Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 2 (Targeted Support for Households)

An Act respecting cost of living relief measures related to dental care and rental housing

Sponsor

Jean-Yves Duclos  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of Sept. 26, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-31.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 1Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brad Redekopp Conservative Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kenora.

It is an honour to rise to speak on behalf of the constituents of Saskatoon West, but before I speak to this legislation, I would like to let everyone in Atlantic Canada know that my thoughts and prayers are with them as they recover from this weekend's terrible storm. This is a very difficult time, with property destruction, injuries and deaths, and I know that the rest of the country stands with them and is ready to help with whatever they need.

Over the summer, I spoke with many constituents, and all of them had the same message: The cost of living is really starting to hurt. Seniors are struggling to get by on their fixed incomes, and all Canadians know about the high cost of groceries, at least those of us who actually buy our own groceries. I am talking about grocery prices that are up by almost 11%. They are rising at the fastest pace in 40 years.

Here we are in week two of our new parliamentary session. Is the government talking about reducing the sky-high cost of food? Is the government talking about stopping planned payroll tax hikes, such as the tax increases on January 1 that will reduce everybody's paycheques, or the coming carbon tax price increase on April Fool's Day, which is all part of the government's plan to triple the carbon tax? Is this what we are debating? No, we are here debating legislation that was born out of a cynical coalition deal between the NDP and the Liberals to keep this tired, worn-out government in power.

Yes, this legislation, Bill C-30, is nothing more than a scheme cooked up between the NDP and the Liberals through a tweet. In the summer, the NDP leader tweeted that the Liberals needed to do this or that to count on his unwavering support, and the government responded with Bill C-30 and Bill C-31. Close to $5 billion will be used and, to use the words of the Minister of Tourism last week, thrown into the lake to keep the NDP happy.

I do not believe that government should be throwing money into the lake just to cling to power. Governments exist to serve the people who elected them, so today I have good news for Canadians. Our party just elected a new leader who is well versed in economics. He is a man who actually understands how economic works. For years, the member for Carleton warned the government about reckless and out-of-control spending. What was his simple message? It was that excessive government spending would lead to out-of-control inflation. Well, guess what? Inflation is rampant and out of control. Our new leader predicted this, and he has a solid plan to get us out of this. In the meantime, we will continue to hold our Prime Minister to account and work hard to encourage the government to implement sensible policy.

Let us talk about this piece of legislation, Bill C-30, and the financial implications for our treasury, our economy and, most importantly, the everyday taxpayer. The government is telling us that this a limited, one-time doubling of the GST rebate that will provide $467 for the average family. When I look at this, on the one hand, who will argue if the government wants to hand them some cash? It is welcomed relief coming at a difficult time, but it is a short-term band-aid that does not get to the heart of the problem. If we do not fix the core problem, then more band-aids will be proposed, and indeed we are already seeing this. While the government says that this is a one-time payment, it is openly admitting that this is just the start of a larger government spending package. Bill C-31, for example, includes more inflation boost in cash injections, which is just the start of an even bigger spending program that the health minister cannot even quantify right now.

I think this would be a good opportunity to take a moment to provide the government with some information that it may not understand. You see, I, like many of my Conservative colleagues, studied economics. Like me, many of my Conservative colleagues have run businesses and created jobs prior to being elected to this great House. I used sound economic principles to build my successful business and run my own household with the help of my wife. Together, we understood some of the basic economic principles and used them successfully. Now, we are not particularly smarter than other Canadians. In fact, I would suggest that most Canadians understand these basic economic principles and use them every day to manage their own households.

What are some of these basic principles? First, there is only so much money. It is not infinite. There is not a magic money tree in the backyard where we can go when we need a little extra cash. No, we have to make some hard choices. We have a limited amount of money with unlimited ways to spend it, and so we have to sit down together, weigh the pros and cons of the various options available and make a choice. Sometimes that choice is hard, especially right now. Families have to choose between inflated food prices and paying the carbon tax on their heating bills. These are not easy choices, but people are creative. Families find ways to scrimp and save in one area to allow them to spend in another. That is the first principle: Money is finite.

The next principle is that borrowing money is like playing with fire. It needs to be done very carefully and in a controlled manner. Yes, sometimes we need to borrow money, when we are borrowing to purchase a house, for example, but loan payments can become a heavy financial burden, especially when interest rates start to rise.

That is why most families understand that borrowing should be temporary, and that is why, when loans get paid off, there is great celebration in a household and a wonderful feeling of freedom. That is the second principle: borrow with caution. How does this apply to the government? If the government applied these two simple principles, the results would be lower taxes and lower debt. Canadians could keep more money in their pockets and have the freedom to spend their money the way they choose.

There is a third, very important principle I also want to talk about. This one is a larger principle that governments really must understand and apply. The third principle is the law of supply and demand. The easiest way to understand this is through an example. If consumers have $10, and the store has 10 loaves of bread, then consumers will pay $1 for each loaf of bread. If the government suddenly gives consumers an extra $10, but the amount of bread does not increase, now people are going to pay $2 for each loaf of bread. That is inflation. The loaf of bread goes from costing $1 to $2, and that is exactly what is happening in our country right now.

The government has dramatically boosted the amount of money available to people with $500 billion in the last two years. This extra money has bid up the price of everything that we buy. This extra money has also been tacked onto our national debt, resulting in increased interest payments, an obligation that our children's children will have to deal with long after we are gone from this place. When the Prime Minister famously said he does not think about economic policy, this simple principle is what he was not thinking about, and because he was not thinking, we are in this mess today.

I will once again remind everyone that the Conservative leader does understand these principles and is committed to running government according to them. What would it look like if Conservatives were in charge right now? Let us say we had a Conservative prime minister and that we believed the government should provide some GST tax relief to Canadians, just as Bill C-30 proposes. How would we implement something like this?

First, we would understand that money is finite and that we cannot go to a magic money tree to implement this bill. We would task our government to find savings somewhere else to pay for this new program. We would recognize that a new dollar spent would require a dollar to be saved somewhere else, just like all Canadians do every day when they manage their own households. If the government behaved like this, it would not take long for inflation to back down and for taxes to be reduced. That is how Conservatives would govern.

I need to come back to the topic of high prices and the rampant inflation that we see every day. There is a grocery store a few blocks down 22nd Street from my constituency office. The folks who shop there know that I sometimes set up shop there on the weekends to shake hands, hand out reusable grocery bags and chat with my constituents in Saskatoon West.

I also shop there for groceries with my wife Cheryl. Cheryl and I have seen our grocery bill go up every month. It may be salad ingredients, such as lettuce and tomatoes. It might be meat and potatoes, or the side dishes and vegetables. Bread, milk, coffee, pop and chips, everything, has increased in price, and prepackaged portions are decreasing. I am not just talking about small increases. Look at the cost of meat today versus two years ago. It has nearly doubled in price. That is 100% inflation.

Chicken breasts used to go for five in a package for $10. Now we only get three for that same price. They have cut the portion size to hide the cost increase. I was just at Costco this weekend, and I bought a four-pack of bacon. It used to cost $20, but now it costs $30. That is 50% more.

