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House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberals.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. When we talk about the tax burden on our families, it is very important to mention what this government has accomplished. Our government is the one that implemented a program to lower taxes in order to put $3,000 in the pockets of every family every year. That is incredible for some of our families. This extra $3,000 a year helps our families make decisions in the interest of their children, their family. Raising taxes will destroy our ability to put this $3,000 in the pockets of these families. We have done a number of things for families.

Let me tell the member some of the things that have been done under this government. Aside from the $3,000 that typical families are putting in their pockets, we introduced a $100 a month universal child care benefit to give Canadians choice in child care. The GST reduction helps families. We introduced important tax credits, like the child tax credit, the children's fitness tax credit, the public transit tax credit, the Canada employment credit, the working income tax benefit and a number of other things.

Families in this country rely on this government because we have acted and shown them that we will do what is in our power to make sure they are protected financially.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I always get a kick out of Conservatives talking about tax and spend parties on the other side when they were the ones, and I remind everyone of this, who brought in the income tax to help pay for World War I. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe that World War I is long over and that we paid for it a long time ago.

What other tax did the Conservatives bring us? The GST, and God love them for doing it. Two of the most hated taxes in Canada brought to us by our friends in the Conservative Party. I just say that for historical perspective.

One thing the hon. member should know is that when U.S. companies receive further corporate tax rates, their profit margins are obviously increased. Unfortunately for us, the United States ends up taxing those profit margins when the profits are remitted back to the United States.

My question to her is why should Canadians be helping the Americans tax their multinational corporations when those corporations remit their profits back to the U.S. and are taxed by the United States government? Why are we helping the U.S. economy in that regard and not using those corporate funds?

The hon. member is correct about families. However, she knows we have many, many families with autistic children who cannot get help. We have many veterans struggling to get help from the government. We now have 6,500 veterans taking the government to court to receive disability payments.

My question to the hon. member is, could that money not be used to really help those families who are in desperate need?

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Questions and comments by the hon. parliamentary secretary, but a shorter answer please.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am just so excited about the economic action plan and all that the government is doing that I cannot help myself. I continue to talk about the benefits of this low tax agenda we have for our families here in Canada.

I heard a couple of questions by the hon. member. It is important when we are all working together in this place that we look at the facts. The facts remain that low taxes help our families.

I want to quote a member of the NDP. The member for Thunder Bay—Superior North said:

There are elements in our party that have not been adequately concerned about the health and growth of businesses.

That is important because that NDP member realizes that the creation of jobs through businesses helps our families, helps our veterans and helps our aged. That is what is important to Canadians, and we as a Conservative government will continue on that track.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Kings—Hants for bringing this motion forward and giving us an opportunity to state our views on taxes.

We should read the beginning of his motion, “That, in the opinion of the House, the Government’s decision to proceed with cuts to the tax rate for large corporations...”.

We will support this motion from the official opposition and we hope that all its members will be present for the vote—that is the least they could do—so that we can show a united front to the government, which has indicated through the new parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance that it disagrees.

Where do taxes come from? Maybe we could take five minutes to ask who pays. In Canada, as in all democratic countries, the tax system has two main supports: corporations and individuals. It is pretty clear who the individuals are. They are the ordinary people, as our friends in the NDP like to say. They are every one of us, who send a portion of the income we earn in Canada to the government. It is a relatively simple system. Well-established rates are applied to our taxable incomes.

When it comes to corporations, there are two kinds: small and medium-sized businesses and big business. Among the latter are the multinationals, the oil companies, the banks and manufacturers, on whom I will focus in the next few minutes.

If taxes on the large corporations, oil companies, banks and multinationals are not increased, if we do not take the taxes out of their hides, and indirectly out of the hides of their shareholders, who is left to support the government? If the taxes on large corporations are cut, the money has to come from somewhere else. And where is that? It is from small and medium-sized businesses and individuals.

The Conservatives’ tax policy is therefore very clear. There are only three choices: individuals, small and medium-sized businesses or large corporations. If the taxes on large corporations are cut, they benefit, while small and medium-sized businesses and individuals will pay the price.

The Conservatives have a right to do that. It is their Conservative tax policy and their country. But we do not agree, and I will get back to that.

