That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize that heating a home during Canadian winters is not a luxury, but a necessity as basic as food and shelter; (b) recognize that basic groceries, used residential housing, and residential rental accommodation, are already zero-rated or exempt from GST under the Excise Tax Act; (c) recognize that low-income Canadians are disproportionately affected by energy costs with 21% of Canadian households spending more than 10% of their income on energy; (d) take the necessary steps to remove the GST from home energy bills; and (e) repeal the Carbon tax.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Edmonton West.
Today, I am honoured to move my Motion No. 230 on the GST on residential energy costs. This motion is part of our commitment to make life more affordable for Canadians.
I will take it step by step. First, when we become financially self-sufficient in life, we quickly learn to differentiate between what we need, the essentials, and what we want, the luxuries. If we ask the average person what they need, they will say food and housing. It is simple, without food we die and and without housing we freeze. While we have made progress in the past 350 years in terms of the energy efficiency of our homes and the sources of energy we use to heat them, there is no getting around the fact that the climate we live in obliges us to heat our homes in winter.
The housing authority in Quebec recommends that the inside temperature of a home in winter be at least 21°C. That temperature was determined because seniors and young children are especially vulnerable to health problems at temperatures below 21°C.
In Ontario, labour standards allow workers to leave their place of employment without reprisal if the employer is unable to ensure a temperature above 18°C.
We can have the warmest wool sweater and the most air-tight windows, and we can wear all the layers we want, but the fact remains that we have to heat our homes in winter.
What role will the federal government play in all this? Canada is a compassionate country. Our social security system ensures that the most vulnerable have protections. Canadians accept that taxes are a necessary evil and that everyone must pay their fair share. However, in some cases, we expect the government not to go after the most vulnerable or those having a tough time.
That is why we have a basic personal exemption for people earning less than $12,000 a year that makes them tax exempt. We realize that, with this amount, they really have very little discretionary money left to meet their basic needs, such as rent and groceries.
This brings me to the following point.
With respect to the GST, the Government of Canada collects a consumption tax on goods and services across Canada. It once stood at 7%, and I am proud to belong to the Conservative Party, which reduced it to 6% and then to 5%.
However, the Excise Tax Act, which authorizes the government to collect the GST, generally draws a distinction between necessities and luxuries. The parliamentarians who crafted that bill previously established that basic groceries would be zero-rated because they are a necessity, whereas restaurant meals would be subject to GST because they are considered to be a luxury or frill.
That means GST is not charged on meat, pasta, fruits and vegetables bought at the grocery store. However, it would apply to a steak, risotto or Caesar salad served in a restaurant.
With regard to housing, the purchase of used residential housing is exempt from GST, as is the monthly rent for residential accommodation. The government rightfully recognizes that housing is a GST-exempt necessity, whereas a hotel stay, which is considered a luxury, would be subject to GST.
Unfortunately, the government is still charging GST on energy bills, whether the energy source is hydroelectricity, natural gas or wood, the primary purpose of which is to heat homes in winter.
I repeat, heating a home in the winter is not a luxury, it is a necessity. This last winter was so cold that the government generated record revenue from the GST on energy bills.
Hydro-Québec reported sales in excess of $4.6 billion this winter, which is $307 million more than last year. God knows this winter was particularly difficult.
Of course, the Government of Canada got its 5% cut thanks to the GST. Honestly, the government should be ashamed of profiting from people's misery in winter and not trying to do anything about that.
The tax is anything but progressive. It hits lower-income people harder because heating is a significant portion of their monthly budget. That brings me to the third part of my motion.
In a March 18, 2018, article, CBC News reported that 21% of Canadian households experience energy poverty. According to a study by Maryam Rezaei, a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia, that means 2.8 million households spend more than 10% of their income on energy. That is particularly true in Ontario, where electricity is very expensive.
Unfortunately, those same poor people will have to pay more because of the Liberals' carbon tax, and they will have to continue paying GST on hydro bills, which ran as high as $500, $600 or more during the two coldest months of winter. I know that for a fact because that was the case in my own house. It ended up being very expensive because of the winter we had.
In regions like mine, where incomes are sometimes well below the average in large Canadian cities, the energy poverty phenomenon is only getting worse. The government then has a choice to make: it can continue to tax the most vulnerable and take advantage of them to pay down the deficit that it created, or it can find a way to give customers a GST credit on their hydro and home heating costs. Right now, customers are suffering and struggling with bills that are increasing and will keep increasing because of the Liberal government's choices. This is the government's last chance to do something about that.
