Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arnold Chan Profile
2016-05-19 15:37 [p.3604]
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance not only for his presentation here today but for his excellent work, along with the Minister of Finance, particularly at the beginning of this year, when they went coast to coast to coast around the country under a very difficult timeline to consult with Canadians on what was ultimately budget 2016.
I listened carefully to his presentation with respect to many of the tax measures that are included in budget 2016 and how it would improve the lives of middle-class Canadians. Some of the things I did not hear, which I want to give the parliamentary secretary an opportunity to expand on and are particularly important to my riding of Scarborough—Agincourt, are the strategic investments, particularly in infrastructure, and in particular as it relates to public transit.
We have had some interesting announcements that have taken place in, for example, the Toronto area. I would like to give the opportunity to the parliamentary secretary to further elucidate as to how it might impact my particular region of the country.
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague and say what a pleasure it is to see him in the House. Perhaps I had the privilege of travelling coast to coast to coast, but I recognize my colleague went through a difficult time. It is nice to see him with us, because he is an outstanding member with the respect of everyone in the House. These days, one can only appreciate being surrounded by people like him.
The question brings me back to the first thing the member said, about the humbling experience. We are going about consultations in many different areas, but we did our finance consultation and went from coast to coast in the country, and I had the chance to go to his part of the country. It was one of the most humbling experiences.
To come back to what the member was saying, over the next two years we will invest $11.9 billion on phase one of our new infrastructure program. This is significant. It is part of the $120 billion for the next 10 years. This is exactly the type of investment that is going to help our country with economic growth, but also provide Canadians the necessities in terms of infrastructure. We have inherited a situation where the previous government lacked the necessary investment in our infrastructure, which deprived a number of our communities and our cities of essential infrastructure.
The member was talking about public transit. The investment is going to be $3.4 billion. In some communities, moving goods and people faster is so important. Traffic jams are not just a nuisance. There is a huge economic cost. Our economists have calculated how much it costs when people are in traffic for one or two hours per day, and they say that making these smart investments would allow us to have economic growth in regions like his.
We heard from many of his people that they wanted us to make investments in public transit. I have been in the cities. We have admitted a number of new Canadians, and because of the sprawling of cities, jobs are here and people are there. There is no connection between the two. I met people who said they could not find people to hire and I met people who said they do not have a job. These investments would help our country to succeed in this century and for the future.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2016-05-19 15:41 [p.3604]
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my political party, I am pleased to speak in the debate on Bill C-2.
As we have seen just now, Bill C-2 contains the initial application of the new Liberal government’s financial measures. We recognize that Canadians spoke last October 19. We are true democrats. We respect the choice made by Canadians, and we want the government to respect Canadians.
The first thing that the government and any politician must respect is the commitments made during the election campaign. Unfortunately, in that regard, the least we can say is that this government got elected by saying one thing and is now doing exactly the opposite.
Bill C-2 is the first manifestation, if we needed one, of this sad reality. I said so just now in the question that I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. Of course, we are all members of Parliament. However, he spoke as a parliamentary secretary, and I am happy to repeat publicly what I said before: this guy should be in cabinet and not just a parliamentary secretary.
What the member said just now is that, unfortunately, election promises could not be kept. With all due respect to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, he did not answer the question. The Liberal Party made a commitment to bring in tax changes that, it said, would benefit the greatest number of Canadians. It is a point of honour, because it is a cornerstone of its platform. Those tax changes were supposed to be revenue-neutral. However, now reality has caught up with the Liberals: this government is making tax changes that are not revenue-neutral, but rather create a deficit.
That deficit is $1.7 billion. The parliamentary budget officer also says so, the very one quoted by the President of the Treasury Board just a few minutes ago as saying that everything is hunky-dory. I presume that the government has great respect for this institution, but this institution says, in black and white, that the tax changes made by the government in Bill C-2 will generate a deficit of $1.7 billion.
Not long ago, I heard the member say that families are content and that people are happy that money is being put in their pockets. I am quite sure people are happy, but can we afford that? No. When we do that, we must do so realistically, responsibly, and in a balanced way. Let us remember that our government, under the leadership of the right hon. member for Calgary Heritage, put forward measures to reduce taxes, at zero cost. There were 140 such measures in all.
