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Liberal MP for Wascana (Saskatchewan)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 40.80% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 1st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, that is exactly correct. The most graphic demonstration of that was the bicycle shop owner here in Ottawa whose shop was used a year ago as a prop for a Conservative photo opportunity. The Minister of Finance had something to say about small business, and he used this bicycle shop owner's store as the backdrop for his announcement. That was about a year ago.
This year, that same bicycle shop owner has discovered that he is a victim of these tariff changes in Bill C-60. In fact, the bicycles he sells to his customers will all be going up by 4.5%. Therefore, there is an added cost to him, which he will pass along to his customers, and those customers will have to pay that extra cost, or they might just drive across the border and do their bicycle shopping in the United States. Either way, small business and Canada are the net losers.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 1st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the positive measures the hon. gentlemen referred to in the opening of his question, such as the accelerated capital cost allowance and so forth, as I said at the opening of my speech, some things in Bill C-60 are positive. I specifically mentioned the capital cost allowance and two or three other things he referred to just now.
The problem is that amid all those things that might be considered positive are interwoven all the negative things the government is trying to bootleg in through this omnibus bill. If those positive measures the gentleman referred to were stand-alone items on which there could be clear votes, yes or no, indeed, the Liberal Party would support a great many of them. However, they are not stand-alone measures. They are mixed in with $2 billion worth of new Conservative tax increases on the Canadian middle class, and we will not vote for those tax increases that will burden Canadians and set back the Canadian economy.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 1st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I did make reference to the credit union issue during my remarks, and it is explicitly referred to in the amendment that is now before the House. Obviously, we think the tax changes with respect to credit unions are regressive. We think they are a mistake.
Credit unions have long performed an absolutely fundamental service in the financial services sector of our country. Probably the extension of credit unions is most successful in his province and mine. Quebec and Saskatchewan have a long heritage with respect to credit unions and the co-operative movement generally. We oppose the tax changes in Bill C-60 with respect to credit unions.
As for labour sponsored venture capital funds, there has long been a consensus in the House that those funds need review and revisiting. The government indicated that it was going to do something with respect to venture capital in the budget speech itself. Until we see exactly what it is proposing, how it is structured and how it is worded, I am not sure we could actually pass an opinion on the detail of what the government seeks to accomplish. There needs to be some reform, but I am not sure I am comfortable having the reform in the hands of this particular government.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 1st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, today we are dealing with Bill C-60, the first Conservative omnibus bill following its 2013 budget. It is a bit less abusive than Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 from last year, but it is still an omnibus measure, lumping together various unrelated matters. By my count, at least 18 different government portfolios are implicated.
At the end of the day, the government will force a single vote on all of that all at once. That renders the vote so meaningless, because it cuts across so many unrelated disciplines. Again, democracy is compromised in the process.
There are some items for sure in Bill C-60 which people could generally support: better allowances for veterans, for example; dealing with the adoption tax credit; more incentives for charitable giving; the extension of capital cost allowance; and additions to the gas tax transfer.
However, these positive things are intermingled, unfortunately, with many very negative measures, especially large tax increases that will hit and hurt middle-class Canadians in particular, and we cannot and we will not support those negative measures.
Budget 2013 is crafted to feed several false illusions. The first of those is the mythical notion that the Conservatives are the competent economic managers that they claim to be, but let us look at the facts.
When they took office in 2006, they inherited from their Liberal predecessors 10 straight years of balanced budgets, an annual surplus that was running at the rate of $13 billion every year, lower debt, lower taxes, low and stable interest rates, a sound and solid Canada pension plan, steadily dropping employment insurance premiums, annual economic growth rates of 3% or better, the best banking system in the world, the best ever transfer payments to provinces and territories, progressive investments in child care, skills and learning, science and innovation, environmental integrity, infrastructure, trade and three and a half million net new jobs. That is what the Conservatives inherited. That is what was handed to them as a starting point in 2006.
Just as an interesting historical sidebar, before the Conservatives inherited 10 years of Liberal balanced budgets and robust surpluses, the last time a Conservative government actually balanced a budget for Canada was 101 years ago in 1912. The prime minister at the time was Robert Borden, originally a school teacher, as a matter of historical fact. He, too, inherited his surplus from a Liberal predecessor, namely Sir Wilfrid Laurier, but sadly, he managed to maintain it for only one year before dropping into deficit.
The current Conservative government has behaved in a similar manner through excessive spending and reckless budgeting. Between 2006 and 2008, they put Canada back into the red again before, not because of, the recession, which hit in the latter part of 2008, and they have not balanced the books every since.
In budget 2013, the Conservatives claim they will eliminate the deficit hocus-pocus by 2015. Is that not convenient? Just on the eve of the next federal election they are projecting a balanced budget. A close look at their financial plans provides ample reason to be just a little bit suspicious. Here are some of the fiscal tricks.
First, they use rosy growth estimates. To puff up government revenues, the Conservatives have based their fiscal planning on optimistic projections about economic growth. They ignore the reality that in years just passed, their numbers have never ever been correct. Time and time again, their initial forecast has had to be downgraded, as both the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of Canada have just done once again in this last month.
