Evidence of meeting #50 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was unions.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Arthur Cockfield  Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen's University, As an Individual
Mike Moffat  Assistant Professor, Ivey Business School, As an Individual
Eric Dillon  Chief Executive Officer, Conexus Credit Union, Credit Union Central of Canada
Bruce MacDonald  President and Chief Executive Officer, Imagine Canada
Jon Cockerline  Director, Policy and Research, Investment Funds Institute of Canada
Brigitte Alepin  Tax Expert, Agora Fiscalité, As an Individual
Jennifer Robson  Assistant Professor, Kroeger College, Carleton University, As an Individual
Frances Woolley  Professor, Associate Dean, Carleton University, As an Individual
Clay Gillespie  Member, Board of Directors, Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting
Andrea Mrozek  Executive Director, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

4:50 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much, Mr. Adler.

I'm going to take the final round as the chair.

I want to start off on the subject of tariffs.

Mr. Moffat, you raised the subject of tariffs. In the 2010 budget the government, with respect to tariff reductions on manufacturing inputs, machinery, and equipment, eliminated 1,500 tariffs between 2010 and 2015. I think that's what you were commending in your opening remarks. It has since moved to eliminate some of the tariffs on the retail side.

With respect to tariff reductions, what should we be looking at as a committee in terms of a priority going forward?

4:50 p.m.

Assistant Professor, Ivey Business School, As an Individual

Mike Moffat

I think first of all that it's a fantastic track record to build on. Where I would begin is by looking at tariffs that have a very, very low effective rate. Again, I use the example of 0.08% for propylene copolymers. According to the WTO, there are a few dozen different tariffs with effective rates under 0.1%. I think those would be worth looking at first. You'd want to get all the details about it and figure out how that may change the structure of business and the structure of imports and exports; I suspect for most of them, not at all, but that would be where I would look first, where the government's really not collecting a lot of money, but there are large paperwork burdens.

4:50 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

I appreciate that. Thank you for that.

On the second item, I just want to move to Professor Cockfield on the issue of the advisory panel.

I was a little surprised, and I don't know if I heard you correctly saying that the government has not acted on the recommendations. The government as I see here has acted on a whole series of recommendations from that panel, so perhaps I can share this with you and we can have a conversation about that off-line or by e-mail. The government has taken a number of steps to implement the panel recommendations. I just wanted to point that out for your benefit and for colleagues' benefit.

I like what you said about simplifying the taxes. I also like what you said about simplifying measures such as the working income tax benefit, which you supported, and the universal child care benefit. There's a way to do that. I'll add on to that point by asking if there is a way to simplify, some people call them boutique tax credits, things this government introduced, for instance, the registered disability savings plan, which makes a big difference for families who have a family member with a disability. It makes a big difference for them. Former governments have introduced RRSPs, RESPs, and you now have pooled registered pension plans and tax-free savings accounts.

I certainly take the point that a lot of middle-class Canadians look at these credits and get somewhat confused. Is there a way perhaps for the government to look at simplifying them all? They all serve a definite purpose, though: RDSPs are for persons with disabilities, and RESPs are for families who obviously want to have kids go to post-secondary institutions. Is there a way we can simplify or group some of these measures together so it's easier for Canadians to deal with?

4:55 p.m.

Prof. Arthur Cockfield

Yes. I have a very quick response to your point about the advisory panel. I may have misspoken, but I meant to suggest the tax simplification proposals of the advisory panel have yet to be implemented. There were a number of recommendations implemented, but they had a couple of dozen recommendations, and the government, to my knowledge, hasn't implemented all of them.

With respect to your other issue, you're absolutely correct that most credits serve different purposes, but I'm speaking more directly to, and I think there are at least four, the universal child care benefit, the child tax credit, the WITB which I mentioned, and I think one other. They directly try to help low-income families. Those are the ones that could be rationalized and simplified and made more accessible to Canadians.

Another point is that many low-income families don't file returns. They don't get the GST/HST refundable tax credit, for instance. The IRS at one point—and it's persisting to this day—started what's called the VTA program, the volunteer tax assistance program. That was an institutional mechanism. I used to be a faculty director of one of these VTA programs, where it would take volunteer law students and they would process returns for low-income Americans, in this case. We don't have anything like that, and that's a real problem because so many vulnerable Canadians simply don't have the wherewithal to file a return; hence they don't get at least the refundable tax benefits that they otherwise would be entitled to. They typically don't pay any income tax; hence they don't file a return, and they may or may not be aware that they're entitled to these benefits.

