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House of Commons Hansard #210 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should remove the GST from feminine hygiene products.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I am honoured to rise in the House today to introduce our New Democrat opposition day motion, which states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should remove the GST from feminine hygiene products.

While we have come a long way with regard to gender equity in Canada, we still have far to go. Let me first speak of the victories.

Women in Canada are considered persons under the law, with equal access to all the rights and privileges of men in Canadian society. Since the election of Sister Agnes Macphail to the House in 1921, we have seen the proportion of female members of Parliament steadily rise. On Tuesday this week, the province of Alberta made history, not just for electing its first NDP majority government with Premier-elect Rachel Notley at the helm, but for electing the most women in any government in Canadian history.

The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, of which Canada was a proud signatory, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, along with the Constitution and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action are all components of the road map to sexual equality in Canada that stipulated that all of the costs of physical and social reproduction, most of which constitutes the unpaid work of women raising a family, caring for frail and elderly family members and housework, should be shared among all members of society.

At this point I will turn from speaking about victories to speaking about the challenges.

Canada has not fared so well in the area of gender equity. Placing a discriminatory tax on products that are used exclusively by women, girls and transgendered people is unfair. Allowing the tax to continue for 25 years is inexplicable. This country, which, in the 1990s, could boast about being on the top of the international heap with regard to gender equity using United Nations gender equality indicators, has now slipped to number 19 on the world stage.

Federal tax policies are structured such that the ratio of profit between women and men is 60:40 or less. In other words, federal tax policy favours those with a higher income and since men, by and large, earn higher incomes than women, men are advantaged and women are disadvantaged under current taxation regimes. Women, on average, make only 78% of the wages enjoyed by men for doing work of equal value. The same reality of inequities touches on almost every part of women's experience in this country.

Even though reproductive rights have been enshrined in Canadian law, women must continue to fight to have access to the safe and timely abortions that should be guaranteed in every hospital in every province. Consequently, the reproductive health of women is compromised. We need to be very concerned about that reality, just as we as a country bear the shameful record of thousands of missing and murdered aboriginal women. Violence against aboriginal women, indeed, all women and all people, should never be tolerated or dismissed.

While first nations communities and their supporters continue to call repeatedly and loudly for an inquiry into the systemic causes of this tragedy, the government refuses to acknowledge the problem. Regressive policies such as those that increase the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS from 65 to 67, no seniors strategy at all, and the lack of an affordable, accessible and universal child care program affect women most acutely.

A New Democrat federal government in 2015 would restore the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS to 65, implement a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, implement a universal child care program accessible to all Canadians at $15 a day, implement a seniors strategy, and call an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. While I have no doubt that there are many hurdles yet to face on the road to complete gender equity in Canada, I have hope for that future.

There is one way that we in the House can correct gender injustice right here, right now. Today we have the opportunity to make a minor adjustment to the Excise Tax Act that would remove the GST from feminine hygiene products.

Allow me to speak about something the government has deemed a luxury: menstruation. If anyone can believe it, feminine hygiene products actually fall under the category of luxury items in the Excise Tax Act and are, therefore, subject to the federal goods and services tax. This is just the reality.

As a woman, I think I can call myself an expert on this topic, and while I have heard menstruation described in many ways, the curse, the crimson tide, a visit from auntie flow, monthlies, feeling delicate or the big red monster, I have never heard it described as a luxury.

Why then are feminine hygiene products, pads and tampons, treated as luxury items under the Excise Tax Act? Why are women discriminated against while this tax leaves such things as wedding cakes, chocolate chips, cocktail cherries and Viagra exempt?

Taxing female hygiene products amounts to gender discrimination. It is clear and simple. With this motion, we have the opportunity today to rectify that. This motion calls on the government to remove the GST from feminine hygiene products, to simply remove the tax. As often happens when legislation is drafted quickly or thoughtlessly without consultation or debate, or announced outside this chamber in places such as Davos, it is the people who can least afford to bear the brunt of the inequity who suffer the most because of it.

Taxing feminine hygiene products is symbolic of the systemic inequality Canadian women face in all areas of life, especially women in poverty.

I would like to thank Jill Piebiak, Kathleen Fraser and the organizers of the Canadian Menstruators group for initiating the awareness campaign on change.org that has resulted in over 10,000 signatures on a paper petition to this House and over 72,000 online signatures in support of this initiative.

I am so encouraged by the organizing and mobilizing efforts of these young feminist activists. As a result of their efforts, my office has received countless emails and calls of support. I have heard from women who cannot afford feminine hygiene products and feel compelled to stay home during their periods. I have heard from students who need to count and parcel out their pads and tampons to make sure they last the month.

