Madam Speaker, this Thanksgiving weekend, Canadian families will be getting together from coast to coast to coast. They will be getting around the table in my community of New Westminster—Burnaby and in many other communities. They will be joining together to sit down to have the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but for so many of those families they will be eating a lot less or a lower quality of food than they have in previous years because of the impact of greedflation on those families. That is why the NDP has put forward this motion today.
The motion directs the government, through the House of Commons, to ensure that we are tackling the corporate greed that is taking place in the grocery sector, which includes asking the Competition Bureau to launch an investigation of grocery chain profits, increasing penalties for price fixing as we have seen in the grocery industry and in other sectors, and strengthening competition laws to prohibit companies from abusing their dominant positions in the market. We are also calling upon the government to support the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in investigating high food prices. That was a motion brought forward by the member for . It was successfully adopted yesterday.
Also, we are directing the government through this motion to force CEOs and big corporations to pay what they owe. The estimate for last year alone was that over $30 billion in tax money, taken to overseas tax havens with impunity or through a variety of tax loopholes, was not paid. That is on the existing tax rate. It is $30 billion that was essentially taken from Canadians, so this motion directs the government to take action and force the CEOs and big corporations to pay those amounts. We are presenting this motion today, but the vote in the House will be taking place after the Thanksgiving break that we will be taking in our constituencies.
If the Canadian public want their members of Parliament to vote for this motion, if they believe that the type of greedflation we are seeing, with companies gouging Canadian families at a time when they are struggling the most, should not be, then they should urge their members of Parliament by sending an email, making a phone call or catching up with them at events next week. They should tell them to vote for the NDP motion as they want to see the House of Commons direct the government to take action in those areas.
Through you, Madam Speaker, I ask Canadians to do that in the coming week and make sure that their members of Parliament are held accountable for the greedflation, the increased costs that are happening right now as a result of corporate greed. I will come back to that in just a moment.
We have a responsibility to direct the government and to urge it to put an end to tax havens, which are costing us $30 billion a year. It is imperative that the Competition Bureau investigate the extent of the price increases. Companies took advantage of inflation to increase their profits and the bonuses of CEOs. We are asking that the investigation launched by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food also have the support of this government.
I am appealing to all Canadians who agree with this proposal and agree that the House of Commons direct the government to do what it has avoided for years but which is becoming increasingly necessary in this time of crisis. I invite them to contact their MPs in the next few days and weeks and ask them to vote in favour of this motion. The vote on this motion will be held the week after next, which is a constituency week.
The vote will take place the following week.
Canadians will hopefully be speaking in the coming days and letting their members of Parliament know that they should be voting for these important measures the NDP is proposing.
I would like to say that there is no doubt that these measures need to be taken. Canadian families are paying more and more for food, yet, at the same time, as so many of my colleagues have mentioned, we are seeing skyrocketing profits from the big grocery chains.
For the CEO of Sobeys, for example, to go after the NDP after what we have seen with Sobeys and the increase in profits and, of course, an increase in his bonus as well, for him to attack the NDP for bringing this subject forward rather than accept that what he is doing, the kind of unfortunate profiteering that is taking place when families are struggling so desperately, shows how disconnected the CEO of Sobeys is from the reality that Canadian families are facing.
A quarter of Canadian families are struggling to put food on the table. Fifty per cent, half of Canadian families, are within a couple of hundred dollars of insolvency, yet we have the Sobeys CEO saying, “Oh gosh, we want our increased profits. We want our bonuses. The NDP should not be raising this issue in the House of Commons.” Quite frankly, that shows a disconnect that is profoundly disturbing and should be for Sobeys' shareholders as well.
This is a company that is paying executive bonuses but has eliminated the hero pay. We had frontline workers during COVID who, at great cost to themselves, showing great courage, stepped forward to make sure that the food stores were open, that the grocery stores were open, so that we could get those essential foods, even at the height of the pandemic. As we know, they were doing this at risk to themselves and risk to their families, and that modest hero bonus that the NDP pushed for, and that the companies grudgingly decided to put into place, was promptly revoked, even though COVID is still present and even though there continues to be a risk.
This is why, I think, Canadians have been so exercised by what they see: companies and company CEOs bragging about increased profits at a time when families are struggling so much.
As we well know, the food bank lineups have doubled over the past few years. What we have seen is more and more Canadian families struggling to keep a roof over their heads. We are seeing more and more homeless. That is why the NDP has been pushing so strongly for measures that help to counter that crisis.
The first real NDP bill in this Parliament is the NDP bill that brings dental care for families with children 12 and under and allows for that expansion of dental care in the following year to seniors and people with disabilities and, in the final year, to all families who have modest incomes of less than $90,000.
