The House resumed from September 23 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, we are here in Parliament today talking about the affordability crisis that so many Canadians are dealing with, and in a way it feels like progress that we are even talking about this, because most of the debates that happen in Parliament are scheduled by the government, and for two years the government has been ignoring the problem of “Justinflation” that so many Canadians have been dealing with. For two years the government has been ignoring the cost of living crisis, but the election of the member for as Leader of the Opposition has really focused the mind of the government. Immediately after the Leader of the Opposition took his position, the government started saying that now it needs to try to talk about the affordability issue.
However, unfortunately, the measures the government has put in place are not moving us forward. They are not actually addressing the problem. In fact, in some respects they are making the problem worse. The government still does not appreciate the degree to which it really is its policies, the policies of the current , that have created and continue to create the kind of affordability crisis we are talking about.
At the outset, I think it is important to go over a bit of the history of this. Back in 2020, the member for , who was at the time our shadow minister for finance, said that Canada was about to face this problem of significant increasing inflation. He said that the significant increase we were seeing in government spending was going to drive inflation. Government being more expensive was going to make it more expensive for everyday Canadians to buy the various goods they needed.
At the time, those concerns were dismissed by the government, including the , who is still the finance minister. She was more concerned about apparent impending deflation, and that of course turned out to be very wrong. It was clear from the arguments being made at the time, and it is clear now, that when we have the government pouring more and more money out there, borrowing more and spending more but not actually driving increases in production, that is simply going to be inflationary. When we have more money chasing fewer goods, that is going to make everything more expensive.
These arguments were made and have been made over the last two years, but they have been continuously ignored by a government that clearly would rather talk about other issues. It clearly would rather be trying to shift attention away from those things, which really are the fundamental priorities of Canadians.
The government also, first of all, denied it. It was refusing to acknowledge the inflation crisis that it was causing, but as the numbers have come out and as we have seen increasing inflation, it has been harder and harder for the government to deny it. The new form of denial is for them to say, “It is not our fault,” and that they have nothing to do with it. They say that inflation is happening everywhere and is the result of the invasion of Ukraine and other such events, or it is supply blockages and is really an issue of the challenges in global supply chains.
I have a few responses to that. Number one is that this inflation was clearly an issue prior to the invasion of Ukraine, but it was two years ago that we started sounding the alarm on this issue of inflation. Of course, the invasion of Ukraine, as such, started in 2014, but this particular further invasion of Ukraine started six months ago.
It is also hard to make sense of the claim that global supply chains are responsible for instances where the goods are produced here in Canada yet the prices have been going up. Global supply chains can hardly be blamed for the escalating price of property and real estate that makes it increasingly difficult for Canadians in my age demographic and younger to be able to afford housing.
The government is constantly looking for other people to blame. It no doubt will blame the previous government at some point in today's debate, as well as global events that are beyond its control, but the reality is that the government is pursuing policies and pouring more money through borrowing and spending, without proper controls or encouraging more production. These economic policies of the government are driving inflation.
Canada is not the only country with rising inflation, but the point is that other countries that have this problem have pursued the same policies that the Liberal government has pursued. Some countries that are pursuing policies that entail exactly the same problems are getting the same results. However, other countries that are being more prudent and responsible in their spending are not experiencing the same challenges, and that is the reality. The escalating inflation is the result of the economic policies of the government, and it needs to own that challenge.
This is where we have been for the last two years. The government has been trying to distract attention on other issues, but then we have the come into his position and continue his laser focus on issues of affordability and cost of living. Then, right away, the government says that perhaps its needs to talk about this affordability and cost of living thing, so it has tried to come up with a solution. Unfortunately, when we have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The government's approach when it comes to the economy is always the same: more spending, more borrowing and higher taxes. That solution to the inflation crisis is going to make the problem even worse.
The government wants Canadians to believe that their lives will be made better and more affordable by giving away more money. I will share a little story.
I have five children and my three-old son recently came to me with a wad of U.S. dollars. I knew exactly where he got them from, because I had just returned from a trip to Washington and had left the money on the counter. He said, “Daddy, look what I got.” Then he very generously said he would give me one. I told him that was great, but asked him where he got it from. I think that is how Canadians feel when the government offers them more money. The government says that it will be generous and give more money to people, but Canadians want to know where that money has come from.
The government does not generate any money of its own. Government does not work to produce money. It takes money from taxpayers and then redistributes it. Just like my son, who I know is not going out, earning that money and generously offering it to me. I know that he is finding it somewhere around the house. When the government says that it will give more money, it clearly has to find it somewhere around the house, and that is the issue with it. It wants everyone to see how generous it is being, that it is giving away more money. In question period the other day, the said that the government was giving $1,000 to these families and $500 to those families, but Canadians are asking where the money is coming from.
We have run up more debt under the current than in the entire country's history prior to 2015. That is incredible. That is more debt than in the country's entire history from 1867 up until 2015. This is driving the challenges in the cost of living and inflation. Then the government's solution to the problem it has caused is to do more of the same. We have inflation because of high taxes, high borrowing and high spending and the government tries to solve that problem through more taxes, more borrowing and more spending.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Liberals' approach is going to cost more, and any of these giveaways that they are promising to Canadians, such as these $500 here and $1,000 there, is real money. This is significant money for people, but I think they also understand that the money comes from somewhere and that those dollars are eaten up every day by higher prices. The same government that is saying that it is going to do more on these spending items is actually eroding the value of that money as it is handing it out.
This is a failed policy. Again, doubling down on the same failed approach of more borrowing, more taxes and more spending is not going to achieve a different result. It is “Justinflation” from start to finish. This is what we predicted two years ago. That is what we are seeing now and that is what is going to be further exacerbated by these new policies.