Let us remember the most spectacular measure, taken in the first term: we lowered the GST from 7% to 6% and then from 6% to 5%. We promised to do that, and we did it. Need I also remind the House that years ago, the predecessor of the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, made an election promise in 1993 to abolish the GST? He never did abolish it, which led to a by-election to replace the minister, who left.
Sure, tax cuts are nice and changes to taxation are nice, but they have to be made realistically and responsibly, which is not the case with Bill C-2.
This is not the only time the government has made a promise about finances but done the opposite. Changes to the tax structure will cause a $1.7-billion deficit, and the same goes for changes to family benefits. The Liberal government is acting the same way. It promised that its changes would be revenue-neutral, but reality is catching up with it.
Changes for families, represented by the hon. member for Québec, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, my colleague and neighbour, were not supposed to cost anything. However, they are causing a $1.4-billion deficit.
Need I remind the House that the financial cornerstone of this government or any government is, without doubt, the budget? What did the Liberal Party say about the budget during the election campaign? It said there would be little wee $10-billion deficits for three years followed by a balanced budget and that everything would be fine.
The fact is that there will be a $24.9-billion deficit this year. That is the reality of this government: it says one thing but does the opposite. It promises a balanced budget but ends up in the hole. It says we will have small deficits but ends up with big ones. How are we supposed to trust this government? How can we believe a thing it says?
How can people not be even more cynical about politicians when, unfortunately, the government stands out so distinctly for promising one thing and then doing the opposite?
I am appealing to the government's common sense, and I am inviting it to make some changes and stop living beyond its means. A deficit is a burden for our children and grandchildren. Some will say that this is good for families and children. As I understand it, we are passing the burden to families and children. That is not a responsible approach.
Some colleagues opposite will say that when the Conservatives were in power, they ran up deficits. When we were in power and the right hon. member for Calgary Heritage led Canada, the country faced the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Despite this terrible situation, we won the G7 triple crown because we were in power and because the Conservatives had a prudent and rigorous approach to managing the country. We are the best in the world with respect to the three fundamental aspects of the economy. We like to compare ourselves to the best in the world, because that is how we get good. We won the G7 triple crown under the rigorous management of the former government led by the right hon. member for Calgary Heritage. We had the best debt-to-GDP ratio, the best job creation record, and the best economic recovery. That is our government's legacy.
I want to emphasize the best debt-to-GDP ratio. We often hear the people currently in power say that they have the best debt-to-GDP ratio, which makes it possible for them to incur a deficit. It is because of the Conservatives that Canada has the best debt-to-GDP ratio. Had we used the Liberals' approach to managing the country during the economic crisis, we would not be the best. We would be the worst. They are making bad decisions.
I would like to remind Canadians that we left the House clean. We won the G7 triple crown. We had the best debt-to-GDP ratio. We left a surplus. We are not the only ones to say so. When the current government came to power, in November, what was the state of our finances? We had a $1-billion surplus. I am not the one saying so; the Department of Finance said so.
I got a document out of my desk, but I cannot show it. Why do I have it? I keep it close by because it is crucial to always remember what is fundamental to our political action. We are here to vote on legislation and budgets, but we must always have accurate information.
The Department of Finance indicated in the “Fiscal Monitor”, which is published by that department, that there was a $1-billion surplus for the period from April to November 2015. That has the Conservative government's signature all over it. That is how we left things financially. Unfortunately, the current government is living beyond its means.
I would like to say one last thing about the document I cannot exhibit. I think we have asked for this official document to be tabled at least 50 times. Unfortunately, the government systematically refuses to table a simple document that confirms our sound and good management.
In our view, the best thing for the Canadian economy is clearly wealth creation and job creation. However, wealth and jobs are not created by the government, but by private businesses, our entrepreneurs, our men and women who, through their intellect, enthusiasm, determination, and community leadership, create jobs and wealth. The government needs to be there to support them.
With deep sadness, our entrepreneurs have realized that there is absolutely nothing in the budget to help them. That is our vision.
