House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to warmly thank the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst for his question. It is official; Quebec is concerned. We are concerned that this government does not seem to have a very strong knowledge of economics since the budget has to be revised constantly. The government is always saying that there will be no deficit when, in the end, there will be one. These are reasons for concern; however, we are also having difficulty recognizing the values of this government, which Quebec does not share. I can tell you that.

In fact, the firearms registry gave the government, the police and organizations that deal with violence against women the power to act. The fact that the government will not even transfer the registry to the provinces is truly appalling. Moreover, some of my Quebec counterparts came to Ottawa to beg the Conservatives, who want to abolish the firearms registry, to transfer the registry to the provinces so that they can carry on the work.

Not only is this government failing to do its duty in terms of public safety but it will not even allow the $2 billion that was invested in the registry to be recovered. If it would, passing the bill and abolishing the registry would not be a complete waste. It would allow the provinces to do the work.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today and speak to Bill C-13, the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act.

Thanks to the policies of our government, Canada continues to be an economic leader during a period of global economic uncertainty. We know that Canada is not immune to the economic storm that continues to rage across the globe. That is why our government is launching the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. We are taking action that will help Canadians through this period of economic uncertainty.

In the bill we are debating today, I will outline how our government is taking measures that will support families and communities, promote job creation and economic growth.

Our Conservative government believes in keeping families strong. We believe hard-working Canadians deserve to keep more of the money they earn. That is why, since 2006, the government has cut taxes over 120 times. As a result, the overall tax burden facing families is at its lowest level in nearly 50 years.

We have removed over one million Canadians from the tax rolls. We have increased the amount Canadians can earn tax free. We have reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, putting nearly $1,000 back in the pocket of an average family.

We introduced the universal child care benefit offering families more choice in child care by providing $1,200 per year for a child under the age of six. We introduced the child tax credit providing personal income tax relief of up to $320 in 2011 for each child under the age of 18. We introduced the children's fitness tax credit promoting physical fitness among children through a credit of up to $500 in eligible fees for programs associated with physical activity.

We brought in the landmark tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since the RRSP. We eliminated the marriage penalty for one-earner families by increasing the spousal amount to the same level as the basic personal amount. We introduced a registered disability savings plan to help families of children with disabilities save for their child's future care.

For our seniors, we provided more than $2 billion in annual targeted tax relief through such measures as pension income splitting, increases in the age credit amount and a doubling of the pension credit amount.

In addition, families are benefiting from other new targeted measures like the first-time home buyers tax credit, the expanded home buyers plan and the public transit tax credit. Due to our strong record of tax relief, total savings for a typical Canadian family is over $3,000 since this government took office.

Bill C-13 includes several new measures that are designed to support families by leaving more money in their pockets. One of those measures is the family caregiver tax credit.

The family caregiver tax credit is a 15% non-refundable tax credit on an amount of $2,000 for caregivers of loved ones with infirmities, including for the first time spouses, common law partners and minor children. This proposal has received wide support from those who know the challenges faced by families that care for a loved one with a serious illness.

The Canadian Caregiver Coalition said:

—(CCC) applauds the Federal Budget....The announcement of a Family Caregiver Tax Credit demonstrates the federal government's commitment to families and the caregiving responsibilities that they assume....We are pleased to see the federal government recognizing and furthering the support for family caregivers by mitigating their financial burden through this program.

The Canadian Cancer Society said:

A new family caregiver tax credit announced in [Budget 2011]...is a good start in providing more support for all family caregivers.

We welcome the tax credit and other measures in the budget as a step in the right direction.

To further assist caregivers, the bill would remove the $10,000 limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers could claim on behalf of a financially dependent relative. Surely we can all agree in the House that families that care for a loved one are deserving of this tax relief.

In addition to supporting caregivers, we are supporting communities. As part of our economic action plan we partnered with communities and provinces to build the infrastructure needed to ensure long-term economic growth and prosperity.

In Bill C-13 we are legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for our municipalities. On this matter, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities said that budget 2011 “delivered a vital commitment to cities and communities to develop a new, long-term federal infrastructure plan”.

In the next phase of our economic action plan, we will continue our efforts to support our local communities, not just through infrastructure investments but through a number of other initiatives as well.

To help address the issue of a shortage of doctors and nurses working in rural and remote areas, Bill C-13 proposes that practising family physicians will be eligible for federal Canada student loan forgiveness of up to $8,000 per year to a maximum of $40,000. Nurse practitioners and nurses would be eligible for federal Canada student loan forgiveness of up to $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000.

I am pleased to report that these proposals have also received broad support. The Canadian Medical Association said:

The initiative to address the shortage of primary care physicians recognizes the particular challenges of providing health care in rural and remote areas of the country.

