House of Commons Hansard #69 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was our government that reinstated the position of comptroller general. However, I am not certain if the current government has actually funded such an office or whether it has proceeded. It was the previous Mulroney government, prior to 1993, that had cancelled the position of comptroller general and we reinstated it. I think that addresses the member's concern about having an independent oversight, outside of the Auditor General, on how surpluses and spending can be managed. I think that was a very good move on the part of the previous government.

As to the textbook credit, if the NDP--

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I am sorry but the time has expired.

Resumption of debate. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
Government Orders

October 25th, 2006 / 4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to this part of the Conservatives’ last budget. As you know, my party, the Bloc Québécois, supported the budget. It did so, not because the members of the Bloc liked the Conservatives—after 10 months, we like them less than we liked them at the time—but because at that time there were some sensible things in the budget. At least that is what we thought.

The fiscal imbalance file in particular is a fundamental file for Quebec, a file for which the Bloc Québécois has worked with all the vigour and rigour for which it has been known for years. We were even the first ones to talk about the concept of fiscal imbalance in the House of Commons several years ago. It was even before the Séguin Commission began its work in Quebec with a mandate from then Premier Bernard Landry to find some solutions to the fiscal imbalance, which leads to the underfunding of basic service programs for citizens by Quebec and the Canadian provinces.

Appended to the budget was a document, a very well prepared one, I might add. It said that the government was making a commitment to fix the fiscal imbalance, that this fall—the fall is advancing and the winter is fast approaching now—the Prime Minister would call a conference with the premiers of Quebec and the provinces to deal with the fiscal imbalance. Dealing with the fiscal imbalance does not mean fixing part of it. It means that Canada would transfer $12 billion in tax resources to the governments of Quebec and the provinces. It means, for Quebec alone, a transfer of $3.9 billion, including equalization.

We were stunned when, a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister began to minimize the amounts that were supposed to be transferred to the Government of Quebec and the provinces. He also dropped the idea of holding a first ministers conference, saying that it would take a consensus of the provinces for him to act. Since when, when a government wants to correct something within its jurisdiction, that is, federal tax resources, does it wait for a consensus of the provinces before acting? That is one way to pass the buck.

The fiscal imbalance was the most important issue when the budget was passed. Now, though, we do not know what has happened to the government’s promise. We do not know whether the Prime Minister will keep his word. If he does not, he was misleading us. At the time of the last election in Quebec, the Conservative Party accidentally won a few seats because it had made a solemn promise to fix the fiscal imbalance. We are dealing now with some bills to implement parts of the budget. Still there is no mention of the fiscal imbalance. The government seems to be wriggling away and it looks as if it will not keep its promise in the next budget.

That was the grand gesture that prompted the Bloc Québécois to support the government, give it a chance, and speak about a budget of transition until the next one. We believed it at the time in light of the promise the government had made to deal with the fiscal imbalance. We will see what happens. We will still give the government a chance, but we remind it that it is on its final laps and does not have much time to race to the finish and keep its promise. There will not be any second chances, like the one we gave it in the last budget.

The fiscal imbalance is only one of the issues. There are many others about which we have expressed our dissatisfaction day after day for 10 months, including the environment, Quebec’s representation at UNESCO, and so forth. The government should not fool around with us too much in this way because when the time comes to make decisions, we will be very rigorous and determined, as we have always been for 13 years. If the government has to be defeated over the next budget, we will do so.

I would like, though, to say a few words about some particular provisions in the budget that were somewhat overshadowed by the fiscal imbalance. There were some things we were very proud about. Let me tell the House why. It was 13 years ago today that we elected the first contingent of Bloc members. At the time, there were 54 of us. We formed the official opposition of Her Loyal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. From that time until today, the Bloc Québécois has always defended the interests of Quebec and the interests of the people, our fellow citizens.

My Bloc colleagues get up every morning wondering how they can contribute to the advancement of their fellow citizens, work and fight for the common good, and improve the lives of the most disadvantaged in society, and how they can block a government.

