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View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2019-06-04 20:42 [p.28546]
Mr. Speaker, people in Vancouver East expect their government to make life affordable, sustainable and fair for all Canadians. They expect their government to be on their side.
In Vancouver East, I have heard from my constituents time and time again that we need real measures to make life affordable for Canadians, that we need immediate and urgent actions to protect our climate and environment. On behalf of the constituents of Vancouver East, I have been strongly advocating for measures such as affordable housing, public universal pharmacare, environmental protections, climate action and tax fairness. Instead, we now have a country faced with many crises.
We have a climate crisis, where if we do not take immediate action our planet will not be inhabitable for our future generations. We have a housing crisis, where people are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and getting priced out of their own communities. We have a criminal crisis, where billions of dollars in profits from criminal acts were laundered last year in Canada. We have an opioid crisis, where Canadians are dying every day.
We have a humanitarian crisis, where so many indigenous women and girls have gone missing and are murdered. The impact of colonialism is so deep and so rooted in systemic racism and failures that the national inquiry on the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls has declared that is a genocide.
It was deeply disappointing to see how budget 2019 failed to meaningfully address our many crises, never mind the many other challenges faced by Canadians.
For many constituents of Vancouver East, the number one issue facing our generation is our climate and environmental emergency. To meet our goals under the Paris Agreement, Canada has to lower its emissions to 325 million tonnes by 2030. According to the government's own performance report, we will only get down to 500 million tonnes, which means we are not even close.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stated last year that we have 12 years to avert climate disaster through a drastic overhaul of all our current economic systems. We now have only 11 years left to achieve this. As the clock ticks, people have been demonstrating persistently for immediate action for climate protection and the preservation of natural resources from our leaders, especially our youth, who will be most affected by the consequences of our inaction. The government has a responsibility to create the systems and frameworks to protect our environment and our future generations.
Many scientists have stated that the technology already exists that can maintain quality of life without further impacting our climate and environment. We simply need the political will and courage to change. And yet here we are, buying leaky pipelines and adopting the previous Conservative government's weak carbon emissions target, as if we do not have a climate crisis at our door.
On another critical issue, we are still waiting on government action to address our housing affordability crisis.
Housing has long been declared a basic right by the United Nations, and Canada has signed and ratified a number of international human rights treaties that identify the right to adequate housing as a fundamental human right.
In our national housing strategy, most of the funding in that new strategy had been announced years earlier and most of that funding, a full 90% of what was announced in budget 2017, has been off-loaded for spending after the next election. Even at that, the vast majority of that funding will not flow until 2024. It is a cynical communications strategy that plays politics with people's real struggles.
The government, in an attempt to inflate the result of its limited housing programs, has even resorted to double-counting the results for “rhetorical advantage”. Instead of playing numbers games, what we need is for the government to make real investments now. To that end, the NDP is calling for a commitment of 500,000 units of affordable housing across Canada.
In addition, despite decades of promising a national pharmacare program, after being lobbied by big pharma 680 times, the government has once again let big pharma win the day.
I recently met an individual who told me that she is taking her daily medication every other day in an effort to save money. This is wrong. No more excuses. Canadians need and deserve comprehensive public universal pharmacare coverage now.
On a related matter, we also need accountability for the opioid crisis. While the U.S. has successfully taken on big pharma for misbranding OxyContin with the intent of defrauding and misleading, here in Canada, the government is refusing to take action. Instead, budget 2019 continues with the blanket tax break for the richest corporations.
Tax havens are still in place and will continue to take over $16 billion every year from much needed programs for all Canadians, and of course, big oil continues to receive subsidies. In fact, the “2019 Spring Reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development” was highly critical of the government's accounting of tax and non-tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
As we now know, 47 billion dollars' worth of profits from criminal acts was laundered last year in Canada. It is extremely disturbing that money laundering has so extensively permeated the country. Equally disturbing is the fact that the report by Dr. Peter German, in B.C., revealed that no federal resources are being used to tackle money laundering. Literally, in the federal money laundering unit, no one is working on the issue of money laundering. This explains why there are so few prosecutions and convictions in money laundering cases.