I note that expert analysis from Canada's leading banks said that these policies from the government are going to be inflationary.
l listened to the leader of the NDP, the coalition partner of the government, talking about this issue on CBC's The House. I think it was this past weekend. He said that the NDP did not agree with the analysis from the big banks. The leading economists in the country are saying that the government's policy is going to be more inflationary. Dismissing that expert analysis because people have an axe to grind with the big banks is really missing the point. The government talks about drawing from experts. It should listen to experts and acknowledge that its policies will continue to be inflationary going forward.
The Conservatives are offering a better approach, a common-sense approach for moving us forward.
First, we need a dollar-for-dollar rule when it comes to new spending. If the government is going to approve new spending of $1, $10, $1 million or $1 billion, it should first find an equivalent amount of savings. If there are new areas needing money to be spent, it should identify areas for those savings, areas to find efficiencies, and then put those dollars to toward the new areas.
There are new emerging priorities. There are always going to be new things needing money, but there are also going to be plenty of examples where dollars that were spent in the past no longer need to be spent or, perhaps, should not have been spent in the first place.
I think about some of the things that the government has spent money on, like the $25 million on the ArriveCAN app, which could have been easily saved. We could talk about the failed $35-billion Infrastructure Bank. We could talk about the subsidy package for private media, which is unfortunately eroding confidence in the media. We could talk about the government's various corporate welfare programs. All of those things have, frankly, hurt Canadians instead of helped them.
There have been many opportunities with respect to wasteful spending within the government or spending that was poorly targeted toward objectives. It is great to find new areas to make investments. Let us apply the same discipline that households and businesses have to apply by having a dollar-for-dollar rule.
A great way to help make life more affordable for Canadians would be to stop increasing taxes. Of course, we would like to see lower tax on this side of the House, but as a first step for the government, stop making the problem worse. Right now, the government has automatic scheduled tax increases for next year. On January 1 of next year, happy new year, and on April 1 of next year, which is sadly not an April fool's joke, tax increases are currently scheduled: increases to the carbon tax, which will drive up the cost of gas, groceries and home heating; increases as well to payroll taxes. Those payroll tax increases will take effect on January 1 and then subsequently the carbon tax hike.
It would be a very basic first step for the government to acknowledge it is in a hole right now, so it should stop digging, stop making the problem worse and stop inflicting more pain on Canadians by raising their taxes. Although that would be against the basic instincts of the government, that would be an important step to take, to recognize there is actually a problem that needs to be solved. If the government is unwilling to listen to us and reverse these planned tax increases, then I think it will be clear that the government's words about affordability are just that, only words. We have seen this before. When Canadians are connecting with and responding to a Conservative message, sometimes the government tries to use the same words. It tries to talk about the same things.
The proof is going to be in the pudding. The proof is going to be whether the government follows through with its planned tax hikes, or whether it continues with its approach of borrowing, spending and taxing always going up, or whether it will listen to Canadians, who are feeling the squeeze as a result of “Justinflation”, stop this damage and try to reverse the planned tax—
Madam Speaker, I know the member for is excited to hear the rest of my remarks and it sounds like he is chomping at the bit for the privilege of debate that may be coming. I look forward to his remarks. I would encourage him to make sure he has consulted with the rest of his party around the position he takes on that, because there may be some differences of opinion around that important and sensitive issue.
With respect to the remarks I was making, it is very clear that we have two different approaches in front of us when it comes to responding to the economy. The Liberals have started to try to adopt Conservative language, although not all of it, as maybe the point of order demonstrates. They do not want to acknowledge their own responsibility when it comes to inflation, but they have started to acknowledge that there is a problem of inflation. They just think it has nothing to do with the policies of the government, which obviously stretches credibility.
The government has, in the last two years, pursued a radically different direction. In some respects, it has the last seven years, but it has escalated in the last two years. They have pursued a radically different direction with respect to economic policy. We have gone from tens of billions of dollars of deficit, which felt quite significant, and was quite significant, to hundreds of billions of dollars in terms of deficit, and they want to pretend as if that approach has had no consequences with respect to affordability. The reality is that it obviously has and Canadians are seeing the direct impacts on their lives when it comes to rising costs of all sorts of different goods. The government's efforts to pass the blame for this onto everybody but themselves really stretches credibility. Now their proposals of more taxes, more spending and more borrowing are simply going to make the problem worse.
I appeal to the government, on behalf of my constituents and many Canadians who have raised concerns about affordability, that if it wants to show that it has a modicum of sincerity when it comes to the issue of affordability, it should cancel the planned tax increases for next year. It would be a simple way for the government to show that it is actually listening to Canadians.
I want to talk specifically about the issue of the carbon tax. The Liberals think that a tax increase is a replacement for a meaningful response to the challenges we face with environmental policy. It is clear from various reports that their carbon tax is not working to achieve environmental objectives. Many of the groups that have supported them on this are saying it is a dramatic increase they want in terms of the carbon tax, and the Liberals are planning, I believe, and forecasting it.
Before the previous election, they had promised that they would not increase the carbon tax, but then they did increase it. It is continually going up and up. When is it going to stop? Every time their carbon tax fails to achieve their environmental objectives, instead of changing approach and realizing that we actually need an approach that emphasizes technology instead of taxes, they are just doubling down on the taxation approach. It is just not working; it is not achieving the objectives they said it will.
The government really needs to be responsive to what Canadians are telling it and it needs to be willing to make changes in its direction when the evidence clearly suggests it. I repeat that appeal again: no new taxes. The least the government can do is stop the damage, and that means to commit to not proceeding with the tax increases that it has scheduled for next year.