This government and the previous one seem to be clones of each other. We keep asking ourselves how to do battle with a government with no compassion, which does not offer any hope in terms of improving the lives of the most disadvantaged in society or ensuring that middle income families can benefit from a favourable tax environment that adds to their well-being.

That is what we in the Bloc Québécois have always done. That is what all my colleagues have been doing in every riding, one election after another.

I am proud to have been associated for the past 13 years with a team as outstanding as that of the Bloc Québécois, one that has been standing up for more than just the interests of Quebec. Whenever the interests of the rest of Canada coincided with those of Quebec, we gladly defended them. Since 1993, we have made friends all over Canada, and particularly among the workers. Why? Because our only motivation is the common good. And when the common good of Quebec meets that of Canada, we do not hesitate to work relentlessly and even to travel across Canada to meet with workers who have lost their jobs or seniors who are being mistreated.

The Liberals mistreated older persons by ignoring their needs, by abolishing, in 1997, the POWA program and by refusing to replace it with another program. The Conservatives are doing the same after promising to implement a program to help workers 55 and older who are victims of mass layoffs. They should receive support until their retirement because a number of them cannot be retrained to work in another sector of the economy either because there is no other company around when the only company in the region has closed and there is nowhere for them to relocate to or because after 30 or 35 years, these workers who thought they had a secure job until their retirement get the short end of the stick and have to liquidate any wealth they have accumulated over the years before they can get their pension. This obviously means loss of dignity, necessary liquidating of assets and possibly going on welfare.

Let us come back to specific measures in the budget. I said I am proud to have been associated with the Bloc Québécois team for the past 13 years. The Bloc team did not just oppose government measures; it proposed alternatives for the common good. I was going over the budget and I thought these issues were discussed a few years ago, issues such as the tax credit for public transportation. My colleague from Jonquière presented this in the Standing Committee on Finance. The Liberals and the Conservatives were skeptical. Only the NDP joined us in defending the tax credit for public transportation. My colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher introduced a new bill and defended it with a view to having a tax credit for public transportation. We debated these issues and we came up with these measures. When our adversaries ask what the purpose of the Bloc Québécois is, it is because they have nothing to say. They recognize our value, our rigour and our originality. We present things to improve the lot of our fellow citizens. Now they know the purpose of the Bloc Québécois. We are described as originals who have the strength and conviction to defend the measures we strongly believe in.

For years we have been saying that a tax credit for public transportation could contribute in a small way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This could encourage people to take public transportation instead of driving their cars with just one or two occupants. Public transportation causes much less pollution. We have been fighting for this for years.

I was looking at the tax deduction for toolkits. My colleague from Beauport, who is also the Bloc Québécois whip, introduced that measure nine years ago. He recognized the need, especially among young tradespeople, for tax deductions for toolkits, which can cost thousands of dollars.

We were allowing lawyers and other professionals to write off their professional expenses, but we were not letting young plumbers, mechanics, and so on, do so. This measure has now been adopted, but how long did the Bloc Québécois have to fight for it? The idea made its way through the system, and we never gave up. We pushed until the government included such measures in its budget. Perhaps it did so for electoral reasons, but that does not matter because the point is that it is going through.

Since 1996, the Bloc Québécois has fought tooth and nail for microbreweries in Quebec and the rest of Canada—at least, for those that are still around. Government inertia delayed the adoption of such a measure—a measure revisited by the Conservatives—and hundreds of microbreweries across Canada and around Quebec went bankrupt, including in isolated regions where they had developed niche markets. There are still some microbreweries around in Canada and Quebec. Thank goodness such a measure exists because their competitors are being offered even more generous fiscal treatment than what the government has put forward in its budget.

This kind of tax measure would enable the microbreweries in Quebec and the rest of Canada to meet the American and European competition. I do not know if you know, Mr. Speaker, but foreign microbreweries are competing with ours. Their licences are bought by the major Canadian breweries. In this way, thanks to a licence from an American or European microbrewery, the major Canadian brewers can become Canadian and Quebec microbreweries.