Second, they use deficient reserves. To create the illusion of more financial flexibility and strength than they really have, the Conservatives have lowballed the reserves that should be in place to serve as fiscal shock absorbers for Canadians against unpleasant future economic surprises. The amounts set aside should grow in the outer years because the risk is larger in the outer years, but the Conservative government has foolishly flatlined its reserves going forward, meaning it is not protecting adequately against future risk.
Third, they use exaggerated lapses. When a government department does not use all the budget in any given year that is given to it, the excess money naturally lapses back to the central treasury. The Conservatives in their budget are counting on very large lapses over the next several years. In fact, that is worked right into their arithmetic. In other words, they are planning to make big announcements of big new spending plans but never actually investing the money.
Fourth, they use excessive optimism about catching those tax cheats. While cracking down on those who do not pay their rightful taxes is an absolute necessity, the Conservatives claim of a balanced budget depends heavily on quickly collecting billions in unpaid taxes, and that seems highly improbable at a time when they are chopping the resources needed in the revenue department to go after those tax cheaters.
Fifth, they use big program cuts. For big programs like infrastructure, the government claims to be increasing its investment, but any hypothetical increase would actually occur only years down the road, beyond the mandate of this Parliament, sometime in the latter part of this decade, conveniently well after 2015. It is a trick that is called multi-year bundling and back-end loading. When the government has nothing to announce, it rolls a bunch of years together and pretends it is going to spend money five or ten years down the road while it actually cuts in the short term. That is happening here. In reality, the build Canada infrastructure budget has been cut by $1.5 billion this year, $1.5 billion next year and $1 billion in the year after that. Any hypothetical increase is only well after 2015.
Sixth, they are claiming before proving. Using all of the tricks that I have just mentioned to concoct the false notion of a balanced budget by 2015, the Conservatives will claim that they have met their fiscal objective just before they call an election and, importantly, before proof to the contrary can become available. In the normal financial cycle, the audit report on the government's books for 2015 will not get published until much later, that is well into 2016, long after any election has come and gone. So much for the Conservative illusion of fiscal and economic competence.
Their second illusion is that they really care about jobs and job training and they boast about their proposed new jobs grant. The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development mentions it in the House almost every day, but again it is fiction. It is spin. It is make-believe. It does not exist.
What exists are labour market agreements, and they have existed since the late 1990s. They are job training agreements between the Government of Canada and all the provinces. The latest versions of these labour market agreements were negotiated about five years ago, and they are worth now about $2.5 billion all together. Federal money is regularly transferred every year by the Government of Canada to the provinces. The provinces use those funds to tailor job training and labour market programs and services that suit their local circumstances. The provinces are in charge of the design. That is what exists now.
The Conservative government wanted to appear to be doing something about skills and jobs in the 2013 budget. People without jobs and jobs without people is one of Canada's biggest economic problems at the present time. The government wanted to look as if it were aware of that and doing something about it.
However, the government was not prepared to invest any new money to try and make an actual difference in terms of job training. What it did do was create an illusion of action and the fiction it was doing something about jobs and training. What it is basically proposing to do is claw back the $2.5 billion per year labour market money that it now sends to the provinces and renegotiate it with provincial governments. That is all. It amounts to recycling existing money. There is nothing more. There is nothing new. There is no additional federal investment.
The provinces will need to contribute more and so will the private sector. That may actually serve to reduce the extent of job training in some sectors and some provinces, because some of those other partners, the provinces or the private sector, may not be able to match the federal dollars. Even the provincial treasurer in Alberta has made the comment that he does not know whether Alberta would want to participate in that kind of initiative.
The bottom line here is that there is no new money and no additional federal investment in training. It is an illusion to try to create the impression that something new is happening when it is not. That is tragic, especially for young Canadians looking for some hope and opportunity.
Here are the numbers. More than 212,000 fewer young Canadians are working today than just before the recession began in 2008. The youth unemployment rate is a very stubborn 14.2%. That is nearly twice the rate for other Canadians. The actual number is 404,000 jobless young people. Worse still, another 171,000 have simply given up and dropped out of the labour market altogether. The government and the budget do nothing but shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is simply not good enough.
Another fiction, the third one, is the government's bogus claim that is does not increase taxes. That assertion is completely false, and that is one of the key reasons we cannot support Bill C-60. It increases taxes, especially the tax burden of middle-class Canadians and all those who are working so hard to join the middle class. It happens in dozens of nefarious ways. New hidden Conservative taxes on safety deposit boxes total $40 million a year. On certain medical services, it is $2 million a year. New Conservative taxes on credit unions amount to $75 million a year. It goes on.
However, there are three hidden Conservative tax hikes that hit especially hard at the middle class. They are taxes on small business dividends, taxes on payrolls and taxes on imported consumer goods.
First, the Conservative small business tax, a new tax burden on small businesses, will absorb $550 million every year, taking it from small businesses and hurting the middle class.