Again, rationalize the ones targeting low-income Canadians, and maybe also promote some institutional support through the CRA.

4:55 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for that. I will share with you the documentation with respect to the advisory panel.

Mr. Cockerline, perhaps I could get you to respond on a simplification point, and then in the time I have remaining, one of your recommendations is to look at moving the age of conversion from RRSPs to RRIFs. As you know, the government moved it from 69 to 71 years of age. You're proposing that or that the mandatory withdrawal amount be lowered. If you had to choose between one of those two, which one would you advise this committee to look at? Did you want to comment on simplification of some of the tax credit options, especially for putting money away for various purposes?

4:55 p.m.

Director, Policy and Research, Investment Funds Institute of Canada

Dr. Jon Cockerline

Mr. Chair, I'll start with the simplification question first. Across the proposals I have in my remarks today is a common theme that we are raising, and that is creating neutrality for financial products and allowing Canadians who save not to be overly taxed in one product relative to another, or one type of program relative to another.

From that point of view, what we are asking for is simplification of commonality of tax treatment. We talked about three specific areas with the reform of registered plans, the—

4:55 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

I'm going to run out of time here. I do want you to address my final question on which one you prefer, so if you would just wrap up, that would be great.

4:55 p.m.

Director, Policy and Research, Investment Funds Institute of Canada

Dr. Jon Cockerline

Sure. From the point of simplification we believe that is a way of simplifying the tax plan.

On the RRIF withdrawals, we're addressing the concern that seniors will outlive their savings because there has been a tremendous increase in life expectancy since these rules were put into place. We believe the time has come to increase or reduce the mandatory minimums for these plans. I think either approach, as long as it did reduce the likelihood of seniors outliving their savings, would be fine. If I were asked to choose one or the other, I think the mandatory minimum would be the one to address.

5 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

That's what I was hoping you were going to say.

Thank you very much. I want to thank all of our panellists on this first panel.

Colleagues, we will suspend for a couple of minutes before the next panel.

5:05 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

If I can ask our guests and colleagues to take their seats, please.

We are resuming meeting No. 50 of the Standing Committee on Finance, continuing our discussions on the pre-budget consultations, 2014.

I want to thank all of our guests on our second panel for being here.

We have Ms. Brigitte Alepin with us again. Welcome.

We have Jennifer Robson, assistant professor from Carleton University. Welcome.

We have two professors from Carleton. We have Professor Frances Woolley. Welcome to the committee as well.

For the Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting we have Mr. Clay Gillespie. Welcome.

And from the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada we have the executive director, Ms. Andrea Mrozek.

Thank you all for being with us today.

You will each have up to five minutes for an opening statement.

Ms. Alepin, you can begin your presentation. You have five minutes.

5:05 p.m.

Brigitte Alepin Tax Expert, Agora Fiscalité, As an Individual

Ladies and gentlemen of the Parliament of Canada, distinguished members of the Standing Committee on Finance, Ms. Gilliland, Ms. Lafrance, thank you for this invitation.

I have been invited to participate in the pre-budget consultations on how to improve Canada's taxation system. I am going to limit myself to two proposals that I feel are the most important.

The first deals with private charitable foundations. I know that you have in your iPads a table on private charitable foundations. Could you please refer to it, because it briefly sums up what I am going to tell you about private charitable foundations.

The table shows the example of a private charitable foundation whose founder makes an initial donation of $100 million. In the first year, the founder receives a tax credit of $50 million. I am talking simply about private charitable foundations. For the foundation's entire life, there is taxable income, but it is not taxed because of its status. If you make a donation of $100 million, you can estimate the income to be about $5 million annually.

Under current rules, the tax system requires a private foundation to spend only $3.5 million annually on charitable purposes, that is, 3.5% of the capital after expenses. In real life, the amount is often well under 3.5%. In our example, we will say $3.5 million.

I would like to use the table to draw your attention to the fact that the tax deal that Canadian taxpayers have with private foundations does not serve Canadians well. We just have to look at the initial tax saving, $50 million in this case. If a foundation pays no tax on a hypothetical income of $5 million and it spends only $3.5 million per year, it could take for ever for the deal to benefit Canadians. Canadians gain nothing from a system like that. This is the most important point, given that we are looking for money to balance the country's books.