I have heard from women's shelters and food banks that keep a steady supply of feminine hygiene products on hand for women who cannot afford them once they have paid the rent and fed the kids. The mobilizing effort of the Canadian Menstruators group has also resulted in the organization of pad parties where donations for women's shelters are collected along with petition signatures.

The fact of the matter is that these items are essential. Women do not and cannot choose to have a period. Taxing feminine hygiene products is blatant gender discrimination. It is an injustice that can be quite simply rectified. This House has the power to amend the Excise Tax Act and deem feminine hygiene products as essential, thereby removing the tax.

Even with the recent reduction in the GST, people with periods are still paying unfairly into the system. According to Statistics Canada it is estimated that in 2014 approximately 18,000 Canadian women between the ages of 12 and 49 spent about $520 million on menstrual hygiene products.

This amounts to approximately $37 million dollars in government sales taxes collected from women. It just makes me see red. It may seem small but a tax on tampons, pads, panty liners, menstrual cups and alternatives can add up quickly when combined with the systemic challenges faced by many women, trans people, gender-queer people and other menstruators in terms of income, housing and economic stability.

My predecessor in this initiative, the former member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre, Judy Wasylycia-Leis said:

The GST on tampons and sanitary napkins amounts to gender based taxation. The taxing of essential and necessary products used exclusively by women is unfair and discriminatory. It unfairly disadvantages women financially, solely because of our reproductive role. The bill...would be of particular value to lower income women.

This motion allows us to correct the injustice, here and now, today. Remove the tax and make life more equitable and affordable for Canadian women. We can do this, and after we do, feminists young and old, male and female and otherwise identifying, can move on to the next challenge in achieving a Canada that is equitable, accessible and fair, and where not one of us is left behind.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, as deputy finance critic, I am proud to support this motion.

I certainly remember the debate around the introduction of the GST in Canada and the debates over what were considered luxury goods and what goods would one day be GST-exempt.

The member for London—Fanshawe gave an excellent speech and an excellent rationale for why the GST on feminine hygiene products should be eliminated.

Would she like to give us a little background and draw a comparison between certain luxury products and others that are no longer designated as such—

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Harold Albrecht

Order. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, folks have to understand that when the GST was brought in in 1990, there was a decision made that necessities of life would not be taxed and therefore made more accessible to people. Among those things were diapers, incontinence products, testing kits and ironically, as I mentioned in my speech, cocktail cherries, wedding cakes and chocolate chips.

What people were thinking at the time is sometimes a mystery, but after 25 years there is an opportunity and there has been previously, to correct the injustice. Feminine hygiene products are a part of women's reproductive health. They are an absolute necessity. Young women and girls cannot go to school, to work or cannot operate in society without proper products like this. So the tax must be removed.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have the GST, provincial sales taxes and we have harmonized taxes. Provincial legislatures have also had the exemption. Across Canada there has already been a significant movement to do exactly what is being proposed today in the opposition day motion. Maybe the member would provide some comment on that issue.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely correct. Some provinces such as Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia and the Territories, have indeed removed sales tax from feminine hygiene products. I would say very clearly to the government that if provinces can do that and the sky does not fall, then this federal Parliament can indeed remove what is essentially an unfair tax.

I would also note that by virtue of the fact that in a very short time, I received 10,000 signatures and 72,000, some online, it would suggest that women are fed up. They are angry and they want to be taken seriously. They do not want to be dismissed. They want equity and this is a good first step.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing this issue up. This debate could play out in the north in a different way because I am not too sure that our nutrition north program which subsidizes freight for some items would actually subsidize the freight for this medically required item.

When we look at northern people and the costs of freighting for these types of goods, it probably doubles the cost for these types of products for northern women and it is something we need to look into with the whole subsidy program for northerners.

I want to thank my colleague for bringing this up at this time.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, we know that essential products that are shipped to the north are incredibly expensive.

In response to some of the Pad Parties that have been held across Ontario, I purchased some feminine hygiene products and took them to my local shelter and they were horrendously expensive. If they are horrendously expensive in southern Ontario, I cannot imagine how inaccessible they would be in the north.

We come back to the dignity of women. Women deserve to have equity and these products.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion moved by my colleague from London—Fanshawe and to ask the Conservatives to eliminate an unfair tax.

It is unfair for women to pay tax on goods as essential as feminine hygiene products. Menstruation products are not a luxury for women and girls. This discrimination costs women more than $36 million per year. It makes no sense to ask women to pay tax on tampons when there are exemptions for non-essential goods, such as wedding cakes and cocktail cherries.

