The House resumed from September 26 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill which is legislation styled as an act respecting cost of living relief measures. I emphasize “styled” as an act respecting cost of living relief measures, because the measures put forward in the bill can at best be described as half-measures and band-aid solutions that fail to address the root causes of the cost of living crisis faced by everyday Canadians.
The bill offers measures by throwing some money here and throwing some money there, all in a desperate effort by a desperate government to make it appear that it is doing something, anything, to address the cost of living crisis, a crisis of this Liberal government's own making. I have to say that it is a bit ironic that, even though the bill is styled as legislation to address the cost of living crisis, it would, in fact, exacerbate the cost of living crisis. It would do so because it comes with a price tag of several billion dollars that would be borrowed and would pour fuel on the inflationary fire that is at the heart of Canada's cost of living crisis.
The cost of living crisis cannot be understated. It is happening. It is real, and Canadians are hurting like never before. Inflation is at a 40-year high. It hit 8.1% in June. Inflation for essentials such as food is even higher. Grocery prices are increasing at a faster rate than we have seen in 40 years, with food inflation hitting 10.8%. When one looks at some dietary essentials, prices have gone up even more. Fresh fruit is up 13.2%. Eggs are up 10.9%. Bread is up 17.6%. Pasta is up 32.4%. I could go on. The average family of four is now spending $1,200 more this year over last for groceries. That is $1,200 more this year over last year just to put food on the table.
While members opposite and their coalition partners in the NDP will undoubtedly pat themselves on the back for handing out $500 rent cheques, which, by the way, most renters would not even qualify for, that is a mere fraction of the increased cost that Canadians are paying just to put food on the table. It underscores the severity of the cost of living crisis and the empty response on the part of this government in tackling it.
How did we get into this mess in the first place? Undoubtedly there are a number of factors, but perhaps the biggest factor is the government's reckless fiscal policies and the government's out-of-control spending. Never in Canadian history have we had a government that has spent more, borrowed more and added more debt. To put it in some context, in the past seven years, the has accumulated more debt than all the debt accumulated in the 148 years of Canada's history leading up to the election of this government.
The has added more debt than all previous prime ministers combined. That is staggering. It demonstrates a total lack of prudence and a complete recklessness on the part of the government, which has now resulted in this cost of living crisis with 40-year-high inflation. The government told us not to worry and that it can spend and spend some more because interest rates are low, until they are not.
We saw the highest increase in interest rates in a quarter of a century last summer and interest rates are undoubtedly going to go up even further. The Liberals say they had no choice because of COVID, except when one looks at the facts, the government cannot hide behind COVID as an excuse for its out-of-control spending.
Let us look at some of those facts. To begin with, the government added $100 billion in debt in its first five years in office, before COVID hit. In other words, the government added more debt during the good times, indeed, more debt than any government had accumulated during that period of time, leaving the cupboard bare.
Of the half a trillion dollars in new spending that we have seen over the past two years, this fire hose of spending, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has determined that more than 40% of that is unrelated to COVID. The Liberals say it is because of COVID, yet hundreds of billions of dollars of the half a trillion dollars of new spending, according to the PBO, is unrelated to COVID.
Then, in January, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that the stimulus spending was not serving its intended purpose anymore. The PBO effectively called on the government to stop the new spending. What was the government's response to the Parliamentary Budget Officer? It was to do exactly the opposite. The government did the only thing the government knows how to do and that is to spend other people's money, with $71 billion of new spending with Bill , $60 billion in new spending with budget 2022 and now billions more dollars with this inflationary spending bill.
To pay for it all, the government, through the Bank of Canada, did something that no other government has done before, and that is quantitative easing or, in other words, the printing of money. After all of the spending, all of the debt and all of the money printing, there has been a cost. That is the cost of 40-year-high inflation. The more the government spends, the more the cost of living goes up. The more the government spends, the costlier it is for Canadians to purchase goods. Canadians are making less in their paycheques and their purchasing power is being diminished, all because of the government's reckless fiscal policies.
Although we find ourselves in this position of 40-year-high inflation, fuelled by the government's reckless spending, one must say that it ought not have been a surprise to the government that it would find itself in this place. After all, it was quite foreseeable. When we have more money chasing fewer goods, we are going to get inflation. That is called economics 101.
The leader of the official opposition, when he was the shadow minister of finance, called on the government to monitor inflation. He predicted that, if the government did not get spending under control, we would see inflation. What was the response from the and the ? It was to completely ignore the . They said to not worry about inflation and that, if anything, we must be concerned about deflation. How wrong they were.