During last year's statutory review by the finance committee of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, numerous expert witnesses agreed that to combat tax evasion and money laundering, the federal government needed to work with the provinces to establish a central public registry that would provide the identity of the beneficial owners of corporations and trusts. The Honourable David Eby, Attorney General of B.C., argued that this kind of registry is needed, in part by citing a study from Transparency International Canada. The study showed that it is impossible to determine the true owners of more than half the real estate properties for sale.
Denis Howlett, of Canadians for Tax Fairness, emphasized that the registry must be “in an open, searchable format”. Barrister and solicitor Mora Johnson added that a transparent public register would enable those searching the database to track the most common methods taxpayers use to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and to find individuals involved in money laundering. However, when all was said and done, the Liberals and Conservatives chose to join forces and ignore the recommendation of the majority of witnesses that a public register be established.
I also strongly believe that we need to increase oversight of home sales to ensure that sellers are not falsely reporting their secondary investment properties as primary residences, as this rule-skirting allows people to avoid paying capital tax gains.
I raised this issue when I was still the MLA for Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant. One way to address this is to ensure that proof of residency through income tax filing is provided at the completion of the sale transaction. With increased oversight and crackdowns on this behaviour, the increased tax revenue could be set aside in an earmarked fund dedicated to increasing the affordable housing stock in Canada.
Canada needs to put significant resources and effort into law enforcement, prosecution and adjudication to effectively tackle this problem. We can do this. We need to do this.
I have gone on also about the immigration issues that call for the government to not jam through the refugee determination process in this budget omnibus budget bill. The Liberals refuse to listen and are going ahead with it. Experts have already called on the government to stop this now. It would put people at risk, and most particularly, it would put women and girls at risk. For a feminist government, this is not acceptable. It still has a chance to do that. I hope that the government will listen to the experts.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-15. As we know, the government introduces a budget, usually in the spring, then there are two budget implementation acts that turn it into legislation. Therefore, it is appropriate that I make some general comments about the budget, its fiscal implications, and my concerns about the direction in which the government is going. I will also pick out some of the very concerning elements in Bill C-15, the budget implementation act.
It is important to note that the Prime Minister just returned from the G7. That should give him some cause to reflect on the direction he has decided to follow. He went there believing other G7 countries should agree that we should embark on a stimulus spending plan. It was very clear that he was met with a very cool reception to this idea by many countries.
As Brian Crowley from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute indicated, “a 'growth-friendly' agenda can't be written in red ink”, and they know that “today's deficit is tomorrow's tax hike”.
What came out of that G7 was a discussion that every country needed to reflect on its own current situation. He had a goal that was clearly not met in his conversations at the G7.
The Liberals often talk about the spending we did, but I find it quite stunning that they fail to realize that during 2008-09, we had a global recession. It was the biggest crisis in the world since the Great Depression. They seem to not reflect on that point very well. What we have now is slow growth. We have a little stagnation, absolutely, but we do not have a recession and we certainly do not have a global recession. Therefore, to go to other countries and feel they need the same response, the Liberals are not really looking at the current situation and adapting appropriately.
It is important to contrast this response during the Prime Minister's recent visit to what happened when we were in government, when Minister Flaherty, our colleague, played a key role in the response to the crisis. He was named the best finance minister in the world. When they talked about his record, they said was, “Our winner has earned a reputation for maintaining a sound fiscal policy. His country...has performed remarkably well”, and that he had played “a key role in the G8’s discussions”. This is a huge difference in the response to the global recession and the leadership role we played as opposed to what is happening right now.