I am proud to be part of a caucus that fights for gender equality and stands up for women by asking the government to eliminate the federal sales tax on feminine hygiene products and make taxes fair for both genders.

Every year, under the Excise Tax Act, the federal government collects millions of dollars in taxes on these products. Products considered essential to daily life are exempt from the tax, but luxury products are not.

According to activists with Canadian Menstruators, an organization that has gathered over 72,000 signatures on an online petition on the matter, Canadians agree that taxing these products places an added burden on Canadian households and discriminates against women who menstruate, a group of people who face a disproportionate financial burden.

In 2011, the member for London—Fanshawe introduced Bill C-282 to remove the excise tax on feminine hygiene products. A similar bill had already been introduced by the NDP in a previous Parliament.

Last fall, when talking about how unfair this tax is, a group of young women learned about the bill's existence. They organized the Canadian Menstruators campaign and started an online petition, which over 72,000 Canadians have signed. Furthermore, the paper version of the petition that we presented in the House has gathered over 10,000 signatures so far.

Managing taxation is one of the most important aspects of governance.

Basic grocery products are exempt from the GST. According to the CRA website:

...the CRA considers a product to be a food or beverage if an average consumer would recognize and purchase the product as such in the ordinary course of buying basic groceries.

We are talking about basic necessities.

As anyone who uses them or buys consumer products for or with someone who uses them will say, the products that menstruators need are basic. Tampons and pads are not luxury items that are taxable through GST. No one comes home after a rough day of work and says, “I'm going to go buy myself a box of tampons and relax”. It is not ice cream. It is not cake. It is not wine or chocolate or perfume or nail polish or Viagra. It is a necessity. Necessities identified by the CRA as zero-exempt are foods, such as fresh, frozen, and canned foods, and products like medical oxygen, dispensing services fees, artificial limbs, eyes, and teeth, catheters, glasses, contacts, hearing aids, canes, crutches, stockings, and apparently, human sperm, which is on my list.

We are talking about reproductive health, right? Reproductive health is part of a menstruator's normal healthy course of life, and this measure should be seen as part of a holistic conversation about our reproductive health and lives. It should be seen as something that is basic in a menstruator's course of life and therefore should be exempt.

Gender inequality is reaching new heights in Canada; it is increasing rather than diminishing. That is unacceptable. We need a government that can combat inequality, not one that perpetuates and increases it. Inequality is growing between Canadian men and women.

Instead of tackling the problem, the government is adopting disgraceful measures that ultimately increase inequality. That is why we need to take fundamental action to address inequality. Gender inequality means that women do not have the economic security they deserve, and that fits right into the current agenda.

Women make up 59% of minimum-wage workers. Even working full time, women in these jobs do not have enough money to meet all their family's needs. Women who work full time earn an average of 23% less than men; 20 years ago they earned 28% less.

At that rate, it will take 95 years before we achieve parity. The government should endeavour to reduce discrimination and inequality. If we eliminated the wage gap, growth in our gross domestic product would increase by up to 10%.

In the meantime, Canada is far from achieving pay equity. The wage gap in Canada is the eighth largest among the OECD countries. More than ever in Canada, women are becoming educated and pursuing careers, but they still are not earning the same as men for the same work. For every dollar earned by a man with a post-secondary education, his female colleague with the same education will receive only 82¢ in the public sector and 77¢ in the private sector. This gap is even wider when it comes to aboriginal women and women from visible minorities.

The progress made over the generations by women who fought for pay equity cannot be attributed to the generosity of employers. In fact, employers often do not know that there is a problem. Even 44 years after the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, which recommended a national child care program that would help women enter the workforce, there is still a shortage of child care spaces in Canada.

That is why we are proposing very broad measures to address this problem, including the one we are debating today. The NDP has proposed a national child care program that would charge a maximum of $15 a day. Experts agree that this type of measure will truly result in pay equity. A discussion of any major issue such as pay equity, the creation of day care spaces or the fight against poverty must include gender-based analysis. We also suggest that the federal tax be removed from very basic products such as feminine hygiene products. We are asking the House to consider anything related to women's reproductive lives as a basic commodity and not a luxury. We must eliminate the federal tax on feminine hygiene products.