Is this a result of Russia invading Ukraine, as the Liberals would have us believe? How much beef, chicken, lettuce, potato chips, rice, coffee and milk do we get from Ukraine? It is probably zero. The vast majority is farmed and harvested right here in Canada. It is the domestic policy of the federal government, such as printing cash for the past two years, that has put Canada in this inflation period. It is domestic policies, such as the Bank of Canada aiding and abetting the federal government by underwriting its massive debt load instead of sticking to its mandate to control inflation. It is domestic policies, such as the carbon tax and fertilizer reductions, that are hurting our farmers and causing food prices to soar. It is domestic policies, such as ramming massive spending legislation through the House of Commons to keep a marriage of convenience with the NDP alive.

As I wrap up, I want to focus on accountability. Who is accountable for the $5 billion the government is shovelling out the door to satisfy a Twitter outburst from the NDP leader? I know it will not be the Liberals and the NDP, as they ram the legislation through Parliament and pat themselves on the back like they like to do. Instead, it will be the people of Saskatoon West left holding the bag through more inflation, higher taxes and reduced benefits from the government. Rodney Dangerfield famously said he gets no respect. Unfortunately for Canadians, from the Liberal government, they get no respect either.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 1Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill C-30, the cost of living relief act, no. 1. As my colleague has already mentioned, inflation is a cause for concern for Canadians and their families. While inflation is definitely a global challenge, the impacts on Canadians are nonetheless real, which is why our government has been working directly to help Canadians have more money in their pockets.

Investments we have already made in the last two federal budgets and the new measures in today's legislation and in Bill C-31 will help Canadians who need it most. For example, the government's $12.1-billion affordability plan includes doubling the GST credit for six months, as proposed in Bill C-30. This would provide $2.5 billion in additional targeted support this year, to roughly 11 million individuals and families who already receive the tax credit. It will also enhance the Canada workers benefit at a cost of $1.7 billion in new support for workers this year to put up to an additional $2,400 in the pockets of low-income families. As well, there is a 10% increase to old age security for seniors over 75, which will provide up to $766 more for seniors. That will impact over three million seniors this year alone.

The affordability plan includes cutting child care fees by an average of 50% by the end of this year. Looking at the child care fees in my riding, for example, families are paying $1,800 a month per child, at least. When we think about it, a 50% reduction in fees means $900 back in the pockets of those families, not to mention that in some families, both parents do not go back to work. This, in essence, supports families in having two incomes. That is almost a mortgage payment for many families.

Dental care is another one that we have added to the affordability plan for Canadian families earning less than $90,000 a year, starting this year with hundreds of thousands of children under 12. That will obviously be extended to seniors and individuals with disabilities in years to come.

We also must remember that our affordability plan has indexed to inflation a number of benefits, including the Canada child benefit, the GST credit, the Canada pension plan, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. The federal minimum wage, which we increased to $15 an hour, is also indexed to inflation. Also, a $500 payment will go out to 1.8 million Canadian renters this year who are struggling with the cost of housing.

I want to talk a little bit about the housing challenges that we have experienced and some of the solutions. My colleagues have already eloquently touched on some of the aforementioned points, including the doubling of the GST credit for six months that is proposed in Bill C-30. I would like to focus my remaining time on the housing measures proposed in Bill C-31, introduced by the Minister of Health earlier this week, which is a critical component alongside Bill C-30 in making life more affordable for Canadians.

Our government believes that everyone should have a safe and affordable place to call home. However, that goal, one that was taken as a given for many previous generations, is increasingly out of reach for far too many Canadians. Young people cannot imagine being able to afford the house they grew up in. Rents in our major cities continue to climb, pushing people further and further away from where they work. All of this has an impact on our economy as well.

This is why Bill C-31 proposes a one-time top-up to the Canada housing benefit program that would consist of a tax-free payment of $500 to provide direct support to low-income renters. This payment would provide direct help to those most exposed to inflation and those who are experiencing housing affordability challenges. With the support of this House, the payment would be launched by the end of the year. Specifically, the benefit would be available to renters with adjusted net incomes below $35,000 for families, or $20,000 for individuals.

The Canada Revenue Agency would deliver the money through an attestation-based application process. In order to determine eligibility, the CRA would proceed with an up-front verification of the applicant's income, age and residency for tax purposes. Applicants would need to have filed their 2021 tax return and provide information and attest that they are paying at least 30% of their adjusted net income on rent, are paying rent for their own primary residence in Canada, which would include the address of the rental property, the amount of rent paid in 2022, and the landlord's contact information, as well as consent to the CRA to verify their information to confirm eligibility.

It is estimated that 1.8 million low-income renters, including students, who are struggling with the cost of housing would be eligible for this new support. In total, the proposed funding will be $1.2 billion, of which $475 million were committed in budget 2022. This is a one-time top-up and would not reduce other federal income-tested benefits, such as the Canada workers benefit, the Canada child benefit, the GST credit and the guaranteed income supplement.

That is not to say this is our only measure that impacts people who are having affordability challenges with housing. The one-time top-up is part of a broader set of initiatives introduced in budget 2022, indeed probably the largest chapter in the federal budget, that will provide more than $9 billion to help make housing more affordable, including by alleviating the supply shortages that are one of the main causes of the high price of housing. These are measures that will put Canada on the path to double our housing construction over the next decade, including with a new multi-billion dollar housing accelerator fund.

Our government has a comprehensive plan to make housing more affordable by both funding and incentivizing new builds and by helping people get into the housing market.

We are, for the first time, directly tying federal funding for infrastructure in transit to a requirement for municipalities to approve the building of more homes. All of this is in addition to further investments in affordable housing, the building of new social housing units and an additional investment of half a billion dollars to help end homelessness.

While no government can solve the challenges of affordability overnight, we remain hard at work to address the cost of living and set Canadians up for greater success. We are also doing so by laying the foundation for longer-term economic growth.

What today's legislation means is that most of our most vulnerable in Canada will receive more financial support now and, when combined with other measures in our affordability plan, will continue to receive new support in the weeks and months to come.

For the Canadians who need it most, this will make their lives more affordable exactly at the right time. This is why I strongly encourage all members of the House to support Bill C-30.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 1Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kody Blois Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Whitby. Tonight is the first time since June that I have formally risen in the House. I would like to begin by greeting my colleagues. I hope that they had a great vacation and summer in their ridings with their families and constituents.

We are here tonight to debate Bill C‑30 which, along with Bill C‑31, represents a suite of federal measures to make life more affordable for vulnerable Canadians.

I think it is very important to put things in context. Over the last couple of years, we have seen the effects of supply chains that have been rocked by the pandemic. There have been weather events. Of course, there is the war in Ukraine, caused by Russia's invasion. There are also demographic changes. The economy, in Canada and in other countries, is very robust. Unemployment is very low, and that creates inflation in Canada and around the world.

I quite appreciated my colleague from the Bloc Québécois who talked about this being a supply-side economic issue. That is what I was trying to mention, while working on my French. Hopefully it came through in the translation. The fact is that some of what we are seeing right now is being driven by factors outside of Canada that relate to the products, goods and services that we, as global citizens, want to make sure we have as Canadian consumers. It comes down to two issues when we are talking about economics and affordability. The Bank of Canada has a role with respect to monetary policy and setting interest rates and trying to keep inflation to around 2%, and the Government of Canada has a role and obligation that pairs with that, albeit independent of the Bank of Canada, which is around fiscal policy.

