House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was taxes.

Topics

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is a sensible question. My hon. colleague is a very compassionate member of the House of Commons, as is the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who I hope recovers well from her hip surgery.

The government should not just be talking to the provinces and territories, I would highly recommend it also talk with school boards, new immigrant groups and various groups that can help. The reality is that 110,000 people in the largest city in Canada rely on volunteers for food. Teachers should be teaching; they should not be serving buffets to children, but thank God they and the parents do because without them, those kids would not have a hope.

If the member went back five years, I bet she would find that there were a lot less than 110,000. Now more and more people are having to do that. Unfortunately, that is the track record of the Conservative Government of Canada.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his explanations. He has talked about a very interesting subject, the effect of announcements made with regard to tax credits. There is a difference between refundable tax credits and those that are not. I would like him to speak more about the use of these announcements to mask credits that are not what they purport to be.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

October 7th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is a smoke and mirrors game. The government gives and then takes away. An example would be Bill C-55. The government moved ahead on the veterans charter and rightfully so. That was a good thing. We asked for a much bigger door, but what it did was make the benefit taxable. It calls the NDP the tax and spend party. The Conservative Party is the give and tax party.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege for me to rise in the House today to once again speak on our budget.

This budget is extremely important for Canadians and the citizens of my riding. We are taking their concerns and their needs into account. Consequently, I strongly encourage the opposition to support our initiatives.

I am proud to speak to various points in budget 2011 which my constituents are eager to see implemented.

As our government introduces legislation for its low tax plan, I would like to note the support we have received from Canadians for our focus on protecting existing jobs, creating new jobs, securing Canada's recovery from the global economic recession, and improving the well-being of Canadians over the long term.

Canadians were proud to learn that Canada has the strongest job growth record in the G7. In fact, as was mentioned in question period today, we added another 60,000 net new jobs to the economy.

However, Canadians understand that we are not immune to global economic turbulence and that it is essential for us to implement the next phase of our economic action plan.

In my riding, especially, businesses are looking forward to the new temporary hiring credit, which would lessen the financial burden of additional hiring. As a rural riding, Glengarry—Prescott—Russell has a large number of agricultural businesses. I have heard from the farming community that the hiring credit is particularly good news for farm operations that are looking to expand.

That is only one of many positive examples.

Implementation of this hiring credit comes just after 2011 was designated the Year of the Entrepreneur by our government. Recognition for hard-working entrepreneurs could not be more timely because they make a vital contribution to the survival of our communities. As we all know, they are engines of the local economy and job creation, especially in the rural areas of ridings such as mine.

Our government promised to help small businesses get through these difficult economic times. Businesses in Glengarry—Prescott—Russell are not immune to these difficult times and will benefit tremendously from this measure in the 2011 budget.

Since the federal election in May, we have been promising Canadians that we would phase out the per vote direct subsidy of political parties over the next few years.

We will now deliver on that promise, which will save taxpayers up to $30 million a year. Eliminating this subsidy is what Canadians want because it ensures that political parties remain in close touch with them. That is what the opposition is afraid of. Parties will have to focus their efforts on fundraising to replace this lost public revenue. If they want Canadians to donate to their party they will need to be more relevant to Canadians. That is what the opposition parties are afraid of, their irrelevancy.

If Canadians believe in a party and its policies, they will donate their hard-earned money to see that party elected and its initiatives implemented. That is the way it should be.

Our government is committed to strengthening integrity and accountability in government and political activity. Unlike the outrageous claims made by the opposition, this will not restrict political activity to the rich.

It is ironic that in one breath the opposition accuses our government of catering to the rich and then in the next breath proposes to raise the donation limit so that richer Canadians could donate more. It does not make any sense.

The average donation from our party supporters varies between $150 and $200, which means that currently, Canadians are giving well below the limit. What the opposition is saying is not true. In reality, Canadians donating these amounts are not rich. Supporters of the various political parties are what we could call average Canadians who want to help the political party of their choice. And having a choice is important to Canadians.

Governments have a duty to use taxpayer dollars wisely and only in the public interest, especially at a time of fiscal restraint when families are struggling to make ends meet.

The fact is that Canadian families are struggling right now. That is especially true when loved ones become sick and need help getting the necessary care. The new tax credit for caregivers will allow them to get back up to a maximum of $2,000 of the approved expenses for taking care of infirm dependent relatives, including, for the first time, spouses, common law partners and minor children.

For those who have not experienced caring for loved ones with infirmities, it is difficult to imagine the pain and difficulty families can face from day to day. Over the years, I have been graced with the opportunity to meet with caregivers from across my riding. They are good people facing unexpected challenges, emotionally and financially, in order to provide for their loved ones. They play a vital role in supporting their loved ones, often elderly parents. They often must take time off from work, which further adds to their stress. Financial support is a critical component for them. Our commitment to the tax credit is a clear sign that our government understands the desire of Canadians to remain independent in their own homes for as long as possible.

