Mr. Speaker, there are two general reasons to reject the Liberal motion to study various income equality and tax issues. The more obvious fact is that there is content with which we fundamentally disagree. But there are a few points with which we do agree, so why should we reject the motion altogether? Is that not like throwing out the baby with the bathwater? No. We are already taking action on the sensible parts of the motion. We have a nice clean baby and the motion wants to throw the baby back into the dirty bathwater.
The finance committee will already be engaging in its annual prebudget consultations this fall, where the member can raise the issues in the motion. The Senate is already engaged in studying and examining the sensible points of the motion. It has been studying social inclusion and cohesion in Canada since November. So the issues reflected in today's motion are already being or will be examined.
When I conduct prebudget consultations in my riding, and whenever I meet with constituents in general, I find that there is one thing that frustrates Canadians. If there is one thing they want us to cut back on, it is government waste. They want the government to quit wasting money and quit wasting time. With that in mind, I am confident that the majority of constituents in my riding would not support the establishment of another study to study something that is already being studied.
I do not have a problem with wanting to improve or increase equality for Canadians when it comes to opportunities and prosperity for all. However, we need to take action to get to that point.
We need action. Please do not let me give the House the impression that our commitment to concrete actions based on sound understanding is the only way we differ from the Liberals. Another fundamental issue on which our Conservative government cannot agree with the Liberal Party is the issue of taxation, which is core to today's debate.
In recent years our government has made decisions to reduce taxes, whether it be lowering the GST, lowering business taxes or lowering income taxes and leaving more money in the hands of Canadians to support their families and grow their businesses to create more jobs. The Liberal Party has made it clear that it believes those decisions are the wrong decisions.
Our Conservative government is committed to continue to lower taxes for all Canadians, building on our record of lowering taxes 140 times and saving the average Canadian family more than $3,100 per year in taxes. The Liberal Party has unsuccessfully fought against these measures every step of the way.
The motion talks about looking for tax regimes that would increase per capita GDP, that would increase prosperity for all Canadians. The Liberals want to look for a plan that they have already voted against. The best thing a government can do, the best social program it can provide, is to help create jobs for Canadians.
However, the Liberals have voted against and campaigned against our low tax plan that has helped fuel job creation in Canada. Since we formed government in 2006, Canada has seen more than 1.3 million net new jobs created, the best record in the entire G7.
The motion talks about looking for ways to eliminate disincentives for paid work that may exist as part of a welfare trap. Now I know why the Liberals are rejecting reforms to the employment insurance program that do exactly what they are looking for, because if they accept it, they will have to stop looking for it. It seems that, for the Liberals, looking is better than finding and better than implementing.
Let me remind the House what the motion's sponsor, the Liberal finance critic, once believed and what he said in this very chamber only a few years ago. He was already a Liberal at the time. He said:
Innovative, forward-thinking governments globally have proven that we can build a competitive economy with dramatic reductions to corporate taxes...
We only need to look at the Netherlands, Sweden.... Australia and New Zealand.... They have reformed their tax system to make their economies magnets for capital and talent....
The old globaphobic, socialist, Luddite nonsense that somehow innovative and forward-thinking economic policy is contrary to good social policy is wrong.
I could not agree more with these words. In fact, it seems as if I agree with them more than the member agrees with them.
The member's political evolution is indicative of the entire Liberal Party. The Liberals have turned their back on supporting lower business taxes, a policy they once said they supported. Instead they have chosen to align their policies with the extreme left, anti-business NDP.
“Another study”, they say, “another review”. There is nothing wrong with study and review, but struggling Canadians cannot be helped by the study of potential action alone. What they really need is targeted support and concrete action. We will continue to look for ways to improve the lot of all Canadians, but that will not stop us from acting on those proven principles of freedom, happiness and prosperity.
The NDP and Liberal members will tell us that our tax cuts have only benefited a select few ultra-rich, but the facts clearly show that nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the fact that corporate tax cuts actually do help create jobs, one-third of all the personal income tax relief provided by the Conservative government is going to Canadians with incomes under $42,000, even though they pay less than 15% of all taxes in Canada.
Furthermore, because of measures taken in 2006, more than one million low-income Canadians, including about 380,000 seniors, have been removed from the tax rolls altogether, and we have introduced unique targeted tax relief for low-income Canadians to help them engage in the workforce, by removing financial barriers to work. In other words, we have not only identified disincentives to paid work; we have implemented measures to remove them.
Another noteworthy example is the working income tax benefit, or the WITB. Since it was introduced in 2007, the landmark WITB has made work pay for low-income individuals by combating perverse policies that penalize them for taking a job.
For years under the Liberal government we had situations where taxes, reduced income support and loss of benefits often discouraged individuals receiving social assistance from working, because it would claw back nearly 80% of their working income.
Consider an example of a single, unemployed father living in Nova Scotia with a five-year-old daughter receiving $15,020 in combined federal and provincial benefits. If he were to find a part-time job and earn $15,000 a year, his provincial social assistance benefits would be reduced to about $4,800, and his overall income would now be about $19,810. In other words, he would only gain $4,790 by making the decision to go to work, but now with the WITB refundable tax credit, he would see an extra $1,605, or 34% more due to his decision to go to work.
Overall, over $1 billion in working income tax benefits is provided to individuals and families every year. Clearly, this is a major, positive development, and many diverse third-party organizations like the OECD, TD Economics, Food Banks Canada and the United Way have welcomed it. Even the member for Kings—Hants who sponsored this motion welcomed it, at least at one time. The February 3, 2009, edition of the Hants Journal quotes him as saying:
The Working Income Tax Benefit...has helped many working families...helping make work pay.
Again, this is concrete action that our Conservative government has already taken to support low-income Canadians, rather than simply studying potential ways to help them.
Here are some more examples of concrete Conservative action.
The universal child care benefit provides all families with up to $1,200 a year for each child under the age of six to help cover their child care costs.
We have introduced the child tax credit, improved the Canada child tax benefit and improved the national child benefit supplement.
We recently enhanced the guaranteed income supplement by providing a top-up of more than $600 a year for a single senior and $840 a year for couples.
We have made significant investments in housing, and our Conservative government provides record amounts in social and health transfers for the provinces, and these amounts are not only insured, but they are committed to grow.
I could go on, but in summary, I just want to suggest that our record of action bodes well, and our Conservative government is committed to continuing its record of action.
I would like to end with a quote from an Ottawa Citizen editorial that dealt with the subject matter of this motion:
This isn't a problem we can tax our way out of....
The thing we should be discussing is how to broaden our economy so that more people have a chance of earning a decent living. In the end, that's what Canadians really want, and need.