I guess it is a consequence of having a prime minister who has admitted that he does not think much about monetary policy. Perhaps if he thought a little about monetary policy, we would not find ourselves and the country in this fiscal mess and the consequent cost of living crisis that everyday Canadians are enduring. If the government was serious about addressing the cost of living crisis, it would not be doing what it is doing, but it is doubling down on the same failed approach that got us into this mess in the first place, with even more spending.
What the government should be doing is heeding the advice of the by reining in spending, by restoring a fiscally responsible policy and a sound monetary policy, by finding savings and by rooting out waste in government. There is no shortage of waste to root out.
If the was serious about tackling the cost of living crisis, which begins with tackling the out-of-control spending of the government, the Prime Minister would be doing what the has called on the government to do, which is to introduce legislation such as “pay as you go”, whereby the government must find a dollar of savings for every new dollar of spending.
Some Liberals might scoff at the notion of “pay as you go” legislation, but it has worked. It has worked in the largest democracy and the largest economy in the world, that of the United States. More than 20 years ago, a Republican Congress passed and a Democrat president, Bill Clinton, signed into law “pay as you go” legislation. What was the result? It was a balanced budget for the first time in decades, and the United States paid down more than $400 billion of debt.
Do not expect the current government to implement measures such as this. Do not expect it to rein in spending. Do not expect it to reflect on its failed policies and reverse course, because, on issue after issue, the government's measure of success, as it measures success, is based upon how much it has spent.
We see this with respect to housing. The government has spent billions of dollars, more than $40 billion, on housing. Billions more were announced in budget 2022. What have been the results?
To begin with, the average Canadian is now paying roughly half of their monthly paycheque to cover their monthly housing costs. When the government came to office, the average Canadian was paying roughly 32% of their paycheque. They are now paying 50% of their paycheque. As well, housing prices have doubled. They have gone up 52% in just the past two years.
We have the most land in the G7, and yet we have the fewest houses in the G7 on a per capita basis. The Liberals can pat themselves on the back for spending all this money in housing, but when we look at the results, we have the fewest houses in the G7, among the highest prices, which have doubled under the government's watch, and now Canadians are paying half their paycheques just to put a roof over their heads. I would call that a policy of failure. Canadians certainly have not received good value for all that money that went out the door.
If the government were serious about tackling housing affordability, it, again, would be turning to the , who has put forward a comprehensive plan to make housing more affordable so Canadians can purchase a home or rent a unit, by, among other things, tackling supply, increasing supply, by selling off a portion of the federal government's real estate portfolio to build more housing units and by incentivizing municipalities to allow more houses to be built, including tying federal infrastructure dollars to municipalities based upon new units built. These are reasonable solutions to try to address a very real problem that is impacting so many Canadians.
What is the government's solution? To hand out a $500-rent cheque. Its solution is a $500-rent cheque that does not even cover one week's rent in most Canadian cities. Not only that, more than six out of 10 renters will not even qualify for the cheque, and those who do will see whatever short-term benefit of that $500 eviscerated with the Liberals' inflation, rising interest rates and, most significant, planned Liberal tax hikes in the new year.
At a time when Canadians are paying more in taxes than in housing, transportation, food and clothing combined, at a time when Canadians are faced with 40-year-high inflation, the Liberal government has suddenly decided it is a good time to increase payroll taxes and triple the mother of all taxes, the tax on everything, the hated carbon tax, which, by the way, is contributing to inflation.
It demonstrates that the government is not serious about addressing affordability. If it were, as a starting point, it would heed the advice of the and cancel the planned tax hikes. It will not, so we have a government that is with one hand handing out some cheques to some Canadians only to take whatever benefit away with the other hand in the way of planned Liberal tax hikes.
This legislation may be styled as an act respecting cost of living relief measures, but this is not a serious plan to address the cost of living; it is more Liberal smoke and mirrors. It is an empty PR exercise in the absence of a real plan. It is why I will be opposing the bill.
Madam Speaker, the member is trying to interrupt my speech with a false point of order, but that does not change the fact that the Conservatives are on the side of wealthy CEOs. It does not change the fact that they are not on the side of everyday people who need access to dental care. They are not on the side of children who face tooth decay and cannot access dental care because their families cannot afford it.
In fact, tooth decay is the number one reason children miss school. The highest number of surgeries children face are for tooth decay, and it is not just pain they have to endure. Oral health has huge implications, long-term health implications, and this means we need to treat things early on. However, the Conservatives are not there for them.
The Conservatives voted against the NDP's push to get dental services to everyday Canadians last year, not once but twice. I might add that the Liberals joined them last year and voted against the NDP plan, not once but twice. It was because of 25 New Democrats in the House that we were able to force the government to take action. That is why we have this bill before us today. That is why Canadians who cannot afford access to dental care and who do not have dental services are going to get some help starting this year. That is why children under 12 in low-income families that are eligible will be able to get some support this year.
