Interventions in the House of Commons
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to take part in the reply to the Speech from the Throne. Before I do so, I want to congratulate you on your election. You will make a very honourable Speaker.
I want to express my appreciation to the people of Scarborough—Guildwood who have returned me to this chamber for the eighth time. When I started in 1997, I did not anticipate that I would be here for eight successive elections, but it has been an interesting journey for the last 22 years. The other very encouraging thing is that the percentage of the vote went up to the highest level that I have achieved in eight years.
As we know, elections are strange enterprises at times, with a lot of non-substantive things and occasionally some substantive things. I do not want to dwell on the non-substantive things. Today I want to take the opportunity to reflect on what I consider to be the most substantive issue that affected Scarborough—Guildwood during this election, and that is the Canada child benefit. The Canada child benefit is, in my judgment, the signature initiative of this Prime Minister. Once he leaves and history is written about these parliaments, that will be one of the things that historians comment on, namely, the significance of the Canada child benefit and its significance to all people in Canada, but particularly low-income people.
The Canada child benefit is a very large initiative. If we go to table A2.6 in the 2019 budget, at page 289, in the top lines we will see the amount of money that is returned to Canadians, that is sent to Canadians as a benefit. There are revenues from taxes that come in and then the first set of lines indicate the benefit amounts that go back to Canadians. The first line in that set of lines shows that $56 billion will go to elderly benefits, the second line shows that about $20 billion will be returned to Canadians in the form of employment insurance and the third line shows that $24 billion will go to the Canada child benefit. That is the second most significant benefit that goes directly to Canadians from their federal government.
It is reasonable to ask ourselves whether we are, in effect, getting value for money. This is of particular interest to me as the member of Parliament for the riding of Scarborough—Guildwood. When we break that $24 billion down, what does that mean to the riding of Scarborough—Guildwood? What that means is that, each and every year, $100 million goes into my riding of Scarborough—Guildwood. That is a significant sum of money for a riding that has about 115,000 to 120,000 people in it. Centennial College would contribute to the riding with a somewhat similar amount of money, I should imagine, or more. The University of Toronto Scarborough Campus would contribute a similar and significant amount of money. The Scarborough hospitals have huge budgets. Toyota contributes a huge amount of money to the riding. I am sure there are other industries that contribute significant amounts of money to the riding.
This is the order of magnitude of the amount of money that comes into Scarborough—Guildwood and it is even more significant for its people because Scarborough—Guildwood in the last four years had the greatest reduction in child poverty in the country. There was a 25% reduction in child poverty in Scarborough—Guildwood in the last four years, the number one riding in all of the country.
Why would that be? I can think of at least two reasons. One is improved employment opportunities. At the beginning of 2015 the unemployment rate nationally was around 7.1%. Generally speaking, Scarborough—Guildwood is at a higher rate than the national rate. By the election in 2019, the rate was about 5.7%, again with Scarborough—Guildwood slightly above that. Increased benefits and increased employment opportunities would account for some significant elements of that 25% reduction in child poverty.
The second thing has to be the Canada child benefit because it acts as a guaranteed minimum income for families. I think it will turn out to be a historic initiative, but it will also turn out to be a test case as to whether this is the best way to alleviate poverty and reduce the growing inequality between people who do very well in our society and those who struggle.
Those are the two reasons that I think Scarborough—Guildwood had such a significant reduction in child poverty. We have to ask why would that have such an economic impact on the people of Scarborough—Guildwood and the most obvious and intuitive reason is that people in the lower-income quintiles actually spend their money on necessities. It is intuitive and it does seem to make sense, but I am very grateful to the people at the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis who put together a paper called “Economic Contribution of the Canada Child Benefit: A Basic Income Guarantee for Canadian Families with Children”. They started to put data, flesh to that intuition, the intuition being that poorer people will spend money on food, shelter and core necessities. Indeed, that is exactly what the data does show.
The number one expenditure of the people who receive the Canada child benefit is increases to their shelter. The second, and this is counterintuitive, is on tax and I will come back to that shortly. The third is transportation, the fourth is food and the fifth is household operations. Four out of the five elements fall within one's sense of intuition, which is that lower-income folks will spend their money on things that they actually need. That seems to be borne out by the data.