If the government does not take action, it will have to explain why to Canadians during the next election campaign, because we intend to make this a campaign issue. Our leader has already announced that the content of this motion will be part of our platform in the upcoming election. I have already talked to some people in my riding about it, and this is something they are already looking forward to.
The Leader of the Opposition made a promise in this regard in Mississauga on March 6. A Conservative government led by our leader will eliminate the GST on home heating and energy bills, which will save households nearly $107 a year.
I want to emphasize that this should not be a partisan issue. It should not matter if people are on the left or the right, because this issue brings us all together no matter which end of the spectrum we are on. In 2008, former Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer introduced Bill C-203, and the former NDP leader, Jack Layton, made a similar promise in 2010 leading up to the 2011 election campaign.
I sincerely hope the NDP will support this motion. The NDP might accuse us of stealing their ideas, but that only proves this is not a partisan issue. It is a fairness issue that Conservatives and New Democrats alike can agree on as a way to improve Canadians' quality of life. Our leader has often said that his philosophy is about putting people before the State. That is what we believe.
Unlike the NDP and other opposition parties, the Conservative Party is the only viable alternative to the current Liberal government.
Quebec's Union des consommateurs supports the proposal to remove the GST from home energy bills and even wants the Government of Quebec to do likewise with the QST. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation also called our plan a step in the right direction.
We are also calling on the government to eliminate its ill-conceived carbon tax, which will have no measurable effect on our greenhouse gas emissions but will raise costs for Canadian consumers from coast to coast.
The carbon tax will cause price increases for heating oil, natural gas and all goods produced, imported, manufactured or delivered in Canada. On top of that, the GST is charged on the retail price, which means that the government will have its hands in our pockets twice: once for the sales tax and a second time for the carbon tax. This is a tax on a tax. It is clear what will happen if we do not adopt this motion.
We have a realistic plan, and I thank the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who took the initiative in recent weeks to conduct a cost estimate of the removal of GST from residential energy use. He determined that this attainable objective would save Canadians an average of $117 a year and would cost the government around $1.3 billion or $1.5 billion. The figures in the studies are close. I said “would cost” because I do not agree with the presumption that this money belongs to the government, when in reality it belongs to taxpayers.
I was particularly disappointed yesterday when the Department of Finance spokesperson accused us of wanting to spend billions of dollars on a policy that would help only wealthy Canadians with the biggest homes. Talk about arrogant. This is absolutely unbelievable, especially coming from a government that is making families and small businesses cover 92% of the carbon tax and granting exemptions to major polluters, which will pay just 8% of this tax.
The government is currently running a deficit of $19 billion, and not because it is not taxing Canadians enough. Figures from the Government of Canada's annual financial report for fiscal year 2017-18 show that revenues actually increased by $20.1 billion last year, and they are projected to reach a record $339 billion in 2020-21.
The deficits are entirely due to the Liberals' overspending, period. They are quite simply bad with money, and if they are not willing to support this motion and find a way to stop collecting this $1.5 billion a year from Canadians who are just trying to keep their homes warm, and who already collectively paid the government an extra $20 billion last year, we would be ready to debate this issue thoroughly in the next Parliament, when a Conservative government will be sitting on the benches to your right, Mr. Speaker.
As we know, heating is not a luxury. It is a necessity. As elected officials, we are here to ensure that the government meets the needs of families, not the other way around.
Since this may be my last chance to speak in the House before the next election and the 43rd Parliament, which I hope will be led by a Conservative majority government, I would like to say a few words in tribute to my mother, Suzanne Boulanger-Généreux, who left us on March 26 for a journey to a destination known to her alone.
Having had the privilege of being raised by her, as well as the joy, pleasure and humility of being at her side with my brothers and sisters during her last days on earth, I can say that she stayed true to herself to the very end. She was smart, curious, loving, easygoing, staunchly open-minded, humble and welcoming. I could stand here all day listing her good qualities. She taught us the meaning of freedom, respect, altruism and the quest for work-life balance.
Mother, on behalf of your children, my sisters and brothers—Monique, Andrée, Marie, Luc, Pierre, Nicole, Hélène—and myself, your 19 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and three others on the way, Godspeed. You will be in our hearts forever. We will love you always.