These are the kinds of measures that make such a big difference. It is the NDP and the member for , our leader, and the terrific member for , who is our health care critic, who have led the charge of putting in place the dental care program that will help so many families. That initial payment is going to make a big difference. It will mean that children who would not otherwise have access to dental care will have access. It will then expand into a program that provides supports right across the spectrum.
Ultimately, it means that, in each and every riding, 30,000 Canadians are going to benefit. In each riding, on average, about 30,000 Canadians will benefit from the NDP's initiative. The NDP pushed in that regard. I certainly thank the member for and the member for for doing that on behalf of all Canadians.
The housing benefit and the NDP drive to get affordable housing in place, something we have not seen in half a century, which has contributed enormously to the crisis that is growing across the length and breadth of our country, that, again, is an NDP initiative.
The member for pushed for months the idea that the GST credit, the GST rebate, needed to be doubled to provide immediate supports for Canadian families, and a benefit that will reach 12 million Canadians has just been passed by this House. Thankfully all parties in all four corners of this House agreed that this was a priority, but it was NDP-inspired and NDP-pushed.
These are the kinds of things that we believe need to happen to benefit people, where we stay focused on the needs of people right across this country: the need for affordable housing, the need for an expanded health care system, including dental care, the need for money in Canadians' pockets at a time when we are seeing costs increase, and the need for a federal government to no longer say to the CEOs that they can do whatever they want, but rather a federal government that bolsters the type of legislation that would ensure that the Competition Bureau can play its role and crack down on price fixing, on profiteering and on corporate greed.
These are the responsibilities that we in a civil society give to our government, to those who were elected to represent us. We do not elect people to support the banks and the corporate CEOs. They have enough tools at their disposal. The great progress of government is to counteract that, so there is a level playing field on which all Canadians can benefit.
This brings me to my point. The member for , a little earlier today, said something to the effect that the NDP is identifying greed in the private sector that is really hurting Canadians, but that we did not know anything about government greed. Quite frankly, I found that a bit insulting, because I lived through the dismal decade of the Harper government. There is no better example of government greed than the 10 years that we lived under Stephen Harper.
I will just recall the facts. What we saw under the Stephen Harper government that the member for was such a close part of and obviously wants to replay was a dismal decade. I would say to all Canadians that he will replay that dismal decade over my body, because there is no way we are going to see what the Harper government did to our institutions happen again. If the member for Carleton wants to replay that, he will have a reckoning with New Democrats. We will be standing up against that at all times.
That decade of government greed saw unprecedented handouts to the banking sector, unprecedented handouts to the oil and gas sector, and unprecedented handouts to lobbyists. We can recall there was $116 billion in liquidity supports given to banks, because they needed to maintain their profits. With the signature of all these agreements with overseas tax havens, the ability of those taxes to be paid by everybody collapsed under the Harper government. The meaningful, real tax rate for corporations fell into the single digits. Can members imagine that? It was in single digits.
In terms of the corporate sector paying its taxes, well, with all of the overseas tax haven treaties that were signed by the Harper government, we simply saw a complete collapse of the tax system for the ultrarich and for big corporations. They did not have to worry anymore, because the Harper government, with its greed, was more interested in giving money to them than to regular Canadians.
What did it do for regular Canadians? We saw that; we were in the House as the Harper government gutted pensions, as it ripped them away, as 65- and 66-year-olds were told no, they did not have a pension anymore and were not eligible for a pension. I was in the House when it was in Centre Block. I recall speaking for 14 hours as I received emails and texts from Canadians from coast to coast to coast, talking about what it meant to them.
Carpet layers who had worked all their life and whose health was suffering were being told by the Harper Conservatives and the member for that they could not retire and would have to keep working because they were not going to be given a pension. How did that impact them or the people who were engaged in physical labour? I gather there are not too many Conservatives who have been engaged in physical labour. I worked in a factory for many years, and I can say that when people are reaching that stage of decades of intense physical work, sometimes they cannot keep working for a few more years because of the greed of the Harper Conservatives. We saw that. We saw cutbacks in everything, all kinds of supports, including housing.
Of course, the most egregious cutbacks were made by the Harper Conservatives because they were so greedy about giving money to lobbyists, oil and gas CEOs and the banks. They even stripped the health care system. Tragically, the Liberals today have never restored that funding, so a pox on both their houses. They stripped all of that away. Therefore, when the member for says that we do not know about government greed, I say Canadians lived that first-hand for a decade, and we are not going to live it again. The NDP is still pushing to rebuild the institutions that were gutted by that government greed, by the government saying that what mattered was the ultrarich, overseas tax havens, massive handouts to oil and gas CEOs and the banks.