The Canadian Nurses Association added:

...Canada’s nurses are pleased to see nursing and medical student debt relief as well as tax relief for Canadians providing care for family members.

While Bill C-13 addresses the health of rural communities, it also contains important measures to keep our communities safe by recognizing the vital role volunteer firefighters play in serving our communities, often putting themselves at great risk for the safety of their neighbours. In fact, nearly 85,000 volunteer firefighters provide their services to protect the lives and property of Canadians living in urban and rural communities across Canada. In recognition of their brave service, Bill C-13 proposes a new 15% non-refundable volunteer firefighter tax credit on an amount of $3,000 for volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service to their communities during a year. This builds on our government's action to ensure first responders receive the proper training to respond to emergencies involving hazardous materials. Unfortunately, both the Liberals and the NDP voted against this $1 million initiative that was contained in budget 2007.

I hope that this time opposition members will join with our government to provide the critical support for our volunteer firefighters provided in this bill. The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs said:

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) strongly applauds the Conservative government's introduction of a $3,000 tax credit for volunteer firefighters in Budget 2011. This is a crucial measure to ensure the retention and recruitment of volunteer firefighters which will help keep Canadian communities safe.

Thanks to the policies of this government, Canada has avoided the worst of the global economic downturn. Although there remains a great deal of uncertainty in the global economy, the IMF is maintaining its positive outlook for Canada, thanks to our sound and stable economy along with the positive measures taken in the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. This is yet another example of Canada's global economic leadership, which includes nearly 600,000 net new jobs created since July 2009, the strongest job growth record in the G7; the World Economic Forum, for the fourth consecutive year, ranking Canada's banks as the soundest in the world; Forbes magazine ranking Canada as the best place in the world for businesses to grow and create jobs; the IMF and the OECD forecasting Canada's economy will be among the strongest in the G7 this year and next; and Fitch Ratings, Moody's and Standard & Poor's all giving Canada a triple-A credit rating.

Bill C-13 would provide support to Canadians who care for infirm family members. It would support our local communities by providing measures to bring doctors and nurses to rural communities. It would acknowledge the vital role volunteer firefighters play in keeping us safe. It also would support local infrastructure. These measures combined would build on Canada's economic leadership by ensuring more money stays in the pockets of hard-working Canadians and is spent on services that matter most to them.

We campaigned on the issues contained in Bill C-13 and we are keeping our campaign commitments. I am pleased to stand in this House and support this bill and I would encourage all hon. members to do the same.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, because of my background, I am very interested in Bill C-13 regarding the partial forgiveness of student loans for doctors and nurses.

I would like to make a comment to the hon. member opposite. I listened closely to his speech. This measure is not sufficient to help doctors and nurses in rural areas. The criteria—including those that may prevent specialists from practising in rural areas—exclude a large number of people who are filling the positions we greatly need filled across the country. This measure does not really solve the problem of the shortage of doctors and nurses. It does not include any initiatives to increase registration in medical schools and nursing programs. It does not solve the current shortage of front-line medical professionals. It simply serves to move health care professionals from urban to rural areas.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member would look at the budget, she would see that we have increased spending on health care by 6% per year since taking office, for a total of 36%.

The provinces will make their own decisions on how they allocate their teaching spaces.

However, this government has not taken the route that the former government did by slashing health and social transfers. We have continued to invest in those transfers to the provinces so that they can make their own decisions on how they will provide teaching spaces for people like doctors and nurses. We have broad support for this measure, which will encourage doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners to serve in underserved rural areas.

We think the opposition should support this legislation.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I believe the quote my colleague used was from Dan Demers, who said:

We welcome the tax credit and other measures in the budget as a step in the right direction.

However, the second part of it reads:

But looking forward, we need to continue to work collectively to ensure more is done so that all family caregivers in Canada get the financial support they need and deserve.

Unfortunately, with a non-refundable tax credit not everybody will benefit. Here is what the society said:

The Society also believes that a non-taxable, monthly Family Caregiver tax benefit should be established to help family caregivers with costs.

It also talked about more flexibility and a timeframe for financial benefits.

Obviously, the step in the right direction should be taken a little further according to the Canadian Cancer Society. I wonder when the next step will be taken. Perhaps the member could comment on that.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am a new member to the House but I was watching very carefully during the 13 years that the Liberal Party was in government. The Liberals did not deliver for Canadians. They did not deliver for volunteer firefighters. They did not deliver for family caregivers. They had 13 years to deliver. If only they had a little more time, they might have finally managed to bring in things that are supported in this budget.

That member should support the bill.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague on his impassioned speech with the emphasis on our volunteer firefighters.