With private foundations, the deal is clearly a bad one for the country's coffers. If you have followed the table, you can see that easily. Private charitable foundations are also an affront to democracy. Why? Because the law allows the deal since foundations are allowed to last for ever. For reasons beyond me, major founders want to have perpetual foundations. Perpetual foundations are an affront to democracy because, over time, they become more powerful than international organizations or governments elected to take care of public matters. The best example of this I can give is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the United States. It has assets of up to $33 billion, while the World Health Organization's assets are only $1.5 billion.

I would like to bring up one more quick point. There is a fear that competition over taxation between countries and companies may become destructive. There is the also the danger of what is called “the race to the bottom”. I have been looking at that issue for a number of years. I conducted a research project for Harvard University on how to adapt our tax systems to globalization.

I feel that the best way to help my country prepare for the looming threat of the race to the bottom is to organize a major conference that I am calling the TAXCoop Conference. That is what we are doing in Quebec at the moment.

In the context of the pre-budget consultations, I would like to propose working with the Canadian government to organize a conference like that. The Government of Canada still has a good reputation on taxes internationally and I would be proud to be able to contribute.

5:10 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much for your presentation.

Next we'll go to Ms. Robson, please.

5:10 p.m.

Professor Jennifer Robson Assistant Professor, Kroeger College, Carleton University, As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for your invitation.

I am an assistant professor of political management at Kroeger College, Carleton University. My remarks today reflect my views based on my research on social policy and household financial behaviour.

I'm going to touch on two areas of my research very briefly, household savings and financial literacy, and I'll make a very brief nod to the topic of income splitting. What binds this list of topics together really is a central message to you that our personal income tax system is a powerful but incredibly complicated tool for achieving policy aims. Getting it right is really hard.

The system sometimes leads to some surprising and bizarre outcomes, even some outcomes that are hidden right in plain sight. The system is confusing even to experts, and there's clearly more work to be done to ensure that Canadian taxpayers can navigate it to comply with the rules and to access the benefits that are triggered by a tax return.

Finally, any structural changes must be viewed with caution to make sure that we're clear on the policy aim and that we're choosing the best instrument rather than just the best strategic politics.

I'll say more, briefly, on each of these points.

First, and surprising, our income tax system now includes, by my count, four different registered instruments, RRSPs, RESPs, RDSPs, TFSAs, all designed to help working-age adults save up money for various purposes. We should add to this list, by the way, the total exemption of equity in primary residences. It's now the single largest asset held by the majority of working-age Canadians.

When home equity is included, fully half, more than 50%, of the assets owned by the wealthiest households in Canada are now largely sheltered from taxation in this array of registered instruments. This preferential tax treatment no doubt generates important benefits, but it comes at significant fiscal cost. In fact, the total cost of expenditures on these forms of household savings is of an order of magnitude of about 5% of federal budgetary spending.

The overwhelming majority of that tax expenditure is flowing to the already comfortable and the reasonably well off. It seems a bizarre way to run progressive taxation. If we want to help Canadians save and build productive assets we can and should be doing far more for the small savers and low- and modest-wealth households.

On the second point, the need for navigation, two-thirds of Canadian tax filers now rely on a paid tax preparer to file their return. The available research suggests that while paying for tax filing services leads to higher refunds, it also leads to more errors. The government has already taken some steps in addressing this that I think are quite laudable. The CRA is making progress in developing a regulatory framework for the for-profit tax filing services. The financial literacy leader will be coming forward next year with her national strategy on financial literacy, but we already know, of course, that financial literacy is not a magic bullet for tax compliance, for accessing benefits, or for insuring household financial security.

I hope that you'll also consider ways to support the capacity of the hundreds of non-profit and volunteer tax filing services in this country. These are groups like Entraide budgétaire here in Ottawa. They are part of the Financial Literacy Action Network Ottawa. Last year Entraide budgétaire filed tax returns for 2,200 low-income Ottawans. Through those tax returns they were able to access $1.3 million in benefits like the working income tax benefit, the child tax benefit, and the guaranteed income supplement. In fact, CRA now administers 42 different federal benefits and monitors compliance of another 85 provincial benefits, all through the tax system.