Canadians did not matter to the Harper government or to the member for , and we all remember that. It is very important that we never forget that. We cannot let the gang that was around Stephen Harper, with all of the impacts that had for regular Canadians, and we cannot let the greed of the government result in massive handouts to its friends, the ultrarich and the lobbyists, rather than providing supports for pensioners and for the carpet layers who have worked for decades and whose bodies are no longer able to continue that intense physical work. Stephen Harper and the member for Carleton ripped that pension away from them. We will not forget that.
We are seeing a very similar approach from the CEOs. We see the current Liberal government maintaining those health care cuts, but we also see that network of overseas tax havens that have now cost us $30 billion last year in money that could have gone to support seniors. It could have supported access to post-secondary education. It could have supported housing. It could have been invested in the health care system to expand it so that, as the member for likes to say, it really provides coverage from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes. Those are all things that the $30 billion could have provided support for, as well as good Canadian jobs. It could have made a difference with respect to a whole range of things.
This is why we say that when the Liberals and Conservatives claim there is no money for something, it is quite a different story when it comes to the banks, the CEOs and the oil and gas companies. Then the spigot is turned on and the federal government largesse has no limits.
We differ in this corner of the House. I think part of the reason we are seeing the NDP rising in the polls is that Canadians perceive there is one leader in this House, the member for , and one caucus in this House, the NDP, that are fighting for regular people each and every day. That includes when the grocery chains stand up and say they want to have record profits, record bonuses and increased prices, but are not batting an eye with respect to how Canadian families are struggling. In this corner of the House, those families have strong allies who will not stop fighting. We are bringing this motion today because we are standing for Canadian families. I hope it receives support from everybody.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It has been an interesting day of listening to everybody talk about Bill and the reasons for the increase in the price of food. Going back to Saskatchewan to the riding of Prince Albert and going to a small town like Tisdale or Carrot River, or coming into the city of Prince Albert, one thing that becomes very clear is that food has definitely gotten more expensive. Whether people are buying hamburgers, steaks, potatoes or macaroni and wieners, everything has gotten more expensive. When they go through the process of buying groceries, they have a $100 bill in their wallet, but when they look in it after, they say, “Holy cow. Where did that go?” It is gone.
We have seen huge increases in the price of food. We can blame the war in Ukraine. We can blame a variety of things, but it really is the long-term policies of the government that have brought up the price of food items.
NDP members want to do a study and I agree with them on the study. It is a good idea. It is important to actually look at this and understand what is going on in the sector so we can have good policies to make sure that Canadians can take advantage of the great produce that is grown here in Canada.
We make the best food in the world. We grow the best animals. We grow the best vegetables, the best fruits, the best durum and the best canola. We have it all here. It is here in Canada. It is available for Canadians to take advantage of. We are blessed in so many ways, but then we look at things and ask how it can be this way. What has happened? What has made it so that it is so expensive to buy food when we have such an abundance of it?
Saskatchewan is a trading province. We have to export. We grow so much and we cannot consume it, so we export it around the world. That is when the trains run and the railcars show up. Of course, that is a problem with transportation and a problem with policy that comes back to the government. There are frustrations for sure, but there should be no reason to see this type of inflation in food. If we had the right policies in place, we would be able to see this scenario and be in a better situation.
When I was on the farm, I used to get frustrated because it cost me $250 an acre and the market paid me $200 an acre, so I took a $50-an-acre hit. It happens. The markets go up and the markets go down. In the good years, we put away enough money to ride through the bad years. Farmers are price-takers, not price-makers. We actually take our price from the market, so whether it is based on production around the world or production in Saskatchewan, there are many factors that will determine the price of grain, the price of beef or the price of a variety of other commodities. What we do is manage our costs. That is what farmers do in Canada.
They were the first to embrace zero tillage, which is one of the most advanced methods of growing crops in the world. That technology actually came out of the Sparrow report in the Senate, when we said we had to work on soil conservation and soil degradation. What did we do? Not only did we fix that, approve it and increase our organic matter, but we actually got more efficient. We produced cheaper products because we reduced the number of passes in the field. We became more and more efficient, and we took that knowledge and shared it around the world. However, we got zero credit for it from the government.
What has happened from the government as we look at this now? The government has hit us with a $50,000-a-year carbon tax. The Liberals say, “Don't worry. Be happy. Here is $800 back.” How can that be fair? How can that be neutral? Where did the rest of that money go? How do I take the $46,000 or $48,000 that I am short and reinvest it to become environmentally friendly? I have given it to Ottawa and what did I get back? I got tiddlywinks.