In the past, regular force volunteer firefighters had not supported this tax credit initiative but this time they have. I am wondering if the member could explain why it is so important? How will volunteer firefighters benefit? Could he also explain the type of out-of-pocket expenses that our volunteer firefighters endure?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, this provision is well supported in Chilliwack--Fraser Canyon. There is a large rural component in my riding. The majority of the communities in my riding are served by volunteer firefighters. Not only do they give of their time and of their resources but they put their very lives on the line for our communities. This is the least we can do. They have been asking for this for years. Rick Casson, the former member for Lethbridge, was a strong supporter of this initiative. We have delivered where others have failed to do so.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-13, Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act, because this may be the last opportunity I have to talk about the 2011 budget. I would like to take this opportunity to speak more broadly about the differences between the Conservative government’s approach and the New Democrats’ approach to the economy, which is partially addressed by this bill and has also been addressed in other budget implementation bills.

The difference in approach involves macroeconomics. On the Conservative side, in general, they applaud tax cuts, particularly the ones that benefit corporations. We think this approach is ineffective from the standpoint of investment. The reason given by the Conservatives when they promise these tax cuts may be reflected in the mantra they constantly repeat: that the NDP wants to raise taxes by $10 billion. I think the people at home should know that this simply means going back to the 2009 corporate tax rate. It does amount to nearly $10 billion. But that money is not being stolen from anyone’s pocket and is not just going to sit there and do nothing. It is for investing in infrastructure. That is the big difference between our approach and the Conservatives’.

There is at least one situation where corporate tax cuts are legitimate, and that is when a private enterprise needs cash in order to invest. In that case, a tax cut will, in fact, enable the corporation to free up the cash that is needed so it can invest and thus create jobs. However, we have to be very aware of what the present situation is. In 2001, Canadian corporations were sitting on $157 billion in cash. That $157 billion was lying dormant in the banks, in bank accounts, and not being invested.

That $157 billion, already a sizeable amount in 2001, grew to $477 billion in 2011. Nearly $500 billion is currently unused, sitting in accounts, and not being invested. Corporations may have various reasons for not investing. They are understandable. However, a tax cut like the one the Conservative government wants to push ahead with—a tax cut that would lower the tax rate to 15%—hands cash to companies that very often do not need it, because the cash they already have is not even being invested.

So when they say cutting taxes on corporations is going to create the jobs we need today and it is part of a grand economic action plan, that is entirely incorrect.

In the present situation, where the country has a major infrastructure deficit, it is crucial, in a real economic action plan—and I am not claiming that what the government is currently doing is a real economic action plan—that we look at what the needs are. In this case, we have an infrastructure deficit that is often estimated at over $500 billion. This is a problem we have to start solving before we move on to completely general measures that often miss their mark, precisely because they are general. These measures have to be targeted.

In 2001, the federal corporate tax rate was 28%. That is going to be reduced to 15%. When we went from 28% to 15%, we should note, that cut did not generate any improvement or increase in real investment. That is additional evidence that tax cuts do not necessarily produce an increase in investment or in the number of jobs.

It is worrisome to see the direction the government is choosing to take with its big economic action measure, which is in fact an ideological measure to cut taxes at all costs, because it believes that this is going to magically create jobs, even if it is not invested. It is funny how the government often laughs at the observations and suggestions made by the official opposition, which places more emphasis on infrastructure investments.

I would also like to point out, and this is a crucial point in the debate we are having, that even the Department of Finance, in the 2009-2010 budget, acknowledged the repercussions of various measures and acknowledged that the corporate tax cut was the least effective measure for creating jobs and economic growth.

For every $1 in corporate tax cuts, about 30¢ in economic growth is generated. However, if we take that same dollar and, instead of giving corporations a tax cut, we decide to invest it directly in infrastructure, we create $1.50 in economic growth for each dollar invested. If we take that dollar and we decide to help low-income families or the unemployed directly—and again this is the Department of Finance saying this, we get $1.60 in economic growth for each dollar invested.

We are talking about measures that are five times more effective than corporate taxes. Nonetheless, the Conservative government is running off in a direction that has us simply giving away $2 billion or $3 billion or $4 billion in tax room to companies that very often do not need that money because they have no opportunities to invest it.

I always find it odd when the government blames the opposition, any opposition party, because it does not vote for some micro-measure, even though it may often be very good for certain people or groups in our society. For example, we often talk about volunteer firefighters. These are interesting initiatives that we could conceivably support. However, we do not vote on a budget on a piecemeal basis, but on the document as a whole. And if we look at the whole budget, at the measures and the direction being taken by the government, we find that we cannot support that direction. This is why we oppose the budget. We do not oppose it because we are against volunteer firefighters—quite the contrary—or caregivers, or research and development initiatives. One must realize that, in the Conservative budget, these measures only account for a very small portion of the money invested and that portion is much less than the tax room given to large corporations which, again, will often not invest that money because they have not found any investment opportunities.