It is a clear choice and a clear contrast. We have a government that is talking about borrowing, spending and taxation, and that is leading to inflation. Then in the official opposition, we are talking about more freedom, giving individuals back control of their lives, reversing tax increases, lowering taxes and fundamentally replacing big government with big citizens, with a big society, as David Cameron talked about, with the idea that a strong society, with people standing together and supporting each other's needs, is much better at bringing us together as communities and moving us forward than the government. I am proud to continue to champion that vision and make the case for that vision in the House and beyond.
At this point, I would like to move an amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
"the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-31, An Act respecting cost of living relief measures related to dental care and rental housing, since the bill will fuel inflation and fails to address the government's excessive borrowing and spending that lead to the inflation crisis in the first place.”
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
As this is the first occasion I have had to speak in the House now that we are back after the parliamentary recess, it is an honour to be back with colleagues. It is great to see people again and I look forward to the work ahead.
I am speaking on the Canada dental benefit today, but I would be remiss if I did not first mention hurricane Fiona. A lot of constituents back home in London will have family members and friends in areas impacted. All members of Parliament are thinking of those impacted, but for members of Parliament from the Atlantic provinces, including our , who represents, among other places, the Îles de la Madeleine, this is a tragedy that has unfolded and our hearts go out to all impacted.
We have in front of us a truly historic bill, a historic bill that has been called for from people across the country for a long time. The proposed Canada dental benefit is the result of a great deal of work that has been carried out, not just in this House but across the country by activists focusing on social policy, going back decades. It represents the culmination of that work, and it is the first stage of it.
It would apply, in this first instance, to children under 12. In order to understand the importance of it, let me take a step back and put things into a broader context. I do so by referencing a philosopher my Conservative colleagues are very fond of quoting. Usually they quote him entirely out of context, but it is important to put on the record the thoughts of Adam Smith and apply it to this particular social policy. It is something that is not often done, but it puts things into good perspective.
Adam Smith said, “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” What he meant by that is that, when a society experiences and sees poverty in ways that limit its members from fulfilling their true potential as human beings, then that society cannot be said to be thriving, successful or prosperous.
That is a timeless insight and universal in its validity, whether it is Canadian democracy we are talking about or beyond. I use it as a way of understanding the importance of this policy innovation, the Canada dental benefit, because over 30% of Canadians do not have dental insurance. In fact, in 2018, over 20% said they did not see their dentist because the visit would be too expensive.
We are talking about kids here, who are perhaps the most vulnerable in our population. These are kids under 12 whose parents could not afford to take them to the dentist. Canada remains one of the most prosperous countries in the world, but when one has an outcome like that, it is tragic, it is unacceptable and it requires a government response. I am glad to see the government is moving in this direction.
As a result of Bill , 500,000 children would be supported. Kids under 12 would be helped via a tax-free benefit. To get technical, and just so we are on the record with that, it would see support go in three different categories. Children under 12 with family incomes of less than $70,000 would see $650 per year per child. Children in families with incomes ranging from $70,000 and $79,000 could receive $390 per year per child, and in families where incomes range from $80,000 to $89,000, a child could receive $260 per year.
The Canada Revenue Agency would administer the benefit and it would be available online via My Account, or on the phone if that is the option available for individuals. There would be an attestation process individuals would need to go through. For example, they would need to attest they are not already receiving private dental insurance and that the benefit would be used for dental expenses. They would also need to keep receipts.
There are also other steps they would need to ensure. They would need to have filed their taxes in 2021. When applying, they would need to confirm they are the parent in fact receiving the Canada child benefit for their child, and they would need to set up direct deposit.
The fact that it is administered by CRA is a very good thing because throughout the pandemic we saw the CRA and its public servants step up and support Canadians in need, including Canadian individuals, families and business. CRA, after all, was the agency tasked with the responsibility of overseeing and administering the various emergency response programs. Those programs proved absolutely vital.
Sometimes we hear criticism, particularly from our Conservative friends. They cast aspersions on the programs that were made available. They voted for them, but now, all of a sudden, they are having second thoughts. It is important for Canadians, and all of us in this House, to think about what would have happened to the country if it were not for programs like the Canada emergency response benefit. If it were not for the Canada emergency wage subsidy or the rental subsidy, what would have happened to businesses?
Those programs among others, of which there were several, kept the country going during the worst economic crisis that we have seen since the Great Depression. That is a fact. I hear my Conservative friends at length these days go after these particular programs. In fact, I worked with the new leader on the finance committee and I remember that, at the time when we were tasked with the responsibility of looking at the emergency response programs and understanding how they would work, he called these “big, fat government programs”. He went on record at a famous press conference to say that the Conservatives were not in favour of such programs. The Conservatives did vote in favour because there was enormous public pressure to go in that direction. However, now, taking on a sort of populist hue, although I am not sure what is going on, the Conservatives continue to speak out against those particular programs.
In any case, the benefit itself is reflective of a view of government that says that government has a responsibility to help individuals in need. Again, 500,000 kids would benefit as a result of what is happening here. I heard my colleague opposite in the Conservative Party just a few moments ago go on at length about how he is opposed to Bill .
Let us look at it another way. What about all those kids who are currently not getting support who would get support? What would they prefer? Would they prefer that we ignore that child who has a genuine health care need? That is not just insensitive. It is cruel because it is proper to view dental care as health care. We have a responsibility from so many different perspectives to look at these issues in a compassionate way. That child in need is our collective responsibility.
In Parliament, we are looking after our constituents. That is what we are sent here to do. In my own community, there are kids whose parents cannot afford to take them to the dentist. I gave the number earlier that about 20% of Canadians, at least in 2018, said they could not afford to go to the dentist and that would include taking their kids to see the dentist. That is not acceptable and that is why this bill is absolutely suited to the time.