This tax measure is an additional way of ensuring that the uniqueness of a product is preserved. In Quebec, the Unibroue microbrewery was one of the victims of the lack of tax measures to facilitate competition with foreign microbrewers. Unibroue made some incredible beer before Sleeman bought it, withdrew and, as an example, reduced the wide array of high quality “strong beer one lees” varieties similar to some imported European beers whose traditional production goes back several centuries.

Unibroue had been successful, without any government assistance, by fighting. I remember the president of Unibroue coming here several times. At the time, he was the president of the microbrewers of Quebec and Canada. We fought alongside him, made a common front, not to gain an unrealistic advantage but so that microbrewers in Quebec and the rest of Canada could have the same advantages as American and European microbrewers.

I can recall—there are always memories—that the major Canadian brewers did something totally disgusting. They went through the back door to push the finance and national revenue departments, saying that this kind of measure should not be brought forward. Meanwhile, they were telling the microbrewers that they agreed with them on the need for such a measure and for a reduction of the tax rate on microbreweries producing less than 75 million litres. At the same time, the major brewers were meeting with public servants and telling them that this measure should not pass and things were fine. It was unbelievable, until the microbrewers decided to take things into their own hands and not rely on the major brewers who were body checking them as hard as they could.

So that, too, was some of the long-term work of the Bloc Québécois. When I hear the hon. member for Beauce, who is responsible for economic development, say, “You will never be in power”, I think it is the height of stupidity.

What then is the purpose of a Parliament? Is it just to have a government and not an opposition? That would be a dictatorship. If those are the democratic feelings of the member for Beauce, he is not in the right place. A good government requires a good parliament, that is a government and an opposition to put it in its place, to enhance legislation, to present ideas from the representatives of the majority of the population. We should not forget that, although they are arrogant, the Conservatives are in the minority. Those of us in the opposition represent the majority of the population of Quebec and of Canada, and that has been the case in the last two Parliaments. We speak on behalf of the citizens. The member for Beauce speaks for himself. In his mind, the power is his and federal money is his money. That is not the case.

Federal money is the money of the people; it belongs to our citizens. We are here to ensure that it is spent as wisely as possible. That money does not belong to the Prime Minister, nor to the member for Beauce, nor to the Minister of Finance— it belongs to the citizens. We stand up for citizens when they ask us to represent them and to obtain action on public transit and microbreweries, because they create a great deal of employment in the regions. We also stand up for plumbers and mechanics asking for a tax credit. We are their voice.

All the opposition parties represent the majority. The arrogance of the Conservatives will only last a while.

I find that we have been very patient these last 10 months, and we will be patient for a few more. However, we have heard enough about the Bloc Québécois being good for nothing. The Bloc is here to do its job, and its job is to represent the citizens that have voted for us, by a majority, since 1993, election after election, giving us a strong majority in Quebec. If this meant nothing, if we were good for nothing, Quebeckers would not have elected us.

My colleague should be more careful about what he says, because this is very serious. He is saying that a large majority of Quebeckers—his own fellow citizens—have been wrong every time since 1993, that they are not smart enough to make decisions, decisions involving power. But what power? Does he mean the power of his citizens?

He was not even able to defend the businesses in his riding. He talked about how proud he is to be in government and to have decision-making powers. But to decide for whom? Decide for what? He could not even be bothered to defend the softwood producers or manufacturers of bicycles, clothing and textiles in his riding. And God knows, in Beauce, those are important industries, particularly the carpet industry.

We are saying we support these measures. Of course, we support them. It would be difficult to do the opposite of what we have been doing for years. We are pleased that the other parties have taken up our ideas. We hope they take them up even more. We hope they take up our idea of loan guarantees for the forest industry.