That is why next year, seniors and people with disabilities will be able to get access to dental services. I have met seniors in my riding and across the province and the country who have told me devastating stories of how they cannot eat because they do not have proper oral health and do not have teeth. Can anyone imagine seniors in their seventies or eighties having to blend their food as though they were infants because they cannot chew their food as they do not have proper teeth? Who in the House would say no to those seniors accessing dental support? That is what is coming next year. The Conservatives are saying no to children this year. Next year, are they going to say no to seniors who need dental care? Are they going to say no to people with disabilities who need dental care? I hope not.
I hope the new will wake up, stand on the side of people and stop saying we cannot afford it. What we cannot afford is to continue to allow wealthy CEOs to get their fat bonuses. What we cannot afford is allowing this situation to continue when big corporations have huge windfalls in profit during a pandemic period. We need to put in an excessive profit tax to support these kinds of programs and to support people.
The Conservatives will say that they are there for people on housing. We just heard them talk about how they have this great plan. Really? They talk about a plan, yet they do not talk about the need for affordability. That is where people are at. It is not just any supply. It is not about luxury condos. It is about people who are paying 30% or more of their total incomes for their housing costs. One in five Canadians is in that situation right now and needs help right now.
It was the Conservatives under the Mulroney government and then the Liberals under the Chrétien government who axed housing programs. In fact, the Liberals outright cancelled the national affordable housing program in 1993. That is why we have a housing crisis before us. The $500 housing subsidy is a small measure and a good gesture. It is something the NDP was able to force the government to take action on, and I am glad about that, but more needs to be done. Make no mistake about that.
Both the Conservatives and the Liberals need to support the NDP's push to ensure that real estate investment trusts stop getting the tax benefits they are enjoying. We need to stop the financialization of housing. We need to stop treating housing as a stock market. We need to make sure that housing is there for people as a basic human right. That is what we need to do.
We need to make sure that the government stops helping big corporations make more and more money. These investors are making more money and getting a tax benefit from it without a return to the people. That is what we have to do and that is what we have to talk about. The Conservatives are so petty that they even say low-income individuals and families should not even get a one-time $500 housing benefit at this time of unprecedented inflation. Who does that?
Look at what is going on in the streets. In my riding of Vancouver East, we have people who are homeless and living in tents. They need help and support and they need it now. Let us focus on the needs of the people and put them ahead of wealthy corporations and wealthy CEOs. Let us make sure they get the help they need.
The New Democrats will continue to push for more and fight for more.
Madam Speaker, I learn so much from my colleague from Vancouver East about housing. She is such an expert on housing. We all should listen to her and hear the call that she brings to this place.
I am going to start today with a bit of a story because we are in the House debating this bill and the need for dental care for Canadians, which would bring some relief for Canadians who are struggling right now. I have told this story before, but I want to share it again.
I spend a lot of time door knocking in my constituency. It is very important for members of Parliament to speak to their constituents as often as possible to find out what those concerns and issues are. One day I knocked on a door in one of my neighbourhoods. It was a pretty affluent neighbourhood. I knocked on the door and was talking to a gentleman who was telling me about the fact that the issue of dental care was a massive issue for him. He had a dental plan, and his children had access to dental care. His family was fine, but his concern was for the children who were going to school with his daughter who did not have those things.
I think about that a lot when I stand in this place. I think a lot about the fact that, as parliamentarians, our job is not to get things to make our lives better. Our job here is not to do things to benefit ourselves and those who are our friends. Our job as parliamentarians, and the reason I am a New Democrat, is to make lives better for all Canadians so we can help folks who are struggling. That is our job in this place, so I think about that gentleman an awful lot and the fact that his concern was around others. I am so proud to represent people like him in Edmonton Strathcona, those who care about their neighbours.
I am a mother. I have children. They are not as young as they once were, which is the way growing up works. I do want to acknowledge that I come to work in this place and I have this incredible privilege to ensure that my children will always have access to dental care. That is something that all of us in this place need to reflect on, and I am going to go back to that in a few minutes.
Our public health care system is full of holes. It does not make sense that our public health care system does not include dental care. It does not make sense that our public health care system does not include pharmacare or mental health care. At what point did we decide that parts of our bodies needed to be protected and covered and other parts did not? It does not make any sense.
It does not make sense to pretend that our teeth are not actually part of our body. From a health perspective, it does not make sense, and from an economic and fiscal perspective, it does not make sense. If I had the power right now to fix those gaps in our health care system and I could do that today, I would. It is one of the most important things, as parliamentarians, we should be doing.