The Conservatives believe that to help our businesses grow, markets need to be opened up. I have the great privilege of sitting next to my hon. colleague from the Vancouver area, who was the minister of international trade. For four years, with honour, dignity, and success, he conducted the negotiations on the trans-Pacific partnership, which is providing Canada and Canadian business people with access to a market of 800 million people. It is fantastic.
We are asking the government for assurance that this treaty will actually be ratified and the guarantees offered to our workers across Canada will be honoured, particularly regarding the famous issue of supply management.
In Bill C-2, we see that, unfortunately, that vision is not the right one, from our perspective. That is where the heart of political action lies. What vision do we have for the future of Canada? For us, the Conservatives, it is clear. It must also be said that for the Liberals too, it is clear. In our view, it is not the right one.
We believe that we have to live within our means, that we should not run a deficit in times of prosperity, which is in fact what was said by the Right Hon. Paul Martin, the former prime minister of Canada, but more importantly, the former minister of finance in the Chrétien government. In fact, his memory was honoured, not in the funereal sense, but for his historical importance to our nation, our country, when his portrait was unveiled just a few days ago.
Paul Martin said that in times of prosperity, the deficit must be eliminated and, above all, the debt paid off. That was a vision that we share and that, unfortunately, seems to have faded over time in the Liberal Party. To us, it is clear: you do not run a deficit when the country is prospering. The Liberal government has quite a different vision.
It is crystal clear. With Bill C-2, we see a government that shares not exactly the same vision, point of view, attitude, or policy as we had under our former leadership for the last 10 years. Let me be clear, in the last 10 years, our former prime minister was very strict on public funding, but first and foremost we left the House clean. There was a $1 billion surplus at the end of our mandate and also the big three of the G7: the best ratio of debt to GDP; the best at creating jobs; and the best in getting back our economy after the crisis. That is the Conservatives' signature. This is how we left the House. It was a really clean, good House left by the former Conservative government.
However, today what we see is a government that spends too much. It is a government that does not respect the fact that we have to live on what we have, instead of what we wish to have. When we create deficits in that situation, we send the bill to our children and grandchildren, even to those who are not born today. They will have to pay for the fact that today the current government is doing it all wrong and making bad decisions for the future of this country.
It is not too late. Maybe the government will open its eyes and make some modification, maybe. It is not too late. The bill is not yet passed. I can dream. I am a dreamer; not all the time, but I am a dreamer.
We strongly disagree with this attitude. Every party wants to give money to the people. We did that 140 times when we were in power. We reduced the debt, reduced the taxes, reduced income tax, and all that stuff. We did that 140 times in our government, but we did it very responsibly, which is not the case in this bill.
I hope that this House will reject Bill C-2.
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to listen to my colleague.
As he said, we are in the House to listen to one another. I would just like to say that there is one model we do not care to emulate. I am talking about the hon. member for Calgary Heritage, the former prime minister of Canada.
To us, he is not really a role model because he added $150 billion to Canada's public debt. Hon. members will understand that on this side of the House, we do not really see that as an example to follow.
I listened to my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent with great interest. I noted that at one point he asked rhetorically whether we had the means to help the middle class. His response was no.
I can say one thing. After meeting Canadians from coast to coast, the answer is yes. We do indeed have the means to help and invest in the middle class. The reason is simple. Canada has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. Now I have a question for the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent
Who is he disagreeing with? Is it the Financial Times, which says that Canada is the star of global economic growth? Is it The Wall Street Journal, which described our Minister of Finance as someone who is showing other countries how it is done? Is it the parliamentary budget officer, who said the measures in the budget are going to create growth? Is it Christine Lagarde, from the IMF, who sees Canada as an example? Is it the G7?
Among all those who are saying that Canada is on the right path under this Minister of Finance, who got it wrong in his books?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2016-05-19 15:56 [p.3606]
Mr. Speaker, I would encourage my colleague to use caution when quoting articles from foreign news sources, particularly if he is reading what the foreign press has to say about our Parliament and our Prime Minister these days.