As we go through the process of looking at the cost of food, what happens? We get fewer farmers. We get bigger farms. We get huge farms. We do not have the small towns anymore so there are no thousand-acre farms. If they are not 2,000 or 5,000 acres, a lot of farms are 20,000 and 30,000 acres. They had to go that way because of the costs that were put on them by the federal government.
A carbon tax on food is immoral. Any tax on food is immoral and that is what the Liberals have done. Producers pay tax on fertilizer when they get it to the bin to put it in the ground. They pay tax on the diesel fuel to put it in the ground. They pay tax on the trucking to get it to the elevator. They pay tax on the rail to get it to the mill. They pay tax at the mill to get it to the grocery store. All that goes to Ottawa, and what does Ottawa do with it? Show me the mitigation the government has done with regard to the environment. Show me the bridges it has built. Show me the culverts it has put in and the lift stations. Where is the infrastructure?
We have seen flooding at historic levels in B.C. that shut down our transportation system. Where is the preparedness in the Liberal government to take on those types of things? Some were saying this was going to happen, and it did happen, but they did nothing to prepare for it. What did that cost our economy? What does their ignorance do to this economy and the abundance in this country called Canada, where we have so much to give?
We see around the world the war in Ukraine. We see that our friends in Europe could use our help again. We should be in a position to do that, and we are not. Why are we not? It is because we have neglected things here in Canada. We have not put in the infrastructure to take care of the export requirements for the variety of sectors that would be utilized in Europe at this point in time. Whether it is oil and gas, food or forestry products, we should be able to come in and fill those needs, but bad policy and planning by the government mean we cannot do that.
When we look at what is going on here in Canada and bring it back to the price of food, it is not just the price of food that is hurting Canadians; it is the price of everything. Everything they do, like going to Canadian Tire to buy some things for their kids, costs 30% or 20% more. When people get groceries, food costs that much more money. It just never goes far enough anymore.
Then we hear the government say that we need to pay more taxes, step up and pay for pollution. The Liberals are right. We do not have a problem with paying for pollution, but there is a problem I hear in my riding. A lot of people say they do not mind paying their share, but they ask what the government is doing globally to make sure that residents in high-emitting countries are paying their share. What is it doing to level the playing field so that when I pay for this on my farm in Saskatchewan, a farmer in Alberta, the U.S., China or Australia is paying the same amount so that the playing field is level? The Liberals have done nothing.
They have zero influence on the world stage, and we could go into debate on why that is. It could be a combination of things, like the trip to India or the trip to the U.K. that we just experienced. It could be the way the has conducted himself around the world. It would probably be better if we took away his passport, let him stay here and sent somebody else, because I think it would do our country more honour.
Let us come back to what this motion is talking about. It is talking about food; there is no question about that. However, what is hurting our economy and hurting Canadians is not just food. It is a variety of things they are experiencing right now and a government that just does not care or understand. When we start talking about the economy, those members give a blank look. They just do not get it. They do not seem to say they hear us and that they do not know what to do. They do not look at the options sitting in front of them, things like cancelling some tax increases for a period of time.
If we look at the tax increases the Liberals are proposing, the carbon tax is meant to change people's conduct with regard to the environment. We have just gone through record fuel prices in North America, Canada, B.C. and Ontario, and the prices are going up again. Should that not have had the same effect as a carbon tax? If the price of fuel is higher, I cannot drive as much. However, I live in rural Saskatchewan, and when I have to go for groceries, I still have to put gas in the truck because I do not have an alternative; I do not have an option. When taxes are increased on me because of that, the government has penalized me. When they take my $50,000 and make it $75,000, they have taken my ability to improve my operations to become more environmentally friendly. They have done worse.
Not only that, but I have been weakened in such a way that I cannot provide that cheap food Canadians have come to rely on. Who pays? The most vulnerable pay. Those who have the smallest paycheques pay. They do pay; they pay the most. The percentage of their food bill goes from 50% to 75%, so they do not have a chance to buy new clothes for their kids. They go to shelters and buy there.
If we look in Prince Albert and Saskatoon, the food banks have a record high number of people attending them. That is the direct result of bad policy, and if the Liberals do not get that now, then they are not listening. They cannot come back to Ottawa, go to their caucus and say they are dealing with a bunch of people who are in really bad shape and need a break, and then answer with a $500 GST tax credit. It sounds good, but it is not enough. We have to look at the other alternatives and levers we have at our disposal and bring the costs down. That is the same for farming, manufacturing and a variety of industries. We have to get the costs down and back to a relevant number so that we can compete throughout the world, hire Canadians and actually let families feed themselves.