Today, we have an opportunity to fix one of those gaps. I am incredibly proud to support Bill to get dental care for some of the people in Canada who need it the most, children under 12. If we do our job in this place, we could get half a million kids the dental care they desperately need. We can get them that dental care. We can get it for them and for all kids, not just the kids in families that can afford it. We have known for decades that dental care belongs in our health care system. It has been 58 years since the Royal Commission on Health Services called for dental care to be included in our public system.
I have said this before as well, but the most common surgery performed on preschool children at most pediatric hospitals in Canada is for the treatment of dental decay and the health implications that stem from that. We are asking families in this country to make heartbreaking decisions on protecting their children's health and their teeth or paying their bills, paying for groceries and paying for gas for their vehicles. That is a decision we should never be asking people in Canada to make.
I said earlier that I know that I stand in this place as somebody who has a great deal of privilege. I have a wonderful salary. I have a wonderful benefits program. My husband has a well-paying job. He has a dental program. My children will never have to worry about their teeth or about having dental care accessible to them. I feel deeply fortunate for that.
All of us sitting in the House should feel deeply fortunate for that. The dental plans that we have cover us and our families. What kind of people would we be if we did not want all children in the country to have the things our children have? What kind of person would I be if I could look at my daughter and say, “Thank goodness that my daughter Keltie has dental care,” and then look at someone else's daughter and not want that for them? How could I do that?
I will tell members that there are Conservatives sitting in the House right now who have already voted twice against dental care for children. I want them to know that I see them. Canadians see them.
Conservatives voted against health care 50 years ago. They voted against one of the things that Canadians see as fundamental to our identity and fundamental to who we are as a country. Fifty years ago, Conservatives voted against that, and now they are voting against dental care. They are fine having dental care for their families, and they are fine having dental care for themselves, but they do not want dental care for the children across the country in their constituencies and in their ridings. I have no idea what they must say to the people in their ridings to justify this. I have no idea how they can say, “For me, it is great. For you, not so much.”
It is horrendous. All children deserve dental care. Every MP who voted against dental care in the last Parliament, and I will acknowledge that that included Liberals, is saying that what they have access to, what they are entitled to, others are not. That is disgusting.
Another thing that I want to bring up within the bill, Bill , is the support for rent. Winter is coming. We know that. Winter comes with so many more challenges for vulnerable people in Edmonton.
This year is going to be, as we will imagine, harder than most because everything costs so much more. We already have a homeless crisis in my city and in cities across the country. Things are getting worse.
The support in the bill for renters and for low-income people who rely on the GST rebate is really not that much: $500 for renters and a temporary doubling of the rebate. It is not that much money overall, but the difference in one's life, when one is living on the edge, would be enormous. The opportunity to prevent people from becoming homeless and to help people who are really struggling right now is enormous. We have to do what we can for these people.
The support in the bill would be the difference between holding onto a place to live and becoming homeless for hundreds and maybe even thousands of Canadians. It would be the difference between buying groceries and going without. It would be the difference between hope and despair.
People are struggling to pay for everything right now. Groceries are more expensive. Rent is more expensive. Gas is more expensive. I know that it can feel overwhelming for many Canadians right now. That is what these programs are about. Universal dental care, and social programs like it, raises people up. They give people opportunities.
After all, that is ultimately what the democratic government is supposed to be. It is supposed to be people coming together to make laws, make rules and make programs that create a stronger, healthier and happier Canada.
I like to hope that we are all in this place wanting to make a positive difference in our communities and for our constituents. I know we do not all agree on what that looks like, but I believe in the power and the equity of social programs delivered by government, and the power of people lifting each other up. I am proud today to say that, because of the work of New Democrats, Bill would do that.
Madam Speaker, it is really a true honour and a pleasure to speak to Bill . For my wonderful constituents back in Cowichan—Malahat—Langford who are watching, today's debate is on the legislative framework the NDP has forced the Liberal government to bring in to establish an interim dental benefit for children under the age of 12 and also to provide an important subsidy to people who are struggling to pay their rent.
It is a moment of great pride because, in the last election, dental care was a very key focus of mine during the campaign. I am filled with gratitude to be able to stand in this House and tell constituents that we are actually delivering on something that would make a real difference.
I have been here for seven years now, and one thing I have learned about the House of Commons is that memories can be short in this place, so I think it is important that we take a little walk down memory lane and set the table of this debate with what happened just last year in the previous 43rd Parliament. I have to give credit to our former colleague Jack Harris, the former New Democratic member of Parliament for , because it was last year in the spring session that he brought forward Motion No. 62.