Since the member is quoting, I would like to quote from his election platform, which says these changes will be revenue neutral. Would he like to quote that document? That is what I went by, and that is what 35 million Canadians based their vote on. In reality, these measures are not revenue neutral.
Once again, the best debt-to-GDP ratio forms the cornerstone of the Liberal Party's plan. Who is responsible for that? Who enabled Canada to have the best economic performance coming out of the economic crisis? What government made sure that we were the best creator of jobs and wealth in the G7? It was our government. Yes, I am very proud of the legacy left by the right hon. former prime minister, the right hon. member for Calgary Heritage.
View Guy Caron Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent. I found his remarks very interesting. He is a good speaker. It spices up the debate.
I would like to begin my question by pointing out a comment that he made at the beginning of his speech. He said that when the Conservatives were in power, they made responsible tax cuts. He mentioned the GST. According to the data that I have, the lowering of the GST from 7% to 5% over two years and the corporate tax cut cost over $16 billion, which completely eliminated the surplus that the Conservatives inherited, even before the recession hit.
The member should be careful about making comparisons that are not quite accurate.
However, one thing he did not mention in his speech that is in Bill C-2 is the TFSA limit. We know that the previous Conservative government wanted to increase the limit to $10,000. One thing we do agree with in this bill is the decision to bring the limit back down to $5,500, but to index it. We support this measure because many people think a TFSA is meant to be a place to put money that will generate interest, which will not be taxable. However, the tool can be used for many other purposes, including purchasing shares and all kinds of other financial tools. Capital gains on these tools would ultimately not be taxed.
The parliamentary budget officer estimated that this measure would cost about 0.7% of Canada's GDP in the medium term. I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on why the Conservatives always wanted to increase the limit to $10,000, even though that would have had disastrous consequences for the Canadian economy.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2016-05-19 15:59 [p.3607]
Mr. Speaker, it is my turn to acknowledge the expertise of my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, with whom I have had the pleasure of debating several times on RDI. I must admit that I would have to prepare a little bit before going on the air to debate an experienced economist like the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. Overall, I do not think it went too poorly.
I thank my colleague for bring up TFSAs, because I had that topic in my notes, but I forgot to look at them. I would be happy to talk about TFSAs. Once again, the different parties all have different visions, and that is why we are here in Parliament.
We all know that the New Democratic Party is fine with taxes. We think it is much better to lower taxes, as we did with the GST, and put more money in people's pockets to help get the economy moving.
The economy is a key, cardinal value for us. Unfortunately, we know that Canadians are not saving enough money for retirement. The TFSA was a new vehicle that enabled Canadians to save money. Some people did not like it when it was introduced, but it has been so good that nobody wants to get rid of it now. Bravo. Here is where we part ways: we think the TFSA limit needs to be higher. We have to enable people who earn a good living to save money too. We have to make that possible because that is a vision we have for the future. Everyone has their own thinking on that. I know some people think it is not the way to go, but for us, it is a cardinal value. Canadians have to save money. We created this tool, and we wanted to make it even better.
I am not a millionaire, but I like the TFSA a lot. I save money, and that is a good thing. We all live according to our means, and when possible, if people have no debt, it is a great thing to be able to save.
View John Brassard Profile
View John Brassard Profile
2016-05-19 16:01 [p.3607]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his speech this afternoon, and I really respect and honour his parliamentary experience.
I do not have enough confidence to speak or ask a question in French.
I will do it in English, if members do not mind.
I want to focus on the debt and the deficit situation. My home province of Ontario is currently experiencing $313 billion in debt. In fact, the third-largest department in the Ontario government is the payment on that debt.
Of course, we all know that many in the former Ontario Liberal government are now running the PMO, so we are just transferring that debt and deficit ideology into the federal government, and obviously access to a bigger piggy bank.
I want to ask my hon. colleague, given his experience in government, what impact significant debt and deficit can have with respect to the impact on middle-class Canadians going forward.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2016-05-19 16:03 [p.3607]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his right and very important question. It is a real issue when we are talking about public money, and we are here to do that. People pay taxes and they want to know what we are doing with them.
When we create deficits, we create debt, and we are shifting the bill to our children and grandchildren, even those who are not born today, and they will have to pay for the fact that we live over budget today.