The other thing I need to put on the record is that we have a view in this bill that takes very seriously that individual rights matter, certainly, but that individual rights unfettered have no place in a modern democratic society that aims for prosperity. The aim absolutely is to put individual rights front and centre. Individuals, including kids, have the right to health care and when they do not our society is diminished. As Adam Smith rightly said, if we have poverty in society that limits people from ultimately fulfilling their true potential, then that society is absolutely not what it can be. The society does not have the ability to live up to its potential and that applies to its citizens as well. Therefore, when kids cannot get dental care, we are all brought down as a result.
I appreciate the opportunity, Madam Speaker. I will stop there and I look forward to questions.
Madam Speaker, this is one of the important debates we have had over the years in the House of Commons. We can think back to more than 50 years ago when the Tommy Douglas health care bill establishing universal health care in this country was debated. It was an NDP initiative. The government of the day was forced to put it on the floor of the House of Commons. Canadians, 50 years later, have benefited from that enormously. In fact, as members are well aware, when Canadians are asked what institution in Canada they are most strongly supportive of, it is universal health care.
I was pleased, and my colleague from was in the House as well, when we debated the famous Jack Layton budget. A former Liberal government was forced, by the NDP's presence in the House and a minority government status, to gut and rip up a budget that would have given massive tax breaks, which the Conservatives and Liberals favour, to big corporations and the ultrarich, and instead invest that money in public transit, education, seniors, families and housing. That was an important debate as well
The debate today is very similar because this is an NDP initiative and an NDP bill. There is no doubt. What it would do is establish the principle of dental care in this country and establish supports for Canadians who are struggling to pay their rents and keep a roof over their head.
First, I will talk about the dental care provisions. The reality is that Canadians right across this country are suffering from a lack of dental care. It has been pointed out in the House by the member for and by many others that over a third of Canadians have no dental insurance. That means there are millions of Canadians who cannot afford to visit a dentist.
I know the results of this. I have met with constituents who have teeth that are literally rotting out of their mouth, and we know that the most common surgery performed on preschool children at most pediatric hospitals in Canada is treatment for dental decay. We know as well, from emergency room physicians, that hundreds of millions of dollars of expenses come from Canadians who do not have access to dental care and have to go to emergency rooms because of dental emergencies and the intense pain of not having dental support. Emergency room physicians know that without dental care in place for all Canadians, there will continue to be a cost to the health care system, but more importantly, an intense pain and suffering that is not needed. Instead, we can take up this NDP initiative and put in place dental care.
As members well know, the provisions of the bill start to lay the foundation around dental care and provide supports to half a million Canadian children under the age of 12 who do not have access to dental care now. The Conservatives have just moved a motion to gut the bill, which means they disagree with ensuring half a million Canadian children have access to dental care and that families receive the money so they can do the cleaning and maintenance to avoid the intense pain and suffering that comes from dental decay. Conservative MPs are going to have to answer to that on their doorsteps and will have to explain why they are opposed to dental care.
As members know, what the NDP has forced as well is a commitment by the government to next year roll that out to youth under the age of 18, seniors and people with disabilities. In the final year, the full program would be brought to bear for all families across the country. The reality is that dental care will make a big difference for Canadians. Tommy Douglas said in this House more than a half a century ago that the intent of putting in place universal health care was to ensure that we had health care from the top of our heads to the soles of our feet. The member for has said that very articulately many times in this House and that what we need is a full health care system.
Dental care is a fundamentally important component of that, and I am profoundly dismayed that Conservative MPs are not standing with, in each case, the 30,000 constituents in their ridings who do not have access to dental care. That is the average across the country. There are about 30,000 such Canadians in each and every riding across the country, which is millions if we put the 338 ridings together, and we have Conservative MPs saying they are not going to support that access to dental care.
What profound disrespect that is to Canadians in their ridings, the Conservatives' constituents and bosses, who vitally need access to dental care and need that foundation. Those initial payments are for families that have children 12 and under. They need that dental care, dental support and dental maintenance.
The second component of the bill deals with the housing supplement. About 1.7 million Canadians would receive a housing supplement and housing support so they can pay their rent and keep a roof over their head. The new Conservative leader, the member for , likes to point out that housing prices have doubled under the Liberals, which is true, but what he fails to point out is that housing prices doubled under the dismal decade of the Harper government. We have actually seen, over the past dismal decade and a half, housing prices quadruple.
Now, I do not understand how the Conservatives will campaign in the next election. Is the member for going to say, “Well, vote for us because the Liberals have done just as badly as we did”, or “Vote for us because the Liberals have handed out just as much to the banks as we did”? With the incredible extent of overseas tax haves, would the Conservatives say, “Vote for us because the Liberals have been just as bad on overseas tax havens”?
The reality is that the Liberal government has, at least, permitted itself to be forced, prodded, pushed and pulled by the NDP to put in place rental supplements that will help people and put in place dental supports, the foundation of dental care in this country. These are important steps, and this is why we are proud to have this NDP legislation being brought forward. It would make a difference in the lives of Canadians. It would make a difference in the lives of families. For the 1.7 million Canadians who are struggling to pay their rent right now as rent increases, this would help put food on the table and keep a roof over their head.
However, if the thought is that NDP members will stop there and rest on their laurels, members know that is not the case. We believe firmly and fundamentally that we need to keep pushing on behalf of Canadians, and we will continue to push NDP initiatives on the floor of the House of Commons. We believe in a health care system that is comprehensive. We believe in restoring health care funding. We have also pushed the government, and have had some success, on building new, affordable co-operative and social housing. For a decade and a half, both under the Conservatives and the Liberals, we have had hollow promises. Now, as a result of the NDP initiative, there will be tens of thousands of units of affordable housing where rent would be capped at 30% of a person's income. That is fundamental.