The other interesting component of the data is that the benefit decreases as income increases. In the upper echelons of the quintiles that have a higher income, the money starts to get diverted to other things such as savings, investments and various other things, all of which we argue are good things.
However, there is an argument to be made that it is somewhat dead money. The lower-income quintiles spend the money on food and shelter, which goes directly and immediately into the economy, while the upper quintiles spend some on things like investments, etc., which is money that is set aside properly, but nevertheless is money not spent immediately and therefore has no significant immediate economic impact.
The interesting argument is that if the federal government is a steward of taxpayer dollars, then what is the highest and best use of taxpayer dollars in order to stimulate the economy. What the data starts to show on the Canada child benefit is that it is benefit money going directly into the hands of Canadians. Whether it is through elderly benefits, employment benefits or child benefits, that is the money that gives the greatest stimulus as opposed to tax cuts.
The data really starts to jump out at us. However, I want to deal with one thing before we get into further discussions about the benefits of the stimulative effect of a benefit as opposed to the stimulative benefit of a tax cut, which is that $24 billion is a lot of money. It is actually greater than our National Defence budget; $24 billion is actually greater than almost all other departments.
It is reasonable to ask what $24 billion actually costs. As it turns out, $24 billion does not cost $24 billion because $13 billion comes back in taxes. For the federal government's $24 billion, $13 billion comes back in taxes to both the provinces and the federal government. Of that $13 billion, $7 billion comes back to the federal government and $6 billion comes back to the provinces. The federal government has a $24-billion investment that really only costs the federal government $17 billion. The provinces have no investment in the Canada child benefit and yet reap a $6-billion benefit. It works rather well for the provinces.
What does $24 billion get us in terms of economic stimulus? It gets us roughly the GDP of the province of Nova Scotia in terms of economic stimulus, or around $46 billion in direct and indirect economic stimulus that is inputted through this investment of $24 billion. That $24 billion provides stimulus that is roughly equal to 0.5% of the nation's GDP annually. Since the inception of the program, it has contributed $139 billion to the nation's GDP.
All sectors of the economy benefit. It is intuitive, but makes a lot of sense that the number one beneficiary is housing. People who receive the Canada child benefit spend their money on housing.
The second is manufacturing. People with kids who receive the money spend it on clothing, shoes, bicycles and other things that need to be manufactured.
The third economic sector that benefits the most is construction.
Every year, this $24 billion in direct and indirect stimulus creates 418,000 full-time jobs and about 70,000 part-time jobs. That is a lot of jobs: 1.4 million jobs since its inception. Those are merely the benefits and the stimuli that can be measured.
There are, of course, a great number of benefits to the Canada child benefit that cannot be measured, that do not fit nicely within the economists' metric. It is intuitive. If a child goes to school properly clothed and with a full stomach, the greater likelihood is that the child will learn a lot better. Similarly, children who are properly clothed and well fed will not have as many negative health issues.
Therefore, the indirect benefits that are not measurable, which I am perfectly prepared to concede, but intuitively make a great deal of sense are huge to families and people with children.
The benefits of the Canada child benefit on the health system are not measurable, but make a great deal of sense. The benefit reduces financial stress. The multiplier is enormous. A healthier child is a more productive child. A better educated child is ultimately a more productive citizen.
Admittedly, this initiative costs a great deal of money but it makes economic sense, which I hope I have made some case for from an economic standpoint, health sense and education sense. There is an argument to be made that this is the highest and best use of taxpayer dollars.
Let me finish with a comment from one of my favourite Conservatives, and I do not have many favourite Conservatives. I know they are a little upset, but I would recommend they talk to former Canadian senator, Hugh Segal, who said, “we don't want 3.5 million...Canadians to be left behind. That's not who we are... It is in our interest to have an economy where liquidity and financial capacity is available to all.”
I submit that my Conservative colleagues should review Mr. Segal's views on this matter. He and his other colleague, former Senator Eggleton, conducted a massive study into Canadian poverty when they were both senators. One of their most significant recommendations was that there be a Canada child benefit and that it act as a minimum income guarantee for all families in Canada.