We need to first look at the Liberal government's first budget. I remember attending a number of all candidates forums, and a number of key promises were made. The first major broken promise was that the Liberals would run a small deficit of $10 billion. We now know that we are looking at a $30 billion deficit, and this does not include the $3 billion they have committed to home care. We see another announcement that was never in the fiscal plan, a very important initiative, global health, but it was not planned for. The Liberals seem to have a way of spending money that I have never seen before, money that has not been planned.
It is also important to note that as we go forward most economists recognize that unilateral stimulus is bound to have a marginal impact on an open economy. Canada is an open economy, so the money the Liberals are spending, which is adding to the debt of the next generation, is going to be very marginal in terms of its impact.
Another important fact to know, even as we engaged in our stimulus spending, is that we had a plan to get back to balanced budget, and we did that. During the worst of times, the net GDP to debt went from 34% to 31%. Right now the Liberals are on track to increase it. They left one marker, being the $10 billion. Then they said they would decrease the net debt to GDP. It now looks like they will blow that one out of the water. It is a really big concern.
It is interesting to contrast what is happening in Britain right now, which is seeing some reasonable growth. The following comes from its budget speech:
Britain can choose, as others are, short term fixes and more stimulus. Or we can lead the world with long term solutions to long term problems...we choose the long term. We choose to put the next generation first.
Unfortunately, that is not what our government has done. The Liberals have chosen short term to take care of themselves, and to make popular decisions rather than worry about their grandchildren.
When our finance critic gave her speech on the budget implementation act, she was able to look at the statements of the Minister of Finance during the pre-budget and when he was in the private sector. She pointed out that he had a really different perspective on the issues around debt and retirement. It put some real holes into his approach in the budget. I do not know how he can align himself or sleep well at night when it looks like the budget goes so contrary to what his fundamental beliefs are.
I will give members a couple of examples.
What does the U.K., Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, and the U.S. have in common? They have an old age security system that kicks in at the age of 67 or older. Australia is going into a system where the old age system kicks in at 67 or older. What have we done in the budget implementation act? We have moved in the opposite direction.
Sometimes the decisions a government has to make are not popular and they are not made lightly. We knew that it was a very difficult decision to make, but we also looked at the demographics of our country. We looked at the fact that people were healthier and living longer. I think there are many people we know who have lived their retirement perhaps longer than their working years. Therefore, it was a difficult decision, but it was not an unusual decision.
What is the cost of the change the Liberals are making? It is estimated to cost an additional $10 billion. It is also important to note for those who are not aware that old age security comes out of current revenue. It is not something like the Canada pension plan where we put money away for our future. Therefore, the Liberals have given my children and grandchildren an additional $10 billion of debt, and that is unacceptable. They have to be in a position to look at the long-term health of our country.
The small business tax rate is another example. The government sat at forums. I sat beside my Liberal counterpart at forums when the Liberals promised a 10.5% to 9% decrease. However, the budget implementation act would turn that around. It was a legislated change. It was a change the Liberals said they accepted, but they reversed it. The budget implementation act would move it from 9% back to 10.5%. It is absolutely unacceptable.
In looking at some of broken promises, whether it is the deficit or small business, my biggest concern is that the Liberals are not taking care of the next generation. They are looking at saddling it with a horrific debt.
The Liberals are also showing they are having a bit of a problem in delivering on their promises. Even when they commit money, they do not estimate it properly, and then they have trouble delivering. We can look at the cost of bringing in the refugees. They said that it would be $250 million, but it is now over $850 million.
The Liberals provided $8.4 billion for first nations, and we support that, but there is no plan for accountability. There is no plan on how it would be delivered. Even when there is money that we believe is well spent, the Liberals' plan for delivery and execution is lacking.
I have a big concern about the overall direction of the Liberals. I have a concern about many of the specific measures. I have a concern about the government's endless lust to spend taxpayer money, as exhibited by its recent March spending spree, where they took a surplus and in one month spent about $11 billion.
We are creating a structural deficit and someday we will have to pay the piper for the foolish choices of today.
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