He talks about his own province. I can talk about my home province too, Quebec. This is a very important bill that we have to pay, a very huge debt. That is why I have been involved in politics for the last eight years. I was elected in 2008 in the National Assembly, and it was one of my cardinal issues for which I fought in the National Assembly and for which I want to fight here in the House of Commons, to be very careful with the debt and especially with the deficit.
My hon. colleague from the Liberal Party talked about our result when we were in office. He said we raised the deficits so high. Yes, but he forgot that in this House we faced the worst economic crisis since the thirties.
That is why we had to make difficult decisions, especially in a non-majority government. In a minority government, we had to make some deals with the Liberals and the NDP, and this is why we had to make that difficult choice. However, the result at the end of the crisis was that we were the best, thanks to the Conservative government.
View Guy Caron Profile
Mr. Speaker, as the NDP finance critic, I am pleased to rise at third reading stage of this bill, which has been debated at length in the House.
From the outset, I want to point out that during the debate and discussions in committee we reached out to the government to ensure that the tax cut promised in this bill was truly for the middle class.
As I said in my question, the middle class is not very well defined. The Department of Finance refuses to define it. We have varying definitions depending on the groups. On the other hand, we can agree that when half the people earn more than us and half the people earn less than us, we are in the middle class. I think that makes a lot of sense.
Those people, who earn roughly $31,000 or $32,000 a year, are not getting one cent from the so-called middle-class tax cut promised in this bill. I find that extremely problematic. I mentioned this in my question, but it bears repeating. As parliamentarians, parliamentary secretaries, or even the chief government whip, we are going to benefit the most from this tax cut. We are absolutely not part of the middle class, but we will get a maximum reduction of nearly $700 because of this promised tax cut.
Someone who earns $30,000, $35,000, $40,000, or even $45,000 a year will not get one red cent from the tax cuts in this bill. Therefore, when the government says that this bill will help the middle class as promised during the election campaign, that is not entirely accurate. Yes, that was in their election platform, but we all know that people rarely consult election platforms online when deciding how to vote. They tend to rely on what is said in the media, on television, in the news, and sometimes in the newspaper. What people kept hearing from the member for Papineau, who was the leader of the Liberal Party, was not that he would lower taxes for people earning over $45,000 a year, but rather that he would lower taxes for the middle class.
Those who earn less than $45,000 a year and consider themselves part of the middle class feel cheated, and rightly so. I am convinced that during the Canada-wide consultations held by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Finance, they probably heard comments about that from people who are not eligible for the tax cut. People have been able to tell from the beginning of this year, since the tax cut took effect on January 1 and can therefore be seen on people's pay stubs.
Since the bill does not really apply to most middle-class Canadians, what could be done? That is where we reached out to the Liberal government at committee. We proposed a measure that would cost roughly the same, but would help a lot more Canadians. Instead of changing the tax bracket beginning at $45,000, which is more representative of the upper middle class, we suggested lowering the first tax bracket, the lowest level at which everyone starts paying taxes.
Accordingly, instead of lowering the rate from 22% to 20.5% for the second tax bracket, we are proposing to lower the rate from 15% to 14% for the first tax bracket. That will have a significant impact because the same person who sees half the population earning more than they do and the other half earning less, will receive a $200 tax reduction, whereas they are receiving nothing now. Thus, someone who earns $210,000 a year and now gets $200 of the proposed reduction, would instead pay $70 more.
We have to be careful with slogans. There is no doubt in my mind that, after all the debate, the desire to help the middle class that is constantly being trumpeted by the government is more of a slogan than something real.
If the government really wanted to help the middle class, it would have accepted the proposal, the olive branch that we were extending to the Liberals, in order to ensure that everyone could benefit.
I am sorry to say that this proposal was rejected by the Standing Committee on Finance. It is regrettable because I believe that it could have been debated and probably would have been agreed to. What the government promised during the election campaign, or the spirit of the promise, would have been kept. The whole of the middle class would have received a tax cut. That is not the case at present. It is unfortunate that the government is still trying to make us believe the opposite.
