Mr. Speaker, we are studying Bill C-8, the bill to implement last fall's economic update. There is not much to it. We more or less support the bill, but there is one thing we take issue with. I will explain what I mean in a few minutes.
I would like to remind my colleagues that part 1 amends the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations. Everyone supports the new refundable tax credit for ventilation expenses made to improve air quality. Obviously, we support expanding the travel component of the northern residents deduction. Expanding the school supplies tax credit from 15% to 25% and expanding the eligibility criteria to include electronic devices is great. That is not a problem. A new refundable tax credit to return fuel charge proceeds to farming businesses is important. We are happy to see it included, and we support it.
Part 2, which is a hot topic in this debate, contains the much-touted 1% tax on the value of vacant or underused residential property directly or indirectly owned by non-resident non-Canadians. We agree in principle, but we have a big problem. The problem is that, of all possible taxes, property tax is the only one not under federal jurisdiction.
The goal itself is a noble one. We could discuss the 1% tax. Would it really be effective? We could discuss that. However, there is a very troubling precedent being set here. My colleagues will remember what happened with income tax. The federal government said that it was a temporary measure to finance the war effort, but we are still sending half of our income tax to Ottawa today. There is nothing more permanent than a temporary tax measure implemented by the federal government. That is what we are concerned about.
Will the federal government acquire a taste for this sweet, sweet tax revenue once it has tried it and want to go back for more?
This is a big problem. It is troubling because this is an area under municipal jurisdiction. We know that municipalities are having serious financial difficulties, and this is their jurisdiction. If, from now on—not right away, but in a few years—the federal government came back to demand some of that revenue, there would be less for the municipalities. There would be an even greater fiscal imbalance.
We therefore have a serious problem, and we are asking the government to please find another way of implementing this policy, because interfering in property tax, which is under municipal jurisdiction, is a serious problem and a dangerous precedent. Although the intention is noble, as I have said before and will say again, the method is a problem because of the precedent it would set.
Could the government come to an agreement with the provinces and municipalities so that they could levy the tax instead?
There are other ways of solving the problem, with capital gains, for example, but this one poses a serious threat. Right now, the Bloc Québécois is still deciding whether it will support Bill C‑8 because of this measure. The principle is noble, but, in our opinion, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent.
Part 3 provides for a six-year prescription period for the Canada emergency business account. That is great.
Part 4 authorizes payments to be made out of the consolidated revenue fund. I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to the President of the Treasury Board, who is listening attentively to my speech. I thank her. The bill talks about supporting ventilation improvement projects in schools. We fully support this, and we support part 5, which authorizes payments to be made out of the consolidated revenue fund for the purpose of supporting coronavirus disease 2019 proof-of-vaccination initiatives.
Part 6 supports COVID-19 tests. There is a lot of money involved, and we are obviously on board with that too.
Part 7 amends the Employment Insurance Act to specify the maximum number of weeks for which benefits may be paid in a benefit period to certain seasonal workers. All this is important.
This is not a historic implementation bill. These are good measures, even the measure in part 2 that we have doubts about. The goal is noble, but once again, the precedent it would set is troubling.
Governments are often judged on what they achieve in their first 100 days. In our opinion, there could have been much more in Bill C-8.
Throughout the election campaign and since the beginning of the pandemic, we have heard a lot about the labour shortage. There are many different measures that could be put in place to mitigate this issue, such as a tax credit that would make it easier for young retirees to continue working. Earlier this week, the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec told the Standing Committee on Finance that many young retirees would be willing to work one or two days a week if they did not have to give all their earnings back in income tax. The Bloc Québécois would have liked to see something like that in this bill. It would not have been very complicated, and it could have been included, but it was not.
The other important point is the fight against tax havens. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance wrote a book on the subject. It is important. We need to take action and move forward. We have been calling for this for years now. Just under a year ago, when the last budget was tabled last spring, the minister assured us that the fall update would fix the web giant problem by taxing their revenue to offset unpaid taxes, as is done in other countries. Last December we were even pretty sure that something was going to be introduced.
It is frustrating that there was nothing about this in Bill C-8. We have been hearing for years now that measures are on the way, but they keep getting pushed back. We are almost beginning to feel like a donkey chasing a carrot in the fight against tax havens, but the carrot is always just out of reach. We should not be taken for donkeys.
I would now like to talk about health. Earlier this afternoon the government sent out the Minister of Tourism to speak to the government's Bill C‑8. The minister said that the government would negotiate health funding with the provinces “when the time is right”. I think now is the right time. It was the right time last year, it was the right time during the pandemic and it was the right time even before the pandemic. The time has been right for 20 years. Frankly, the government needs to smarten up.
Everyone knows that the health care system is struggling, emergency rooms are swamped, and the pandemic has posed challenges for hospital care, emergency care and life-saving care. This is all because the health care system and sector has been weakened and damaged by 20 to 25 years of underfunding by the federal government. It is as simple as that.
After the 1995 referendum, there was a renegotiation with respect to deficits and the debt, which were too high. Ottawa's solution to the problem was to reduce transfers to the provinces. Jean Chrétien then chose to mock Quebec among his G7 colleagues telling them that the funny thing about reducing health transfers was that everyone would protest at the National Assembly of Quebec and the other provincial legislatures, but he would be fine. It was that decision by Ottawa to reduce its health transfers that has compromised the system. Today, we are paying the price during the pandemic.
The government can say that it spent a lot of money during the pandemic, but to be clear, that spending is not recurring funding. We need recurring funding. The government said that it has been spending more every year. That is true, but it is not contributing its fair share when we consider that health care system costs are going up 6% while the government is increasing its share by only 3%. The government is actually contributing less and less every year. For the government to say that it is spending more every year is dishonest. That is clear from even a cursory analysis of the situation.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that, even with the extraordinary expenses incurred during the pandemic, the pressure of public funding rests squarely on the shoulders of the provinces. This has to change.
I also wanted to talk about seniors. We need to do more for them, particularly with respect to inflation. There was also a lot of talk about social housing. Action needs to be taken on that.