Groups like Entraide budgétaire are doing yeomen's work in helping low-income Canadians file their returns. I think CRA is right to leave the non-profit and voluntary tax filing services out of their new regulatory framework, but if we care about compliance, about accuracy, and most of all, about getting tax refunds and benefits into the hands of Canadians, then we also need to ensure that non-profit tax preparers also have the capacity to keep up with demand.

Those benefits, by the way, that are accessed through the tax system are usually based on family rather than on individual income so that we target scarce public dollars to the households that need them most, which brings me to my final point about making structural changes.

There has been debate again about whether we should also base taxation on family rather than on individual income. Others on the panel have spoken and will be speaking to this point in depth. I'll just say very briefly that I would welcome the chance to say more on this during the question period. For now, I would like to note that if the policy goal is to provide support to families with children—families which, by the way, come in all kinds of shapes and sizes—then there are many other more efficient and effective options available to you. As proposed, income splitting will do quite a lot for single-earner couple families who are already comfortable, and essentially nothing for the many single-earner couple households who are already in the lowest tax bracket, all the while taking billions out of the fiscal framework.

Whatever the government decides to do in the next budget, a fundamental shift in our tax regime like changing the basis of taxation should not be done lightly, quietly, or without widespread agreement that the costs are acceptable to the Canadian public as a whole.

I would say that administrative intricacies matter to implementation and need to be thought through and fully explored ahead of time.

Fuzzy promises that end up in practices benefiting a very few families who need little help will, I would say, not make for either good policy or politics.

Thank you very much for your time.

5:15 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Okay, thank you for your presentation.

We'll now go to Professor Woolley, please.

5:15 p.m.

Dr. Frances Woolley Professor, Associate Dean, Carleton University, As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for inviting me to speak to you today.

The first message for you is don't cut taxes. Although the federal budget is close to balance, the federal government still has substantial debt. Moreover, there are serious fiscal challenges on the horizon. Provincial finances, particularly those of Ontario and Quebec, are in poor shape. The population is aging. More income is coming from capital, and capital income is hard to tax. There are other threats, like international tax planning, which also could potentially erode the tax base.

So the first message is don't cut taxes.

The second message is if the federal government does wish to deliver tax relief, it should look to increasing efficiency, or equity, or both. Income splitting does neither.

Generally speaking, the most efficient tax system is one with a broad tax base and a low tax rate. Income splitting reduces efficiency because it raises the effective marginal tax rate faced by secondary earners, by which I mean the lower-earning of the two spouses. If an at-home spouse decides to enter the labour force, some of the tax savings achieved by income splitting will be lost. The loss of tax savings raises the at-home spouse's effective marginal tax rate. Yes, it reduces the primary earner's marginal tax rate, but primary earners tend to have inelastic labour supplies. What that means is basically they work regardless.

Income splitting reduces the marginal tax rates of people who aren't very sensitive to tax changes—that's the primary breadwinner—and it increases the marginal tax rates of people who are sensitive to changes in tax rates, and that's secondary earners. Basically, income splitting has efficiency costs.

Income splitting also doesn't increase equity. Most of the benefits go to higher-income families. It doesn't recognize the work-related expenses borne by a two-earner household and it ignores the value of household production. At a given money income, a dual-earner family has a lower standard of living than a family with an at-home spouse. I oppose income splitting precisely because I believe household production is valuable.

Caring for the kids at home doesn't necessarily mean mom at home, dad at work anymore. Canada's parks are filled with grandparents pushing strollers. Families juggle schedules so that one parent can be home with the kids at all times. The at-home parent at playgroup is likely working nights or weekends to pay the mortgage.

Income splitting is a bad idea. But if the federal government is looking to cut taxes, more support for families with children is a good idea.

In the 1960s, my mother's family allowance cheque paid for a week's groceries. In 2011, the median Canadian two-parent family had an income of just over $90,000. Their Canada child tax benefit probably doesn't come close to paying for a week's groceries.

The Harper government has already gone some way to providing greater tax recognition for the costs of children through the introduction of the universal child care benefit and through the introduction of the non-refundable child amount credit. I support both those policies, but they're overlaid upon a CCTB system that has good things, but also bad things.

First, because the CCTB is clawed back as the family's net income increases, it doesn't provide generous support for a typical two-parent family in one of Canada's major cities. Basically, if you're a two-parent family in Vancouver or Toronto and you're earning enough to pay a mortgage, you're probably going to get very little support through the Canada child tax benefit.