As a parliamentarian, I have to admit that I do not need a tax cut. I want to pay my fair share. I consider myself to be privileged. Why are they insisting that my colleagues and I receive the largest possible reduction? That is a very problematic aspect of the bill, which only has 10 clauses.
We are not fundamentally opposed to the measure to introduce a new tax rate of 33% for income in excess of $200,000 or to the measure to lower the TFSA contribution limit from $10,000 to $5,500. We have supported these measures from the beginning, even before the Liberal Party decided to include them in its election platform. I remember some debates that were held here, in the House, against increasing the limit to $10,000, and those arguments still hold true today.
The parliamentary budget officer conducted a very important and specific study on this topic. Once again, my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent did not fully answer the question, because he tried to imply that the TFSA is just a money-saving tool. TFSAs are indeed used for this purpose. After people pay their taxes, they deposit money in a TFSA, which then grows with tax-free interest. However, with the limit increased to $10,000, the TFSA would become a significant tax-avoidance tool for people who have the means to contribute the $10,000 maximum, as proposed by the Conservatives.
What is the result? The result is that not just money will be deposited into these vehicles. People can also put stocks, bonds, and other financial tools that would often be subject to capital gains tax into those accounts. That money can grow tax-free in these vehicles. We have here a situation where we started out with a savings vehicle and ended up with a significant tool for tax avoidance, which allows the wealthiest members of our society to shelter their money from taxes. That is why the parliamentary budget officer described this measure as potentially dangerous for the public purse.
He estimated that in 20, 30, or 40 years, the money that would no longer be paid to the Canadian government in taxes as a result of this measure could be equivalent to 0.7% of the GDP. The government feels that 0.7% of the GDP is too much to allocate to international aid. However, it does not seem to be too much to give away primarily to the wealthiest members of society, who would use the TFSA to shelter their investments.
That is why we think that the limit of $5,500 is entirely appropriate. In fact, only 17% of those who contribute to a TFSA and 7% of the entire Canadian population reach that limit. We agree with that measure.
We are not opposed to the creation of another tax bracket, which explains why we voted in favour of the ways and means motion that could not be debated or amended. It has a major financial impact.
However, there is now another important factor to consider and that is the tax cut for the so-called middle class. We are in a situation where that could be changed.
That is the path we chose. We voted in favour of Bill C-2 at second reading specifically because we wanted to try working in committee to get a clearer picture of what this measure as a whole means for the middle class.
Evidence from Standing Committee on Finance meetings shows that, systematically, almost every time I asked a question, it was about this issue. Most of the answers I got were pretty vague with respect to the impact. Some said that, basically, we were right: we would reach many more citizens and taxpayers and help many more people.
The government argues that this is part of a suite of measures that must be taken as a whole. This bill is not a suite of measures. It contains three distinct measures, one of which is very problematic.
If we look at the government's proposed measures as a whole, including the child tax benefit in the budget implementation bill, we see that many members of the middle class will not get a tax cut or any help from this government.
Single people with no children earning $40,000 a year, which is a fairly large portion of our society, I would say, will get nothing, either from this income tax cut or from other measures proposed by the federal government. An elderly couple earning $30,000 to $35,000 in pension income will get nothing, either from this income tax cut or from measures proposed by the government in the budget implementation bill.
A large part of the Canadian population will get nothing, but those people can clearly and accurately define themselves as being part of the middle class. I do not understand that, and the Liberal Party has not provided any explanation, apart from the fact that people elected them because of that, for refusing our offer to work together to help as many Canadians as possible, to help the entire middle class and not just those who are earning up to $217,000 a year. Those who are earning between $45,000 and $217,000 a year will benefit from the bill.
When I go to my constituency, how can I meet with the head of a banking institution, who may be earning $215,000 a year, and with someone earning $30,000 a year and explain to them that the former will benefit from it and the latter will not?
I do not know how the Liberal members feel when this question comes up. I suspect they will not be in a hurry to answer it. They are well aware of what kind of reaction they will get from those citizens.