At this time I would like to highlight a third element of our keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act, which is the children's arts tax credit for programs associated with children's artistic, cultural, recreational and developmental activities.

As a father of five children, I am well aware of the cost, but also the benefits of giving children a solid foundation in the arts. My children have taken piano lessons, singing lessons and violin lessons. I have seen the arts help them to grow in confidence, self-discipline, creativity, and it has also been a form of recreation. I know that our family is not alone in this.

Thousands of parents in my riding understand the value of the arts to a child's development. Glengarry—Prescott—Russell is a riding that hosts a number of cultural events to celebrate its proud heritage, and the arts hold a very important place in those celebrations. Thousands of parents are already paying for lessons for their children even if that expense puts pressure on the family budget. We know that this type of tax credit works. We implemented the children's fitness tax credit in order to encourage children to remain active and it is working. Health experts keep telling us that children need to be physically active. They tell us we must encourage them to do so and that active video games are not enough. Our government is doing its part to offer more financial options to families in order to stimulate their children and ensure their development.

I spoke about this a lot during the May election and I mentioned it in the House in June, but I am proud to mention it again. Our government is committed to delivering a $3,000 tax credit to volunteer firefighters.

Volunteer firefighters play a vital role in serving our communities. They put themselves at great risk for the safety of our neighbours. In a rural riding such as mine, volunteer firefighters are indispensable. I have met with these firefighters time and again, and they are overwhelmingly pleased by our government's commitment to this initiative. We said we would deliver strong financial support to recognize the critical work done by our volunteer firefighters and that is exactly what we are doing.

We want to thank Canadians for electing a majority government. Doing so allows us to implement legislative measures that will help all Canadians and will help the country weather the global economic storm.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's intervention. While there are many missing pieces in the government's plan, one is the growing gap between those who have and those who have less.

The government would say that it has brought in a low tax plan, but there is a problem, and this is very important for the member's riding where there is a lot of poverty. The plan does not help those who are on the margins. We see fewer and fewer people able to make ends meet and having an arts tax credit does not mean much.

Where is the plan from the government to actually deal with the wider prosperity gap in this country? Tax cuts do not cut it. We are seeing tax credits where people cannot afford music lessons.

What is the government doing about the poor, particularly urban poor, because there is a lot of poor in his riding?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we are addressing poverty, the best way to address it is to create jobs. People want to work. They want to have a job to raise their families and they do not want to have to rely on the government to do so.

As I mentioned, we announced 61,000 net new jobs that had been created in September. Our track record, since 2009, is the net creation of over 660,000 new jobs. This is putting Canadians to work, so that they can earn what they need to raise their families.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked a minister about the need for a national nutrition program in Canada, so no child goes to school hungry. I was dismayed to receive talking points back on a completely different topic, albeit important, when 40% and 62% of elementary and secondary school students go to school hungry.

New data from the Toronto District School Board shows that the top benefits of a morning meal program are that it helps 86% of children who would not get the opportunity to eat. It improves student health by 74% and increases the intake of milk and dairy products by 71%. More powerful, 78% of grade 10 students who ate morning meals were on track for graduation compared to 61% who only ate a few days.

Does the member think that the government should be having discussions with the provinces and territories regarding a national nutrition program?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague does raise an important point that has to do with the nutrition of children and basically the raising of children. Certainly, as parliamentarians and as Canadians we want to ensure that our children have the best advantages in order to grow. But I would remind the member that as a parent of five children, and being in close contact with parents throughout my riding, parents want to feed their own children. They do not necessarily want the government feeding their children for them.

Therefore, it comes back again to creating jobs and lowering taxes. I already spoke about job creation. I would like to finish this response by underlining that through our Conservative government we have put in place tax cuts for families all across Canada, and the average saving for the average Canadian family due to our tax cuts since 2006 is $3,000 per family. That is $3,000 that parents can spend on raising their children, feeding their children and giving them every possible opportunity.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am from Oshawa and just like the rest of the country, jobs are extremely important. I was wondering if the member could contrast our steady approach that relies on reducing taxes for businesses as opposed to the NDP's approach, which has been used in Greece and other countries that are in a lot of trouble right now. They are raising taxes and increasing spending. Could he contrast those two approaches on how they work for job creation?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises an excellent point and I could go on at length, but because of the time constraints I will say the following. Our measures to cut taxes for businesses are the right way to go because it leaves more money in the businesses themselves during these difficult economic times. If we want businesses to create jobs, we cannot suck money out of them through higher taxes and that is exactly what the NDP proposes. That is what the Liberals propose as well. We are on the side of job creation and job creation is what will help Canadians through these difficult economic times.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-13, which is awkwardly titled keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act.