It was mentioned today in the House, I do not think it needs to be repeated, that it is important that all parliamentarians respect the independence of the Bank of Canada and its expertise in setting monetary policy. Our job here of course is to perhaps understand the implications of those decisions, but to really focus on the government's fiscal decision-making as it relates to and couples with monetary policy. We have seen the Bank of Canada acting. It has increased its benchmark rate, which is having an impact on Canadians. It is quelling some of that demand. In fact, we are looking at forecasts right now with respect to trying to avoid a recessionary period, not only in Canada but indeed around the world.

I had the opportunity to review the decision by the Federal Reserve in the United States, which has significantly increased its interest rate. There will be a conversation that will have to be had by the Bank of Canada as to whether or not it will match that rate, such that we are not impacted from a consumer side with respect to imports and the value of the American dollar going higher, or whether or not we will try to pair a bit lower, such that our exporters can benefit with respect to that economic side. It is complex. I do not pretend to stand here as a pure economic theorist, but those are the decisions that are being made right now.

That brings us to this conversation on affordability, because we know particularly vulnerable Canadians are struggling right now. During the pandemic, I will remind members, the government was there to help support the small businesses and individuals who were impacted the most. As we come out of COVID–19, as we move beyond the pandemic, it is also our responsibility to look at the situation and be able to rein in government spending.

I will go on record to say, and it has not really been talked about here in the House, particularly by His Majesty's loyal opposition, that the government is actually in a surplus situation. I think that is pertinent right now given the fact the government has had to spend. It would be unwise if the government had not stepped up and provided that economic support at that time of uncertainty to make sure our economy continued to function and move forward, and indeed to set the stage for where we are at right now.

Again, it is Keynesian economics at its core. Government spends during a down period when help is needed and then reins back spending when the economy is strong, as is happening right now.

How do we try to help support Canadians without impacting what the work of the Bank of Canada is doing right now, which is to try to bring down demand? I think it is what we doing right now with Bill C-30 and Bill C-31, which are targeted measures. These are not just spending measures to provide support to all Canadians, including some of those who are the most wealthy. This is targeted to those who really need help the most.

I want to give some context to what we are talking about today. Bill C-30 proposes to double the GST credit for the next six months for both individuals and families who are eligible. That is about 11 million Canadians. The benefits at an individual level would be for someone without children with a household income under $49,000. That is what we are talking about in terms of providing very targeted support to those who need it. For those who have families, the example would be under $58,000. For anything above and beyond that, these individuals would not necessarily be eligible for these supports.

It is extremely important because it is targeting those who need the help without impacting Canada's fiscal position. This is a $2.5-billion spending measure. That is not insignificant, but it is not going to disrupt the work that the government is doing to rein in spending, at the same time understanding that the Bank of Canada has a mandate to bring down inflation. Indeed, in some contexts of what we hear His Majesty's loyal opposition calling for, the government is doing it. Perhaps that is not the narrative they want to spin, but we are working to do just that.

I just want to take a moment to speak about Bill C-31. I understand it is a different piece of legislation, but they are interconnected. This is about providing affordability measures on housing with a $500 housing benefit for those who are vulnerable, and providing dental care. We have heard great impassioned debate and context about how important this is. The dental care is for children who are under 12 whose household income is under $90,000 and who do not already have private insurance coverage.

Right now, conversations continue on how best to deliver this. I have asked some questions in the House of my NDP colleagues. There is merit in working out program delivery with the provinces, who are closest on the ground, who are going to be able to be there to help implement this and who would have relationships with dentists. I understand that right now this is an interim stop-gap measure to help provide that support to families.

I, as a parliamentarian, may disagree with the NDP assertion that this should be a federally administered program. Perhaps it should be for indigenous communities, where the Government of Canada shares a very close constitutional relationship. I think that is clear. Perhaps it should be for military families if there is a way to roll that out through the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. Otherwise, this is best suited for the provincial level.

I recognize that my time is coming to a close this evening. What I way to say and what I want to reiterate is that I think these measures are reasonable, balanced and targeted to Canadians who need the support the most. We are in a situation where there is some level of economic uncertainty. Inflation is coming down. The Bank of Canada is doing its work. The government is responding in a responsible manner to not drive additional liquidity at a time when the Bank of Canada is reducing its interest rates accordingly.

I look forward to the conversation and the questions from my colleagues here tonight.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 1Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Victoria for her speech. However, I have a few concerns. First, when it comes to Bill C‑31, there is nothing about taking care of seniors' oral health. We are nowhere near that point.

In Quebec, children under the age of 10 are already covered by a plan. In fact, there is an election campaign under way in Quebec right now. Unions and community groups have shared their demands in the context of this election campaign that will determine the next government in the National Assembly. The elephant in the room for them is the lack of health transfers, which would allow Quebec and the provinces to implement and improve their dental care plans. We are not talking about national dental insurance, but about health transfers of up to 35%.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 1Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, we are speaking today on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. I represent the riding of Victoria, and the riding includes the homelands of the Lekwungen-speaking people, the Songhees and Esquimalt first nations, as well as part of the territory of the W’SANEC nations. It feels especially important to recognize first nations, Inuit and Métis nations, as September 30 is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. In my community, there will be a South Island powwow hosted by the Songhees Nation, as well as the annual Orange Shirt Day event.

I want to mention two incredible people in my riding who have poured their time and energy into this important work: Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray. Eddy is a residential school survivor and he has dedicated himself to this work. We all have a responsibility to support the work of indigenous people and to stand in solidarity with survivors and communities today and every day moving forward.

This afternoon, we are debating Bill C-30, a bill that would double the GST rebate. This morning, we debated Bill C-31, a bill that would deliver $500 in rental support to low-income Canadians and momentously support kids under 12 in accessing dental care as the first step in the creation of a national dental care program, the largest expansion of our health care in a generation.

I mention these two bills together because at a time when Canadians are struggling with the skyrocketing cost of living, they are two critical pieces that will help families, students, seniors and the people who need it most. These are Canadians who are scrambling to make rent who were already struggling to make ends meet. Some are going hungry because food has become the most relentlessly rising cost in household budgets. The usage of food banks has tripled in many places, which is why we have been pushing, in addition to the GST rebate, for a windfall profits tax on grocery stores and big box stores to put that money back into Canadians' pockets. People need help and they need it now.

When it comes to doubling the GST credit, we are talking about 11 million Canadians who would get some relief. However, that is not going to be enough on its own, and it should have come a lot sooner. In fact, over six months ago, our NDP team had been calling on the government to double the GST tax credit. We wanted a way to get help to people, and in a way that would not drive up inflation. We have relentlessly pushed for this, and now, finally, I am thrilled that we have successfully forced the Liberals to act to get help to 11 million Canadians who need it the most.

We also forced the Liberals to double the GST credit and are forcing the Liberals to deliver dental care and a rental housing benefit. The rental housing benefit would help 1.8 million low-income Canadians. This year's dental care benefit would be life-changing for many families, and it is only the first interim step in the development of a federal dental care program.