We are in a Parliament that we hoped would be collaborative. I will not rehash yesterday’s events, but while the government says that it is willing to listen to our amendments and that it wants to gain our co-operation by working with us, we really feel that it just wants to push its ideas through as quickly as possible, without necessarily paying much attention to the positive effects that an opposition proposal might have.
I would like to have seen Liberal members ask more questions on this issue in the Standing Committee on Finance. However, their questions seem mostly to have been designed to elicit witnesses’ agreement with the government’s position. The Standing Committee on Finance plays a special role in this Parliament, as do all committees, in fact, which is quite different from the role of the House of Commons.
It is different because, here, we have a somewhat adversarial system, with the government on one side and the opposition on the other. However, committee is the only place where we can call each other by our proper names. We are not members for certain ridings, but rather members, period. Our role, whether on the government side or opposition side, is to make sure that the government is held to account and that the government's proposals are studied, scrutinized, and analyzed in order to ensure that they really contribute to the common good of the country.
We are talking about the current government, but I am not saying that the previous government did not do the same thing. Government members act like cheerleaders to applaud their government's proposals, rather than paying close attention to the detailed consideration of what is before them. Not only does the committee's work suffer, but so does Parliament as a whole, and so does Canadian democracy. This situation does not appear to be getting any better as time goes by, despite this government's commitment to do things differently and ensure that Parliament works more collaboratively.
There are measures that we support, including lowering the TFSA ceiling, which will still be indexed to $5,500. Combined with the other savings tools, this measure seems good to us. There is also the creation of a tax bracket for higher incomes. Despite the fact that it applies to incomes over $200,000, it will not be enough to ensure that people who earn $210,000, for example, pay more taxes, because they will pay less.
We feel that this other measure in Bill C-2 is problematic and fundamentally unfair. Contrary to what the government would have us believe, this measure does not meet a need of the middle class and does not apply to all those who belong to the middle class.
The member for Louis-Saint-Laurent makes a valid argument, even though we did not present it: when people voted for a tax cut for the middle class, they did not necessarily know where the middle class began according to the government's definition, and the government did not dwell on that either. However, if there is anything that was mentioned more often than the $45,000 threshold from which the cut would apply, it is the fact that this measure would not cost anything.
When the Liberals say that Canadians voted for this measure, we must realize that Canadians voted for their perception of this measure. That perception quite often was created by the Leader of the Liberal Party, who extolled the virtues of a tax cut for the middle class. Unfortunately, this measure excludes a lot of the middle class.
I can assure the House, that I hear my constituents talk about this and that every one of my colleagues has talked to me about it. This has been discussed by committees and also by our caucus.
Although we support the two measures, we fundamentally disagree with the third one, which we tried to amend. The government chose to ignore us. We debated this issue because it is important and it is being talked about in our ridings. We would have liked the government to listen more and co-operate with us. It did not. This morning, we were not expecting to debate Bill C-2 in the House this afternoon. However, we are discussing it again and we will have the opportunity to meet as a caucus to bring this discussion to a close.
Unfortunately, I do not think that was a very good thing for the government to do. People have rather strong opinions in this regard, even though there is still opportunity for discussion. I think that the debate at third reading will be the government's last chance to consider our demands and those of our constituents.
If the government members have suggestions or if they want to make amendments to initiatives other than this bill, which cannot be amended, our door is always open. With regard to this measure, unfortunately, we are being forced to seriously consider voting against the bill at third reading because the government has failed to listen to or show an interest in a large portion of the middle class.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2016-05-19 16:24 [p.3610]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.
I completely agree with him about the role of committees, and I am proud that the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights were able to work together to make 16 amendments to Bill C-14. I hope that that will also happen in other committees.
I understand the demand being made by my New Democrat colleague, who wants to offer a tax cut to a bigger group of people than the one provided for in Bill C-2. However, during the election campaign, the NDP did not put forward any proposal to reduce taxes for those who will benefit from Bill C-2 or for anyone else.
How is it that the New Democrats did not propose any tax cuts for the middle class during the election campaign and now they are demanding that sort of tax cut before they will support Bill C-2?
View Guy Caron Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.