The second new Conservative tax is the EI payroll tax, which will suck up $600 million every year in higher EI premiums, again hurting the middle class. By contrast, facing a job challenge in the 1990s, a Liberal government did not increase EI payroll taxes. We in fact cut them. We cut them 12 consecutive times and we cut them by 40%. Employers and employees saved billions of dollars and 3.5 million net new jobs were generated. The Conservative government's record is the opposite of that.
Finally, the third tax increase that we object to is the new Conservative increase of tariff taxes, taxes on imports, which will take about $333 million every year from middle-class Canadians.
The cost of vacuum cleaners will go up by 5%. Bicycles will go up by 4.5%. Baby carriages will go up by 3%. Plastic school supplies will go up by 3.5%. Scissors will go up by 11%. Ovens, cooking stoves and ranges will go up by 3%. For coffee makers, the cost will increase by 4%. On wigs, especially cosmetic wigs for cancer patients, the cost will go up by a whopping 15.5%. The cost of USB drives will go up by 6%. On blankets, the cost will go up by 5%. On toothbrushes, the cost will go up by 2%. On pillows, the cost will go up by 6%. On alarm clocks, the cost will go up by 6%. There are dozens and dozens of imported products.
The government's excuse for this is that it only wants to provide these higher tariffs in order to give a benefit to a lower-income country overseas. However, the reality is, when we put on these tariff increases, the country overseas does not levy the tax and does not pay the tax. The tax is levied in Canada and it is paid by Canadians. The burden is on average middle-income Canadian families. This is a self-inflicted cost burden in Canada, which is why we cannot support it.
When all of these measures I mentioned are fully implemented, as well as some other taxes that are buried in this legislation, the burden will add up to more than $2 billion per year in new Conservative taxes that are being levied on Canadians. The largest portion of that burden will fall squarely on the backs of middle-class families.
For substantive reasons of public policy today, we will not vote for these measures. Also, because the government is trying to hide these new taxes and deny them, we cannot sanction such deceit. Liberals oppose Bill C-60.
Therefore, I move, seconded by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures (Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1), because it:
A) raises taxes on middle class Canadians in order to pay for the Conservatives' wasteful spending;
B) fails to reverse the government's decision to raise tariffs on items such as baby carriages, bicycles, household water heaters, space heaters, school supplies, ovens, coffee makers, wigs for cancer patients, and blankets;
C) raises taxes on small business owners by $2.3 billion over the next 5 years, directly hurting 750,000 Canadians and risking Canadian jobs;
D) raises taxes on credit unions by $75 million per year, which is an attack on rural Canadians and Canada's rural economy;
E) adds GST/HST to certain healthcare services, including medical work that victims of crime need to establish their case in court;
F) fails to provide a youth employment strategy to help struggling young Canadians find work; and
G) ignores the pressing requirements of aboriginal peoples.
Taxation May 1st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, hidden new Conservative taxes on small businesses, $550 million every year, hurting the middle class; hidden new Conservative payroll taxes, $600 million every year, hurting the middle class; hidden new Conservative tariff taxes on everything from school supplies to the kitchen sink, $333 million every year, hurting the middle class.
Why is the government nailing middle-class Canadians with more than $1.5 billion in hidden new Conservative taxes every single year?
Agriculture and Agri-Food April 24th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, if people are disposing of any business, they will get more for it if they sell it in good shape as a going concern, rather than dumping the assets in a fire sale.
Well-respected western organizations are trying to avoid a hasty fire sale of the federal tree farm at Indian Head, Saskatchewan. They want it to service prairie agriculture for a long time into the future.
They ask only that the government ensure the tree farm's full operation through 2013, protecting its integrity and value so it can be properly transferred as a viable business in 2014.
Will the minister agree?
Taxation April 19th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it is a naked money grab, and it is incoherent. Hockey pads might cost less, maybe, but the most vital hockey equipment, hockey helmets, will cost more, and so will half of a jockstrap. The Conservatives cannot blame the Chinese or India. They did not impose the tax, nor will they pay the tax. This is self-inflicted Conservative stupidity, and will they--
Taxation April 19th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, tariffs are taxes. The Conservatives are ripping off middle-class families with tariff tax increases of $333 million every year. It is a naked money grab, and it is--
Taxation April 19th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, Conservative policy on tariff taxes is incoherent and deceitful. They boastfully leaked information, pre-budget, to divert attention from sporting equipment and baby clothes, but then they increased—repeat, increased—tariff taxes on baby carriages, hockey helmets, school supplies and wigs for cancer patients.
Why should cancer patients be punished with a new 15% Conservative tax? Why are middle-class Canadians—not foreigners, Canadians—being hit with tariff tax increases of more than $300 million every year?
Points of Order April 18th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, this discussion is getting out of hand.
The member for Cape Breton—Canso made it very clear in his first intervention to you, Mr. Speaker, that he searched his records and found no indication of the existence of any such document. The government House leader is now more than trying to make a joke of it; he is trying to leave a very false impression of what the member for Cape Breton—Canso in fact said.
In fairness, the record has to be clear. The member searched his records. He found no evidence of any such document, and the latest gratuitous remark by the government House leader is complete horse feathers and ought to be withdrawn.