View Tamara Jansen Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that Mr. Trudeau will be the one who actually goes down in the books of history for the child tax benefit. I know I have children, and I was very grateful to benefit from the child tax credit.
I am curious to know if the member truly thinks the Prime Minister will go into the books of history for this?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to remind everyone that we are not to use names. The hon. member caught herself, but it is a good learning opportunity for everyone else in the chamber as well, that we do not name someone by his or her name but by the position he or she holds in the chamber.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as I said at the beginning of my speech, elections have a lot of non-substantial issues and some substantial issues. I rather hoped we could stay on the substantial issues.
After all is said and done, historians will record that the Prime Minister consolidated all the benefits that accrued to families and to children, wrapped them into one very significant program, and that significant program has alleviated massive amounts of child poverty across the country. Most significant, the number one riding in Canada for the reduction of child poverty is Scarborough—Guildwood. For Scarborough—Guildwood, the Prime Minister will be, presently and historically, remembered as having initiated a very significant program.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
Mr. Speaker, I was really disappointed not to see something specific about the plight of wild salmon in the throne speech. In my riding, a lot of jobs have been lost due to some of the challenges we face with respect to wild salmon.
One of the biggest frustrations across the board for so many stakeholder groups is the lack of meaningful conversation and consultation. There is a need for a comprehensive plan.
Could the member tell us if that comprehensive plan is coming and is that a priority for the government like it is for the residents of North Island—Powell River?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have nothing but sympathy and concern for people who suffer job losses.
I understand the issue of alienation. For many years, Ontario was not doing all that well. The riding of Scarborough—Guildwood was not doing all that well. However, things have sort of turned around.
If the conversation was not initiated during the election, the appointment of the Deputy Prime Minister shows a real willingness on the part of the Prime Minister to engage.
Canadians need to know that there is a framework in place for the hon. member's riding, Scarborough—Guildwood and every riding. That framework is in effect a minimum annual income protection for families, as I set out in my speech when I talked about the Canada child benefit.
View Marilène Gill Profile
View Marilène Gill Profile
2019-12-13 10:28 [p.447]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the people of Manicouagan for returning me to the House with a solid vote of confidence. I can assure them that I will serve them well and with integrity.
I have a question for my hon. colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood about an issue that affects the people of my riding. We have heard a lot about equality, about how to help people escape poverty, about development and about all the positive impacts of certain measures.
Employment insurance is a very important issue for the Bloc Québécois, but it did not come up in the throne speech. This week, we talked about sickness benefits, which are very important, vital even, no pun intended and no disrespect to people with serious illnesses. The same goes for people in seasonal jobs, such as in fisheries, tourism and forestry. Where I am from, entire communities are in jeopardy. Population drain is a real threat, and my riding is in danger.
What exactly is the government going to do?
As my colleague opposite said, our economy is going well in theory. Contributions are high. Why reduce contributions?
Why are we not investing in the EI program instead, to ensure that people currently grappling with the spring gap can have some peace of mind and celebrate Christmas like everyone else who can do so because they have good jobs that allow them to get the services they need?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my hon. friend on her election. She has learned quite quickly that one can make a mini speech in the process of asking a question.
There are three significant benefits for Canadians that come directly from the federal government: benefits for elderly people, which is about $56 billion; benefits for families with children, which is about $24 billion, and I touched on that in my speech; and then unemployment benefits, which is about $20 billion. That program is continually monitored and adjusted according to whether unemployment is up or down in a particular area.
I encourage the hon. member to see whether the local adjustments are, in fact, fair and reflective of the needs of the local people. She can go to the agency that runs unemployment insurance and discuss that directly with it to see whether the needs of her constituents are being recognized.
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2019-12-13 10:31 [p.448]
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood. He spent much of his time talking about the cost-benefit ratio of the Canada child benefit. Near the end of his speech, he said that the costs were low relative to the benefits society will certainly derive. The second part of his speech is very important. When poverty is reduced, people have more opportunities. That is not rhetoric; this is very serious. For our young people to have a good future, it is critical that they not grow up in poverty.
I would like to hear my colleague comment on the importance of a program like the Canada child benefit in his riding.
What effect will it have on the future of young people?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague on his appointment yesterday. I know him as a very able member of Parliament and he will be a very able parliamentary secretary as well.