That is what Parliament is for. It is for the fermentation of ideas. It is not intended to have a few people who pretend to be something they're not—I will refrain from using a popular Quebec expression, because it would be unparliamentary—and who speak only for themselves whenever they speak. The purpose of Parliament is to ensure that the best ideas emerge, so that we have the best possible government. A minority government is usually a better government because it has greater opposition, which represents the majority of citizens. That opposition pushes the government, and pushes it as hard as it can, to ensure that the government makes the best possible decisions based on the ideas, convictions and values of the majority represented in this Parliament by the opposition parties.

I would like to talk about business taxation for the next few minutes.

Since 1994, we have consistently been ardent advocates of reducing the tax burden for businesses and individuals. It is not a question of foolishly cutting taxes to pay businesses, rather to ensure that these businesses reinvest, especially in the high-tech sector, particularly in state-of-the-art production equipment, in order to tackle globalization and emerging competitors such as China, Brazil, India and Pakistan.

For roughly nine years now, companies have received tax cuts year after year. Nevertheless, I have always lamented to the presidents of the Chamber of Commerce of Canada—from Quebec City, Toronto, Montreal and everywhere in between—that, despite these nine consecutive tax cuts, companies have not made any structural investments to cope with the competitiveness of the emerging countries.

For years we have coasted on the value of the Canadian dollar to export, and export more, and never looked past the end of our noses.

I hope that, after everything we have seen in the past few years, we will ensure that further tax cuts in the budget will be used by business leaders for taking charge and making investments because the competitiveness—the productivity—of a company is not just about the employees. Make no mistake. It is a matter, above all, of equipment, of constant investment in high technology to compete with the best in the world. And that has not been done.

Businesses have not shouldered their responsibilities.

In my opinion, there needs to be a threefold strategy: require entrepreneurs to invest in new technology and modern equipment; support victims of rationalization—I am talking about older workers and POWA, among other things; and fight unfair competition.

Often the competition from our trading partners is unfair. However, Canada does nothing to fight this unfair competition the way other, European countries are fighting it so feverishly.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently the Auditor General completed her work on the financial report of the Government of Canada for the year ended March 31, 2006 and a surplus of $13.2 billion was reported. The learned member has spent a lot of time on the finance committee and he would know that because that fiscal period has ended, the moneys automatically must be applied against the debt. Notwithstanding the paydown of that amount of debt, it does result in an ongoing savings on an annual basis of some $600 million. That represents the true savings to Canadians by paying down debt.

I raise that because the latest report is that there appears to be a surplus of some $4 billion for the partial current fiscal year reported on now.

The member will know that the existence of a surplus does not necessarily mean the surplus will exist by the end of the fiscal year, and that again, the only amount that could be available for ongoing expenditures by additional programs would be the savings on interest.

I am wondering if the member is asking that the amount of the reported surplus in excess of the surplus reported for the prior year in the same period should be invested in further program spending. Would that not represent responsible government?

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Liberal colleague for his question.

For several months we have known that the surplus would be close to $13 billion. Furthermore the Bloc Québécois, since 1997 or 1998, or since the first federal government surplus, came very close, even a year ahead, to the surplus forecasts year after year. We succeeded in making surplus forecasts with a margin of error of 2% or 3%. It was predictable.

I would like to take up a point that my colleague made earlier. He said that, at the end of the year, the unexpected surplus must be applied against the debt.

The Liberal Minister of Finance predicted the surplus. He knew that there would be a surplus. We were able to do it with the help of a calculator. So with his array of public servants he was able to do the same thing as us.

It is inaccurate to say that at the year-end any unexpected surplus has to be applied automatically against the debt. Within a few months of the fiscal year-end, it is possible to know that there will be a large surplus. It is possible to know, before year-end that this surplus will be of a certain order of magnitude.

There is something I blame the Liberals, the former Minister of Finance and also the former prime minister, for not doing. A few months before the fiscal year-end, we could have created a trust, as has already been done in Quebec—I think it was Ms. Marois who was Minister of Finance at the time—and made a legislative commitment that any unexpected surpluses would be deposited to this trust for allocation to some fundamental missions such as transfers for health, post-secondary education and so on.