I hope we can take a moment to feel how big of a deal this is. Let us take a moment, because this will mean so much to families that right now cannot access the dental care they need. Families will no longer have to make the heartbreaking choice between paying for dental care for their kids and paying their rent or groceries. Parents have told me that being able to get dental care for their kids is going to be life-changing.

The most common surgery performed on preschool children in Canada is treatment of dental decay. Let that sink in for a moment. However, we are not stopping at kids under 12. We are going to get dental care for all Canadians who need it.

I have shared a lot of stories in the House from people I have met whose lives would be transformed by dental care, such as seniors who right now cannot chew their food, gig workers who miss days at work because of the excruciating pain and a person living with a disability who has been prescribed pain medication for her dental pain but cannot afford to get her teeth fixed. However, I want to share one more story, and I hope that my Conservative colleagues will listen closely.

I spoke to a teacher who, when she was starting out, got a part-time position as an educational assistant. At that time, she was working hard as a single mom with three young kids. She wanted to build her career, but as a part-time EA, she did not get benefits. She made the difficult choice to go on social assistance, to keep working and to have her entire monthly paycheque clawed back, because at least on social assistance she could access dental care for her kids.

If my Conservative colleagues claim to be fighting for single moms, dignity and respect, and if they claim to be fighting for small business owners, they should give them dental care. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech on dental care, noticeably avoided mentioning dental care even once. Is he afraid to because he knows Canadians want this?

He also said that politicians should have to follow the same rules as single mothers and small business owners. Well, I would ask him this: Does he believe that single mothers and small business owners should have the same benefits as politicians? I ask because as an MP, the Leader of the Opposition has been using publicly funded dental care for two decades, all while voting against giving dental care to single mothers and small business owners.

The Conservatives have been saying they want to turn hurt into hope. Well, people are hurting. They are dealing with—

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 1Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Ottawa Centre Ontario

Liberal

Yasir Naqvi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-30, which is an act to amend the Income Tax Act as it relates to the goods and services tax and harmonized sales tax credits. It is a bill that is very much focused on targeted tax relief for the most deserving in our communities. However, before I speak to the bill, I just want to quickly state that as this is the first time I am speaking in the House since the summer recess ended, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak. I hope all colleagues across the entire House had a good summer.

As we heard earlier during question period, the devastation caused by hurricane Fiona is top of mind for all of us. We have seen the kind of devastation that this particular storm has caused in Atlantic Canada and in eastern Quebec. Just like everyone, my thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted. There have been a couple of fatalities. We are thinking of the families that have been impacted.

I can assure the House, given my role as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Emergency Preparedness and in working with the minister, that the entire government, including the Prime Minister, was working hard, as soon as we knew this storm was coming our way, to make sure we were prepared. That involved working very closely with the provincial governments and local municipal governments so that all necessary steps were taken to prepare for this storm. Because of that, we are seeing all of the recovery efforts taking place at the moment.

Just this morning, very early, I was glad to join the Prime Minister and the member for Ottawa South in thanking some of the crews from Hydro Ottawa that were departing for Nova Scotia. We thanked them for what they were doing, as what Canadians always do is look after each other.

During the summer, like perhaps all members, I obviously spent a lot of time in my community. One of the things I always do is knock on doors during the summer months to talk to constituents of mine. I ask two very simple questions: “How can I help you?” and “What kinds of issues are of concern to you?”

It will not come as a surprise to any member, as I have been hearing this from members of all sides of the House, that the cost of living and the rate of inflation are big concerns for everyone. However, I also heard about the need for affordable child care. So many parents I spoke to asked me when $10-a-day child care was coming to their community, the one I represent right here in Ottawa Centre. They were very important conversations, and parents told me again and again that they could not wait for that program to be fully implemented. It is going to save them thousands of dollars, especially if they have more than one child.

This would be a tremendous savings, not to mention an opportunity for young children to socialize and take part in play-based learning. If we couple that with the full-day kindergarten that exists in Ontario for four- and five-year-olds, this is a really game-changing moment for children to thrive and for parents to be fully involved in the well-being of our economy by getting good jobs so they can grow in their professions. The savings are in the thousands of dollars for parents, and they are quite excited for the fact that this federal government, under our Prime Minister, has finally brought in a national child care and early learning system across the country.

However, that is only one measure that would help people with the cost of living. We need to make sure that inflation does not continue, although we are starting to see it abating and coming down. The inflation rate in Canada is perhaps one of the lowest compared with the rates of comparable G7 countries.

Regardless of that, we still need to take steps. We still need to take measures to find targeted reliefs for those who are the most marginalized in our society, the people who are on a low income, such as single mothers, who are working extremely hard every day, and I meet many people like that in my community of Ottawa Centre. We need to ensure that they have some targeted temporary relief, so they can live through this period.

That is why this particular legislation, Bill C-30, is so important. We know that this inflation is global in nature. There are many factors which have gone into and have caused this inflation. Canada is not immune to it.

Of course, the pandemic has had a big role to play. We have heard from other members that the unjustified, unwarranted war by Russia on Ukraine is another big reason that has caused this inflation.

We need, of course, to find a made-in-Canada solution to help people. That is why, as I said earlier, Bill C-30 and Bill C-31 are so important because they would provide those targeted reliefs for individuals.

In this case, under Bill C-30, we would double the GST tax credit for individuals and for families who have qualified for six months. That is real relief that would deliver about $2.5 billion in additional support to roughly 11 million Canadians. That is a very significant number of people who would benefit.

Just to give us an idea, if this legislation passes, and I hope all members will support this legislation, as I intend to do, from the period of July 2022 through June 2023, for the benefit year, eligible people would receive up to $467 for singles without children, $612 for married or common-law partners, $612 for single parents and $161 for each child under the age of 19. That would be quite a significant additional contribution to those individuals for them to work through this inflationary period. Of course, as we are starting to see from economic indicators, the inflation rate is starting to abate, and hopefully, that will continue to happen.

However, we are not stopping there. We would also be providing a one-time rent supplement of about $500, again to those who qualify for that kind of support, to ensure that they would be able to pay the extra costs they may be facing, and so they would not be at risk for homelessness. That is an important priority for our government, to ensure that people have access to affordable housing, and this particular support would be of significant benefit to them.

Lastly, a program initiative that is also much needed, which is very similar to our creating a national child care program, is what we are doing in creating a dental program for young people, to, again, make sure that young individuals, young Canadians, can have access to good dental care. It is essential to their health. By providing the support for those who are making, I believe, $90,000 or less, they would be able to get that dental care and be able to stay healthy.

This would only allow for them to live healthier lives, but it would also be yet more meaningful savings for individuals. We can really see a theme here of providing targeted supports that would really focus on people who need help and support the most. They also have huge benefits, whether it is getting good child care, improving one's health, or making sure that one does not become homeless.

This is going to help our economy. This is going to help all Canadians because our number one job as the government, and my focus as a member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre, is to help build an economy that works for all Canadians.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 2Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in this House and speak to Bill C-31, a piece of legislation that comes at a very critical time for a lot of Canadians. Many of my colleagues here in this place speak with people in our home communities and across our ridings about the challenges they face. When I speak to folks these days, so many of them tell me about the rising cost of living and the challenge it is placing on their family budgets.

