Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.
I stand in support of the motion by the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, which states:
That, in the opinion of the House, the drastic increase in income inequality under recent Liberal and Conservative governments harms Canadian society; and that the House express its opposition to the Conservative income splitting proposal which will make this problem worse and provide no benefit to 86% of Canadians.
Income splitting would have no benefit for 86% of Canadians, but it would be a benefit to 14% of Canadians. What 14% of the Canadian population would that be? It would be the wealthiest, the best off, those in the highest income level. Members probably already knew that, because income splitting is a plan pitched by the Prime Minister and the Conservatives, and the Conservative Party is all about big business, big money and big tax breaks for the wealthy. There is a big gap between the have and the have-not, a gap that is growing.
I will stop right there and shift gears. Let me talk about the 86% of the population that would not benefit from income splitting in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are everyday Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They are policemen, firefighters, teachers, nurses, government workers, waiters, fishermen, small business owners, single moms, single dads, construction workers, hairdressers, and so on. Members get the picture. Most ordinary people would not benefit from income splitting. They are the people that the Conservative government has forgotten, or left further and further behind or has no interest in helping.
That does not go for all levels of government. There is hope out there. Take St. John's city council, for example. It is going where the Conservative government refuses to tread.
While the Conservative government will not have anything to do with the national housing strategy and voted against a New Democrat proposal for just that and the Liberals, under Paul Martin, killed their national housing strategy, the city council in St. John's adopted an affordable housing plan this week that promises 500 homes by 2017.
The plan targets rental housing, home ownership, energy efficiency and age-friendly homes. The plan is about affordability for “the people in the middle”, as one councillor put it. Again, they are the people, the Canadians, that the Conservative government has forgotten. They are the people in the middle. Well done, St. John's city council. It is so fabulous. It is so inspiring to see a level of government picking up where the Conservatives so desperately fail.
Who exactly is left completely left out of the Conservatives' income splitting plan? People making under $44,000 a year would receive no benefit. A couple that makes above $44,000 a year but where both people are in the same tax bracket would receive no benefit. Single people, couples with children and couples with kids who are grown up would receive no benefit. Parents who are divorced would receive no benefit.
Someone must benefit. Income splitting would cost the federal government $3 billion a year. That figure is from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Who exactly would benefit from that $3 billion? It is none other than the best friends of the Conservatives. It is the wealthy.
Income inequality in our country is spiralling out of control. The incomes of the top 1% are surging, while the average Canadian family has seen its income free fall over the last 35 years. About 94% of the increases in the inequality over the last 35 years occurred under federal Liberal governments.
The latest Liberal leader paints himself as a champion of the middle class. He infers it in half of the questions he asks in the House during question period. We heard it today during question period.
However, the current Liberal leader cannot relate to the middle class, because he had nothing to do with the middle class. He could no more relate to the middle class than the Prime Minister could relate to a fisherman on the northeast coast of Newfoundland, or a housekeeper at the Delta Hotel in St. John's, or a farmer in the Goulds, or a waitress in Quidi Vitty, or a fisherman in Petty Harbour, or a street cleaner in Mount Pearl. The Prime Minister cannot relate to those people, keeping in mind that he has turned his back on Newfoundland and Labrador.
Income splitting will cost the Canadian treasury $3 billion, which will stay in the pockets of the wealthiest. At the same time, we are asking middle- and lower-income earners to pay more than their share. The Conservative government has done nothing to address or reduce growing inequality.
This country is desperate for affordable child care, like the seven-dollar-a-day Quebec model. This country is crying out for pharmacare so that people do not have to make a desperate choice between food and medication.
This country has been shamed by how our government treats the veterans who fought for us, while the Conservative government refuses to fight for them. Their services are reduced and mental health problems are ignored.
The current Conservative government is failing our seniors, who do not have enough money to live on. It is failing students who are entering the workforce with massive anchors of debt. It is failing fishermen. I cannot leave them out. They are being squeezed out of an industry by a government that favours big business licence holders. Fishermen have had to choose between not paying federal licence fees and not paying bank loans.
The current government is failing the middle class, yet it has the time to draw up tax schemes that only help the wealthiest 40% of Canadians. With so much to do, and I am not talking about pipelines, it is clear where the current Conservative government's priorities lie. Its priorities do not lie with ordinary people.
As the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives put it: “Income splitting creates a tax loophole big enough to drive a Rolls Royce through. It’s pitched as a program for the middle class but in reality it’s an expensive tax gift for the rich”.
The Broadbent Institute said, “It would increase inequality and is skewed heavily toward a Mad Men-style family with a high-income earner and a stay-at-home spouse.... Income splitting fails the fairness test”.
I will bring this back to the beginning. The motion reads: “That, in the opinion of the House, the drastic increase in income inequality under recent Liberal and Conservative governments harms Canadian society....”
The words that stick with me are “harms Canadian society”. I have a message for the Conservative government, and the message is this: seniors matter, veterans matter, workers matter, students matter, middle- and lower-income earners matter, the environment matters, our fishermen matter, the east coast matters, and the 86% of Canadians who do not benefit from income splitting also matter.
It seems that the only ones who get support from the Conservative government are those who sign cheques payable to the Conservative Party of Canada. This country has to do better than that. This country must do better than that.