Secondly, CCTB clawbacks increase the marginal tax rates faced by parents of children. As I said, efficiency up, marginal tax rates down.

Third, the CCTB is based on net family income. The income calculation is the same for a two-parent or a one-parent family. This can create a non-trivial marriage penalty for low-income individuals.

Basically, the best way to support families with children is to give money to families with children. I would advocate doing so through a new program that combines the best features of the CCTB and UCCB and supported Canadian families.

Thank you for your time.

5:20 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much for your presentation.

We'll go to Mr. Gillespie, please.

5:20 p.m.

Clay Gillespie Member, Board of Directors, Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting

Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for the opportunity to appear before you today.

My name is Clay Gillespie. I'm currently a member of the CALU board of directors. CALU and our sister organization Advocis represent approximately 11,000 insurance and financial advisers who in turn provide financial advice to millions of Canadians.

Joining me today is CALU's president, Kevin Wark. I may call on him to answer some of your more detailed questions relating to our long-term capital proposal.

CALU is advancing two recommendations that we believe will improve Canada's taxation regime and perhaps more importantly will assist Canadians as they retire and enter their ever-extending retirement years. The boomer generation has had and will continue to have a significant socio-economic impact in Canada. Notably, the first boomers turned 65 years of age in 2011. Over the next 20 years this group will expand the number of Canadians above the age of 65 to 23% of the population.

As Canadians retire and age, two of their greatest concerns are receiving quality health care and the possibility of outliving their personal savings. CALU's two proposals are focused on encouraging Canadians to be more financially self-sufficient during their retirement years and thereby reducing their reliance on public programs and institutions for support.

Our first proposal relates to the registered retirement income funds, or RRIFs. Owners of RRSPs are required to either annuitize or transfer the funds into a RRIF by the end of the year in which they turn 71. If a RRIF is selected, a minimum amount must be withdrawn on an annual basis. For example, at age 71, 7.38% of the RRIF balance must be withdrawn; this increases to 20% by age 94.

The RRIF minimum formula was put in place in the early 1990s, when long-term interest rates were in the range of 8% and average life expectancy was approximately 80 years. Since then, interest rates have declined dramatically, while life expectancies continue to increase.

Insurance companies have recognized these dramatic changes in the pricing of annuities. For example, in 1992 a 71-year-old male with $100,000 in an RRSP could purchase a life annuity and receive $10,000 a year, guaranteed to age 90. Today, the same person would only receive $6,000 a year in annuity payments, a 40% decrease; however, the RRIF minimum formula remains unchanged.

CALU is therefore recommending that the RRIF minimum rules be modified to help Canadians retain more of their savings and protect them from longevity risk.

I would now like to turn to our second recommendation. As noted, a significant portion of the Canadian population is moving into their retirement years. As this group ages, the likelihood of their requiring long-term care increases exponentially.

The C.D. Howe Institute recently released a report that estimates that the total cost of long-term care will more than double, to $140 billion, over the next 20 years. The logical question to ask is, who will bear this additional cost? The C.D. Howe report concluded that the provinces will need to shift more of the cost to those who can afford to pay. This will be an additional financial burden during retirement that most Canadians are not currently planning for.

We believe that long-term care insurance can play an important role in helping address this funding gap. Long-term care insurance provides a cash allowance to individuals who are unable to perform certain activities of daily living, such as bathing and eating. Greater ownership of this type of insurance coverage is critical to help manage private costs associated with long-term care services.

CALU believes that the time to deal with this issue is now. Further, we believe that the federal government needs to take a leadership position in preparing Canadians for what lies ahead. How? By educating Canadians about their financial obligations relating to long-term care services, by working with the provinces to develop a more unified approach to determine who qualifies for subsidized access, and by ensuring that the tax rules encourage more Canadians to own individual long-term care insurance.

I thank you for your time and attention. We would be pleased to respond to any questions you might have in relation to our submission.

5:25 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentation.

We'll now hear from Ms. Mrozek, please.

October 21st, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.

Andrea Mrozek Executive Director, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to take part in the 2014 pre-budget consultation process.

My name is Andrea Mrozek. I'm the executive director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. In 2016 we will celebrate 10 years of creating, compiling, and respectfully presenting research, with an eye to helping families flourish so that Canada will likewise flourish.