Already, before the year-end, we could have planned a use for these funds and put them in a trust. We could have done so. We could have been more balanced than the imbalance presented since 1997-98. The current Minister of Finance presented the whole thing with great pride, the big cheque in the background, saying that $13 billion was being paid towards the debt when everything was falling apart all over the place. We need only think of softwood lumber, the textile and clothing sector, and older workers. There would have been a way to be a little more balanced than what has been managed so far.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot on his fiery speech, on a subject he has been championing in the House of Commons since the Bloc Québécois first arrived here.

I have a question for the member. For a number of years now, we have been fighting the fiscal imbalance, which, in Quebec, affects health care, education and services to the most vulnerable members of our society. We have a problem with employment insurance. Workers in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada pay into the employment insurance fund, then the federal government turns around and uses $50 billion of that fund's surplus while denying employment insurance to people who need it. For several years now, we have been asking for a program to help our older workers. So far, the government has only come up with very timid measures. Quebec adopted progressive measures to comply with the Kyoto protocol, but the federal government decided to cut its contribution by $238 million.

My question for the member is this: Can he explain why sovereignty is the only way to help Quebec—and perhaps even the rest of Canada—reach its full potential?

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Before I answer, I would just like to say that there are budget measures we can be proud of, because we in the Bloc Québécois have worked for years to get a government to include them in its budget.

I hope that this time we will be successful The Bloc Québécois, and only the Bloc Québécois, has made 10 attempts. Year after year, we introduced the bill, and year after year, we were beaten by the Liberals, even those from Quebec. The Conservatives did not want anything to do with this measure, but we had the support of the NDP. But I think we are going to win the vote on our anti-scab bill. I hope so, and I pray every night that we will. We have been fighting for this for years. I think that when an initiative comes from the heart, if we do not give up, in the end, we will be rewarded.

My colleague is quite right. Quebec sovereignty would enable us to repatriate all our taxes and all the taxes we pay to this Parliament. The other political parties do not give any consideration to Quebec's real values and real interests or to the Quebec government's game plan for lessening the impact of international competition and resource depletion. All the resources put toward a single nation, the nation of Quebec—it is obvious.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
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5:20 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague about the great alliance we have seen between the Conservatives and the Bloc. I would just like to know whether the alliance between the two parties is finally over? Will the marriage continue?

For I do not know how many years, we have seen the Bloc Québécois accomplish absolutely nothing in this country for Quebeckers as far as the fiscal imbalance is concerned. There were good negotiations with the current government to correct that. But now is the marriage over or it will continue?

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remind the hon. member NDP member that they too supported the budget. This is somewhat strange, speaking of marriages.

Speaking of failed marriages and odd couples, I remind the hon. member that a little less than a year and a half ago, the NDP joined the corrupt Liberals. In the midst of the sponsorship scandal, they supported the Liberals and they supported their budgets, which included measures that were never fully implemented after the Conservatives won the last election.

The bill that they supported—I believe it was Bill C-48—was incredibly vague. The Liberal government did not even have to fulfill its promise. The NDP supported the corrupt government of the former Prime Minister on measures that did not include any commitment. They made a big deal about it during the last election campaign. And now, how many of them are here? Talk about credibility.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would just pick up on the last point the hon. member made. I would bring to his attention that every time the government stands up and brags about money it is putting into anything that is socially progressive, that is money that came from Bill C-48, the NDP budget.

What I want to know is why the Bloc did not take the opportunity to see if we could make further amendments that would advance the very issues the member says are the key priorities for the Bloc, rather than just playing this game that as long as they are okay, they will not worry about everything else.

If we work together, we have more votes than they do. Why did the Bloc not take the opportunity to do what the NDP did, and that is amend a bad budget and bring in good things that benefit the people of Quebec and Canada?

