Motion No. 1
That Bill C-28 be amended by deleting Clause 181.
Mr. Speaker, today, I rise to speak to the amendment that I put have forward. I want to begin by thanking my colleague from Hamilton for seconding the motion.
In fact, it is a very short amendment to Bill C-28. It asks that we delete clause 181. I say that because Bill C-28 is quite a document. It is in fact a document that is hundreds of pages long and this one particular amendment to delete clause 181 would do something extremely important. It would delete the corporate tax cuts that are in this package.
Notwithstanding the brevity of the amendment, the impacts I think would be substantive and positive.
We have seen in this country unprecedented growth. We have seen prosperity for some, but not spread out and achieved by all.
It is my belief that when we are dealing with tax policy, it is important to look at the many and not just the few. In this case, clause 181 looks at the few; in other words, those who would benefit from corporate tax cuts.
Some would say that is well and good, that it actually would be a good tax policy because it would increase investment in the country.
It sounds good, in theory. However, we have to strike a balance in this country. When we have Canadians sitting around their kitchen tables, as we speak, looking at how they are going to make ends meet, they would not see the same benefits in Bill C-28 that are proposed for corporations. They would see less benefits, if we were to do a cost benefit analysis.
In fact, in the last number of years, we have seen a widening prosperity gap, and our party has been very clear on this issue. In fact, the affordability of things is increasing for many Canadians, such as health care, which I know, Mr. Speaker, has been a concern of yours in the past and remains a concern of yours.
In 1980, 80% of our health care system was publicly financed. We are at the level now where 70% of our health care system is publicly financed which means that 30% is financed through the private sector.
I say that because many Canadians cannot afford the drugs they need. Many Canadians are on waiting lists and are having to seek other forms of help in terms of getting health care when they need it.
There is nothing in this package that would help them. There is no affordable drug plan in this package. There is nothing that would help everyday Canadians who need affordable education. There is nothing in this package that would deal with the housing crisis. There is nothing in this package that would give hope to people who need help right now.
This amendment would eliminate the corporate tax giveaway. In fact, David Lewis once famously said it is corporate welfare.
I see it as corporate welfare because the party in power right now never ever campaigned on this corporate tax cut. Members will remember the Conservatives famously ran on five things. I can guarantee that corporate tax cuts was not in those five issues. They talked about the GST, certainly, but they did not talk about corporate tax cuts.
So, this is about holding the government to account. It is about equity. It is about the importance of investing to make our country more productive. In fact, a representative who spoke to committee on another bill recently said:
Investors will keep investing in Canada. Why? Because we have an educated, efficient workforce. We're marvellously endowed in resources. We have a good, though perhaps somewhat neglected, infrastructure.
He went on to say that corporate cuts are not what brings an educated and efficient workforce, it is not what protects our environment and natural resources, and it does not rebuild and strengthen our neglected infrastructure.
The point that we are endowed with resources and have a good, though perhaps somewhat neglected, infrastructure is key because when we look at the way these corporate tax cuts will be handed over, it is basically like throwing money into the wind and hoping it lands in the right place.
By the way, the person who I am quoting was actually a representative from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. From my perspective certainly not someone who the government would usually ignore. However, in doing this act, in providing these kinds of corporate tax cuts, in fact it is.
I want to take a moment to speak to the opposition parties, both the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party. Recently, the leader of the Liberal Party spoke to his party's vision on economics and fair taxes. He said that the previous Liberal government reduced the federal corporate tax rate to 19% from 28% and that the Conservatives will reduce it to 18.5% by 2011. He said that he would go deeper than that and then went on to tell us why.
I would plead with the Liberal Party to take a look at where our corporate taxes are. The fact is that it gave the green light to this government with this speech in saying that it should go further. Indeed, it did.
Many have said that once the Conservatives heard that the Liberals were going to go deeper in corporate tax cuts, they raced to 15% when they were going to stay at 17%. I hope the Liberal Party takes a look at who benefits from these corporate tax cuts, particularly in the way they are ascribed.
I do not believe that at this point in our economy, when students have record debt, when we have an infrastructure deficit of $123 billion, and when people cannot afford the medicines they need, that we need to give corporations welfare.
This is a very simple, sanguine, smart amendment to a policy that is wrong. Further corporate tax cuts were never debated during the election. I have quoted spokespersons from the Chamber of Commerce who have said that the key thing to invest in is infrastructure.
There is absolutely no guarantee, when corporate tax cuts and gifts are handed over to corporations, that they will invest. We hope they would, but where is the guarantee? Indeed, where is the accountability?
It is interesting to note that we see on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen today that the government was able to forgive huge tax bills for a select few Canadians, 35 of them, that had been burned during the boom and bust of the high tech industry. It is sad for those people and I guess terrific for those few who are going to benefit, but where is the tax fairness for other Canadians?
Where is the fairness in this bill? This amendment would actually balance things off. It says now is not the time for deeper tax cuts for corporations. Now is the time for key strategic investments in people. That is what has been missing from the government. Where is the human face in its economic plan?
It throws out the idea that there is a GST cut. When we compare that to the deep cuts in corporate taxes and the minuscule crumbs that are being handed over to everyday people, there is a balance problem.
When we take a look at certain people being rewarded because of successfully lobbying the government for investments they made and were burned on in the case of JDS Uniphase, we have to wonder who the government is listening to.
The government is not listening to seniors. Recently, my colleague from Hamilton pointed out that seniors have been burned. Their pensions were not properly indexed. Is the government helping them out? No.
In summary, I hope that my friends from the Liberal Party will support this measure, will not stay with this corporate tax cut craze, and that my friends from the Bloc will support this amendment.
Indeed, I urge the government to look at this as a progressive thing that will help people and their communities. It will allow us to invest in people, our communities, our infrastructure, and cut off the corporate welfare that seems to exist today.