Thank you. This is a proposal. It is not a radical proposal. We have heard it from many people. A number of people during our intervention suggested we do that.
A number of my friends from the finance committee are here. How many people asked us to raise the ceiling on the RRSP maximum? Maybe three or four. How many people asked us for goodness sake to get rid of this GST as soon as possible? Most people. Which ones did we listen to? We met with them all, but which ones did we listen to?
We all acknowledge in this House that the GST is one of the most regressive taxes that has been introduced in many years. It is a regressive tax which the Tories introduced. They were mean spirited at the time. They said, “We are going to get those Canadians”. And the Liberals opposed it. I remember the current Minister of Finance standing in this House pounding his desk and saying that it is regressive because it hits poor people the hardest. Now is the chance to change that.
We heard advice from Canadians and there were some themes that came through very clearly. One was to increase funding for health care. Health care is what distinguishes our country from most others. It distinguishes what Canadians feel strongly about from others. It is almost a Canadian icon. Canadians from coast to coast and at least 80% of the people who appeared before the finance committee said to strengthen our support for health care.
Some said to do it even if it required an increase in taxation. They said, “We feel so strongly about being able to access quality health care no matter where we live in this country and no matter what our incomes, a one tier system, we want you to take that as a priority in terms of your recommendations”.
What they did not say is to keep funding at $12.5 billion. That is what the Liberals on the finance committee said but that is not what people said. That is rock bottom. If there is one thing that is clear from any province and territory is that our health care system is in a crisis.
Like many others, I do not believe that providing more money is the answer. It is only part of the answer. Even if we provided a few billion dollars more we would still be far below the cost of health care than we would find in the United States. It would seem to me that should be a priority we ought to follow.
Education is the second thing I want to talk about. When we are indebting our graduates as we are today with huge debt loads, does it indicate that we put a priority on education? Other countries that really value higher education go the ultimate mile and do not put up any hurdles to people and have removed tuition fees. Whether it is in grade 10, grade 12, grade 15 or grade 17, there is no cost to education.
Those countries make the assumption that if they invest in their citizens, it enables them to get the training and education they desire and can accomplish so that they will be contributing citizens then for the rest of their lives. They will repay the country many, many times in terms of the contribution they will make to the country's economy.
This is something we could do if we were bold. Or at least we could go beyond the minor little steps that we have taken and tell people that we must have better ways of easing the debt load and providing better grants to students who are in particular need. But we do not. We might think of something else when we talk about the tax system. We might take a lead from certain countries.
Ireland for example says that it wants to support its cultural industry, the creators, the composers, the writers. A composer or a writer, an artist of that nature in the country of Ireland will not pay any income tax at all. That country values its creators, it values those people in society who are writers and composers. Those individuals will not pay any income tax at all in Ireland. Has this made Ireland bankrupt? No it has not. Has this encouraged Ireland's cultural sector? Yes it has.
These are things that countries do that are bold. They send a clear signal to people that they are serious about encouraging particular investment.
Let us acknowledge a new trend in our country that our tax system does not reflect at all. The vast majority of jobs created in Canada in the last three years have been in the self-employed sector, individuals who are essentially creating their own enterprise. As a matter of fact, 87% of new jobs in the last three years have been created in the self-employed sector. The rest almost exclusively have been created in the small business sector. I am talking three, four or five people in a firm. Does our tax system reflect the needs of these new entrants into the economy? No it does not. Not at all.
I am just saying that in acknowledging the changes that are taking place our tax system needs a major overhaul in order that we reflect the reality of our economy and encourage, support and show our concern for those who are out there creating wealth, jobs and opportunities.
I do want to acknowledge a good point in the report. There are actually a number of good points in the report. It recognizes that without research and development through to production primarily, Canada continues to fall behind in an ever competing economy.
We heard from the granting councils that we need to restore funding in these areas to send a signal to the most creative elements in our economy that yes, we appreciate research and development. We appreciate the scientific research that is being done both in terms of applied and pure research. We have taken a small step in that direction by suggesting to the Minister of Finance that funding in some of these crucial areas be increased. So this is a slight move in the right direction.
I want to emphasize that to say the fundamentals of our economy are in place is simply wrong. The average family income since 1989 has fallen by 5%. Every other industrialized nation has seen theirs increase and ours has actually fallen. There are 530,000 more children living in poverty today than there were in 1989. The number of food banks in Canada has tripled and the proportion of the population relying on them has doubled. The number of Canadians filing for personal bankruptcy is at an historic high. I could go on and on.
When we talk about the economy of Canada, it is appropriate that we talk about at least two economies, one which is working for an ever reduced number of people and the other which reflects a social deficit, an economy where people continue to struggle. More than one million people are out of work. Seventy per cent of the young people in this country are jobless. Many who are working have three or four part time jobs at minimum wage. They are barely surviving. They are entering the ranks of the working poor.
We have much work to do. It is time that the government stopped listening to the bankers of the country and started listening to the ordinary citizens of Canada, in the rural areas, in the small communities, in the suburbs of the cities and see what it is they require.
In closing, I want to wish you, Madam Speaker, and all of my colleagues in the House of Commons a merry Christmas.