In attacking small and medium-sized businesses, they are attacking the big job creators. In attacking individuals, they are attacking the poor, the middle class and the upper class. Of course, the least wealthy people in our society have such small incomes that many do not pay any tax. If someone does not pay taxes, he or she will not be affected if the taxes on banks and financial institutions fluctuate. It is the middle class and the upper class, therefore, who will feel the financial pinch. If the Conservatives cut the taxes on large corporations, they will have to target small and medium-sized businesses and individuals with average incomes, the people who keep our economy rolling along, as workers and consumers.

With regard to the wealthy or those who have high incomes, we are saying, as in the member's motion, that this wealth and incomes over $150,000 should also be taxed. I will come back to this.

Why do we favour small and medium-sized enterprises—SMEs—over big business? We can certainly describe SMEs, and I will come back to this. However, from a tax perspective, SMEs are led by owners and entrepreneurs. One person, two people, a couple or a family own a small or medium-sized business that helps drive the economy. From a tax perspective, an attack on SMEs is an attack on an easily identifiable owner, for example, Mr. Smith and son, Mr. Smith and daughter or Ms. Smith and son. It is a fact: these are individuals, while a big business is a faceless corporation. We do not know who we are dealing with in a big business: it has major shareholders; it has money; it has companies that invest in other companies. The difference between the people being attacked is very clear when a decision is made to implement this type of tax policy.

SMEs in Quebec are in a particular situation. In fact, 99% of Quebec companies identified by Statistics Canada are SMEs. Things are certainly different in terms of gross revenue. Quebec's SMEs—company owners in Quebec who open their doors every morning at 8, who close them after the office employees have left, and who work seven days a week—represent 99% of businesses. In Quebec, we have entrepreneurs.

Moreover, SMEs employ over 56% of workers in Quebec. As a result, 56% of all Quebec workers, including the public servants, politicians and what have you, work in SMEs. These employees work in close contact with the owner. Their employer is not a distant shareholder represented by a board of directors. They see their boss every day. As a result, individuals are clearly affected by a decrease in taxes for big business because they are the ones who end up having to pay if big business does not. These individuals are affected and they see their employer, the owner of the small or medium-sized business, being affected.

SMEs play an important role in the economy. That is why we mention them in our budget platform, entitled, Au tour du Québec!, which is now available on the Bloc's website, blocquebecois.org. I have given a copy to the Minister of Finance. The parliamentary secretary was there and she seemed very interested in the Bloc's proposals. One of the Bloc's many proposals has to do with the creation of SMEs. We are recommending that the Conservatives establish a business start-up program. Quebec had a program like that to create businesses in the 1990s. This program would target entrepreneurs, those who will each hire three, four or five people. So we have a policy on SMEs.

My colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé brought up a very interesting point. In 2007, the government lowered taxes and announced tax cuts for businesses. It reduced the taxes of small and medium-sized businesses from 12% to 11%, a drop of one percentage point, or one-twelfth which is 8%. However, the tax rate for big businesses dropped from 22% to 15%. That was seven percentage points, or 32% less. This meant that the tax cut for big businesses was four times greater than the cut for SMEs. Four times. I thank the member for Berthier—Maskinongé for making me aware of this and pointing out that it was not right. This government's tax policy is very clear.

We agree with the opposition member's proposal. This budget should be about Quebec. It is Quebec's turn. But who are they focusing on? The banks. From 2007 to 2009, chartered banks made $46 billion in after-tax net profits. Big bank shareholders received $46 billion, $6 billion of which came from tax havens. That is a lot of money.

We propose targeting banks that declare after-tax net profits of $6 billion in tax havens. They should pay their share. In 2011, that would equal $1.3 billion.

The Standing Committee on Finance is currently studying the issue of tax havens. We are talking about $600 million from companies and at least $1 billion from individuals. That is where we should be getting the money from.

No one would be surprised to hear that we are interested in oil companies. In 2003, when the hon. member for Kings—Hants was running for the leadership of the real Conservative party—the Progressive Conservative Party—these future Liberals, with support from the others, passed a tax reduction policy specifically for oil companies. It is disappointing that the member never became the leader of the Progressive Conservatives or the Liberals—maybe someday he will lead the NDP, who knows—because he was not able to convince people that massive tax cuts for oil companies made no sense.

