Madam Speaker, “we are all in this together”. That is a phrase that has been uttered a lot since the pandemic first struck the country and for a time, that was true. There was a real sense of solidarity in our communities. We felt it across the country; we felt it here in this place, such as that was.
In the very difficult days of the early pandemic, we were able to secure proposals to help people that went above and beyond the government's initial proposals, because there was a real spirit of collaboration and working together to get things done and get them done quickly. That is why it was not a $1,000 a month benefit as the government initially proposed, but a $2,000 a month benefit for people who had lost their employment. It is how we were able to negotiate a benefit for students who originally were not going to be captured by the government's plan.
We negotiated a one-time payment for people living with disabilities and for seniors, although what we would really like to see is the government take responsibility for ensuring that they have a guaranteed livable basic income at a rate that is above the poverty line, something that we have not yet seen.
We were able to get meaningful improvements through negotiations in this place and that is what it meant for a time to say that we are all in this together. That is not the approach that Bill C-2 represents. It is not the approach that it represents in its substance, but it is also not the approach that the government has taken in the way that it is managing Bill C-2 through the House, in the early stages of its development before it was tabled. There was no discussion with other parties as far as I know, certainly not with us prior to the announcement on October 21, and there has been very little since.
The motion that is before us right now is about dividing even more. From this moment of solidarity and over the course of the last 20 months or so, the government has slowly been edging back from that sense of solidarity, and with Bill C-2, actually just turning its back on the idea that the Prime Minister just ran on in a campaign in September saying that they would not leave anybody behind.
However, splitting the bill would make that problem worse because there are two components to the bill. One is a component that provides help to businesses directly and to workers in those businesses. The other is something that is supposed to be there for workers who are self-employed or workers whose businesses do not opt to apply for the wage subsidy for various reasons, or maybe whose businesses do not quite meet the qualifications, but who nevertheless find themselves not able to work. We know that there are businesses that have let people go during the pandemic, but nevertheless did not qualify for the wage subsidy. There are all sorts of ways in which workers will continue to need help directly. In fact, we know that in October, there were still 900,000 of them that were needing that direct support.
We are not going to get to the point where we are negotiating effective solutions if we are picking off industries or particular players and advancing the programs that are there for them and leaving the others out of the discussion, particularly the ones with the least amount of economic clout and leverage themselves, the individual workers. Individual workers in exposed industries like hospitality and tourism or arts and culture are not a big business with their own personal lobby that can come to Parliament Hill and meet with 338 different MPs, just about one for every day of the year. They do not have that kind of money and that is why they are not reflected in the government's proposals in Bill C-2.
If we are going to solve that problem, we need to keep the components of the legislation together so that we are not picking some winners and allowing others to be losers any more than is already the case. That is why we in the NDP feel very strongly it is important to keep the bill together, a bill that frankly, we do not support because we do not think it goes far enough.
However, if we are going to get back to a place where we can have some meaningful negotiation, a situation that we did obtain in the last Parliament, then it is important that we are negotiating for everybody. We cannot leave the most vulnerable and those most hard done by in the current economy behind while accelerating the help for industry players, who have also been very much hard hit. It is tough, and we do want to see that help go to that industry, but we do not want to see some being helped and not others, or say that we will speed one up, but leave another to languish.
We need to maintain that sense of us all being in it together, instead of being picked off one by one in a divide-and-conquer strategy to ultimately roll back pandemic support for Canadians. That is where we actually see a pretty close affinity of intent and interest between the Liberals and Conservatives right now, who are talking about the extent to which they are going to roll back those supports. The widespread agreement there is that the supports are going to get rolled back.
The supports rolled back pretty naturally under the conditions of the program. Regarding the CRB and the CERB, at one time there about nine million Canadians availing themselves of the CERB. On its own, without government kicking anyone off the program, by October this year there were just under 900,000. That is a reduction in the program of over 90%, and therefore, a reduction of over 90% in the spending. As people could find work, they were leaving the program.