I will focus my remarks on jobs. I want to first touch briefly on the general failure of the government and this bill in particular to address what is the most important challenge to this country and indeed to the world at this time, and that is climate change.

Whether it is the increased frequency and intensity of severe weather events, be that storms or flooding, whether it is the rapid shrinkage of the Arctic ice shelves, evidence of climate change is all around us.

The government seems not to understand that threat to our entire economy and indeed our way of life. In this bill we have a much more specific failure. We have a very specific threat here to cut our capacity to even understand and respond to climate change.

With the levels of reductions in expenditures by the government that are needed to reach its financial targets, the climate scientists at Environment Canada have been receiving layoff notices, the very people who might help us design a way out of this crisis and to limit the effects on our economy.

I do want to be alarmist on this issue because to state the obvious, ultimately there are no jobs on a dead planet.

Let me come back to the main topic that I want to talk about today, and that is the topic of jobs. Just like climate change, the warning signs are all around us here. We have instability in the international financial markets, the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone, stagnant growth projections for Canada, all-time high levels of household debt, an increasing balance of payment deficits for this country, and low levels of private investment here at home.

Low levels of corporate investment, despite a 43% tax cut for the big corporations, yet their business investment levels as a share of the GDP have not increased one iota despite those tax cuts.

What do we hear from the government? We hear a very familiar message. We hear, “Stay the course. Continue with corporate tax cuts. Continue to slash public expenditures”.

When did we last hear this? We heard this in the election campaign of 2008 and we heard this from the new Conservative government after that election. The government continued on that path and only brought in its much discussed economic action plan after the threat of defeat in this House of Commons by its failure to act on the economic crisis at that time.

Here we are again, staring another recession in the face with a government that continues its plan of inaction rather than an action plan that would truly benefit Canadian families. I am afraid this time, because we have a majority government, we will continue down this path and leave Canadians at the mercy of these unstable markets.

Conservatives like to trumpet their record on job creation, but when we take into account labour force growth, the new jobs created fall 250,000 jobs short of what we would need just to keep employment levels steady in this country.

When we look at unemployed workers and discouraged workers, they amount to nearly two million in this country. When we look at youth unemployment rates, we have reached a high this summer of more than 17% of youth unemployed. The Conservative response was, “Well, let us continue to cut those corporate taxes.”

As I said, there is no evidence, in fact the evidence is to the contrary, that these corporate tax cuts will do anything to create jobs.

Now the Conservatives, in this bill, are talking about a small business tax credit of $1,000, but it is very clear that this is too small to have any major impact. The NDP has talked about a much larger credit available over a much larger period of time.

Rather than getting stuck in the details of this bill, I want to return to that question of broader economic policy, though these radical spending cuts that we are facing in the budget bill will only make the situation worse. On top of the direct hits these will cause for public services, it will mean a decline in jobs in our economy as economic growth is slowed by the cutting of public sector spending.

One of the things that we know is key to an economic recovery is demand. In order to have sufficient demand in our economy, employees need to earn a living wage. When they go to work every day, work hard, come to the end of the month, there has to be a little bit left over to spend. What we are finding, increasingly, that for families this is not the case.

In 1996 the Liberals eliminated the federal minimum wage and instead adopted the provincial wage rates. These rates have continually fallen behind inflation. Now in my own province of British Columbia, the minimum wage is $8.75 an hour. When the social service agencies in Victoria got together and calculated what it takes in my community to actually earn enough to pay for basic food, clothing and shelter, and transportation to get to a job, the answer was $18.03 an hour.

There is a gap of $10 an hour here for families. When they get to the end of the month, it is no surprise that they are choosing between putting away a little for retirement, putting away a little for their kids' education and actually paying the bills that are coming due.

The major contributor to our economic crisis in the long term is inequality. This is a concern not just of New Democrats, but of business leaders in this country.

In September the Conference Board of Canada, not a noted left-wing organization, put out a report that discussed the increase in poverty rates in this country. After 10 years of some modest progress up to 2009, these rates began to increase once again, and that gap continues to grow.

The Conference Board of Canada pointed out that the gap between the rich and the poor in this country is now growing at a much faster rate than it is in the United States and that very soon we will catch up to them as among the developed countries with the largest gaps between the rich and the poor in the entire world.

Why are we having this increase in inequality? The Conference Board said it is a result of globalization and other market forces. When the government says market forces will fix the recession, it is also saying that market forces will fix inequality, and we have seen that simply is not true.