These gifts to the oil companies need to stop. Each year they receive more than $1.3 billion in subsidies, either directly or indirectly. If we began taxing oil companies again at the going rate, they would pay $1.9 billion more in taxes. No one in Canada would complain if we told oil companies that they need to contribute more because they make their living off oil and they cannot move it, they cannot pick up and leave because that is where the oil is. No one in Hochelaga would complain if we raised taxes for oil companies. That is what we think about the oil companies and the banks.

Earlier I talked about three levels of individuals. There are those who do not pay taxes, then there is the majority, the middle class, those who work. I say leave them alone. Lastly, there are those who earn over $150,000 or over $250,000. We proposed something last year and we are proposing it again this year.

We are proposing that people who earn between $150,000 and $250,000 should pay 2% more. Would it really bother someone who earns, say, just $150,000 to pay 2%, which would be about $3,000? No. People who earn $250,000, or a quarter of a million dollars a year, should pay 3% more, or $7,500. Would that bother them? No. In the end, that would add up to $4.8 billion. Those figures are from the revenue and finance departments. We worked on them in order to come up with our proposals for the Minister of Finance.

People who earn $150,000 and $250,000 a year would be asked to pay a total of $4.8 billion. They would not even notice a difference.

We would also like to see the bonuses of high-income earners taxed at a higher marginal tax rate. If institutions and companies want to pay their executives outrageous bonuses, they should be allowed to do so.

We recommend that these bonuses not be deductible from a company’s taxable income. Everyone knows that companies deduct salaries from their taxable income, and we do not have a problem with that. However, when it comes to outrageous bonuses, we do not agree. If a business decides to hand out $10 million—

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

An hon. member

Ha, ha!

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member sitting at the other end of the House, whom we recognize by his raucous laughter, to stop laughing so loudly and let us get some work done.

That being said, I have no problem with people receiving bonuses totalling $10 million. However, I do not want the companies to be able to deduct that $10 million from their taxable income.

The Bloc Québécois also suggested other measures to the Minister of Finance regarding funding to help fight homelessness and improve social housing.

There is bank and corporate tax, but the budget must also be taken into consideration. It is currently 11:22 a.m., and this morning, at 10:15 a.m., the President of the Treasury Board tabled his supplementary estimates, which amount to $278 billion for this fiscal year. Last Wednesday, I suggested that the Minister of Finance cut $2.5 billion from the budget, which is not even 1%, but 0.9%. During the crisis, every business and every private citizen reduced their spending by at least 1%, and this is what the government should do too.

What does $2.5 billion equate to? It is $1 million a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, for 10 years. Imagine if I were to make a $1 million donation every day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, for 10 years. That would total $2.5 billion. The government could do this every year.

If the government is not able to work this out itself, I have another trick up my sleeve I can suggest. Pages 107 and 108 of this morning's supplementary estimates refer to the creation of a national securities regulatory body and a Canadian securities regulation regime transition office. The government is funnelling $161 million into that endeavour, and these are merely examples. If the government wants to set that kind of fiscal policy, then, in our opinion, it should go ahead and do so.

Sovereignty, as I said yesterday, is about deciding whether or not to sign a treaty with Panama, for example. It is about a nation making its own laws and raising its own taxes. In a sovereign Quebec, the national fiscal policy would be very different and truly unique to us. We could make sure that SMEs and average income earners are put first and that the big corporations pay their fair share.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few comments. I completely disagree with what the member opposite has said. He is misleading the people of his province and of our country.

First, I take offence to the concept that big businesses or big corporations are faceless. The banks, oil companies and automakers employ thousands and thousands of people in our country. They make a difference to our economy every day. They are not big, faceless organizations. I do not know one company in the world that is not run by people. It takes people to make the country move and everyone plays a role. Whether they make lots of money, or are big corporations or small individual retailers, everyone contributes.

Another fallacy in his comments was that as an individual I could be incorporated. The word “corporate” seems to have a bad name around here and I do not know why. Whether it is a small business or a big business, the rule of thumb is about $500,000. If business people make less than that, from a tax perspective, they are probably better off to be sole proprietors or partnerships and not corporations.