Motion No. 62 called upon the federal government to put in a dental care plan as soon as possible for families earning less than $90,000, as an interim measure. We debated that in May and June, and when it came to a vote on June 16 of last year, unfortunately it did not pass the House. In fact, the final vote tally was 285 votes against and 36 in support. I will acknowledge the 10 Liberal MPs who did find it in their conscience to see this as a benefit and vote with us, but the vast majority of the Liberal Party and all of the Conservatives voted against it.
What a difference a year makes. Here we are now in this 44th Parliament, and we are actually debating a real legislative agenda, a government bill, that hopefully will make its way to committee soon and then through the legislative process so that we can get this established. It would establish, as an interim measure, an important dental care benefit for children under the age of 12. That would be expanded next year to include children under the age of 18, seniors and persons with disabilities. Of course our plan is to have the full thing running by the end of this Parliament, the 44th, so that all families earning under $90,000 can access much-needed dental care benefits.
If we were to take a poll of words used in this chamber, we all know that “inflation” is occupying every member's mind right now. We hear it constantly from our constituents. It is all over the media. We can see it every time we go and fill up our car or go shopping for food. The cost of living is becoming unbearable for too many families, and that includes those in my own riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.
However, what is not being spoken of enough is its primary causes. Not enough people in this place are talking about how corporate greed is driving inflation. I listen to my Conservative colleagues complain about the high price of gas, but they say nothing about the massive corporate profits that are happening in the oil and gas sector or about how those companies are profiting off the backs of working families in their ridings. Instead, they want to continue the argument over carbon pricing.
It is a position the Conservatives once supported under former leader Preston Manning. They briefly flirted with it in the previous election before abandoning it. They want to continue having that conversation, but they also do not talk about the inflationary effects of climate change. I live in British Columbia. Last year, just months apart, we had devastating wildfires and catastrophic floods that cut off Vancouver from the rest of the country. They caused billions of dollars of damage and we are still, to this day, trying to clean up from them.
The Conservatives' answer is to try to target people's employment insurance and the Canada pension plan. They, incorrectly in my view, call those “payroll taxes”. I do not know of any other tax that pays me a deferred wage when I retire like the Canada pension plan does. I do not know why one would go after a retirement vehicle that so many Canadians depend on for their retirements and so many Canadians who find themselves with a disability depend on, or an insurance program that is there for when one loses their job.
Granted, employment insurance does have a lot of problems. Certainly our party, the NDP, has been very vocal about those problems. However, the concept of the program is a sound one, even if it does need some drastic improvements. The concept of having to pay a little into an insurance program for that day when a person may lose their job through no fault of their own is a sound concept. That program and CPP are programs that we need to build upon to lift each other up and to truly support Canadians who are in need.
I want to stay focused on Bill and the need for dental care. It is very important in this country. If we look at the statistics, population-wide, millions of Canadians have reported skipping going to the dentist because of the cost. There has been a lot of talk in this place about too much money chasing too few goods. I would agree with the first part: There is too much money. There is too much money lining corporate bank accounts, and there is too much money being paid out in bonuses to CEOs. This is at a time when people are making incredibly tough choices at the grocery store.
I will make no secret of the fact that, at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, I hope my colleagues will join me to investigate the corporate profits that exist in the grocery sector, a sector of which more than 80% is dominated by three companies. However, we are not paying enough attention to how that is driving inflation. We could look at the markups that are going on with food. They are rising far faster than the general average.
With dental care, this is a moral issue for me. We are debating an amendment today that was put forward by the member for , a Conservative MP, which would essentially kill Bill . That is where the Conservatives are today. Their big response to dental care is to move a motion to kill the bill outright. What they do not talk about enough is the fact that Conservative MPs, like every MP in this place, gets to enjoy the benefits of taxpayer-funded dental care and their immediate family members get that. Essentially their motto in this place is “it is good for me but not for thee”. They will not fight to provide their constituents with the same level of benefits they enjoy as sitting members of Parliament, and I need to call them out on that because that is shameful.
It is absolutely shameful that we live in a country where families are having to make that difficult choice of whether they can afford to send their kids to see the dentist. We know that poor oral health is an indicator of worse health problems. If those problems are not looked after at an early age, if they are not detected at an early stage, they get worse and they cost our system more money. The answer is in preventative health care. It is in making sure that kids can access those services.
I know that I am in the final minute of my speech, and I just want to end on a number: 25. There are 25 NDP MPs, less than 10% of the seats in this House, and today we are debating a bill that we campaigned on. We are talking about an agenda that we have been driving. I will say this to my constituents: If 25 New Democrats in this place can punch above our weight and get this kind of action going, which would benefit so many Canadians from coast to coast to coast, imagine what a lot more could do. With that, I will conclude.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the amendment that has been put forward by the member for .