As members well know, in the past, when we had a national housing program and had provisions for the federal government to actually fund housing and ensure co-operative and social housing, we found that homelessness in this country had almost disappeared. However, then we found otherwise under successive governments. It started with the Paul Martin government, which gutted the national housing program, but we never forget that it was Conservative governments that maintained that irresponsible act. What we have found over those subsequent decades is that more and more Canadians are finding it difficult to even keep a roof over their head. The rental supplement will certainly help, but we need to go further. The NDP has pushed the government to go further to ensure that we actually have in place the provision of affordable housing that would allow for Canadians, particularly of lower income, to have a roof over their head throughout their lifetime.
These are important initiatives, and these are things we will continue to push. We will not stop, because we believe that Canadians really need a party that is going to fight for them in the House of Commons. That is what the 25 NDP MPs have done. We have delivered it this time with this bill, but we will continue to push on behalf of Canadians, who are our constituents and bosses, so that we get more things done, because Canadians need help at this critical time. Canadians need support to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, and they can depend on the member for and the NDP caucus to continue to fight so they can do just that.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
We are hearing all sorts of things today, but let us get back to the basics of Bill . This essentially provides financial support to the parents of children under 12. It is not a dental care plan. I will illustrate that later.
It also creates a rental housing benefit. The Bloc Québécois is not against the principles of the bill in general. However, there are important problems that will need to be carefully examined. I hope that in committee, the parties will be open to the idea of supporting an increase in payments for health care.
The first problem I see is that, as I mention all the time, health falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. They are the ones that have the expertise. As recently as July, they reiterated their request that the federal government increase health transfers to cover 35% of spending, which amounts to $6 billion for Quebec. That is a lot of money every year. When I hear about small, one-time, stopgap measures for housing, for example, and I hear politicians delivering somewhat rehearsed speeches about what they are getting done, to me, it is but a drop in the bucket. Let us get serious and increase health transfers.
My colleagues have become accustomed to my saying this, but I want to quote the Canadian Dental Association: “The single best way to quickly improve oral health and increase access to dental care is to invest in, and enhance, existing provincial and territorial dental programs.” It is talking about investing in provincial and territorial programs. “These programs are significantly underfunded and are almost exclusively financed by provincial and territorial governments.” The association points out that it is “important to ensure that any new initiatives do not disrupt access to dental care for the large majority of Canadians who already have dental coverage”. That is coming from the experts and not just the Bloc.
I had the privilege of replacing my colleague from at committee last week. We heard from Ms. Tomkins and discussed this point. The committee heard from many people, including Mr. Ungar, a researcher attending as an individual, who explained the importance of keeping decision-making in the regions, close to the people with needs because the needs are not the same in Nunavut, Ontario or Quebec. That is why there are local governments that are in the best position to make these decisions. The greater the distance between the decision-making and the need, the less appropriate decisions will be.
On the second point, there is no evidence in Bill C‑31 that this money will go to dental care. It pains me to have to point that out in the House. However, I am somewhat surprised that I am one of only a few people talking about it this morning. A parent will be able to submit a dental bill for $100 and automatically receive a cheque for $650, with no further follow-up. That is not necessarily what we want. Imagine the amount of paperwork this could create. Plus, it allows another level of government to dabble in an area that Quebec is already responsible for.
It is so tiring to come to Parliament and see how far Canada lags behind Quebec in social matters and to see that we are always paying for others.
In 1974, Quebec insured children under the age of 10. It is not perfect, and we would never claim that it is, but it started in 1974. I think Canada is behind.
In 1979, we also gave support to people on social assistance. Now, the great, all-knowing Canada is going to swoop in and add another program on top of that, using our taxes, but distributing money elsewhere, not just in Quebec. Quebec has already figured out what it is doing with its half of the budget.
Once Quebeckers comprehend how much we manage to do with half a budget, they will realize we should be using our whole budget and claiming political independence to get rid of useless duplication. There is a reason the Bloc Québécois wants independence, and it is not because it is cute.
I have already moved on to the third item. I got a little carried away again, but it is important to tell it like it is.
This bill is more about politics and optics than anything of substance. The Liberal government is stubbornly rejecting the opposition's ideas. It has no respect for the opposition; all it cares about is a majority. How did it get that majority?
First, it called an election in the middle of a pandemic, which was a bust. That did not work; we wound up with the same government. It activated Plan B and got into bed with the NDP, making promises to that party it never intended to keep. I am sad for the New Democrats. This benefit is for children. It is not dental insurance.
Members of the House are supposed to be able to read. People read documents properly. I would like people to open their eyes to what is going on.
Earlier this summer, Liberal ministers realized that there was absolutely no way they could set up a universal dental insurance plan across Canada by year's end. That was the NDP's fabricated ultimatum, so there were supposedly threats issued that I do not believe meant a thing because I will be very surprised the day the NDP votes against the government in this Parliament.
The NDP led the government to believe that their agreement was hanging in the balance. So the government is proposing a phoney monetary benefit. It is pretending to give money for dental care. In the meantime, young people and seniors will not necessarily get more care.
Ironically, the day the bill was introduced, there was a media release by different groups that were on the Hill, including unions, people who represent the less fortunate and seniors groups. They told us that even though they all agree with the government offering dental care to children, the people who are having the most difficulty affording dental care are seniors. There is still nothing for seniors.
I would like the people from the NDP to explain that to me. Maybe I will get some answers in the questions they ask, but I would love to chat a bit.
