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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Congratulations, Minister, and thank you for being here this evening. We are pleased to have the opportunity to ask you about budget priorities.
You gave a very upbeat presentation and it's perplexing to me because it seems out of touch with the reality that so many Canadians are facing.
Canadian families are facing record levels of family debt. It's the worst in our history and it's the worst among all industrialized countries. Half of Canadian families are $200 from insolvency at the end of any month. We're seeing an affordable housing crisis in this country. The food bank lineups are growing. That's the reality that so many of us are seeing. People are not saying that $1.73 a week is going to make a huge difference to these various crises. That's the figure that the PBO did say was the impact this year in terms of the small tax cut. What they are saying is that massive investments in affordable housing need to be made, and that's what we've heard from the witnesses who have been coming forward since Monday, and the briefs that we've been receiving. We need significant investments there.
People have been talking, and our witnesses have been talking about the whole issue of pharmacare, As you came up here tonight, Madam Minister, you would have passed Jim. Jim begs every day on the bridge between the Chateau Laurier and the East Block, and he begs because on social assistance he can't afford to pay for his medication. He needs $500 a month to pay for the medication that keeps him alive.
I have constituents, including the family of a good friend of mine, Cole. The father is facing $1,000 a month in heart medication costs and the family is now having to choose between whether they can stay in their home or pay for heart medication. We need universal public pharmacare.
We heard as well about the number of Canadians—four and a half million—who don't have access to basic dental care, which has an impact on our health care system and an impact on their quality of life. The NDP submitted to the Minister of Finance and to the government the proposal that if we cap the tax cut at $90,000, we can actually afford basic dental care for all Canadians.
Those are the needs we're hearing about, and you referenced in your remarks that child care is costing the average family $2,000 a month, but the government is finding money. There's $25 billion a year that leaves this country in what should be tax revenues for overseas tax havens. The government has done very little to address that. In 24 hours, the government came up with $4.5 billion for the money-losing Trans Mountain pipeline, and that was a billion dollars over market value. There is a lot of money that's being invested, I think, in the wrong place. Many people have raised concerns about the construction costs for Trans Mountain, which could be up to $15 billion.
My questions are these. Given the size and scope of the affordability crisis that so many Canadian families are facing, is the government seriously looking at putting in place, through the budget, universal pharmacare that would help millions of Canadians? Is the government looking at that basic dental care plan that the NDP put on the table and that would help four and a half million Canadians? Is the government, and as Associate Minister of Finance, you'd be directly involved, and your mandate letter references this—
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