Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to represent the wonderful people of the riding of Elk Island in the debate on a motion put forward by the hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys.
The motion is very interesting. The hon. member is proposing that some people in the country who are not making enough money to make a decent living should have a tax break. I have to say that I very much agree with that part of the motion.
The hon. member is talking about people in the arts and entertainment industry. People are working full time trying to make a living and sometimes their income level is really challenged. It is very tough for them to make ends meet, yet the Liberals are still quite content to reach into those people's pockets and take some of their meagre earnings and use them to build fountains in Shawinigan and other projects of their liking.
I find this really passing strange. It is an interesting comment on the Prime Minister and on Liberal thinking when we contemplate what the Prime Minister said in Europe just a few days ago. He said something about people who want to keep more of their own earnings being greedy. That was the word he used.
An artist who makes $13,000 or $15,000 a year has to pay several hundred dollars in income tax so that the Prime Minister can take the money to spend in his riding. He attributes the word greed to the artist who would like to keep some of his or her own earnings, but he somehow does not see that there is any element of greed in his own wanting to use that very same money for his nefarious purposes.
I also think of single moms. There are many single parents and most of them are single moms. Many of them make less than $20,000 yet the Liberal government with its so-called social conscience is quite content to lift from the pockets of those people who make less than $20,000 a year some $6 billion or $7 billion a year in income tax. How shameful.
An NDP member is saying that we need to be less greedy and let artists keep more of their earnings. I simply say it is time we replaced the Liberal government which cannot see past anything that moves without wanting to regulate it and tax it. In principle I agree with what the NDP member is proposing in the motion, which is is to reduce taxes, particularly for those people who have a very limited income.
I could hardly let this moment pass by without mentioning our solution 17. For all intents and purposes it would take almost two million taxpayers off the tax rolls completely, giving them a 100% reduction in taxes. When the Liberals knock our solution 17 plan, they are trying to get a message to Canadians to be suspicious of our plan, to not accept it and to not trust us to form the government. I really wonder about the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister who will not openly and honestly deal with the facts and let the people of Canada decide. Instead they paint a bunch of pictures of our plan which are quite different from what the plan actually is.
There is no doubt that low income Canadians, among them artists, need a substantial tax break. The member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys has suggested that the tax break should be 100% up to $30,000 of earnings. I have a bit of a problem with that. As much as I agree with the concept of reducing the taxes, I am not in favour of saying let us find which groups we should give this benefit to.
The Liberals like to line up different groups based on their race. They say that one race will have a better advantage over another one when it comes to hiring or benefits and other things with respect to the government. The NDP would probably look at people in terms of need, but it is only prepared to look at some individuals who have needs. In this case it is looking at people in the artistic community.
Let us not hesitate to say it does not matter whether the person is an artist, a mechanic, an unemployed nurse or a part time worker at a fast food place. If the person does not make enough money to adequately provide for his or her family, then there is still something fundamentally wrong with the government taking a certain portion of the earnings and saying that it wants it anyway.
The concept of increasing the basic exemption is very good. This is where solution 17 shines. For an individual, we would take that basic exemption right up to $10,000. Many students, artists and other people who have a small income would be totally exempt from paying federal income tax, which is as it should be. The remainder would pay the lowest rate. We are currently proposing 17% for that rate. That is why we have named it solution 17.
Artists of course have other things that affect them. Depending on the area where their work takes place, many of them incur expenses while they are producing their art. Whether one is a writer or a painter, it sometimes takes a year or two or three to earn an income. Producing the work takes that much time and it is only when the work is sold that there is income.
Perhaps we would be much wiser if we looked not only at artists, but at people whose income falls into the category of a large income over longer intervals of time and no income for a long time and then a spurt of larger income and then again a time of limited or no income.
Perhaps we should re-design our income tax system so there can be some long term averaging of both income and expenses. The annual exemption of our proposed $10,000 per year would in effect give the artist a $30,000 exemption over three years, the time that it takes to produce the work.
Obviously we need to deal with this issue not only for artists but for all Canadians. Although I agree in principle with what the hon. member is trying to do, I am going to have to vote against the motion. The simple reason is that I do not think it is right to single out one occupational group as a favoured group who can earn up to $30,000 without paying income tax, but everyone else regardless of how poor they are or what their obligations are to their children and families have to pay taxes on an amount of money after whatever the basic exemption is.
The basic exemption is around $8,000 under the Liberals. It would be $10,000 per adult under our plan. A family, a mom and a dad and two kids, under our plan would have a tax free income up to $26,000. That is very close to what the hon. member is proposing for artists. The difference is that our plan would apply to everyone in that income category. That would be a much more fair way of dealing with it.
I regret that my time is up. I would like to talk a bit more about some of the supports that are available to artists but I will have to leave that for other members.