Does the member not agree, with his vast knowledge as a minister in his own province, that anyone can be incorporated, that corporations are businesses and businesses contribute to the well-being of our country?

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier I asked that you call the member for Burlington, who just spoke, to order. Evidently, I was right to do so because he did not understand a word of what I said. The member did not know at all what he was talking about. He makes things up, and I understand why the Prime Minister chose the member for Saint-Boniface as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. I understand, because the member for Burlington, by quacking like a duck and making statements like those he just made, is proving that even though he sits in that seat, he is not all he is cracked up to be.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is an honourable place and the comments made by the Bloc member are absolutely dishonourable and he ought to apologize. This is no place to attack people personally. If he cannot refrain from that, I would expect the Speaker would hold him to account.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order please. I would encourage all members of Parliament to demonstrate respect for one another in this place. As all members know, specific terms are not allowed in the House. However, more broadly there is a sense that members ought to demonstrate respect for one another.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I believe your words are very timely and very appropriate for a little decorum. It is our responsibility to provide that to the House and to Canadians. Will your words apply to the members of the Conservative Party as they begin their deliberations for Standing Order 31s this afternoon and beyond?

I understand the Conservative Party likes to attack particular leaders and particular MPs in the House, challenging their integrity. Will those words echo this afternoon I wonder? I doubt it.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I thank the member for his comments. The comments from the Chair apply at all times.

Resuming questions and comments, the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for Hochelaga for his opinion or that of his party with regard to increasing employment insurance contributions.

How does this penalize our SMEs in Quebec and Canada? How does this penalize average individuals much more significantly? How will this truly and clearly eliminate jobs and not create imaginary jobs, as the Conservatives with their corporate tax cuts would have us believe?

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie is absolutely right. Last year, during consideration of the budget speech, we showed that the Conservative government had its sights on the employment insurance fund, which does not belong to the government at all. The government acts as though it contributes to the fund. It does not put a penny into it. The employer contributes 60% and the employee contributes 40%. They are the ones insuring themselves against potential job losses.

In our document entitled Au tour du Québec we propose a sweeping reform of the employment insurance system. We are calling for an increase in employment insurance benefits from 55% to 60% of salary, for the two-week waiting period to be reduced and for people who are self-employed—who may be considered SMEs—to be allowed to contribute and benefit from this insurance plan. After all, it belongs to them, and not at all to the government.

I just want to add that with honourable people we can have honourable discussions.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I truly enjoyed my colleague's speech, in which he mentioned many tangible Bloc Québécois proposals for the budget. I know that he has worked very hard to present the Bloc Québécois budget proposal. We are the only opposition party to do so, to make a commitment, to say that we are serious and rigorous and have proposals, and to present what we want to see in the budget. That is what we would do if we were a sovereign country, for example, and if we had the means, as Quebeckers, to truly set the course for our future.

I am truly proud to work with him and to be a member of the Bloc Québécois team. I believe that the work we have done is the least the opposition can do.

Does the member share my view that, although the Liberal Party says that it cannot take any more of this government and wants to get rid of it, the Liberals are not even capable of putting a cost to their commitments and presenting a concrete plan of what they want to do and what they want to see in the budget, and can only criticize, but cannot come up with any solutions to our problems?

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has brought up a point that I missed. I met with the Minister of Finance this week. He told me what the member for Jeanne-Le Ber just said, namely that, although he was not going to accept all of our proposals—I wish he would—he was impressed by the thoroughness of our explanations since we provided exact figures, column by column and line by line. He also told me that he had met with the finance critic for the Liberal Party and that they had discussed some things but that there was no written documentation.

Today, our friend, the member for Kings—Hants, has made a modest contribution in the form of a motion, which we support. However, before the budget is announced, I would like to obtain some written documentation from the Liberal Party so that we can see whether the Liberals plan to vote for or against the budget and to ensure that they will all be present in the House if they say they are going to vote against the budget.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal had a press conference yesterday and said the following:

We are asking the government to stick to its target of rolling back the corporate tax to 15% in 2012. Cutting corporate taxes will make businesses more competitive and stimulate job creation across the country.