Many of these people talk to me about it and express how it feels that this is happening to them, and they have very little agency. They did not cause the war in Ukraine. They did not break the international supply chains. They did not force huge corporations to act in a time of crisis to jack up their profits on the backs of ordinary Canadians. People are working hard and are falling further behind.

This crisis of inflation affects everybody, but it affects some more than others. It especially affects those on fixed and low incomes. Some folks have the ability to shift their spending, but when they are living on a limited income and when their paycheque is a fixed amount and the cost of everything is going up, they have very few options. Everyone in this place would agree that it is there that we should focus our policy attention as legislators. Those are the folks who need help the most right now.

Part of this bill is a very simple component. The top-up of the Canada housing benefit would get a one-time $500 payment to Canadians who qualify for that benefit. Specifically, they are families who earn a net income of less than $35,000 a year. That would help 1.8 million Canadians with the cost of living, and it would make a real difference. It is something that the government should have brought in months and months ago, but the time to act is now. We need to ensure that this legislation gets through so that people can benefit from this payment.

The second part of this legislation is also related to the cost of living. It would help Canadians with their costs, but it is different. The other part of this legislation, the Canada dental benefit, is a down payment on something that is going to have a profound and long-lasting benefit for millions of Canadians. It is going to be transformational and to make a difference for generations to come.

Many would agree that universal health care is our country's crowning achievement. This is possibly our greatest policy achievement. It is something that is based on a simple but profound premise, which is that in a world in which so many of the aspects of quality of life correlate with one's financial status, health should be different. Everyone, no matter their income, should have access and the dignity of access to basic health care, yet, ever since the Canada Health Act was first passed into law in the 1960s, it has been a project incomplete. It has been a vision unfulfilled, because we all know that there are aspects of our health that were not included in the legislation that created universal health care. As New Democrats we have always held as part of the vision, right back to the days of Tommy Douglas, that things like our eyes, mental health and dental care are integral to our concept of health and to our health outcomes, and that they must be included in our vision of universal health care for all.

Nobody here in this place can argue that dental care is not a part of health care. We all know people who suffer from extreme health issues as a result of dental pain and dental issues that go untreated. Dental care is expensive; everyone knows this as well. Thirty-five per cent of Canadians lack proper dental insurance, and that number jumps to 50% when we are talking about low-income Canadians. Seven million Canadians avoid going to the dentist because of the cost. It is shameful. It is something that has to change, and the bill in front of us is the first step in heading down that road. Canada's most vulnerable face the highest rates of dental decay and disease and the worst access to dental care. This is something we have to change. We are going to change that. This bill is the start.

The legislation in front of us begins with the children of low- and modest-income families, and that is no mistake. We all know that if we can catch these dental care issues at a young age, we can prevent much more serious issues down the road. This is about prevention, and it is about helping young children address serious health issues before they become even more serious.

In 1964, the Royal Commission on Health Services recommended precisely this. It stated that the government should, as quickly as possible, implement a dental program for children, yet here we are over half a century later, finally tackling this critical aspect of health care.

Shamefully, tooth decay remains the most common, yet preventable, chronic childhood illness in Canada. The most common reason for kids undergoing day surgery and missing school is dental decay. The most common surgery performed at most pediatric hospitals across Canada is related to dental issues. Left unchecked, these issues affect people's health in profound ways, as I mentioned, but they are preventable and we are finally on the path to making things better.

We are not going to stop at dental care for kids. I sent a mail-out to my constituents asking for their feedback on this proposed dental care program. The vast majority of the responses I received were from seniors. It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear some of the messages they sent me.

One woman wrote in and said, “My husband is working at 67 years old to keep his coverage going. It would be great to have support so he could retire.” Someone else said, “We skip dental care because we can't afford it, and dread the day we might need serious attention.” Another senior wrote me and said, “Last year, one tooth cost me $5,000. That is 10 months of my CPP.”

This is something we can address. What we have in front of us with the Canada dental benefit is indeed a down payment on a permanent national dental care plan. It is not only going to help kids under 12. It is going to help seniors. It is going to help youth under 18. It is going to help people with disabilities. It is going to help millions of Canadians who are struggling with dental health issues.

New Democrats have pushed hard for dental care for a long time. Of course, it was always a part of our vision for universal health care. Just a year ago, our brilliant colleague, Jack Harris, stood in this House and put forward a motion urging the government to implement a national dental care plan. It was a sad thing that both Conservatives and Liberals voted down that motion, yet here we are a year later, taking the first steps toward a national dental care plan that is going to help millions of people. We got there for one reason: We did not give up, because we hold on to that vision of universal health care.

It is no coincidence that the last time we achieved a transformational public health policy for Canadians with the Canada Health Act, it was New Democrats coming off the experience in Saskatchewan with universal health care under the leadership of Tommy Douglas, who pushed a Liberal government in a minority Parliament to do the right thing and create a change that has benefited so many people over the years. Here we find ourselves again in a position where this idea of making lives better for people by providing this care that so many people need is at a point at which we can finally move forward, and we are not going to stop until it becomes a reality. Creating a national dental care plan is about dignity, it is about health care and it is about bloody time.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 2Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, to begin, I would like to acknowledge the presence of the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, who reminds us that bullying has no place in politics.

With respect to Bill C-31, I would like to know whether my colleague from Richmond Hill is comfortable with the fact that the poorest parents are the ones who will suffer the most from this bill. In order to receive the increased Canada child benefit, they will have to deal with the Canada Revenue Agency's administrative hassle, not once but twice: first to qualify, and then to provide justification after the the fact.

I would like to know whether my colleague is comfortable with these regressive conditions in Bill C-31.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 2Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Today, as I rise to speak to Bill C-31, an act respecting cost of living relief measures related to dental care and rental housing, I feel proud. I am delighted. More important, as indicated in the name of the act itself, I feel relief, relief from the fact this legislation lays out the groundwork, complements programs and through its two main elements, serves to address some of the most prominent affordability concerns in Canada, more specifically in my riding of Richmond Hill.

It is a known fact that, following the COVID–19 pandemic and all the global and domestic challenges that have arisen since, Canadians have been deeply impacted by the rising cost of living. Addressing such large-scale issues cannot happen overnight, but rather through a multi-step, gradual process, which is exactly what is offered in Bill C-31.

Allow me to provide a brief overview of the bill by breaking it down into its two main components: dental care and housing. These are two domains that affect not only the financial, but also the physical well-being of each and every Canadian. Our government's focus on enhancing each of them is widely apparent through the bill.

To give a quick summary, Bill C-31 would make life more affordable for families across the country by providing dental care for Canadians in need with a family income of less than $90,000 annually, starting with children under 12 years old in 2022.

It would also provide immediate relief for individuals and families struggling with housing affordability through a one time $500 supplement to the Canada housing benefit.

Canadians are entitled to good oral health, regardless of their financial situation. It is estimated that about one-third of Canadians do not have any form of dental coverage and that one in five have avoided dental care because of its overwhelming cost. This is a dark reality for many low-income families. Canadians should not sacrifice their well-being and face long-term health issues because of their inability to afford seeing a dental professional. This is why we continue to work tirelessly across provinces and territories to ensure that accessible dental care is delivered to those who need it the most.