How many times have we heard Conservatives talk about how they want to see program spending reduced? This is a program whose spending had been reduced by over 90% because we in the NDP actually believe that Canadians do want to work. We believe that, but we also recognize that in the pandemic economy, such as it is, that is hard to do.
We recognize that there are a lot of people who desperately want to work, but the jobs are not there for them. It is not because there are not jobs available, but it is because people lost work in a particular sector, with a particular set of skills and a particular education, and those are not necessarily the jobs that are available now. Therefore, there is some work for us to do here, in conjunction with employers and employees, to talk about what jobs are available, who is available to fill them and how we train the people who are available to work in the jobs that are available. However, that is not the discussion we are having here.
The discussion we are having here is how to go from a program that was still supporting 900,000 Canadians who needed financial support in difficult economic times to a program that, to date, does not even apply in one single place in the country and that will not provide financial support to one single worker in the way the CERB did just a month or two ago. That is a big difference, and that difference is what the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party have in common.
I think the Conservative finance critic sometimes thinks he is a champion for workers. He certainly said as much. The member gave an interesting history lesson about the Magna Carta. He even waxed poetic about how the green here represents the commoners who were there at the Magna Cart when they signed a lovely deal that meant that there would be no taxation without representation. Indeed, he talked about the peasants.
He needs to know, and this is his blind spot and the blind spot of both Conservatives and Liberals, that the people who signed the Magna Carta with King John were not the commoners. The people who signed the Magna Carta with King John were the aristocrats and the barons who ruled over the peasants. They took taxes and whatever they wanted from them without any representation for them. That is the problem.
The Conservatives have this kind of mystical understanding of the Magna Carta, that it was this great progressive moment. It was an important moment on the road to democracy. A little over 600 years later, universal male suffrage would come to the United Kingdom, and it would be another 50 or 60 years before women had access to suffrage on the same terms as men in the United Kingdom. Therefore, yes, it was a milestone that laid the groundwork for some progress centuries later.
I think the Conservative finance critic misses a few steps. It is not an innocent mistake, and it is not an inconsequential mistake. Those same barons who were there to sign the Magna Carta are not unlike the 1% today who, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported this week, own 25% of the wealth in Canada now.
That was not always the case. Around the turn of the century, it was more on the order of 11% or 12%. Now 1% of the population is sharing 25% of the wealth in Canada, and 40% of the population is sharing 1% of the wealth. That is the tale of the one per cents in Canada right now. We have 40% of people sharing 1% of the wealth and 1% of people sharing 25% of the wealth.
The way we got there has a lot to do with both Liberals and Conservatives. That is why the Conservative finance critic wants to focus so much on the Bank of Canada lately. He does not want to talk about all the capital that was hoarded over the last 20 years or so. That is now being used in the real estate market, and had been used in the real estate market to cause significant inflation in housing well before the pandemic struck. There is no question there has been massive housing inflation since the pandemic began, but that is not where it started. It has been going on for a long time.
It has been going on since the corporate tax rate was cut from 28% in the year 2000 to just 15% today. We have seen overwhelming increases in the amounts of dividends that are paid out. Who are some of the people who are gaining the biggest amount of money from dividend payments as a result of corporate tax cuts? They are that 1%. That is how we got to the point today where 1% of the people own 25% of the wealth.
In the year 2000, the capital gains inclusion rate was cut from 75% to 50%, and nine-tenths of the benefit of that tax cut over the last 20 years has gone to the top 1%. That is cash in hand for them, and they have been sitting on it until they had a moment to spend it in a way that would create more money, just as the Conservative finance critic likes to talk about.
However, they are not getting all of that in liquidity from the Bank of Canada. They are getting it from increasing returns as corporations pay less and less of a share of government revenue. In Canada 65 years ago, corporations paid 50% of government revenue. Today, they pay 20%. That means individual Canadians are picking up 80% of the tab when they used to have to only pick up 50%.