I disagree with the comment that the member for made earlier about the Conservatives introducing an amendment to kill the bill, although I appreciate him giving that credit to them. What they are really doing is introducing an amendment so they can start to put up speakers again and reset the speaker roster on this to run out the clock.
Despite the fact that Conservatives are against this, that does not mean they are ready to vote for it. Why would they ever do that when they can use this as an opportunity to endlessly burn away the hours, which we regard as being so precious in this place to debate important legislation? What is more important to the Conservatives than going against dental care? What is more important to the Conservatives than doing anything for Canadians? What is absolutely paramount to them is to ensure that the legislative process in this place cannot function. That is why we are here today, in my opinion, to talk about this amendment, which basically would do nothing other than effectively vote against the bill itself.
Nonetheless, this is a very important bill. I want to congratulate my colleagues in the NDP for being so passionate about this and for bringing it forward. I certainly would agree with them that they have done a good job of playing their role in the House of Commons. They have identified the fact that they do hold the balance of power. Rather than using that in an obstructionist fashion, like the members from across the way, they have used it as a way to determine how we can do good things for Canadians that line up with their values and priorities. That is why I have no problem in allowing them to take some credit for what is being proposed today. Would I go as far as to say that the NDP forced the government into doing this? I think that is a bit of a stretch, but I respect the fact that its members are using the terminology they believe best fits the narrative of the day.
What this really comes down to is the fact that currently 55% of Canadians have their dental care coverage through some form of private insurance policy; 6% are insured through some form of public insurance policy, perhaps for the most vulnerable in our communities; and the balance, 39%, are literally paying out of their pockets for dental care. Among that 39%, there is a portion of those people who have family incomes of $90,000 or less. They are the ones really being targeted in this.
We recognize the fact that we need take care of the most vulnerable in our communities. That is an underlying principle of just about all of the legislation that has come forward from this side of the House. We understand that when we build up individuals who are struggling, when we give opportunities and when we provide incentives to participate in the economic activity and the social well-being of our country, it is for the benefit of not just those individuals but, indeed, for all Canadians. That is why I personally think that this is such important legislation.
I would note, though, that it is not just about helping to pay for the cost of dental care when people need to see the dentist. We have to recognize that all provinces and territories will cover emergency dental services. If someone goes into a hospital and it is directly related to that person's health and that service is needed right away, that will be covered by the province and/or territory.
This is important because its is about investing in the future. Rather than waiting until it jeopardizes somebody's health, we should be helping to pay for preventative measures. That is what a dental care program would do.
The reality of the situation is that a lot of folks who this would apply to, people in families that earn less than $90,000 a year, are going to make tough decisions when it comes to what to spend their money on. If they have to make the decision between getting a regular checkup at the dentist or getting a cavity filled that perhaps is not really bothering them, they might just push it aside and instead spend that money on something they need more.
The result of not having that preventive work done up front is that they end up in a situation where they are in much more dire need and the costs become a lot more expensive. In some cases, they end up in emergency rooms where the provinces and territories will take care of them in any event. My point is that there is an opportunity here to help people with the preventive assistance to ensure they do not have those problems later on.
In the bigger picture of affordability, I find it very interesting that Conservatives who come in here on a daily basis and talk about Canadians who are struggling do not seem to be interested in any of the programs that we have put forward to assist those Canadians, with the exception of the increased GST rebate. They have said that they will support that, but they have not given any indication whatsoever about when they will allow a vote on the bill to take place. With the exception of that particular legislation, the Conservatives do not seem to be interested in affordability as it relates to genuinely assisting people. They just seem to want to come in here and give grandiose speeches about why this government has made life so difficult for people, without presenting any concrete ideas or building on any concrete policies that have been brought forward by this side of the House.
I find it very rich and very ironic that the Conservative seem to be willing to turn their backs on those who need it the most, yet in question period, which is in less than an hour from now, I am sure we will hear them repeatedly asking about why we are not helping or not doing more those individuals. That is the irony and the reality of what takes place on this.
I am very happy to see this legislation come forward. I am very glad to see that the governing party is able to work with the NDP to advance initiatives that are in both of our interests and, indeed, in this case, something for which the NDP has been fighting for many years. I am glad to see we are at the place where we can work together, because it is always nice to tell Canadians that we have worked with other parties in a minority government to get things done.
The fact is that if we look back historically, a lot of the big decisions in our country were made during minority governments, such as health care and the CPP. Even the creation of our flag was done during a minority government. I am very happy we are able to do this with the NDP.
Madam Speaker, the members opposite have finally become aware of a problem that is obvious to every Canadian except for the and his cabinet. Inflation is a problem. Canadians are being hurt by it. Liberal government policies are making things worse.
