Mr. Speaker, I have heard the story in the past of someone who was told, when they were going in to give a speech, “Give them hell”. His response was, “I just tell them the truth. Liberals think that is hell”. Tonight, that is what we will do once again.
I am pleased to be here as part of this debate. Tonight we have heard the Liberals avoid, at all costs, a discussion of their carbon tax. I will talk first about what this government is doing, what it has done and what it will do in the future for Canadians. I will then talk a bit about the alternatives with which Canadians are faced.
One of the most important alternatives that this government has come up with and has taken has been to invest in transportation alternatives and in taxation options and alternatives. I will talk a bit about that tonight.
This government has clearly made significant investments. It has made investments from gas tax revenues into infrastructure. The Liberals who are here tonight do not want to talk about their future plans and, I suspect, do not want to talk about their past actions either but we have made some changes that people were waiting for and were happy to see.
In the words of the mayor of Brampton, Susan Fennell, “The Conservative government has done more for municipalities in the last two years than the old government did in the last 13 years”. I think that says something about what we are doing in terms of taxation and what we are doing in terms of things that will begin to affect the cost of fuel across this country as well.
In the 2008 budget, for example, the Minister of Finance announced that we would make the gas tax permanent. Canadian municipalities have been asking for that for years but again something which the Liberals failed to deliver. We delivered on the 5¢ of the excise tax that is collected on fuel and now municipalities have the long term, sustainable funding for infrastructure that they have requested for so long. Mayors from across the country have praised this announcement and said that they appreciate the opportunity to use that small amount of taxation money on fuel in order to fund the projects that are so important.
The government also introduced an infrastructure plan called the building Canada plan. It is a historic $33 billion investment, the largest infrastructure investment by any government in the last 50 years. Building Canada is meant to provide funding for cleaner water, better highways, more efficient border crossings and public transit. At least two of those things will directly impact fuel prices and fuel usage, and that is our highway system and the public transit options and alternatives.
The largest amount of funding under the building Canada plan is not only for the funding of public transit. After 13 years of lots of talk and no action by the Liberals, this government has made several important investments. For example, budget 2006 included the public transit pass tax credit. Tonight we hear the Liberals talking about the fact that they do not think anything has been done. Clearly this change in the budget has rewarded Canadians who use public transit regularly and who buy monthly passes.
Budget 2006 also included $1.3 billion in support of public transit capital investments. Amazingly, the Liberals and the NDP voted against this important public tax credit. They are here tonight saying that they have some sort of plan but when we come out with things that will support the public, particularly in terms of public transit, they oppose it.
In March 2007, the Prime Minister announced up to $962 million in a partnership with the province of Ontario and five municipalities to generate a combined investment of close to $4.5 billion in public transit and highway infrastructure projects in the greater Toronto area. That is something that will work toward reducing gridlock, improving the environment and increasing economic growth in the GTA.
There is more. Bill C-50, the budget implementation act, includes a $500 million public transit trust and nearly $250 million in carbon capture and storage projects, which will be spent in Saskatchewan and in Nova Scotia. That was a great boost for the economy and for the opportunities in my own home province of Saskatchewan.
This government also made a decision to put almost $500 million into alternative biofuels in order to reduce fuel costs. That is something that has been praised by the other parties as being necessary. We are glad to be leading the way in those kinds of alternatives that give people other options and that will contribute to lowering the cost of fuel.
Canadians understand that this government's investments in public transit are significant. Those are some of the things that we have done and that we are doing.
I would like to take a little bit of time tonight to talk about the alternative stats. It is necessary to do that because we have been moving ahead with a number of tax initiatives. I will talk a bit more about some more of them in a few minutes but I want to talk about the alternative that is being presented for Canadians.
The Liberals have said they do not want to talk about any phantom plans or anything but I just heard the member who spoke talk about the fact that they coming out with a plan. By everything that I understood, he was talking about the carbon tax plan that they and the media have been discussing over the last month.
The Liberals' carbon tax plan seems to be something where they are trying to trick Canadians into thinking that there will not be a cost to Canadians. There would be an increased cost. There would be an increased cost on gas, for example, which will certainly hurt public transit users because it would become more costly to run the buses.
The costs will be transferred to Canadians who are taking public transit. Canadians right away will begin to find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Taking a car will become more expensive but so will public transit. It is just another example of how the Liberal opposition has not thought out the program that it is trying to bring forward.
Canadians know that the Liberals will be coming up with some sort of a massive punitive gas tax on Canadians which will force them to pay more for just about everything from heating their homes to groceries.