While our government continues to develop a durable and inclusive national dental care program, which will provide $650 a year to eligible parents for the next two years, it will also ensure timely dental appointments and checkups for children.

As a member of the health committee, I had the pleasure of hearing remarks from the president of the Canadian Dental Association, Dr. Lynn Tomkins, during my study on the topic of children's health. Dr. Tomkins testified that tooth decay remained one of the most common and preventable childhood chronic diseases in Canada.

Beyond the risk of pain and tooth loss, the effects of the absence of dental care for children can be devastating. Missing school, improper eating and lack of sleep are among the factors that arise from the lack of dental treatment for children. In the words of Dr. Tomkins, “nothing is more heart wrenching than having to treat a young child with severe dental decay.” The experience can cause lasting dental anxiety and fear.

This is why the Canadian Dental Association welcomed our government's once-in-a-generation federal investment in dental care.

The Canadian Dental Association expressed its appreciation of the phased approach being taken by government toward this issue. This gradual approach will allow time for consultation and collaboration with all relevant stakeholders on a long-term solution to improving access to dental services.

Bill C-31 also puts another key objective forward, which is ensuring every Canadian has a safe and affordable place to call home. We all know that the affordability crisis is top of mind for Canadians.

As such, during the summer, I had the opportunity to catch up with many community members and leaders through events such as our community council breakfast meeting where my constituents shared their concerns about their daily struggle to make ends meet.

For many renters, the high cost of living has resulted in an increasing challenge to find housing they can afford, which is why this legislation has arrived at the perfect time.

When passed, this will put hundreds of dollars back into the pockets of millions struggling with increased rent costs through a one-time $500-top-up to the Canada housing benefit. This top-up would be in addition to the Canada housing benefit, which already provides an average of $2,500 to thousands of working individuals and families from coast to coast to coast. I want to emphasize that this payment is part of a larger comprehensive plan to assist Canadian families nationwide.

Our housing strategies and programs have been successful in many ways. As a singular example, the launch of the affordable housing initiative back in 2016 aspired to create 4,000 units of housing. Instead, it has yielded 19,000. Following the legacy of this initiative, our plan will put Canada on the path to double housing construction over the next decade.

These are only two highlights of the consistent initiatives our government has taken to achieve affordable and sustainable housing for more Canadians. At this time, we are on the right track to accomplishing just that, through the passing of C-31.

Allow me to demonstrate just how important this legislation is to the people of my riding and, most important, to the key community leaders and service providers that strive to provide life-saving support for people experiencing homelessness year after year in Richmond Hill and across York Region.

Blue Door, as the largest emergency housing operator in York Region, strives to provide emergency housing support services to children, youth, men, women and families at risk of homelessness. Blue Door's housing emergency program has lifted over 500 individuals out of poverty by helping them navigate through COVID-19; provided over 19,000 nights of safety for homeless individuals; and served over 64,000 meals for the vulnerable population across York Region.

I continue to hear about the tremendously positive impact Blue Door makes in Richmond Hill through programs such as the mosaic interfaith out of the cold program.

Every year, from November to June, homeless adults and youth in Richmond Hill are provided with essential support at the Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church, which is one of Blue Door's emergency housing sites.

Speaking of community leaders and heroes, the 360° Kids organization in Richmond Hill is yet another key community service provider, which provides kids in crisis with care. Day in, day out, Clovis Grant and his dedicated team at 360° Kids help youth make positive changes in their lives by overcoming barriers and moving from crisis to a place of safety and security.

I can confidently affirm that passing this important legislation will have a direct and positive impact on the lives of people, as the 360° Kids and Blue Door service users.

I urge members to support community leaders across all ridings like Michael Braithwaite, Clovis Grant and their dedicated teams from Richmond Hill, who provide housing services to our most vulnerable, by passing the legislation so we can provide a safety net for those who need it the most.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 2Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I like to think of Bill C-31 as progressive legislation that will ultimately meet the very high demand out there. Providing support for children under the age of 12 to get dental care, I think, will bring about profound and positive change for many children who ultimately end up in surgery situations or having to go into hospital because of not getting dental work, as an example.

For clarity purposes only, I wonder if the member could just give a clear indication about this. The previous speaker implied that they would be voting in favour. Am I to understand that the Bloc members are going to be voting against the amendment and then in favour of the bill itself?

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 2Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I will start by saying I gave myself a little challenge, and this is my first time giving a real speech with only a few notes. This is also my first speech of the session. I hope that we can all be productive here. We hear a lot about listening, but I want to focus on active listening. In other words, members who are here in the chamber must truly be present. Let us listen to one another, take notes and make sure that we understand things before debating. Otherwise, what is the point of being here today?

I am obviously going to be talking about Bill C‑31, and in particular part 2, but first, I want to say that my thoughts are with those on the Magdalen Islands and the north shore. We stand with them. I visited the Maritimes this summer and this has made me emotional. I urge everyone watching us now to be very generous.

I now want to talk about part 2 of the bill, which has to do with housing.

I have mostly focused on the details of the bill, but I would like to say that before becoming an MP in 2019, I had already been working in the social development field in my community for many years as the director of a community development corporation.

A community development corporation is a form of association that brings together all the organizations that work for the community. Collectively, we sounded the alarm over ten years ago. In fact, we sounded that alarm just when the funds and the agreements that had been in place before no longer existed. There is a reason why Quebec decided to roll up its sleeves and help Quebeckers.

When I arrived in the House in 2019, my first speech dealt specifically with my concerns regarding what I had observed on the ground. Across Canada, including in Quebec, we have seen an increase in the number of people who are homeless or living in vulnerable situations.

Yes, some programs have helped people cope with our northern winters, but that does not change the fact that the growing number of vulnerable people is a problem.

My colleagues from other ridings and I have talked about how often people turn to us. People want to know what is going to happen a month from now, because they have two children and they have looked everywhere but are struggling to find a place to live.

One person who comes to mind is Mélanie, who was wondering what she was supposed to do. The only place where she could live was 40 kilometres from her work, but gas cost more than she would ever have thought possible.

What can we do?

I think we need to take another look at what the government did not do. How could it have done more than provide this rental housing top-up, which is just a band-aid solution?

A break on the rent provides a little relief, but it is a drop in the bucket considering everything else people have to deal with when things move fast and it is hard to cope.

Yes, that $500 will help people. My colleague mentioned earlier that it adds up to $42 a month. I own rental housing, so I am acquainted with this subject. Supply and demand have completely changed the availability of housing, especially affordable housing. We all know rent has gone up a lot.

This measure may help, but, as I said earlier, there is something else we have to keep in mind. When people find a place that meets their basic needs but is not near where they need to go, they have to spend more of their household income on transportation. That is a problem.

I am concerned about the impact of that and about availability.

I think all members are well aware of the situation, especially in Quebec. People reach out to our offices, and we often give them the tools they need to get the money they are entitled to, even though they do not always realize it exists. There is work to be done in that regard. It is our job to let people know that we can help them. There is no denying that this bill is going to pass. Of course, we cannot be against doing the right thing, but we have to think about what happens next.

Earlier, my colleague mentioned the need to take the bull by the horns. Some will want to talk about the labour shortage and will wonder how we can get this done. We have to start somewhere. Student co-operatives are being set up, and landlords in different municipalities are eager to contribute, so I think now is the right time. Funding must be accessible and available. We cannot wait two years for a Canada-Quebec agreement, since we are wondering if it is even necessary, given that we already have measures for our citizens.