What does the member opposite have to say to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal?

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, we could also cite documents somewhat out of context.

Last week, Bloc Québécois caucus members met with representatives from the Quebec employers' council, the Conseil du patronat, and had an hour and a half of discussions.

I am wondering whether the Quebec caucus or the entire caucus of the Conservative Party have taken at least an hour and a half to meet with representatives of the Conseil du patronat du Québec, the Chamber of Commerce, employers and unions to get their opinion on what they believe should be included in the budget.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this motion. I will be splitting my time with the distinguished member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor who, I must say, knowing this topic, will be great, as he always is.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to discuss our opposition motion today. I commend my colleague from Kings—Hants for his leadership on this file. Few people understand the economy better than the member for Kings—Hants. He has a long history and understanding of the corporate sector, as well as knowing what it takes to have a successful economy in this country.

Today's topic could not be more clear. In many ways, today's topic will be a focus in the next election, whenever that might come. The Liberals believe in corporate taxes being competitive, and I think we have proven that over the years. We reduced the rates starting in 2000 from 28% down to as low as 21%. We believe in competitive corporate taxes and, if the time is right, we believe there may be a time when corporate taxes might go lower.

However, this is not the time for corporate taxes to go lower. A lot of people may not understand this at home. Some people may think that corporate taxes are good and some people may think that they benefit from corporate tax reductions. In fact, most of them would not.

This is about the largest corporations in the country. It does not include most small and medium sized enterprises. That tax rate has not changed. It would be a great thing if that went down 35%, as the corporate tax rate in Canada has in the last decade.

Who actually benefits from this? It is not small and medium sized enterprises. How low does the corporate tax rate have to go? I understand that it is a complex issue, but imagine a businessman living in Cole Harbour or Dartmouth selling a product. His product costs $1 and his competitor's product costs 98¢. He might look at it and decide that, if it makes sense economically, he will put his price down to 97¢, but he would not put it down to 85¢ because that would not make any sense.

We already have the second lowest corporate taxes in the G7. We are significantly lower at 25% than the United States. If that $6 billion that would be dedicated to lowering corporate taxes were spent elsewhere, what could it be spent on?

I want to chat a little bit about some of those options. As the critic for human resources, skills development and the status of persons with disabilities, I can think of many Canadians and many Canadian families who would benefit from this. It also would benefit the Canadian economy to invest in those people who need that help.

I will now talk about education. I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to visit some colleges in western Canada. I saw young Canadians, mature Canadians, new Canadians and people waiting in lines who wanted to upgrade their skills and who needed to upgrade their skills.

The Association of Canadian Community Colleges has put out some great stuff. It talks about the demographic challenges that face Canada. It refers to it as jobs without people and people without jobs. We need to educate those people. We could put that money to work right now educating Canadians who are not able to access the education that they need and, by extension, that Canadians need.

People with disabilities lack opportunity. Let us think about what we could do for people with disabilities. In my own riding, the Dartmouth Adult Services Centre, DASC Industries is renowned. Most political campaigns in Nova Scotia get their buttons made by DASC Industries. These are adults with intellectual disabilities. They want to build a new facility because they could use the space to bring in more people and continue to do the kind of work they need to do. That is not only good for people and great for adults with disabilities but it is also great for the Canadian economy.

We need to do more of that kind of work. We have the great work that Affirmative Industries does with affordable housing in Nova Scotia. Affirmative Industries allows its clients to build equity while they are living in housing in which they can take pride and in which they can invest. Those are the kinds of things we need.

We need to be innovative and creative. Lowering corporate taxes is not the only solution. In fact, right now I do not think it is a solution. I think it is a problem and the solution is to invest in people.

Early learning and child care has been a topic of discussion for a long time but particularly in the last week or so, since the Minister of Human Resources basically insulted people who use child care, which is over 70% of working moms in this country. We have some fabulous people working in the not-for-profit sector, as well as in the for-profit child care sector.

When I was at Bow Valley College in Calgary, I went to a school where people were dedicating their lives to being accredited to be early learning and child care professionals. I can tell members that it is not for the money because we do not pay them anywhere near enough. It is because they want to be involved in moving Canada forward.