I was a little frustrated with the NDP because it is trying to delay the passage of Bill C-50 and we are trying to provide significant funding through that for the environment and public transit. The Bloc, I guess, as witnessed by the emergency debate tonight, seems to more interested in playing political on this issue than anything else and is trying to score some cheap political points rather than provide actual solutions. However, I would imagine that comes out of its frustration from understanding that it will never be able to make a difference here in Ottawa, that they will never be anything but a protest party here in the House of Commons.
The government has taken a number of other initiatives. I would like to talk about those because it is important that we really set the framework for what we have done. We have clearly been ahead of the game. The finance minister and the Prime Minister have done a tremendous job of moving ahead of what is happening in our economy and to react to it in order to keep our economy strong.
I want to talk about a few of the things that have happened. We have brought a lot of personal tax help to Canadians over the last two years. I do not think I need to mention that we have cut the GST by 2%. We made a decision to make a bigger tax cut in the GST than the one we had indicated earlier . We removed 1% and then another 1% on the GST.
I found it interesting to be reading some material tonight that indicated the Liberals would reverse that tax reduction.The finance critic for the Liberals said that “hiking the GST is an option. All I can say is that i consistent with our approach”. He said that about a year ago. The leader said the Liberals would consider raising the GST. He said that it may need to be raised back to 7% and perhaps higher than that.
This government has also reduced personal income taxes. We felt that it was important that Canadians get income tax relief so we have consistently worked to lower the income tax for Canadians.
One of the most important things we have done is raise the personal exemption so Canadians have a higher personal exemption and, as a result of that, they pay less taxes as well.
Those are things that Canadians may not realize how much difference it has made for them. I was talking to a couple of people in my riding in the last two months who wanted to thank me for the changes the government has made. One of them said that he did not make a lot of money, that he had four young children, but he said that the differences in the taxation from two years ago until now for his family was about $2,000 a year.
I had somebody else tell me that his family was saving close to $4,000 this year on income tax because of the changes that the government has made in terms of income tax. People can say that it does not amount to much but for the average Canadian it is a huge difference.
I hear one of my colleagues over here muttering to herself. I guess she is probably annoyed and angered by the fact that we have been so effective in lowering taxes across the country that Canadians are now beginning to understand how important and how much that difference has made in their lives. For most people, taking home $2,000 or $4,000 extra a year is very significant.
I want to contrast that again with what we heard the member from the Liberals talk about a bit ago where he used the words “tax shift”. I think Canadians need to start paying attention. Right from the beginning when they hear the words “tax shift”, they should understand that is not going to end well for them.
The Liberals want to leave the impression, first, that they do not really have any tax plan. However, when their critic starts talking about the fact that they are going to be shifting taxes, we need to take a look at what that means. Their proposal, as they say, is that they are going to move taxes from one area to another, but overall it is going to stay about the same. We know that is wrong, for a couple of reasons.
First, the Liberals have made about $60 billion in additional spending promises. So we know they cannot lower taxes. We know they can only raise them.
Second, they say that they are going to, I guess, put a carbon tax on somewhere, but they claim it is not going to affect the price of fuel. Well, we know that it will.
So, as they are moving their taxation money around, we know they are not going to lower income taxes. We know that they are not going to lower the GST because they have already said that they think they would like to hike it. We know full well that they are going to be putting a carbon tax on, so that taxes are going to go up. That is not a tax shift; that is a tax increase.
There is no such thing as revenue neutral on these taxes. I want to just point out one way that it cannot be revenue neutral even if, in their fantasy, they were not to raise the overall taxation because what it does is it shifts taxation from one person to another. If they think that they are going to lower income taxes, who does that impact the most? It will impact high income earners. If they lower the income taxes for them, somewhere else there is another taxation going on. I can tell members where it is going to be. It is going to be in the rural areas. It is going to be for seniors. It is going to be for low income families who do not pay a lot of income tax.
So, for someone who is making a lot of money, paying income tax, the Liberals say they will reduce it, but we know that they are going to shift that. Even if it is neutral, they are going to shift that to poor people who are not paying income tax, those who have to try to pay electrical bills and home heating bills.
As we heard the member for Yukon say earlier, things like transportation and home heating is a big issue for people in his rural riding. Even getting food into his area is a huge issue if the prices continue to rise.
I live in a rural area and I face those same challenges. I do not think that people, when they begin to look at this carbon tax proposal that the Liberals have, are going to find that it is acceptable in any way, shape or form.