The Conference Board of Canada also points to dwindling unionization of the Canadian workforce and the stagnation of minimum wages as two key contributors, yet we have seen a constant attack from the government on trade unions as the representatives of workers in the attempt to get a living wage, a family-supporting wage and a wage that will actually promote economic growth and development in this country.

As a spokesperson for the NDP on the Asia-Pacific region, I have also spoken in the House about the lack of investment in this key area, an area in which we can make great progress. We should listen to the president of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, Yuen Pau Woo, who spoke at the Asia-Pacific conference sponsored by the B.C. council of business about two weeks ago in Vancouver. He said that yes, we have made some progress in exporting resources like forestry resources, and yes, the government has done some good work on infrastructure around the ports, but we are missing the boat when it comes to the key factor in expanding our trade with the Asia-Pacific region because we are failing to invest in human capacity.

He said that we need increasing investments in language training, cross-cultural communication and international business education, but there is nothing in the government's Asia-Pacific strategy that speaks to any of those fundamental needs that would help forge more ties with the Asia-Pacific region and help build the basis for strong trade in the future.

When it comes to equality, I read a book over the last year called The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, two demographers who looked at the actual evidence. I know the government does not like evidence, but they looked in 11 areas of health and social services challenges, everything from physical health to mental health to child health to obesity to crime rates to violence. What they found was that in every case, a society that is more equal does better on every indicator.

Unexpectedly, it also shows that the rich in those countries also do better than the rich in the less equal countries, so this is not just a matter of benefiting the poor but a matter of benefiting all parts of our society by increasing equality.

I see nothing at all in the budget that would move us in that direction of more fundamental equality.

Despite a few crumbs and gestures toward small business and health care and a few non-refundable tax credits that will not help those really in need, there is nothing in the bill to promote jobs. There is nothing here to promote retirement security. There is no action to help the most vulnerable.

As we head into this Thanksgiving weekend, I wish all members of the House and all Canadians a happy Thanksgiving, but like others who have spoken today, I ask them to think about those less fortunate, those who will be going to food banks for their Thanksgiving dinner and those who are in even more dire situations: those who are homeless and who will be going to the soup kitchens for their Thanksgiving dinner.

I would much like to see the government take action that would decrease the inequalities in our society so that veterans, seniors and families with children do not end up in these dire situations on the next Thanksgiving.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I think everyone will be thinking about those less fortunate over Thanksgiving. The best thing we can do for people without jobs is give them jobs.

Today there was some great news. The unemployment rate in Canada went down to 7.1%. Over 61,000 new jobs were created, mostly full-time jobs. That is why the member's speech was so painful to listen to. He had the opportunity to give some really solid ideas about the economy that have worked internationally, but instead he chose to give an idealistic and alarmist rant.

He said one thing that was correct. He talked about the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone, and it is a debt crisis. What is the NDP's solution? What did the NDP talk about today? It talked about the same solution as Greece: to tax more and spend more.

I would like the member to contrast the idealistic socialist approach that did not work in Europe with our low-tax job creation philosophy that has worked. We got more information today on how well it has worked.

Could he please contrast those? The proof is in the pudding. Could he let Canadians know why he keeps going on with this ideological rant instead of telling them the facts?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question because it gives me a chance to point out the fallacies in the Conservatives' argument that the proof is in the pudding.

If the proof is in the pudding, then the proof is in the two million Canadians who are unemployed or have given up looking for jobs. If the proof is in the pudding, it is in the growing poverty rates in this country. If the proof is in the pudding, the pudding is right in front of us, and we have only to take a close look at what is actually happening in our communities to see the growing inequality and the effects of it on our future prosperity.

To talk about where it has worked, again I point to The Spirit Level and to other economists who have pointed out that the long-term way to prosperity is through equality and through public investments in infrastructure that will help our economy grow in the future.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my best Thanksgiving wishes to my colleagues and constituents.

I want to come back to something asked by the last questioner. Essentially he was blaming the problems in Europe on social democratic governments.

I would like my colleague to tell me what is at the root of the problems, both in Europe and in the U.S. Is it social democratic principles, or is it unbridled capitalism?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, what is clear is that the crisis we entered into in 2008 was sparked by corporate greed and unregulated corporate profits.

New Democrats are pointing to figures in Canada that show that giving a 43% tax cut to big corporations has done nothing to bring private investment into our economy that would create jobs and growth in the future, so we have essentially thrown away that revenue and borrowed money to subsidize major corporations when we could have kept the tax rates where they were.

That is where the Conservatives are a bit disingenuous: in saying New Democrats want an increase. We were actually just talking about stopping the decrease in corporate taxes in this country. In fact, when we had the highest rates of growth in this country, we also had high corporate tax rates.