Yes, it is necessary and it is even urgent. I was looking at the numbers for access to housing. Our performance as a G7 country is especially embarrassing. This is not the first time I have had the opportunity to talk with people abroad. When we look at the picture of who we are, I am quite often embarrassed. I tell them that we are going to address the problem because we know the situation is tough. According to the Association des professionnels de la construction et de l'habitation du Québec, there is a shortfall of between 40,000 and 60,000 housing units in Quebec. Those figures are from 2016. It is unbelievable.

My colleague next to me represents the riding of Mirabel. That town has seen one of the largest population increases. We are welcoming, but where are we going to house everyone?

Are the situations we are experiencing as homeowners normal? Three years ago, I received a phone call from an individual who told me he wanted to add his name to a waiting list because he really wanted to rent my apartment. He liked the location because it was near his work and his children's school. I had to ask him what he was talking about. He told me that my renter was leaving the following month. I learned that people wanted to add their names to a waiting list before my renter even notified me that he was leaving. I was not given three month's notice. In light of all this, I hope that action will be taken on things people have been calling for in the House, for which plenty of arguments have been made and that have repercussions on our constituents.

I would even say to members that these are the people who voted for us and we must not forget about them. I am sad when I return to my riding and have to talk about what we did during the week and what action we will be taking. I feel that this place has not acknowledged that the housing crisis is a real crisis because, had we done so, we would have taken action. During the pandemic, we demonstrated that we really can act quickly and effectively during a true crisis. That is why I am asking members to make decisions and do something for our people who are currently at risk of becoming homeless. That is all I have to say for today.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 2Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle.

We are hearing all sorts of things today, but let us get back to the basics of Bill C‑31. This essentially provides financial support to the parents of children under 12. It is not a dental care plan. I will illustrate that later.

It also creates a rental housing benefit. The Bloc Québécois is not against the principles of the bill in general. However, there are important problems that will need to be carefully examined. I hope that in committee, the parties will be open to the idea of supporting an increase in payments for health care.

The first problem I see is that, as I mention all the time, health falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. They are the ones that have the expertise. As recently as July, they reiterated their request that the federal government increase health transfers to cover 35% of spending, which amounts to $6 billion for Quebec. That is a lot of money every year. When I hear about small, one-time, stopgap measures for housing, for example, and I hear politicians delivering somewhat rehearsed speeches about what they are getting done, to me, it is but a drop in the bucket. Let us get serious and increase health transfers.

My colleagues have become accustomed to my saying this, but I want to quote the Canadian Dental Association: “The single best way to quickly improve oral health and increase access to dental care is to invest in, and enhance, existing provincial and territorial dental programs.” It is talking about investing in provincial and territorial programs. “These programs are significantly underfunded and are almost exclusively financed by provincial and territorial governments.” The association points out that it is “important to ensure that any new initiatives do not disrupt access to dental care for the large majority of Canadians who already have dental coverage”. That is coming from the experts and not just the Bloc.

I had the privilege of replacing my colleague from Mirabel at committee last week. We heard from Ms. Tomkins and discussed this point. The committee heard from many people, including Mr. Ungar, a researcher attending as an individual, who explained the importance of keeping decision-making in the regions, close to the people with needs because the needs are not the same in Nunavut, Ontario or Quebec. That is why there are local governments that are in the best position to make these decisions. The greater the distance between the decision-making and the need, the less appropriate decisions will be.

On the second point, there is no evidence in Bill C‑31 that this money will go to dental care. It pains me to have to point that out in the House. However, I am somewhat surprised that I am one of only a few people talking about it this morning. A parent will be able to submit a dental bill for $100 and automatically receive a cheque for $650, with no further follow-up. That is not necessarily what we want. Imagine the amount of paperwork this could create. Plus, it allows another level of government to dabble in an area that Quebec is already responsible for.

It is so tiring to come to Parliament and see how far Canada lags behind Quebec in social matters and to see that we are always paying for others.

In 1974, Quebec insured children under the age of 10. It is not perfect, and we would never claim that it is, but it started in 1974. I think Canada is behind.

In 1979, we also gave support to people on social assistance. Now, the great, all-knowing Canada is going to swoop in and add another program on top of that, using our taxes, but distributing money elsewhere, not just in Quebec. Quebec has already figured out what it is doing with its half of the budget.

Once Quebeckers comprehend how much we manage to do with half a budget, they will realize we should be using our whole budget and claiming political independence to get rid of useless duplication. There is a reason the Bloc Québécois wants independence, and it is not because it is cute.

I have already moved on to the third item. I got a little carried away again, but it is important to tell it like it is.

This bill is more about politics and optics than anything of substance. The Liberal government is stubbornly rejecting the opposition's ideas. It has no respect for the opposition; all it cares about is a majority. How did it get that majority?

First, it called an election in the middle of a pandemic, which was a bust. That did not work; we wound up with the same government. It activated Plan B and got into bed with the NDP, making promises to that party it never intended to keep. I am sad for the New Democrats. This benefit is for children. It is not dental insurance.

Members of the House are supposed to be able to read. People read documents properly. I would like people to open their eyes to what is going on.

Earlier this summer, Liberal ministers realized that there was absolutely no way they could set up a universal dental insurance plan across Canada by year's end. That was the NDP's fabricated ultimatum, so there were supposedly threats issued that I do not believe meant a thing because I will be very surprised the day the NDP votes against the government in this Parliament.

The NDP led the government to believe that their agreement was hanging in the balance. So the government is proposing a phoney monetary benefit. It is pretending to give money for dental care. In the meantime, young people and seniors will not necessarily get more care.

Ironically, the day the bill was introduced, there was a media release by different groups that were on the Hill, including unions, people who represent the less fortunate and seniors groups. They told us that even though they all agree with the government offering dental care to children, the people who are having the most difficulty affording dental care are seniors. There is still nothing for seniors.

I would like the people from the NDP to explain that to me. Maybe I will get some answers in the questions they ask, but I would love to chat a bit.

What are they doing about increasing old age pensions for seniors to help them afford groceries and pay their rent? What is being done about that? Is that seriously being traded for a single $500 payment for housing? During an election campaign or in front of the cameras they will make fine speeches about how they took action, when these are totally ineffective half-measures.

Let us look at what the federal government is actually doing. The federal government's approach suggests that it alone has the corner on the truth. It is imposing conditions and has decided to take over health care, despite the 1867 Constitution that it signed behind our backs. It is all-knowing.

If the government is indeed all-knowing, why can it not manage its EI program properly? Why did the EI temporary measures expire yesterday? Why has the minister done nothing over the past year, despite her mandate letter to improve this program and adequately protect our workers? No, the government would rather continue to steal from people. At present, EI pays just four out of 10 workers. If that is not stealing, I do not know what is.

Let us talk about passports. What a mess. That falls under federal jurisdiction. The government needs to take action and do something. In early July, my office was dealing with about 15 passport cases a day. I have three employees in my office, four, including the person working in Ottawa. Just with immigration delays and border problems, I think the government has a lot on its plate.