It is funny because the Liberals say they want to put on a carbon tax, but tonight they do not want to talk about it. Every time we have mentioned their proposal, they say that we are attacking them and being critical of them. However, we want to know what they are talking about. We think it is important. We think it is good that we talk about this.
It seems to me that there are a couple of things wrong with this carbon tax. First of all, it is a bad idea. However, for the Liberals, there is another reason why it is not a good idea. They have a pile of their people who do not even support it. Their party is completely split on the issue of what looks like is going to be their main campaign platform.
Let me quote a few of those people because I think it is important that Canadians understand that not only are the Conservatives against this, not only are thinking Canadians opposed to this, not only is the NDP opposed to this, but a number of Liberals are opposed to it as well.
Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella has stated that a carbon tax is unfair to people on fixed incomes, such as the elderly and the poor, who have to heat their homes and buy their food as well.
The Liberal member for Beauséjour has declared that artificially manipulating fuel prices is environmentally irresponsible. Certainly, the goal of a carbon tax is to artificially manipulate prices.
The Liberal member for Kings—Hants has stated that he is, “--strongly against energy taxes”. He said: “I would never propose that Canada needs higher taxes in any area”.
The member for Vaughan has said that a carbon tax is certainly not an option for him, and former leadership contender and Liberal candidate Gerard Kennedy is of the opinion that a carbon tax is the clumsiest of the options they have so far.
I would think that the Liberal leader would listen to some of these people and understand that he does not need to be in a situation where he is picking out any more clumsy options. If he is listening tonight, I would certainly ask him to reconsider this poorly thought out idea that he has of imposing a carbon tax on Canadians.
There are some former high ranking Liberal leaders who are scratching their heads when it comes to this new Liberal plan for a carbon tax. Bill Graham, who was a long time member in the House, said, “Certainly, when we were in government, we clearly did not advocate a carbon tax”. It just seems that there are so many people who are opposed to this.
The strangest thing of all is that one of the people who has been most opposed to a carbon tax is the Liberal leader himself, the one who is now suggesting that we need to have a carbon tax and several times he has stated that he is adamantly opposed to a carbon tax. However, in true Liberal form, we expect the Liberals to flip flop and completely change their position. He said one thing, now he is doing something that is completely contrary to that. That just points out to Canadians that this is not a group of people we should trust with government.
What has happened to him between the time when he said he opposed the carbon tax and now when he says that we really need one in Canada? I would think that perhaps he remembered that Liberals love tax dollars. They have no qualms about trying to find ways to tax and certainly will come up with new ideas all the time to do that. They love to get deeper and deeper into the pockets of hard-working Canadians. We have seen that time and again, and they like to spend that money as though it is their own money.
We recognize there is only one place that government money comes from and that is Canadian taxpayers. That is why the Conservative Party has worked so hard to try to leave that tax money in the pockets of Canadians rather than taking it from them.
There are a number of reasons why people should oppose a carbon tax. The most obvious one is that it imposes a tax punishment on Canadians. It does not matter how carbon tax is organized or how it is arranged, it will punish Canadians. It will have to increase the price of gas at the pumps because that is the purpose of it. It will have to increase the price of home heating fuel, which will be affected by the carbon tax as well. It will increase the price of natural gas for people to heat their homes and it will increase the price of electricity.
It will lead to an increase in the price of everyday goods. Higher gas prices will obviously result in increased shipping costs as well. I would suggest that the Liberal leader needs to rethink this because heating our homes and eating food are not bad habits that a Liberal government would need to discourage. Yet, that is exactly what a gas tax would do. It would force Canadians to cut back on necessities and try to figure out what they will spend their money on.
As I have already mentioned, the gas tax will have the biggest impact on low income Canadians, particularly seniors.
Another reason to oppose this tax is because it will not reach its intended goal. A number of people have said, and David Coon, the policy director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick is one of them, that a revenue neutral carbon tax will not help the environment or reduce carbon emissions. Neutrality is ridiculous.
I know I have to wrap up here but I just want to say that Canadians will not be fooled by the Liberal leader. If this looks like a massive tax grab and sounds like a massive tax grab, it is a massive tax grab.
Our government has lowered income taxes. It has lowered the GST. It has raised the personal exemption. It has brought in child tax credits so that Canadians can keep their money and spend it as they choose. When it comes to sound management of the economy, the choice is clear. The Liberals want to increase taxes, and punish Canadian workers for their own out of control spending and lack of priorities.
In contrast, we are delivering balanced budgets and lowering taxes in order to keep Canada growing and keep it strong.