With respect to the speech, I made a conscious decision to try to talk only about the measurable benefits of the Canada child benefits. Frankly, it is an economic argument for the benefit. I did not dwell on the intangible, non-measurable benefits. The health benefits, the education benefits, the social benefits and the opportunity benefits, all of which, in my judgment, are largely intuitive, are not necessarily measurable, but they are as important, if not more important, than the actual economic benefits generated.
A child with a full stomach and a decent set of clothes and shoes is a child who is healthy and who will be better educated. That just makes perfectly good sense. You are absolutely right to say that the indirect, non-measurable benefits are as important, if not more important, than the measurable benefits about which economists would talk.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to remind hon. members, even if someone is close by, to direct their comments to the Chair. I am sure the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood meant that the member for Hull—Aylmer was right, not that the Speaker was right. I just wanted to clarify.
View Bernard Généreux Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Regina—Lewvan.
I am pleased to rise today to speak to the throne speech. I would first like to thank the people in my riding for placing their trust in me in the last election for the third time in my political career. I am very happy about it. I would also like to thank my family and the volunteers and staff who supported me during the election campaign. It was by far the best campaign we have run and we were able to get to where we are through our hard work.
I want to use the time I have to speak to the throne speech to talk about my riding, which boasts a wide range of occupations, professions and educational backgrounds. What unites the people of my riding is an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to have a representative for the region who understands the importance of supporting and promoting organizations and businesses. They are the economic pillars of our community. I am talking about agriculture, manufacturing companies, community organizations, tourism and many other sectors.
The outreach work that I did with the people in my riding over the past four years did not go unnoticed, which explains the outcome of the most recent election. Recently, I was very proud to learn that my leader had decided to offer me a position in the shadow cabinet as critic for rural economic development for the regions of Quebec. As an entrepreneur myself, I am very proud to take on that role entrusted to me by my leader.
I must note that the majority of voters do not necessarily share the Liberal government's rose-coloured view of the country's economic development over the past four years.
Moreover, the Rivière-du-Loup area regularly ranks as one of the most entrepreneurial cities in the country. Voters remembered when the Liberals sought to go after SMEs by changing the tax rules on the pretext that these companies were tax loopholes. That did not make people very happy.
The Prime Minister still has his job, but with this minority government the future of his party is becoming more and more uncertain. We can see that his support has dropped across the country. Last week, we expected the Speech from the Throne to tell us whether the government would finally take the economy in the regions seriously. On the surface, that does not seem to be the case. I did not have to scroll through the entire speech because a search of the term “rural economic development” produced just one hit in an excerpt that I will read now.
Wherever they live—in small rural communities or in big cities; in the foothills of the Rockies or the fishing villages along our coastlines; in the Far North or along the Canada-US border—all Canadians want to make Canada a better place for themselves, their children, and their communities.
What exactly does that mean? In my opinion, it means absolutely nothing. It is poetry. It is art. There is nothing tangible in this speech to make us believe that the government is taking rural economic development and our communities seriously. What does the government plan to do to improve quality of life in rural communities?
That is what a throne speech should be for. A throne speech should list our priorities. When we cannot find the words “rural” or “economic development” used to any meaningful purpose, that tells us what this government's priorities are for the coming years. The government is supposed to list its priorities, not lull us to sleep with a piece of poetry.
Will the government abolish the Infrastructure Bank, which takes money that was promised for infrastructure projects across the country and diverts it to fund megaprojects in cities and urban centres, or in some cases even in China, including pipelines?
For example—and I have plenty of examples I can give to the government free of charge—will the government reinstate the community infrastructure program that Canada Economic Development used to offer in the Conservative era to finance projects in rural areas? This program, which was known as CIP 150, was one of the best programs that has ever been offered by the federal government.
We know that the federal government cannot have a direct relationship with the municipalities of Quebec. However, community organizations and economic development organizations used to be able to get projects approved under this program. My colleagues must remember. It was an absolutely fantastic program.
There is absolutely nothing like it in the current government's plans. There is nothing about this. There is nothing for our forestry, agricultural or manufacturing sectors. There is nothing about a single income tax return or a better alignment of immigration with the labour market.