According to a UNICEF study, in the OECD nations, Canada ranks dead last on the 10 basic benchmarks of early learning. We achieved a passing grade in one of them. We need some kind of a national system. We need to invest in early learning.

Just last week, the federal government had a lawyer in court citing evidence that cast disrepute on a one-year parental benefit that came in with the Liberals in 2000. How many Canadians want to go back to a six-month benefit for their children? How does that help to increase learning? It almost seems that there is a sense among some people, certainly with the government in Canada, that learning starts at the age of six. Learning starts even before birth but it certainly takes place between the ages of zero and six. We need to do more there.

Canada's rate of literacy is not good. For a developed country, we need to invest in the skills that are required to have a literate workforce. One of the saddest meetings I had as a member of Parliament was when I met a person from the riding of the member for Kings—Hants. This person came to see me because he knew I was doing some work on literacy. He had already been to see the member. He told me that he had a problem. He said that he worked hard, had a job he liked, had three children and that he was offered a chance for a promotion. The problem was that he had to take a literacy test and he said that he could not pass it. He said that he thought that if he failed it he might lose the job he had. He came to see me because the federal government had cut the grants to literacy and the Nova Scotia literacy council and the person could no longer get the access, as a learner, that he needed.

Let us invest. Let us give those people who, for their own benefit, need to achieve their potential. However, as a national benefit, we need to achieve the economic potential of Canada. We should be investing in those kinds of programs. Those are the things that build a country and provide a nation. Those are the things that make us stronger.

Canada has been a great nation for a long time and a very fortunate nation. In some ways, we have been fortunate. We are a large country with a lot of natural resources. We have a population that is, by and large, spread along the southern band of the country. We have not had world wars fought on our land. We have not had awful natural disasters, although we are having more of those now with global warming. We have been a fortunate nation but we are now facing challenges and some of those countries that used to send their students to us to be educated are saying that they prefer to keep them there.

India, Brazil, Russia, and China are building universities and are educating their own citizens. They are investing in research and innovation at a rate that now outstrips us, after the great momentum that Canada had in research and innovation in the first five years of this century. We will lose our edge as a country if we do not invest in education.

Education does not go from the ages of six to eighteen. That is the national system of education. Education begins before kids are born. Some of the most important learning years are zero to six. After students graduate from high school, we need to do more to assist those students who have trouble now, students with disabilities, aboriginal Canadians, low income families,and first generation learners who do not have a family history of post-secondary education. We need those. The Nova Scotia Community College right now could add thousands of new students if it had the space. We could be educating Canadians for the new economy if we invested in education and learning as a lifelong approach to making Canada stronger.

I want to talk about poverty for a second. We do not have a national anti-poverty strategy in Canada and we desperately need it. In fact, a year ago, the United Nations, in its periodic review, made a recommendation to Canada that we should have a national anti-poverty strategy. The response of the federal government was to take out that recommendation and say that it was a provincial responsibility. That is not the case.

Poverty is everybody's responsibility. When we allow people in Canada to live on the streets or to underachieve, or to have a job and still live in poverty, we are diminishing the economic capacity of this country. When we allow people to live on the streets of Canada without shelter, that is a disservice, not only to those people but to all Canadians. There are all kinds of surveys showing that it is cheaper to house people than to have them living in shelters and bouncing around. The cost to our health care and judicial systems is monumental. Let us invest in people.

As I was saying, we certainly have no problem believing in corporate tax cuts when it is appropriate. It is not appropriate now. Canadians are hurting right now. They need help. They want a partner. They do not want anybody to bail them out. They just need a partner in the federal government. Canadians do not want an adversary. They want a partner who understands their concerns, who will put them ahead of the big oil companies, who will work with them to educate them, who will help them with their children and who will take care of their parents when they are sick. That is what it means to be a Canadian and that is what it means to live in this country.

That is what the opposition day motion is all about. I congratulate the member for Kings—Hants and I urge all members to support this motion.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government plans to get the surplus back by growing the economy. That is done by lowering taxes for job creators as well as individuals. When we lower taxes on job creators, that means more jobs are created. When we do it on a personal level, that means more money will be left in the pockets of consumers. More money in the pockets of consumers means more services and products are purchased, which in turn means more jobs as well. When we keep taxes low, tax revenues actually increase rather than decrease.