I have been asked this question before, and I answered it when we were debating this bill at second reading. I agree that the government was elected on a platform of tax cuts for the middle class. That was a measure that made headlines throughout the campaign. The public elected the Liberal government. No one can deny that.
Now, if the Liberals promised a tax cut for the middle class, they should truly cut taxes for the middle class. Here in the House, we accept the public's choice, so we should work to improve the proposal that was made during the election campaign. Many more people shared our understanding of this proposal, which is not what has been imposed by the government.
I cannot deny that the platform on the Liberal Party's website proposed lowering the tax rate for the second tax bracket from 22% to 20.5%. However, if you ask people what the Liberal Party promised them, they will say that they were promised a tax cut for the middle class, not a tax cut from 22% to 20.5% for income above $45,000.
Since the public made its choice on October 19, we wanted to help the government achieve what Canadians were expecting, which was a tax cut that would benefit everyone, starting at $11,000 in income, and that would have essentially cost the same to the treasury as the measure the government proposed.
View John Brassard Profile
View John Brassard Profile
2016-05-19 16:27 [p.3610]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member touched on a really important part of what the budget is about. We on this side of the House have often said that it is actually a Liberal shell game that says the middle class is going to be getting more than what it will. There is no definition of what the middle class is.
In fact, when it was broken down in a recent Maclean's magazine article, David Macdonald, who is with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said that there are roughly 1.6 billion families making $48,000 to $62,000 that will see their tax bills trimmed by, on average, just $51, and as the income goes up, those earning $62,000 to $78,000 will only see a $117 saving, and there will be a $521 saving for the average family making $124,000 to $166,000.
What is important to understand is those making $166,000 to $211,000 will get a tax break of about $813. That benefits what I would classify as the upper middle class. Everybody in the House is going to be getting a bigger tax break than what I would truly classify as a middle-class family.
I want to ask the hon. member how he feels about this Liberal shell game.
View Guy Caron Profile
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member for Barrie—Innisfil's statement.
David Macdonald also said that those who will benefit the most from the Liberals' tax proposals are families that earn between $166,000 and $211,000 a year. According to his estimates, these families would receive about $813, on average.
Stephen Gordon is a respected economist and is not known for being partisan. We do not always agree with his positions as an economist, but he is respected. He said that people earning $50,000 in taxable income would benefit much less than those who earn $150,000 in taxable income, which is not far from what we make here. He even admitted that the NDP is correct. Those with a higher income will receive many more benefits under the Liberal plan than those supposedly in the middle class.
The Liberals do not seem to understand what Canadians truly expect. They said that the second tax bracket, for income between $45,000 and $90,000, would be changed. They would be surprised to hear that Canadians thought that would exclude people who earned more than $90,000, but that is not the case. Those who benefit from the tax cut are all those whose income is above $45,000, including those whose income is above $90,000. In fact, in spite of the new tax rate of 33% for income in excess of $200,000, people who earn up to $217,000 will be getting a tax cut. However, there is still nothing for someone who earns $44,000 a year.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate my friend's speech. He is doing an incredible job for the NDP as the finance critic. I certainly appreciated listening to his exchange with the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent earlier, where he decisively explained why we are opposed to keeping the TFSA contribution limit so high.
I know the Conservatives are champions for lower taxes, but by going the route of giving more savings room, they might be forcing a future government to either drastically cut services, which usually hurt the most vulnerable in our society, or actually raise taxes. Therefore, it would have a converse effect.
I want to touch on the subject of where the middle class sits. One of the privileges of being a member of Parliament is that we get to meet people from all walks of life. It really is a fantastic privilege to get to meet people from the community. In my area of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, I would say that most of the people I meet would fall into the range of income of around $30,000 to $40,000. If they do not have children, they are not going to get anything from this plan. Several of them have correctly noted that, as a member of Parliament, I would get the full tax cut out of this plan. I was not sent to Ottawa to give myself a tax cut. My job was to come here to make life easier for those who do not have as many means.
My colleague has already illustrated the mechanics of this in trying to find the definition of the middle class. I think we exist sometimes in an Ottawa bubble, and I was wondering if he could inform the House of some of the feedback he has directly received from some of his constituents on this matter.
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