I am pleased that the Liberals have finally realized inflation is a problem for our country. I am less pleased with their solution. Apparently, they do not understand that their attempts to fix the problem, a problem they created with reckless government spending, will only make things worse.
I can understand that there is confusion across the aisle when I say that. How can I say their well-meaning plan will not only not work but will make things worse? This does not make sense to them. For those who truly believe that budgets balance themselves, I can understand that the concept of inflation is also a little difficult to understand. Therefore, perhaps we should take a look first at just what we are talking about. According to Wikipedia:
[I]nflation is a general increase in the prices of goods and services in an economy. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, inflation corresponds to a reduction in the purchasing power of money.
Wikipedia also tells us:
High or unpredictable inflation rates are regarded as harmful to an overall economy. They add inefficiencies in the market, and make it difficult for companies to budget or plan long-term. Inflation can act as a drag on productivity as companies are forced to shift resources away from products and services to focus on profit and losses from currency inflation. Uncertainty about the future purchasing power of money discourages investment and saving. Inflation can also impose hidden tax increases. For instance, inflated earnings push taxpayers into higher income tax rates unless the tax brackets are indexed to inflation.
With high inflation, purchasing power is redistributed from those on fixed nominal incomes, such as some pensioners whose pensions are not indexed to the price level, towards those with variable incomes whose earnings may better keep pace with the inflation. This redistribution of purchasing power will also occur between international trading partners. Where fixed exchange rates are imposed, higher inflation in one economy than another will cause the first economy's exports to become more expensive and affect the balance of trade. There can also be negative effects to trade from an increased instability in currency exchange prices caused by unpredictable inflation.
This is Wikipedia. It is common information there, but the difference is that some understand it and some do not. Some refuse to even look at it or understand it. To put it simply, in terms that even a Liberal can understand, inflation harms the economy and hurts the people of Canada. Government policies should not make inflation higher. That should be a common understanding. It is simple and should be something that we all should live by.
This now brings us to the Liberals' response to inflation, which is to create Bill , an act respecting cost of living relief measures related to dental care and rental housing. The Liberals, with their imperfect understanding of inflation, are trying to make things better. They are ignoring the economic experts who say that increasing government spending adds to inflation. The Liberals' solution does not fix the problem, but will just make it worse.
It may come as a surprise to the Liberals, but their children's dental care is not a high priority for many Canadian families these days. Parents wish they could be more concerned about dental health and the state of their children's teeth, but when they are having difficulties finding the money to feed their children they are not spending much time booking dentist appointments.
The , as we discovered a couple of years ago, does not know the cost of a pound of bacon. Just to let him know, it has gone up again. Grocery prices are up by 10.8% on average, rising at the fastest pace in 40 years. Fish is up 10%. Butter is up 16%. Milk is up 21%. Eggs are up 10%. Margarine is up 37%. Bread, rolls and buns are up 17%. Dry or fresh pasta is up 32%. Fresh fruit is up by 13%. Oranges are up by 11%. Apples are up by 18%. Coffee is up by 14%. Soup is up by 19%. Lettuce is up by 12%. Potatoes are up by 10%. A family of four are spending an average of $1,200 more a year for groceries than they did in 2021. As well as record food prices, they have to deal with increases in heating, gasoline and housing costs.
Canadians are having to make hard choices about whether to put gas in the car in order to get to work in the morning, or put food on the table. This should not be happening in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The government does not seem to understand that it is part of the problem. It says to spend, spend, spend and hopes that the problem will go away. If we ask any economist, they will tell us a government cannot curtail inflation by spending.
The Liberal government is driving up the cost of living. The government's proposals do little to solve the problem. Proposals on dental care and housing will provide jobs for civil servants, but will not help most Canadians. The GST rebate will provide some welcome relief, but it is short-term and will not address the real problem: Inflationary deficits and taxes are driving up costs at the fastest rate in nearly 40 years, and that rebate will not pay for very many groceries.
As government spending increases, the deficit rises and the national debt increases. Today's spending will be paid for by our children and grandchildren, who will not thank us for our actions today.
If the was serious about making life more affordable for workers, families and seniors, he would cancel his planned carbon tax increases immediately. The is increasing the carbon tax on Canadians by three times, tripling it, and he is suggesting that he wants to help Canadians. If he wanted to help Canadians, he would not increase the carbon tax three times.
Canadian families are struggling with rising costs due to Liberal inflation. Now is not the time to raise their tax burden and make their lives worse. Instead of freezing taxes, the government is raising taxes on people who are struggling to make ends meet. Inflation is making groceries unaffordable for many people. The government is making things worse with its taxes and inflationary spending.