There is also nothing about the state of our ports. We know that in my region in particular and throughout Quebec, many ports are grappling with significant problems caused by dredging. Volunteers are exhausted. Action must be taken on this file. I will be talking to the minister about this. We must grab the bull by the horns and solve this problem once and for all.
That is not to mention the dumping of sewage into the river. We raised that issue during the election campaign. We gifted that file to the government, which could have taken charge. It could have set up an infrastructure program, instead of sending money to China, and financed our programs to ensure that sewage is no longer dumped into the St. Lawrence River. That is just ridiculous.
People living in Quebec's regions are Canadians just like the people of Montreal or Toronto. They pay their taxes like everyone else. The government has a duty to not forget about them as it has these past four years.
Also missing from the throne speech is a succession-planning strategy for SMEs. Just over a year ago, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business reported that 72% of small business owners plan to exit their businesses, and the reason given by the vast majority of them was retirement. We are talking about a potential transfer of $1.5 trillion of business assets, which is a massive amount.
I am a business owner and my daughter wants to take over my business. We must be able to help these young people who want to take over businesses of a certain value. We must help them be able to do so. Statistics show that 46% of business owners want to hand over their business to a family member. However, the government currently penalizes business transfers, especially in the agriculture sector. We have been talking about this for many years. It is less profitable to transfer a business to a family member than to sell it to a stranger.
This week, the Institut de la statistique du Québec confirmed that populations continue to decline in the Lower St. Lawrence, on the North shore and in the Gaspé.
Does this government want to help family businesses, many of which have been around for generations, remain on our soil or would it rather these businesses close shop or be sold to Chinese interests?
The Liberal and NDP urban elites do not appear to be taking this matter seriously.
I am disappointed not only in this government, but also in the Bloc Québécois for rushing to get behind the Liberals and support the throne speech immediately after it was delivered. I think the Bloc Québécois should have objected to the Liberals' decision to include the NDP promise to create a federal pharmacare plan in the throne speech, rather than support it. That is clearly an intrusion into an area of provincial jurisdiction. The Bloc always seems quick to accept this vision of a centralizing federalism as long as Quebec has the right to opt out with compensation. Basically, the federal government is trying to buy some peace and the Bloc fell right into the trap.
We will obviously not be supporting this throne speech. I do not see anything in it for the regions or for economic development. Quebec is different and is proud to be different.
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2019-12-13 10:44 [p.449]
Mr. Speaker, here in Parliament we hear speeches expressing very different opinions. I listened to my colleague, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, as well as my hon. colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, and their speeches could not have been more different.
I have a question for my colleague regarding the throne speech, which he slammed. Is he for or against the Canada child benefit?
We want to expand this benefit in order to further reduce poverty and support Canadian families. Ever since I have lived in this area, so since the late 1980s, people have been making solemn promises here in the House to put an end to child poverty, but nothing was ever done until 2015. Since 2015, in just four short years, we have reduced poverty by a third.
Does my hon. colleague support that initiative?
View Bernard Généreux Profile
Mr. Speaker, no one can be against doing the right thing, but that program was launched before the Liberals came into power. In fact, we were the ones who launched it, and we did it while balancing the budget.
Members should bear in mind that the economic boom we have been seeing over the past four years did not happen because of the Liberal government, but because of the economic conditions we put in place, which led to this economic recovery. It was a global economic recovery, not just a Canadian one. In such circumstances, the normal thing to do would be to save up money, not increase the debt as the Liberal government has been doing for the past four years and plans to keep doing for decades more, which is even worse. That is the legacy it is going to leave behind for our children and my colleague's children.
Yes, we can agree on putting money in the pockets of families. We have no problem with that. In fact, we did it ourselves for years, but in a responsible way, unlike this government.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2019-12-13 10:47 [p.450]
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, who criticized the dearth of measures to support regional development in the throne speech.
The Bloc Québécois proposed an amendment in the House that was primarily aimed at defending supply management tooth and nail and increasing the health transfers. I think all regions in Quebec want health services to be better funded.
Why did my colleague choose to vote against that amendment? Instead of pulling out all the rhetorical stops and saying that the Bloc Québécois supports centralizing federalism, he could have stood up in the House and defended the regions by voting for the Bloc's amendment.
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