The Conservatives will say, and Liberals will join them in saying, that if we cut their taxes they will invest back in the economy and that will create jobs and wealth. That is true to a point, except the cash holdings of corporations and the wealthiest individuals have skyrocketed over the past 20 years while the corporate tax rate went from 28% to 15%.
In fact, investment in real assets and productivity has stayed constant at around 5.5% of GDP. Even the late Jim Flaherty, whom some might remember, sat on the Conservative side of the House and scolded corporate Canada at one point for the extent to which it was failing to reinvest money from corporate tax cuts back into the economy.
The amount of $25 billion is what the Parliamentary Budget Officer, hardly a partisan office, has estimated that Canadians are losing every year to tax havens legally. That is how we got to the point that 1% of the population in Canada now owns 25% of the wealth. That has about doubled over the last 20 years or so.
There is a story to tell about the Magna Carta. There is a story to tell about wealthy individuals with a lot of pull and influence being able to constrain the government in a way that benefits them while they squash the people under them and take the value of their work for themselves.
Unfortunately, this is not that old of a story. It is an old story in the sense that it has been going on, but it is not a history lesson. It is a contemporary economic lesson, and we need to figure out how we are going to change that. That is why I am proud to have run on the idea of a wealth tax for fortunes of over $20 million, which does not cover a lot of Canadians.
It is pretty hard to get outraged at this idea for people who have amassed more and more of the economic pie. Their proportion of the pie has grown far more quickly than the pie itself, which means more and more people are sharing less and less, and people wonder why we do not have money to fund public services. It is not that we just magically have less money; it is that the people at the top are paying far less than they used to. They are hoarding that wealth, or they are spending it on themselves or they are using it to make investments in the real estate market, which is driving up the cost for everybody else. That is the real problem.
Therefore, I am always glad to talk history and economics with the Conservative finance critic, but there are some facts missing from his version of events when he talks about the Magna Carta. The people who are forgotten in his story are the same people who are being forgotten in Bill C-2. They are the people who have been unable to get back to work and were depending on a government that said it would have their back. However, they found that within a month after the election, with two days' warning, the very same Prime Minister who said he would have their backs turned his back on them. This is what we are dealing with in Bill C-2. If we are going to get to a decent solution, we are going to do it by talking about everyone at the same time instead of hiving them off into sections, leaving some to languish and others to get the help they genuinely need.
Make no mistake, the New Democrats are in favour of people getting the help they need and getting it rapidly. It is why we have not had any secrets about what we think needs to happen and what the government needs to do as we pass Bill C-2. In fact, we will have some suggestions on how it can include these measures in Bill C-2; how it can stop the clawbacks of the GIS, the Canada child benefit and the Canada worker benefit; how it can implement a low-income CERB repayment amnesty so it is not chase after people, who are already losing their homes, for about $14,000 in debt. In some cases, these people are negotiating payment plans for $10 a month. How long it is going to take for the government to get its $14,000 back at $10 a month?
Meanwhile, some of the largest publicly traded companies, like Chartwell, TELUS and Bell, gave huge dividends to their shareholders during the pandemic and increased the amount of their annual payout by anywhere from 3% to 6%, yet the government has not asked them for a dime back. That is the story of the barons getting together to design a system that would serve them so well, the system we have inherited here, and that is part of the tradition of this place in more ways than one.
We have ideas about how to end the clawbacks. We have proposals for a low-income CERB repayment amnesty. We have proposals on how to ensure that people in the arts and cultural sector and the tourism and hospitality industry can access the only benefit that would be left, which is the Canada worker lockdown benefit, in terms of a regular payment to people who are unable to work. The Liberals have laid out the industries in part 1 of the bill. All they have to do is say that anyone who earns their income in an industry named in part 1 of the bill will have access to the Canada worker lockdown benefit, whether there is a lockdown order in their part of the country not. The government already recognizes that those industries are in distress regardless of whether there is a lockdown order in effect.
These are just some of the proposals that we will be putting on the table. If the government adopts them, it can see swift passage of the bill in this place, and that is what it will mean to leave no one behind.