Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take this opportunity to respond to today's motion and reject the suggestion that the tax system is consciously and perversely unfair to one earner families with children. I recognize that the member for Calgary Southwest who moved this motion has sincere intentions but I submit that his logic does not stand up.
Simple comparisons like these do not tell the whole story or the true story. What causes the tax differentials between one earner and two earner couples is the application of two basic principles of our tax system: progressivity on the one hand and taxation that is consistently based on the income of the individual. Let us look at how the principles work.
Progressivity means that as individuals move up the income scale, they pay a larger share of their income in taxes. Is the Reform Party suggesting that we should tax someone who is earning $50,000 at the same rate as someone earning just $25,000? Should someone who is earning $1 million be taxed at the same rate as someone who is earning $10,000? That is patently unfair.
Individual taxation means that someone who goes to work outside the home pays taxes based solely on their individual earnings, not on the income of their spouse. That is only fair. It also means that individuals do not face increases or tax reductions when they choose to marry. That too is only fair.
If the Reform Party wants to eliminate the tax differentials between one earner and two earner couples, it has to be prepared to do away with these basic principles of our tax system.
Today's motion is not an appeal for equity. I submit it is a Trojan horse hiding its real agenda under the guise of family values. Does the opposition party object to progressive taxation, to the idea that more affluence must be accompanied by more obligations or by certain obligations? Why does the Reform Party not tell us up front that it wants the tax burden on lower income Canadians to be the same as the tax burden on higher income Canadians? That is what this motion leads to.
Do members of the Reform Party want a family based tax system? Then why do they not make it clear that what they want is for many women to be taxed at the higher tax rates of their husbands or vice versa? That is what this motion really does.
Does the Reform Party really believe that a husband and wife earning $20,000 and $30,000 respectively should together pay the same amount of tax as someone who earns $50,000? If this is what the Reform Party wants, it is essentially saying that every dollar that a spouse earns should be taxed at the 26% marginal rate.
On the other hand, Reform Party members stand up and pound on the table and say to cut taxes in half for everyone but not once do they mention that they would gut pensions, gut equalization or health care in order to achieve that sole objective of cutting taxes in half. How would the Reform Party party do it? The hon. member opposite talked about proposing an alternate budget, an alternate way of running the country and doing the finances of the country. The member fails to mention that the Reform Party in its proposal is also predicting surpluses in the $30 billion to $35 billion range.
The Reform Party bases its optimistic growth rates at 5.5% over the next three years. It is almost two times what the private sector consensus is for growth in nominal GDP, which is the underlying tax base.
When we talk about these types of motions, in the end the bottom line is that someone needs to pay for them. In order to do that we have to be able to plan effectively and ensure that our finances are in place in order to move forward on an effective and realistic plan.
The Reform members also assume in their plan that they want to reduce almost $9 billion in expenditures to existing programs to provide resources for new initiatives. Perhaps that is how they are going to cut the tax rates in half, by gutting programs to the tune of $9 billion or more.
Given the unrealistic surplus projection that they have put in their program, $30 billion to $35 billion over the next number of years, basing their revenue growth forecast on an average of 5.5% for the next three years, almost two times what the private sector consensus is, by gutting these other programs, cutting almost $9 billion, or more, we see what this motion is all about. It is all about gutting the programs that we have in place and jumping on this hobby horse under the guise of family values.
At the same time, I have no trouble whatsoever making it clear where this government stands and where I stand, not just as a member of parliament, but as a husband and a father and as a citizen of this country. I appreciate and I commend the hard work and dedication of Canadians who choose to stay home to raise their children. I commend them. And while I do that, I also support the underlying principles which form the basis of the tax system.
I am not standing here talking about my political ambitions, like members of the party opposite who under the guise of family values pound on the table. But they have another agenda which I think is way below what this House really wants to get into.
We stand for a tax system that is progressive. It is only fair that individuals should pay a bigger share of their income in taxes as their income rises. I think that is an underlying principle. I think that if the Reform Party is putting forward this motion, then essentially it is saying that it does not believe in that principle. Reform Party members do not believe in the progressivity of the tax system.
We stand for a system based on individual taxation. I do not believe that anyone in this House wants to penalize women who decide to enter the workforce.
The opposition may choose to see someone earning $50,000 as no different from a couple earning $20,000 and $30,000 a piece. But if we look at the situation fairly, rather than through this moral myopia, the fact is that the economic situations of these two families can often be very different. We have to recognize that. Recognizing that these differences exist is only fair and it is only what a responsible government should do and must do.
That takes me to the real bottom line for a responsible responsive government. It is finding genuine, effective and equitable ways to help those families and children in real jeopardy and need. The answer does not lie in the so-called discrimination against one earner families vis-à-vis dual income families. It actually does more to obscure the broader debate about tax fairness than it does to advance it.
The fact remains that some one earner families are better off than some two earner families and vice versa. This means that focusing on one earner versus two earner issues misses the point completely. It certainly does not make for a productive debate on options for making the tax system fairer and reducing the burden on low income Canadians. That is why as the fiscal situation improved we have taken concrete and increasingly broad action to help reduce the tax burden for all Canadians. But we have also made it a priority to target what we can do, the largest share of that relief, to those with low incomes.
The child tax benefit, which the party opposite voted against and does not think is of any value, has been increased by $2 billion in three successive budgets to provide increased financial assistance to families with children. Of the $2 billion, $1.7 billion was targeted to low income Canadians through the national child benefit supplement.
Our approach to taxation and to families is fair. It makes some sense. It is delivering relief to families that need it most, namely low income Canadians, especially those with children. The opposition may try to reduce difficult social issues to simplistic arguments of either/or, us against them, but I believe that the majority of Canadians see more clearly and more openly.
Some parents choose to both work; others have no choice. Some parents choose to have one spouse stay at home; again, others have no choice. Each have their special challenges and concerns. There is no tax system in the world that can give each and everyone of these individuals their own special treatment and privileges.
What a responsible government must do is identify basic fundamental principles and apply them universally, equitably and reasonably. That is what our national tax system tries to do. It applies the principles of progressivity and taxation of the individual. That is the fair way. It is the open way. I submit that it is the proper way.
It is in support of those values and in the sustaining of interests of all families and children that I have no hesitation whatsoever in urging the House to reject today's motion.