I remind hon. members—and we are not the only ones to think so—that there is a corollary to this. I am referring to the other direction that the government is taking, namely, massive spending cuts at a time of economic uncertainty. The last thing we need right now are measures that will reduce demand. Yet, these spending cuts—which are not necessarily included to improve efficiency but to take aim at what are often artificial targets—will result in lower demand, to the point where stimulus measures will be even less effective, assuming that some were. Currently, BMO Nesbitt Burns, the Conference Board of Canada and even the Bank of Canada are opposed to government spending cuts because of the decrease in demand that will follow. We must support demand in difficult times and we are going through difficult times. Generally speaking, Canada is doing well compared to other G7 members, but it should also behave appropriately when faced with risky situations. We should really look at how we can maximize economic performance in our country.

We are talking about infrastructure and I have one or two local examples. I have talked to voters, to organizations and to the 39 municipalities in my riding. There are glaring infrastructure needs. We have to move in that direction. For example, in Rimouski—Neigette, there are needs in terms of recreation centres and municipal complexes, including the Saint-Narcisse recreation centre. And yet there will be no infrastructure money for them. I am trying to find some right now. I am trying to persuade the government to move in that direction, but that is not the direction it wants to move in. There are roads that need rebuilding, for example in Témiscouata and Pohénégamook, in particular, not to mention upgrading water systems. For the tourism projects that are of crucial importance, upgrading is needed. In particular, the Trois-Pistoles—Les Escoumins ferry is at risk of ending up in permanent dry dock as we speak because there is no infrastructure investment for a major tourism project in one of the poorest RCMs in Quebec.

There are infrastructure projects. It is generally agreed that we have a major infrastructure deficit in Canada and we need to invest in that area. While the government is boasting about investing so much in infrastructure over the last two or three or four years, what must be recognized is that there would not have been so much investment if there had been no crisis. If we will recall, the government thought it was losing its grip on Parliament in 2009 and unilaterally prorogued it. Ultimately, it followed the opposition parties’ direction. That is really the direction we have to move in.

We have to stop adopting ineffective measures like overall corporate tax cuts. We have to look at what the economic and industrial needs are and think about fixing the infrastructure deficit. The federal government is in a position to work with the provinces and municipalities to do this.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech. He alluded to the worthwhile measures in this bill, for example the one relating to volunteer firefighters, and how our Conservative friends are adept at using a few shiny apples to hide a load of rotten apples that nobody wants, like the unbelievable intention of eliminating funding for political parties.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher. We have been discussing a budget for several weeks now. A budget often contains dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of measures. There are some that are positive, on which we might agree, and others that we oppose. Among the others, there are the subsidies or the funding given to political parties that my colleague mentioned. This is a fundamental issue, because it directly affects the practice of Canadian democracy. We had very little time to debate this because it was one measure among the many in the budget.

Ideally, if the government wanted to be more effective and have the support of the opposition for this measure, it could present a budget piece by piece. That would provide a better idea of the philosophical differences or similarities between the parties.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I would like to quote some journalists who have clearly said that what the Conservative government is doing corresponds to what Quebec wants. The quote is in English.

The Calgary Herald editorial said:

The $2-per-vote subsidy...weighs heavily in terms of its political significance. The measure had a distorted benefit in Quebec for the Bloc Quebecois, that only had to campaign in one province. Phasing out the subsidy also forces political parties to do their own fundraising, while asking Canadians to back up their beliefs by putting their hard-earned dollars behind the parties they support.

If this measure is supported across Canada, particularly in Quebec, why are this member and his party opposed to what Canadians and Quebeckers want?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the comments that were made, I did not hear any reference from Quebec, but a reference from an Alberta newspaper about Quebec. That is quite different.

The question she asked has to do with a simple mathematical and budgetary question. But the issue is much more fundamental that that. I am sure that she remembers very well the political party financing measure that was adopted along with some fundamental changes, reforms to the way things operated. This was to provide assistance to the different parties and to allow the expression of a democratic vote.

It is true that this can distort things. The current system can distort things. The Conservative government has a majority with less than 40% of the votes . It would make sense to see some reforms to the parliamentary system. That is just part of it. This could also have the negative effect of preventing the expression of diverse voices, like the voice of our colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands, whose presence and party largely depend on these subsidies or financing.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech. In terms of government funding for political parties, we are talking about paying $1.75 for democracy, which is less than the cost of a coffee and a timbit at Tim Hortons. We could talk about the quote from the Alberta newspaper that was mentioned by the hon. member for Saint-Boniface, but even a country like France says not to do that. Canadians should continue contributing to parties through their taxes. They are trying to make us believe that people are paying for political parties they do not want. For each vote, a political party receives an amount that does not even equal the cost of a coffee and a doughnut. What is so wrong about that, for the sake of democracy?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. We need time for a response.

The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques has 30 seconds.