When the Liberals tackled the deficit back in the 1990s, they did it by cutting health care by $25 billion. They cancelled the EH-101 helicopter, which cost not only soldiers' lives but also civilians' lives, as we found out through search and rescue.

My question is, how many lives would a budget from the opposition coalition cost Canadians?

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have to ask my colleague how many lives would benefit from increasing corporate taxes instead of investing in Canadians?

Back when changes and adjustments were made in the 1990s by the government at the time to try to balance the last Conservative deficit, the opposition then said to go deeper. In the House, it said to go deeper, that the government then was not going far enough and that it had to cut further.

It was a balanced approach to fixing the problem. The Liberal Party is used to digging out of Conservative deficits and it will have to do it again.

When the member talks about spending, this is the biggest spending government in Canadian history. However, Canadians have to ask themselves if that spending is reaching them. Does it help them when money is spent on jet fighters? Does it help them when money is spent on prisons? No, it does not. However, when literacy and court challenges programs are cut, it does hurt Canadians.

Liberals are saying the government should bring back the balance, and we think a Liberal government is the way to do that.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is a passionate and effective advocate for early learning and child care and skills development, and he is making a great difference in this place.

I would like to get his opinion on the following quotation by Jay Myers, President of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, on the corporate tax cuts back in the budget of 2008. It was in a press release by the CME at the time. Jay Myers stated then:

This budget worries me because it sends the message that a reduction in corporate tax rates is the silver bullet for the economy. That gets you in the game. But, it doesn’t give you many chips to play with as other nations are encouraging investments in technology, innovation, and skills.

I would appreciate the hon. member's view on the CME's perspective in 2008 that we are not investing enough in skills development in Canada.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the sad fact is that Canada has always been one of the most educated nations on earth and we are losing that, because other countries have invested more and more over the last number of years and our investments have gone down relative to theirs.

I know that my colleague would agree that Liberals do not see anything wrong with corporations. We want our corporations to be healthy. We just do not think the government has to subsidize profitable corporations when there are so many small and medium size enterprises in this country that create the jobs, that do the work, that build one by one. Those are the companies and organizations that build this country.

Families need help with aging parents, and those are also the families that go to bed every night wondering how they are going to educate their children, how they can afford post-secondary education and whether they will qualify for student loans. Those are the things Canadians need help with and those are the things that we in the Liberal Party pledge to address. That is what this motion is about today.

Opposition Motion--Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this time to speak on this very important issue.

I have to admit that I do not have a lot of corporations in my riding. Perhaps the corporate tax cut could provide the impetus for Abitibi-Bowater to expand the mill.

Mr. Speaker, I heard a member make comment about the mill. No, sorry, the mill is still closed.

Nonetheless, in this entire region, let us take a look at the idea of this corporate tax cut and how it seems to be a wonderful panacea to create employment in the area.

My area fared well during the last recession. It did fairly well for several reasons, a myriad of reasons. I just mentioned a mill closure. Right now we do have investment in Grand Falls Windsor where the mill was shut down. Housing prices are on the rise. One of the factors we have noticed and the reason it was not as devastating as we anticipated was the diversified workforce.

Back in 1992 and the years following that, there was a lot of money invested in retraining and skills development. A lot of people in my area, and other rural areas like rural Newfoundland and rural southern New Brunswick, are doing fabulously well because of the diversified workforce. When all that training money was available, a lot of people took advantage of it and were getting classifications for truck driving, for heavy equipment operation, for engineering technology, and they were applying these skills in other parts of the country where there were major investments in oil development and oil technology, such as Alberta and the offshore of both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

That being said, a lot of people are now travelling back and forth, keeping their residence in my riding, yet going to areas like Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as the offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador. They are applying these skills and making very good money.

All of that had very little, a minuscule amount, to do with the corporate tax cut that made its way through the system then. If it did make its way through the system, it was certainly back in the 1990s and the early part of this past decade when the Liberal government reduced it from 29% to 21%, all on the heels of a surplus.