What are they doing about increasing old age pensions for seniors to help them afford groceries and pay their rent? What is being done about that? Is that seriously being traded for a single $500 payment for housing? During an election campaign or in front of the cameras they will make fine speeches about how they took action, when these are totally ineffective half-measures.
Let us look at what the federal government is actually doing. The federal government's approach suggests that it alone has the corner on the truth. It is imposing conditions and has decided to take over health care, despite the 1867 Constitution that it signed behind our backs. It is all-knowing.
If the government is indeed all-knowing, why can it not manage its EI program properly? Why did the EI temporary measures expire yesterday? Why has the done nothing over the past year, despite her mandate letter to improve this program and adequately protect our workers? No, the government would rather continue to steal from people. At present, EI pays just four out of 10 workers. If that is not stealing, I do not know what is.
Let us talk about passports. What a mess. That falls under federal jurisdiction. The government needs to take action and do something. In early July, my office was dealing with about 15 passport cases a day. I have three employees in my office, four, including the person working in Ottawa. Just with immigration delays and border problems, I think the government has a lot on its plate.
Yesterday I watched Tout le monde en parle. They had people on to tell their stories. Incidentally, I have a lot of respect these people. I think they showed incredible strength. Honestly, in their situation, I do not think I would have been able to speak so calmly about my child having been killed. That is what we are talking about. Faced with this, the Liberal government has introduced a bill that will reduce the number of legal guns while doing absolutely nothing about the illegal ones.
Start by doing what you are supposed to do. We, in Quebec, will take care of the rest. Give us our money.
Madam Speaker, I will start by saying I gave myself a little challenge, and this is my first time giving a real speech with only a few notes. This is also my first speech of the session. I hope that we can all be productive here. We hear a lot about listening, but I want to focus on active listening. In other words, members who are here in the chamber must truly be present. Let us listen to one another, take notes and make sure that we understand things before debating. Otherwise, what is the point of being here today?
I am obviously going to be talking about Bill , and in particular part 2, but first, I want to say that my thoughts are with those on the Magdalen Islands and the north shore. We stand with them. I visited the Maritimes this summer and this has made me emotional. I urge everyone watching us now to be very generous.
I now want to talk about part 2 of the bill, which has to do with housing.
I have mostly focused on the details of the bill, but I would like to say that before becoming an MP in 2019, I had already been working in the social development field in my community for many years as the director of a community development corporation.
A community development corporation is a form of association that brings together all the organizations that work for the community. Collectively, we sounded the alarm over ten years ago. In fact, we sounded that alarm just when the funds and the agreements that had been in place before no longer existed. There is a reason why Quebec decided to roll up its sleeves and help Quebeckers.
When I arrived in the House in 2019, my first speech dealt specifically with my concerns regarding what I had observed on the ground. Across Canada, including in Quebec, we have seen an increase in the number of people who are homeless or living in vulnerable situations.
Yes, some programs have helped people cope with our northern winters, but that does not change the fact that the growing number of vulnerable people is a problem.
My colleagues from other ridings and I have talked about how often people turn to us. People want to know what is going to happen a month from now, because they have two children and they have looked everywhere but are struggling to find a place to live.
One person who comes to mind is Mélanie, who was wondering what she was supposed to do. The only place where she could live was 40 kilometres from her work, but gas cost more than she would ever have thought possible.
What can we do?
I think we need to take another look at what the government did not do. How could it have done more than provide this rental housing top-up, which is just a band-aid solution?
A break on the rent provides a little relief, but it is a drop in the bucket considering everything else people have to deal with when things move fast and it is hard to cope.
Yes, that $500 will help people. My colleague mentioned earlier that it adds up to $42 a month. I own rental housing, so I am acquainted with this subject. Supply and demand have completely changed the availability of housing, especially affordable housing. We all know rent has gone up a lot.
This measure may help, but, as I said earlier, there is something else we have to keep in mind. When people find a place that meets their basic needs but is not near where they need to go, they have to spend more of their household income on transportation. That is a problem.
I am concerned about the impact of that and about availability.
I think all members are well aware of the situation, especially in Quebec. People reach out to our offices, and we often give them the tools they need to get the money they are entitled to, even though they do not always realize it exists. There is work to be done in that regard. It is our job to let people know that we can help them. There is no denying that this bill is going to pass. Of course, we cannot be against doing the right thing, but we have to think about what happens next.
Earlier, my colleague mentioned the need to take the bull by the horns. Some will want to talk about the labour shortage and will wonder how we can get this done. We have to start somewhere. Student co-operatives are being set up, and landlords in different municipalities are eager to contribute, so I think now is the right time. Funding must be accessible and available. We cannot wait two years for a Canada-Quebec agreement, since we are wondering if it is even necessary, given that we already have measures for our citizens.
Yes, it is necessary and it is even urgent. I was looking at the numbers for access to housing. Our performance as a G7 country is especially embarrassing. This is not the first time I have had the opportunity to talk with people abroad. When we look at the picture of who we are, I am quite often embarrassed. I tell them that we are going to address the problem because we know the situation is tough. According to the Association des professionnels de la construction et de l'habitation du Québec, there is a shortfall of between 40,000 and 60,000 housing units in Quebec. Those figures are from 2016. It is unbelievable.
My colleague next to me represents the riding of Mirabel. That town has seen one of the largest population increases. We are welcoming, but where are we going to house everyone?
Are the situations we are experiencing as homeowners normal? Three years ago, I received a phone call from an individual who told me he wanted to add his name to a waiting list because he really wanted to rent my apartment. He liked the location because it was near his work and his children's school. I had to ask him what he was talking about. He told me that my renter was leaving the following month. I learned that people wanted to add their names to a waiting list before my renter even notified me that he was leaving. I was not given three month's notice. In light of all this, I hope that action will be taken on things people have been calling for in the House, for which plenty of arguments have been made and that have repercussions on our constituents.
