Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address the bill, Bill C-456, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act.
Before I get into that, I just want to say to the speaker who just spoke that we wish her all the best in her career after politics. She is one of many members who will be leaving this place. Although we are on different sides in this case, I think there is a real collegiality in this place at the end of the day and people do want to see the people, who were even their political adversaries, go on to prosper in their careers after they leave Parliament. Certainly that is my wish.
I want to begin by commending the member for bring forward Bill C-456. I really commend the motives behind this. It is a bill that would see the GST on diapers exempted so there would be no GST them. It is motivated by a good thing. The member makes it clear she wants to help people who, in many cases, cannot afford diapers.
I am someone who knows a little about diapers. At one point I was a struggling young man with a family who had to try to pay for diapers, formula, clothing, playpens, all the things required to raise children. I have a tremendous amount of sympathy with people who are struggling with that. It is a very hard situation.
We did not have much money when we first had our children. It is a difficult thing. I changed many diapers. I remember my youngest son was very ill when he was first born and we went through a lot of diapers. Therefore, I have tremendous appreciation for the intent behind the bill. It is difficult to afford all those things, whether it is clothes, formula, some of the accessories and certainly diapers.
Let me address the specifics. The argument the member has made is that although this would not necessarily amount to a lot of money, to someone who is poor, it is substantial. I agree with that. I also think that there are maybe some better ways to address it.
It is pretty clear that if we exempt diapers, then other people would argue for further exemptions, whether it is on clothes or other things. Those things are commendable, but I think a lot of people would argue that a better approach is to lower taxes in general for people on the low end. I think we should have lower taxes for people on the low end.
My leader spoke not long ago in Truro about the need to ensure that families with children received special attention in the future and that there be substantial tax relief for them, irrespective, by the way, of how they looked after their children. A lot of the tax breaks and benefits in Canada today have been based on how we look after our children. We do not think that is the appropriate way to deal with it. The important thing is that we get some tax relief if we have children. We want to honour the fact that people have made the decision to have children and who want to support them.
We want to provide some kind of acknowledgement of that through lower taxes for families with children, whatever their special challenge. If it is a case like mine where we had a very sick child and went through a lot of diapers, then we could use those lower taxes to help with that. If it is a situation that is different, maybe they need extra medication, whatever it is, they would be in a position as the recipient of lower taxes to keep more of that money. They then could decide on their priorities.
I really do appreciate the point of this, and we are very sympathetic to it, but we would take a little different approach.
Generally speaking, taxes in Canada are far too high, I would argue, for everyone. I was looking at the numbers the other day. In Canada today, all three levels of government spend about 42% of GDP.