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
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5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is asking me why. I will tell him that it is because we do not sell our services to the highest bidder. That is why.

When that budget was adopted, we were in the midst of the biggest scandal ever seen in federalism, the sponsorship scandal. We had just learned more about the fact that all federalist parties in this House, namely the Liberals, the Conservatives and the New Democrats, had participated in the plot to steal the 1995 referendum. They closed their eyes on cost overruns and they denied democracy by trampling on all the rules that Quebec had set, so that in the end the Yes and No sides were neck and neck.

Everyone got on the buses—New Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives—to come to Montreal and participate in the love-in. They all participated in that denial of democracy. That is why we would not have made a pact with the devil. If the New Democrats want to do it, fine, but we have stronger convictions, more heart and we know better.

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5:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, may I ask for unanimous consent to split my time with the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, please?

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
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5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina have the unanimous consent of the House to split her time?

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
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5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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5:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the success of a nation is judged by how we treat our children. The success of a budget is really dependent on whether we invest in children.

The hon. members opposite talked about scandals. Let me tell them that it is scandalous when we have a country as rich as Canada and we have 1.2 million children living in poverty at a time when we have a surplus of almost $20 billion. We have children living in Canada who are going to bed hungry. That is a true scandal.

It is scandalous that we have parties here that are willing to support the budget. I understand why the Conservative government would support its own budget, but I do not understand why any other party in the House would support this kind of scandalous behaviour in a budget that treats our children in such a way.

It is a deliberate choice when we have a surplus but we do not invest in child care. It is a deliberate choice when we do not invest in affordable housing. It is a deliberate choice when we do not put more money into the child tax benefit so families will get more money and parents will not have to worry about having to pay the rent or feed their kids.

Today is child care appreciation day. The people who take care of our children earn very low incomes. They spend all day making sure that our kids are raised in a way that is healthy and productive. While we appreciate them, these workers are underpaid because we do not invest in child care.

This is a time when the government actually subsidizes the oil and gas industry to the tune of $1.5 billion. How could the government make such a choice? It is scandalous. Those dollars, whether it is $1.5 billion or the $20 billion surplus, really should be used to train young people so they can learn a skill, so that they will have employment, so that they could retrofit homes. By retrofitting homes and making them green, Canadians would save on their energy bills. By making them green, Canadians would have renovated houses and we would actually get less greenhouse gas pollution.

Because we have money, we can also increase the guaranteed income supplement so that the poorest seniors can live in dignity. The guaranteed income supplement, which supplements pensions and old age security, had not been increased for at least 12 years until last year, when there was a very small increase.

Unfortunately, a lot of seniors are isolated in their homes. They do not have the money to buy a transit pass to visit their friends or go to the library. I know that some of them do not even have enough money to pay the electricity bill because it is so expensive. These seniors live in our midst when Canada is awash with money, yet we subsidize and have more corporate tax cuts.

A few minutes ago I stood outside Parliament Hill, joining many refugees who are suffering in this country. Many poor and cold young children and their families were outside. These refugees have escaped persecution and seek refuge here. Many of these women have faced persecution and, in many cases, domestic violence.

They are all refugees. They have a heavy burden. They are poor. They have no resources. They are seeking the opportunity for a better life in Canada, yet they face the ultimate indignity. They are punished and penalized with refugee fees. That is a terrible burden. I believe the Liberals introduced these fees with the excuse that they were trying to balance the budget. It was a lame excuse for a terrible burden which amounts to a modern-day head tax.

Now the Conservatives are blindly continuing that with these fees. These fees are causing great suffering. They are causing despair because some families just cannot afford to pay them. The fees are driving some of the families underground. They are driving them to hunger. They are keeping people from making a contribution and building better lives. Really, these fees are a head tax, a tax on the most vulnerable and on those who cannot afford to pay them.

The government has a pattern of giving the most to those who need the least. It also has a habit of giving the least to those who need the most. We have seen it as--