Now we find ourselves in a situation with this $56 billion deficit where I would have to agree that cutting corporate taxes is not the prudent thing to do at this time. However, there is a good example. What do we do with the money that we do not provide for a corporate tax cut? What we can do with the money is provided by the example of the riding of Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, where there is a diversified and highly skilled workforce.

A lot of money went into basic education. A lot of people did not have grade 12 and a lot of people did not have high school diplomas. As a result, they were not as literate. Literacy training went a long way 10 or 12 years ago, and now we find people are getting skills and qualifications. They do not have to settle on one particular occupation in one particular place. For example, my father spent over 40 years in one mill. That does not exist any more, or at least it is minuscule. Now people have skills they can transfer all over the place.

I met a friend of mine at the airport. He was telling me that he is living in Bishop's Falls, Newfoundland, and is now working off the coast of Africa. Other people in my home town are working in Russia and in Alberta and Texas. The reason they are doing so is they have a skill that is transferable to far-flung areas like eastern Russia, where there is a lot of investment in natural gas.

If we look at the money that is to be saved from cancelling a cut such as this, we could put it into the education of an individual by allowing that individual to have that money in their pocket. It is a direct investment. The indirect investment, to a degree, will work. I agree with that, but timing is of the essence and we just do not have that timing.

Right now people find themselves unemployed. They may find themselves in their 40s, 50s, even into their 60s with no marketable skills, which puts them in a very awkward position. They cannot take advantage of their RSPs they may have collected over the years. They are too young to start drawing on their pensions because their disposal incomes would be very low. Therefore, they need to retrain. There certainly are programs available, but we wish we had a lot more. The amount of investment in literacy has been reduced since the arrival of this government in 2006 and, as a result, it is hurting our economy.

Where do we find, in this particular initiative, the incentives and positive news for small businesses? A hike in payroll taxes is certainly not going to help, and in many areas, and certainly in mine, small business is the vast majority, or virtually all of it is, with a few exceptions.

As a final note on this corporate tax cut idea, let us take a look at a very popular industry, the fishery. It is not what it used to be and is changing no doubt. Smaller boats are now bigger boats with crews onboard. However, the plants themselves, such as the OCI plant in Port Union or Bonavista, are a good example, although there are not as many as there used to be.

I say this because, over the past few years, any investment they have made, whether or not from an increased amount of revenue they received, came on the heels of several factors: the quality of the product; the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar versus the American dollar, which played a big role in this; and the workforce that was available, which was also a major factor because this is seasonal work. For all of these reasons, they were able to maintain a certain sales level. However, not once in my six and a half years as a member of Parliament did they attribute the increase in sales, or the increase in investment in the business itself or the employees, to a corporate tax cut. Not once.

Is it far too indirect for them to bring it up, or does it simply not matter as much? Therefore, let us take a look at the money that could be reinvested if this corporate tax cut were cancelled.

There are the EI pilot projects. I asked the gentleman who runs the fish plant in New-Wes-Valley what was the one thing he needed from the federal government. He said that by far, the most important thing he needed was that the EI pilot projects remained in place, or he would not have a workforce. He has never drawn EI in his life, most likely, but he needs these pilot projects or he cannot find the workers.

Essentially what it comes down to is that a seasonal worker is able to use his or her highest earning 14 weeks over a period of 26 to 52 weeks. As a result of that, a worker is able to obtain increased benefits and is therefore able to sustain his life in the particular area he lives; otherwise, he would have to move away.

Some people might think that if one has to move away, one has to move away. Perhaps the plant, or whatever it may be, can find other workers, or maybe the town can find another type of investment, perhaps as a year-round plant. However, it is hard to attract that kind of investment if there is no one to work in these plants.

Therefore, what I am saying in this debate in an indirect way is that I have no doubt that corporate tax cuts down the road will be a positive factor, but they nowhere near reach the positive levels of the other factors that have been diminished or not invested in at all, such as education and the EI pilot projects. However, in this particular case, the timing is off the rails and I think that in this particular case a more prudent investment in the individuals who work for these corporations would prove to be of far greater benefit, not just for my riding and Newfoundland and Labrador but also the entire nation.