I would even say to members that these are the people who voted for us and we must not forget about them. I am sad when I return to my riding and have to talk about what we did during the week and what action we will be taking. I feel that this place has not acknowledged that the housing crisis is a real crisis because, had we done so, we would have taken action. During the pandemic, we demonstrated that we really can act quickly and effectively during a true crisis. That is why I am asking members to make decisions and do something for our people who are currently at risk of becoming homeless. That is all I have to say for today.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Today, as I rise to speak to Bill , an act respecting cost of living relief measures related to dental care and rental housing, I feel proud. I am delighted. More important, as indicated in the name of the act itself, I feel relief, relief from the fact this legislation lays out the groundwork, complements programs and through its two main elements, serves to address some of the most prominent affordability concerns in Canada, more specifically in my riding of Richmond Hill.
It is a known fact that, following the COVID–19 pandemic and all the global and domestic challenges that have arisen since, Canadians have been deeply impacted by the rising cost of living. Addressing such large-scale issues cannot happen overnight, but rather through a multi-step, gradual process, which is exactly what is offered in Bill .
Allow me to provide a brief overview of the bill by breaking it down into its two main components: dental care and housing. These are two domains that affect not only the financial, but also the physical well-being of each and every Canadian. Our government's focus on enhancing each of them is widely apparent through the bill.
To give a quick summary, Bill would make life more affordable for families across the country by providing dental care for Canadians in need with a family income of less than $90,000 annually, starting with children under 12 years old in 2022.
It would also provide immediate relief for individuals and families struggling with housing affordability through a one time $500 supplement to the Canada housing benefit.
Canadians are entitled to good oral health, regardless of their financial situation. It is estimated that about one-third of Canadians do not have any form of dental coverage and that one in five have avoided dental care because of its overwhelming cost. This is a dark reality for many low-income families. Canadians should not sacrifice their well-being and face long-term health issues because of their inability to afford seeing a dental professional. This is why we continue to work tirelessly across provinces and territories to ensure that accessible dental care is delivered to those who need it the most.
While our government continues to develop a durable and inclusive national dental care program, which will provide $650 a year to eligible parents for the next two years, it will also ensure timely dental appointments and checkups for children.
As a member of the health committee, I had the pleasure of hearing remarks from the president of the Canadian Dental Association, Dr. Lynn Tomkins, during my study on the topic of children's health. Dr. Tomkins testified that tooth decay remained one of the most common and preventable childhood chronic diseases in Canada.
Beyond the risk of pain and tooth loss, the effects of the absence of dental care for children can be devastating. Missing school, improper eating and lack of sleep are among the factors that arise from the lack of dental treatment for children. In the words of Dr. Tomkins, “nothing is more heart wrenching than having to treat a young child with severe dental decay.” The experience can cause lasting dental anxiety and fear.
This is why the Canadian Dental Association welcomed our government's once-in-a-generation federal investment in dental care.
The Canadian Dental Association expressed its appreciation of the phased approach being taken by government toward this issue. This gradual approach will allow time for consultation and collaboration with all relevant stakeholders on a long-term solution to improving access to dental services.
Bill also puts another key objective forward, which is ensuring every Canadian has a safe and affordable place to call home. We all know that the affordability crisis is top of mind for Canadians.
As such, during the summer, I had the opportunity to catch up with many community members and leaders through events such as our community council breakfast meeting where my constituents shared their concerns about their daily struggle to make ends meet.
For many renters, the high cost of living has resulted in an increasing challenge to find housing they can afford, which is why this legislation has arrived at the perfect time.
When passed, this will put hundreds of dollars back into the pockets of millions struggling with increased rent costs through a one-time $500-top-up to the Canada housing benefit. This top-up would be in addition to the Canada housing benefit, which already provides an average of $2,500 to thousands of working individuals and families from coast to coast to coast. I want to emphasize that this payment is part of a larger comprehensive plan to assist Canadian families nationwide.
Our housing strategies and programs have been successful in many ways. As a singular example, the launch of the affordable housing initiative back in 2016 aspired to create 4,000 units of housing. Instead, it has yielded 19,000. Following the legacy of this initiative, our plan will put Canada on the path to double housing construction over the next decade.
These are only two highlights of the consistent initiatives our government has taken to achieve affordable and sustainable housing for more Canadians. At this time, we are on the right track to accomplishing just that, through the passing of .
Allow me to demonstrate just how important this legislation is to the people of my riding and, most important, to the key community leaders and service providers that strive to provide life-saving support for people experiencing homelessness year after year in Richmond Hill and across York Region.
Blue Door, as the largest emergency housing operator in York Region, strives to provide emergency housing support services to children, youth, men, women and families at risk of homelessness. Blue Door's housing emergency program has lifted over 500 individuals out of poverty by helping them navigate through COVID-19; provided over 19,000 nights of safety for homeless individuals; and served over 64,000 meals for the vulnerable population across York Region.
I continue to hear about the tremendously positive impact Blue Door makes in Richmond Hill through programs such as the mosaic interfaith out of the cold program.
Every year, from November to June, homeless adults and youth in Richmond Hill are provided with essential support at the Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church, which is one of Blue Door's emergency housing sites.
Speaking of community leaders and heroes, the 360° Kids organization in Richmond Hill is yet another key community service provider, which provides kids in crisis with care. Day in, day out, Clovis Grant and his dedicated team at 360° Kids help youth make positive changes in their lives by overcoming barriers and moving from crisis to a place of safety and security.
I can confidently affirm that passing this important legislation will have a direct and positive impact on the lives of people, as the 360° Kids and Blue Door service users.