Those things combined are raising the stress on millions of Canadians. Many are turning to food banks as the only way to feed their families. Here in Ottawa, inflation is being blamed for record-high food bank usage. Food banks in Toronto say they are facing the highest demand in their history. In Edmonton, the University of Alberta's Campus Food Bank reported 200 new clients in September alone.
Raising the tax burden on Canadians so they have to turn to food banks to feed their children may be the Liberal policy, but it is not the policy of a compassionate government. Last year, the asked Canadians to forgive him for not thinking of the monetary policy. Given the fiscal trouble individual Canadians and the entire nation face, I do not think we are going to do that.
Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill , an act respecting cost of living relief measures related to dental care and rental housing. This legislation would help address some of the concerns that many of my constituents have shared with me around the rising cost of living and the increasing difficulty they are facing in making ends meet.
All of us in this House and in this country are seized with the issue of inflation. Indeed, the world is seized with the issue of inflation because it is a global phenomenon. Forces like high oil prices ripple through the supply chain and so do supply chain disruptions, leading to a scarcity of goods and rising prices for them. The economy is still recovering from the pandemic. We are all feeling the pinch.
Canada has done better than most G7 countries and is doing better than our American neighbours and peers, such as the United Kingdom and Germany. We have seen prices come down at the pumps, but according to the latest Statistics Canada numbers and what we are seeing at the grocery store, food inflation remains a serious problem.
While inflation is, as I said, a global phenomenon and a temporary one that will ease in time, that does not make the burden on Canadians today any less real and any less serious. While my colleagues and I in this place can afford to absorb the temporary higher prices, not all Canadians are that fortunate. They need our help, and just as we always have been, since the first act of our government after the 2015 election to lower taxes for the middle class and those working hard to join it by asking the top 1% to pay just a little more, we will be there for Canadians who need help the most.
Canadians are looking to their elected representatives for help, and I was pleased to see Bill receive speedy support and passage at second reading so that it could go to committee for further study. This is an important part of our government’s response to the affordability challenges that Canadians are facing.
If passed, Bill will double the goods and services tax credit for six months, delivering $2.5 billion in additional support to roughly 11 million lower-income Canadians. For a typical family, this could mean up to $612, plus $161 for each child under the age of 19. I hope the co-operative spirit continues and we see this legislation passed soon so that Canadians can get this much-needed help to cope with higher prices. I also hope that this same co-operative spirit can prevail in this place with Bill , because it delivers much-needed help for lower-income Canadians struggling with higher prices. They do not want to see politicians stalling on the help they need with political games.
There are two main components in Bill , and the first relates to dental care. While we here in this place benefit from generous employer-provided dental plans that cover us and our dependants, many Canadians are not so lucky. They are forced to pay for needed dental services out-of-pocket, including for their children. Beyond the cost of a regular cleaning for their children, dental emergencies can become financial emergencies and force very hard choices.
Making life more affordable for families across the country must include making oral health care accessible for all. Dental care is an important part of overall health, yet in Canada, one-third of the population cannot afford it.
Creating a proper national dental system from coast to coast to coast that is integrated as part of Canada’s health care system will take time, co-operation and coordination with the provinces and territories. However, in recognizing that we need to start helping Canadians with these costs now, this legislation proposes a new, temporary Canada dental benefit. The benefit would provide dental care for uninsured Canadians with a family income of less than $90,000 annually, starting with children under 12 years old in 2022.
The Canada dental benefit would allow all eligible parents to access direct payments totalling up to $1,300 per eligible child under 12, up to $650 per year, to support the costs of dental care services. Once the program is live, Canadians will be able to access the Canada dental benefit through their CRA accounts. The CRA is prepared to deliver and make it as easy as possible for eligible Canadians to get the money they need for oral health care.
Dental health is an important part of our overall health and should not be sacrificed for financial reasons. With this bill, we would be taking an important first step and putting more money back in the pockets of Canadians who need it the most.
The second major component of Bill relates to housing. Affordable housing and the high cost of safe and suitable housing is one of the biggest issues for the residents of my riding of Scarborough Centre. This legislation addresses one of the major components of housing that is so often ignored by the official opposition: rental housing. While they have a lot to say about home ownership, they have little to say and little to offer to those who rent their homes.
I have a lot of renters in my community of Scarborough, and many of them are trapped in inadequate and substandard rental housing that does not meet their needs. I say they are trapped because they cannot afford to move to a bigger unit or a nicer unit that could better suit their needs because market rent is now well beyond their means. If they were to leave their current unit, it would be rented out for many hundreds of dollars a month more.
Even within the guidelines, rent increases, in combination with all the other high prices families are facing, are difficult to manage. As part of the national housing strategy—