoid bankruptcies, we have to help small business, we have to ensure our municipalities receive the help they need and to do that, the federal government must continue to spend. To do otherwise, to be frightened by people who say “look at the red ink”, is to risk a deep depression.
We are going to have to continue to go down this road and the best way to do that is to look at modern monetary theory and ask ourselves why we would want to borrow from commercial banks when, as long as we are dealing with sovereign wealth and sovereign debt, we can borrow from ourselves, keep those funds within Canada and not be at the mercy of commercial banks or New York bond raiders. It is time to ask what we do as a sovereign nation. How do we embrace our future and do it without being like bean-counter, narrow-minded, lack-of-vision kinds of folks out there? We do it by being as positive about this as we can be. Let us be innovative.
When we look at the problem, for instance, for schools opening, we know that schools cannot open because there is not enough space to have physical distancing for the children. The schools are small compared to what is going to be needed. We have to stop thinking about jurisdictional barriers and be really creative. Where is there a lot of empty space for school children? I think of the convention centres that are going to stay empty. Can we not think past our own jurisdictional, constitutional boundaries for once and say that this is an emergency? If we want kids back at school, and we want teachers back to teach them, which is what teachers want, where do we have assets that can be mobilized quickly? It is now early July. Schools are supposed to open in September. Nobody really has a plan that I can see. Yes, we need child care; yes, we need our schools opening; and, yes, we need to work together federally, provincially, municipally, with indigenous governments, Métis, Inuit and first nations. Every set of smart, innovative, creative Canadians need to come to the table and when we come to the table, let us come not ready to bash each other down but to help bring each other up, because as Canadians, we know we are blessed.
We are not out of the woods yet, we know that, but we are smart enough to know to listen to the science. We have to listen to the science on COVID-19. We have to listen to the science on the climate emergency. We have to look to those who are the most innovative, the most creative throughout our economy.
I am thankful for the opportunity to share some thoughts about this snapshot, which I hope I have delivered back to everyone. We no longer have Kodak, full colour spectrum Kodachrome.