Sadly, Canadian families are struggling today. Canadians have about a 40% chance of divorce before their 30th wedding anniversary. We see increasing rates of single-parent families who are more likely to be poor. We see increasing rates of common-law families, which are unions that are more likely to break up. We see a decreasing marriage rate and a birth rate that is below replacement, so we have reason for concern. Behind those family statistics of course is a great deal of emotional pain for people. We examine this research with an eye to diminishing suffering. Tax reform is one way to help families. Our research leads us to recommend the following.

Firstly, eradicate an existing inequality by introducing family taxation, also known as income splitting. Income splitting establishes horizontal equity or tax fairness among families. It ensures that families who look the same and make the same amount of money are also taxed the same, regardless of how they earn that money. Families balance budgets not as individuals but together. Sharing is a good thing and is a hallmark of strong families. It is to be encouraged by tax policy

A healthy majority of Canadians, from every political party, recognize the current unfairness. For instance, 65% of Conservative supporters, 55% of New Democrat supporters, and 54% of Liberal supporters all agree that income splitting makes sense. It is sanctioned by the pre-eminent Canadian economist, Dr. Jack Mintz, and it has been enacted without controversy in an array of countries like the Czech Republic, Germany, and France.

Certainly, the main reason to establish income splitting is for tax fairness. Still, almost half of all Canadian families with children under 18 right now would receive a tax cut. For example, if it were implemented only federally, a secondary school teacher in Manitoba would save 28% on his or her tax bill. For a further example, an accountant in Saskatchewan would save 25% with income splitting. I believe we cannot look down upon those savings for average, middle-income Canadians, which would only increase if income splitting were offered provincially.

Secondly, we recommend increasing the money parents receive directly, whether through the UCCB, the CCTB, or another vehicle. While we would prefer that the tax code be used to leave money in the hands of parents in the first place, a second consideration would be to increase the universal child care benefit, increase the child care tax benefit, or take other measures. We believe that money in a parent's pocket or in a family's pocket is what allows them to make the best choices according to their family's diverse and specific needs.

Finally, we do recommend against the use of tax dollars to create a national day care program. And it is with regret that I realize this comes about two weeks too late for the honourable members of the New Democratic Party. State-funded day care, we believe, is extraordinarily expensive to do well. The costs go only one way—up—as we have seen in Quebec. Neither does state-funded day care account for different family situations across the country. It doesn't help people who do shifts. Some families go to extraordinary lengths to tag-team care between parents. If national day care begins, those families may find other benefits cancelled to pay for the one program that they do not choose to use.

Importantly, across partly lines, across gender, and across income levels, 76% of Canadians believe that the best place for a child under six is at home with a parent.

It is our concern that national day care might become a national boondoggle as the federal government struggles to provide that which we believe ought to be the purview of sources closer to home.

We have a number of resources available on income splitting and day care, and I would be very happy to take questions afterwards.

Thank you very much.

5:30 p.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentation.

We begin members' questions with Mr. Cullen for seven minutes.

5:30 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all our witnesses for being here today.

I'm going to focus a bit on income splitting, because it seemed to touch a number of the pieces of testimony from our witnesses today.

The PBO recently indicated that they anticipate the next federal budget to be in the order of somewhere around $10 billion, and that seems to be in line with many other estimates that we see. Income splitting, if we believe in the one taxpayer model, which we all do and the current government does as well, will be in the order of a $5-billion program, give or take, between the feds and the provinces.

What was interesting in the PBO report was that the actual surplus—that is, not one-time assets that are being sold, or taking from the EI fund. I'm not sure what Mr. Adler called it....

What did the Liberals do?

5:30 p.m.


Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON


5:30 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

So one-time pillaging from the EI fund and selling off government assets. The actual surplus is somewhere in the order of $4 billion. The PBO estimates in two years the structural surplus could be somewhere in the order of $100 million. It's a very expensive program. It is estimated to help 14% of Canadians, and skews to the wealthier portion of those Canadians.

To Ms. Robson to start with, what does income splitting, as it is being currently discussed by government representation, do for single-parent families?

5:30 p.m.

Prof. Jennifer Robson

I think the short answer to that is probably nothing. If you don't have anyone to split your income with, then you get no benefit out of income splitting.

I'm not exactly sure where the estimate of 14% of households might benefit comes from.

5:30 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

The left-wing think tank, C.D. Howe, came up with that number.