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—