Motion No. 1
That Bill C-71, in Clause 4, be amended by deleting lines 13 to 43 on page 3 and line 1 on page 4.
Mr. Speaker, earlier I was listening to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, who was not pleased because we want to delete some lines in his minister's bill. But we are extremely happy to propose the deletion of these lines. We hope that all parliamentarians in this House will realize that our motion only makes sense.
Bill C-71 includes measures that are clearly inadequate, such as those designed to fight poverty, particularly child poverty. The legislation also includes measures that are outrageous. I will just mention the unilateral change in how the Canada health and social transfer is distributed among the provinces.
As for child poverty, one would have expected that, in this budget, the Minister of Finance and the whole cabinet would have shown a little more compassion.
There is some improvement with regard to the national child benefit. This is clearly not enough, given that the Minister of Finance could have taken that measure as early as last year, let alone this year, with the huge surpluses that are accumulating daily in the federal treasury.
Last year, that is during the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 1999, the Minister of Finance accumulated a surplus of $15 billion. He used almost all of that money to pay off part of the debt. The minister could have taken a more balanced approach. There is balance and there is balance; a balanced approach should also be taken to making choices about how the tax dollars of Quebecers and Canadians should be spent.
The Minister of Finance could have set aside a few billion dollars of this surplus of $15 billion, instead of handing it over to creditors who do not need it. He could have waited a few more months. He could have used this money to further increase the national child tax benefit.
Do people realize what this increase in the child tax benefit will mean in dollars for low and middle income families? It will put an additional $180 to $350 a year into their pockets. This benefit for Canada's poorest children is not a lot when compared to the substantial tax relief the Minister of Finance made available to top income earners.
Here is an example: the savings for someone earning $250,000 a year will be $3,000 a year starting this year and continuing in subsequent years. A child who probably goes hungry every day gets an additional $350 a year at most, while someone with an income of $250,000 gets a $3,000 tax break.
Did the Minister of Finance make the right choice? From the standpoint of equity, social justice, and compassion, it is the worst choice a finance minister has made in quite a few years.
Let me give the figures again: a surplus of $15 billion for the fiscal year just ended. This year, if the tax dollars continue to come in at the same rate, the Minister of Finance will have over $20 billion in the surplus at the very least. It seems to me that he could have made an effort. He could have kept back some of this money to help poor families.
This clown rises just about every day in this House to proclaim his desire to improve the lot of the most disadvantaged members of society and of the children of Canada who are living in poverty. He ought to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. For years we have been waiting for some action from this man, and none has yet been forthcoming.
It would have been very simple for him for several years, and this year even more so, to plug up the tax loopholes, as we have been promised every year since 1993. He had even told us that, in 1999, the famous family trust loophole would be eliminated.
We will recall that, in 1996, the auditor general had uncovered a scandal involving two family trusts with total assets in excess of $2 billion, which had been transferred to the United States without a single cent of tax being levied, a loss of some $600 million or $700 million in taxes to Revenue Canada.
Those trusts were allowed to escape. This year, the Minister of Finance promised that this leak and the tax loophole that made it possible would be plugged. This has not yet happened. The Minister of Finance has not yet done anything about the tax loophole which makes tax evasion possible for millionaires and billionaires, with his blessing, while Canada's poorest children get $180 a year from him.
This is unfair. It is not logical to see children going hungry, while tax loopholes are being maintained for millionaires. These loopholes save them hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. To give a tax saving of $3,000 to those with an income of $250,000 and over but only between $180 and $350 to the poorest families in this country does not make any sense.
The Minister of Finance is also still talking about the tax reductions to middle income taxpayers. These, however, are not real. There is talk of broadening the base for GST credits, which is good news. But when one looks at what this means at the end of the day, given how much taxpayers are paying out, since ours is among the highest taxation levels in the world, this is all smoke and mirrors.
Let us see, since 1986, how Quebec and Canadian taxpayers have had to pay out because the tax tables and the entire tax system are not fully indexed.
Between 1986 and 1996, the fact that income tax on supplementary income did not take into account the increase in the cost of living, the GST credits did not reflect the change in the cost of living above 3% inflation, federal family allowances were not fully indexed as they should be, the child tax credit had to be paid back, all this and the fact that all Canadian tax measures are not indexed meant that between 1986 and 1996 average Quebec families paying tax to Ottawa—for a while yet, perhaps several years—paid $7,000 more than they should have paid had the tax tables been fully indexed.
Residents of Ontario subject to the same mechanisms as Quebec taxpayers paid $10,000 too much. Had the tax tables been fully indexed, we would have had this as net income in our pockets over a ten year period from 1986 to 1996.
The cup is nowhere near our lips. We are nowhere near substantial reductions in taxes, when our tax system systematically robs us because taxes are not indexed. This is the first thing the Minister of Finance should have done when he took office, had he been a little more dynamic and stopped watching the economy work for him and the provinces and the unemployed doing his work by eliminating the deficit and increasing the surplus. But he did not.
We have a lazy Minister of Finance, who lets things go as they will, but takes all the credit. He does not say that every year he creams off the employment insurance surplus, which represents several billion dollars.
We are now talking $20 billion that were literally grabbed by the minister from the fund. But he does not mention that. He does not mention that he starved the provinces, through the Canada social transfer, of cash needed to fund health, post-secondary education and social assistance. No, the minister says nothing on that score.
He does not mention that it is the unemployed, the workers contributing to the employment insurance fund and the provinces that did the job for him. He is taking all the credit. He is no doubt getting ready for the leadership race. This is outrageous. It is despicable to play petty politics on the backs of the poor, as the minister is doing, while taking credit for the sacrifices made by others. This is shameful.
As for the Canada social transfer, the Minister of Finance had a little surprise in store for us in the last budget. Without any warning, without informing anyone, he decided that, to reward some provinces, particularly Ontario, which was so quick to get down on its knees to sign the social union framework agreement, but also British Columbia and Alberta, he would give them a nice present, again without informing Quebec.
Ontario was probably in the know. Mike Harris reacted so strongly during the first few minutes of the budget speech, that he could not possibly not have known.
The minister offered these provinces to change the method, based on population, used to distribute the money from the Canada social transfer. The result of this was that Quebec lost $350 million annually, while Ontario got about 50% of the Canada social transfer.
My motion today seeks, among other things, to change the calculation method announced without warning by the Minister of Finance, and to revert to criteria based on the province's needs, as was previously the case.