I urge members to support community leaders across all ridings like Michael Braithwaite, Clovis Grant and their dedicated teams from Richmond Hill, who provide housing services to our most vulnerable, by passing the legislation so we can provide a safety net for those who need it the most.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in this House and speak to Bill , a piece of legislation that comes at a very critical time for a lot of Canadians. Many of my colleagues here in this place speak with people in our home communities and across our ridings about the challenges they face. When I speak to folks these days, so many of them tell me about the rising cost of living and the challenge it is placing on their family budgets.
Many of these people talk to me about it and express how it feels that this is happening to them, and they have very little agency. They did not cause the war in Ukraine. They did not break the international supply chains. They did not force huge corporations to act in a time of crisis to jack up their profits on the backs of ordinary Canadians. People are working hard and are falling further behind.
This crisis of inflation affects everybody, but it affects some more than others. It especially affects those on fixed and low incomes. Some folks have the ability to shift their spending, but when they are living on a limited income and when their paycheque is a fixed amount and the cost of everything is going up, they have very few options. Everyone in this place would agree that it is there that we should focus our policy attention as legislators. Those are the folks who need help the most right now.
Part of this bill is a very simple component. The top-up of the Canada housing benefit would get a one-time $500 payment to Canadians who qualify for that benefit. Specifically, they are families who earn a net income of less than $35,000 a year. That would help 1.8 million Canadians with the cost of living, and it would make a real difference. It is something that the government should have brought in months and months ago, but the time to act is now. We need to ensure that this legislation gets through so that people can benefit from this payment.
The second part of this legislation is also related to the cost of living. It would help Canadians with their costs, but it is different. The other part of this legislation, the Canada dental benefit, is a down payment on something that is going to have a profound and long-lasting benefit for millions of Canadians. It is going to be transformational and to make a difference for generations to come.
Many would agree that universal health care is our country's crowning achievement. This is possibly our greatest policy achievement. It is something that is based on a simple but profound premise, which is that in a world in which so many of the aspects of quality of life correlate with one's financial status, health should be different. Everyone, no matter their income, should have access and the dignity of access to basic health care, yet, ever since the Canada Health Act was first passed into law in the 1960s, it has been a project incomplete. It has been a vision unfulfilled, because we all know that there are aspects of our health that were not included in the legislation that created universal health care. As New Democrats we have always held as part of the vision, right back to the days of Tommy Douglas, that things like our eyes, mental health and dental care are integral to our concept of health and to our health outcomes, and that they must be included in our vision of universal health care for all.
Nobody here in this place can argue that dental care is not a part of health care. We all know people who suffer from extreme health issues as a result of dental pain and dental issues that go untreated. Dental care is expensive; everyone knows this as well. Thirty-five per cent of Canadians lack proper dental insurance, and that number jumps to 50% when we are talking about low-income Canadians. Seven million Canadians avoid going to the dentist because of the cost. It is shameful. It is something that has to change, and the bill in front of us is the first step in heading down that road. Canada's most vulnerable face the highest rates of dental decay and disease and the worst access to dental care. This is something we have to change. We are going to change that. This bill is the start.
The legislation in front of us begins with the children of low- and modest-income families, and that is no mistake. We all know that if we can catch these dental care issues at a young age, we can prevent much more serious issues down the road. This is about prevention, and it is about helping young children address serious health issues before they become even more serious.
In 1964, the Royal Commission on Health Services recommended precisely this. It stated that the government should, as quickly as possible, implement a dental program for children, yet here we are over half a century later, finally tackling this critical aspect of health care.
Shamefully, tooth decay remains the most common, yet preventable, chronic childhood illness in Canada. The most common reason for kids undergoing day surgery and missing school is dental decay. The most common surgery performed at most pediatric hospitals across Canada is related to dental issues. Left unchecked, these issues affect people's health in profound ways, as I mentioned, but they are preventable and we are finally on the path to making things better.
We are not going to stop at dental care for kids. I sent a mail-out to my constituents asking for their feedback on this proposed dental care program. The vast majority of the responses I received were from seniors. It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear some of the messages they sent me.
One woman wrote in and said, “My husband is working at 67 years old to keep his coverage going. It would be great to have support so he could retire.” Someone else said, “We skip dental care because we can't afford it, and dread the day we might need serious attention.” Another senior wrote me and said, “Last year, one tooth cost me $5,000. That is 10 months of my CPP.”
This is something we can address. What we have in front of us with the Canada dental benefit is indeed a down payment on a permanent national dental care plan. It is not only going to help kids under 12. It is going to help seniors. It is going to help youth under 18. It is going to help people with disabilities. It is going to help millions of Canadians who are struggling with dental health issues.
New Democrats have pushed hard for dental care for a long time. Of course, it was always a part of our vision for universal health care. Just a year ago, our brilliant colleague, Jack Harris, stood in this House and put forward a motion urging the government to implement a national dental care plan. It was a sad thing that both Conservatives and Liberals voted down that motion, yet here we are a year later, taking the first steps toward a national dental care plan that is going to help millions of people. We got there for one reason: We did not give up, because we hold on to that vision of universal health care.
It is no coincidence that the last time we achieved a transformational public health policy for Canadians with the Canada Health Act, it was New Democrats coming off the experience in Saskatchewan with universal health care under the leadership of Tommy Douglas, who pushed a Liberal government in a minority Parliament to do the right thing and create a change that has benefited so many people over the years. Here we find ourselves again in a position where this idea of making lives better for people by providing this care that so many people need is at a point at which we can finally move forward, and we are not going to stop until it becomes a reality. Creating a national dental care plan is about dignity, it is about health care and it is about bloody time.