Yesterday I watched Tout le monde en parle. They had people on to tell their stories. Incidentally, I have a lot of respect these people. I think they showed incredible strength. Honestly, in their situation, I do not think I would have been able to speak so calmly about my child having been killed. That is what we are talking about. Faced with this, the Liberal government has introduced a bill that will reduce the number of legal guns while doing absolutely nothing about the illegal ones.

Start by doing what you are supposed to do. We, in Quebec, will take care of the rest. Give us our money.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 2Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I think what we have with respect to this bill is one of the greatest advances in social and health policy the country has seen. Therefore, I applaud colleagues in the NDP for helping to raise this issue. I know Liberal colleagues on this side of the House have been advocating for something like Bill C-31 for a long time. In the first place we see kids supported. We are going to see that expanded. When oral care is put front and centre, a person's overall health is certainly ensured. I look forward to hearing more from the member in the coming weeks on these issues.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 2Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to know whether the parliamentary secretary, who seems to fancy himself as having some sort of monopoly on empathy for children, realizes that Bill C‑31 does not provide dental care. In fact, it denies children in Quebec the increase in the Canada child benefit and makes families have to wait for the Canada Revenue Agency, wait for officials, and wait for forms to be entitled to a simple increase in the Canada child benefit. That is what the bill does.

If children's health is truly important to him, he would be in favour of increasing health transfers to the provinces and Quebec so that the existing Quebec dental insurance plan can be improved.

Cost of Living Relief Act, No. 2Government Orders

September 26th, 2022 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

London North Centre Ontario

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

As this is the first occasion I have had to speak in the House now that we are back after the parliamentary recess, it is an honour to be back with colleagues. It is great to see people again and I look forward to the work ahead.

I am speaking on the Canada dental benefit today, but I would be remiss if I did not first mention hurricane Fiona. A lot of constituents back home in London will have family members and friends in areas impacted. All members of Parliament are thinking of those impacted, but for members of Parliament from the Atlantic provinces, including our Minister of National Revenue, who represents, among other places, the Îles de la Madeleine, this is a tragedy that has unfolded and our hearts go out to all impacted.

We have in front of us a truly historic bill, a historic bill that has been called for from people across the country for a long time. The proposed Canada dental benefit is the result of a great deal of work that has been carried out, not just in this House but across the country by activists focusing on social policy, going back decades. It represents the culmination of that work, and it is the first stage of it.

It would apply, in this first instance, to children under 12. In order to understand the importance of it, let me take a step back and put things into a broader context. I do so by referencing a philosopher my Conservative colleagues are very fond of quoting. Usually they quote him entirely out of context, but it is important to put on the record the thoughts of Adam Smith and apply it to this particular social policy. It is something that is not often done, but it puts things into good perspective.

Adam Smith said, “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” What he meant by that is that, when a society experiences and sees poverty in ways that limit its members from fulfilling their true potential as human beings, then that society cannot be said to be thriving, successful or prosperous.

That is a timeless insight and universal in its validity, whether it is Canadian democracy we are talking about or beyond. I use it as a way of understanding the importance of this policy innovation, the Canada dental benefit, because over 30% of Canadians do not have dental insurance. In fact, in 2018, over 20% said they did not see their dentist because the visit would be too expensive.

We are talking about kids here, who are perhaps the most vulnerable in our population. These are kids under 12 whose parents could not afford to take them to the dentist. Canada remains one of the most prosperous countries in the world, but when one has an outcome like that, it is tragic, it is unacceptable and it requires a government response. I am glad to see the government is moving in this direction.

As a result of Bill C-31, 500,000 children would be supported. Kids under 12 would be helped via a tax-free benefit. To get technical, and just so we are on the record with that, it would see support go in three different categories. Children under 12 with family incomes of less than $70,000 would see $650 per year per child. Children in families with incomes ranging from $70,000 and $79,000 could receive $390 per year per child, and in families where incomes range from $80,000 to $89,000, a child could receive $260 per year.

The Canada Revenue Agency would administer the benefit and it would be available online via My Account, or on the phone if that is the option available for individuals. There would be an attestation process individuals would need to go through. For example, they would need to attest they are not already receiving private dental insurance and that the benefit would be used for dental expenses. They would also need to keep receipts.

There are also other steps they would need to ensure. They would need to have filed their taxes in 2021. When applying, they would need to confirm they are the parent in fact receiving the Canada child benefit for their child, and they would need to set up direct deposit.

The fact that it is administered by CRA is a very good thing because throughout the pandemic we saw the CRA and its public servants step up and support Canadians in need, including Canadian individuals, families and business. CRA, after all, was the agency tasked with the responsibility of overseeing and administering the various emergency response programs. Those programs proved absolutely vital.

Sometimes we hear criticism, particularly from our Conservative friends. They cast aspersions on the programs that were made available. They voted for them, but now, all of a sudden, they are having second thoughts. It is important for Canadians, and all of us in this House, to think about what would have happened to the country if it were not for programs like the Canada emergency response benefit. If it were not for the Canada emergency wage subsidy or the rental subsidy, what would have happened to businesses?

Those programs among others, of which there were several, kept the country going during the worst economic crisis that we have seen since the Great Depression. That is a fact. I hear my Conservative friends at length these days go after these particular programs. In fact, I worked with the new leader on the finance committee and I remember that, at the time when we were tasked with the responsibility of looking at the emergency response programs and understanding how they would work, he called these “big, fat government programs”. He went on record at a famous press conference to say that the Conservatives were not in favour of such programs. The Conservatives did vote in favour because there was enormous public pressure to go in that direction. However, now, taking on a sort of populist hue, although I am not sure what is going on, the Conservatives continue to speak out against those particular programs.

In any case, the benefit itself is reflective of a view of government that says that government has a responsibility to help individuals in need. Again, 500,000 kids would benefit as a result of what is happening here. I heard my colleague opposite in the Conservative Party just a few moments ago go on at length about how he is opposed to Bill C-31.

Let us look at it another way. What about all those kids who are currently not getting support who would get support? What would they prefer? Would they prefer that we ignore that child who has a genuine health care need? That is not just insensitive. It is cruel because it is proper to view dental care as health care. We have a responsibility from so many different perspectives to look at these issues in a compassionate way. That child in need is our collective responsibility.

In Parliament, we are looking after our constituents. That is what we are sent here to do. In my own community, there are kids whose parents cannot afford to take them to the dentist. I gave the number earlier that about 20% of Canadians, at least in 2018, said they could not afford to go to the dentist and that would include taking their kids to see the dentist. That is not acceptable and that is why this bill is absolutely suited to the time.

The other thing I need to put on the record is that we have a view in this bill that takes very seriously that individual rights matter, certainly, but that individual rights unfettered have no place in a modern democratic society that aims for prosperity. The aim absolutely is to put individual rights front and centre. Individuals, including kids, have the right to health care and when they do not our society is diminished. As Adam Smith rightly said, if we have poverty in society that limits people from ultimately fulfilling their true potential, then that society is absolutely not what it can be. The society does not have the ability to live up to its potential and that applies to its citizens as well. Therefore, when kids cannot get dental care, we are all brought down as a result.

I appreciate the opportunity, Madam Speaker. I will stop there and I look forward to questions.