I would like to take these last few seconds to congratulate my colleague from London—Fanshawe for all her work on this issue. I congratulate her for introducing this bill and this opposition motion today so that we can talk about women's normal sexual and reproductive life in the House of Commons. I also want to thank all the women who campaigned to put this issue back on the table and who have proven that by mobilizing people we can get results in the House. We are talking about this issue thanks to those women. I congratulate them for all their work.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for her excellent speech. The question I am going to ask her is similar to the one I asked the member for London—Fanshawe but from another angle. I remember quite well that when we debated introducing the GST in Canada, one of the discussions that got the most media attention was about how many donuts you had to buy before they were not taxable. If you bought one, two or three donuts, they would be taxable, but if you bought six or 12 donuts, you would not be charged any GST because they could be considered a meal.

This type of debate took up a lot of time in our discussion about the GST, but it seems to me that we overlooked a far more important debate, such as this one, on products that cannot be considered a luxury, such as feminine hygiene products. I would like to hear what the member has to say about the direction the debate on the GST took and the reasons why this important issue was overlooked.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned some products that are considered medical products, which are GST-exempt. However, there are other zero-rated products that perhaps should not be or for which the reason for the exemption is not clear. For example, fondue chocolate is exempt from federal tax, as are liquid chocolate icing, cake decorations, cocktail cherries and wedding cakes.

I would be very surprised if tampons were less important than wedding cakes. Perhaps I do not have my priorities straight, but I think that in everyday life, if women had to choose between these two things, they would say that tampons are a bigger part of daily life and that it is much more important to have these feminine hygiene products. It just makes sense to remove the tax from these products.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, a young woman herself, is someone who has come to know incredible feminist activists across our country who are making change every single day.

Our debate here today is a true reflection of the fierce feminist activists who are pushing this issue and so many issues that matter to young women here and now. I wonder if the member can speak to that incredible activism we are witnessing and acting on here today.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is a perfect example of being able to change things through advocacy and social media.

It is amazing. This is a bill that had been introduced before, but it was not publicized, and these girls did not hear about it. However, because of outreach by the member for London—Fanshawe, they looked at this issue and realized that this is something that is unfair and they decided to do something about it. The petition went viral online. It had 72,000 signatures, which is quite amazing.

When we talk to young women and menstruators, we all think it that it is not fair and does not make any sense. It is a basic sort of thing we can be doing to remove a disproportionate financial burden for women. It is a tax, essentially, on menstruating women. We are the only ones who have to pay it. It does not make any sense, because these are normal products that we need to use throughout the course of our lives. These products are not at all a luxury but are very much a basic necessity.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak to this opposition day motion. I commend my colleague across the way for bringing this motion forward.

I do want to be very clear. Make no mistake that our government has had a long-term commitment to keeping taxes low and making life more affordable for all Canadians. By reducing taxes year after year and enhancing direct benefits to Canadians, the government has given families and individuals greater flexibility to make the choices that are right for them.

The reality is that Canadian families and individuals will receive $37 billion in tax relief and increased benefits in 2015-16 as a result of the actions our government has taken since 2006.

Unlike the high-tax, high-spend plans of the opposition, our Conservative government believes in low taxes, tax fairness, and leaving more money where it belongs, which is in the pockets of hard-working Canadians.

The opposition would have people believe that our government is not interested in cutting taxes. That is hardly the case, which is why I will use my time today to show what our government is doing to help all Canadians, including women.

Our government is delivering broad-based tax relief to all Canadians, including those whose income is too low to pay income tax on nearly everything they buy. We also believe in the importance of balancing the budget. That is why we are balancing the budget while taking prudent action to lower taxes, create jobs and economic growth, and provide security to Canadians.

Indeed, since 2006, we have cut taxes over 180 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years. Due to measures our government has introduced, small business taxes will be almost 50% lower, which will allow businesses to create jobs and economic growth. Our new family measures, alongside others introduced by the government since 2006, will provide tax relief and benefits of up to about $6,600 for an average Canadian family of four. We have cut taxes over and over again.

It was our Conservative government that lowered the GST twice, from 7% to 6% and then to 5%, providing tax relief to all Canadian families. We did not just lower it on one product; we lowered it for its entire base, so that it benefits all Canadians, even those who do not earn enough to pay personal income tax. However, the New Democrats voted against both of those GST reductions. In fact, they were proud of it. The current NDP finance critic said that cuts to the GST “take us in the wrong direction. I am very proud that our caucus stood opposed to that direction.”

If the members opposite were serious about lower taxes and tax relief for all Canadians, they would have supported our government when it lowered the GST rate. We did not just lower it on one product; we lowered it for its entire base so that it benefits all Canadians, even those who do not earn enough to pay personal income tax. While doing so, we maintained the GST credit level, which translates into about $1.2 billion in GST credit benefits annually for low-income and modest-income Canadians.

Again, for all individuals, we have implemented increases to the basic personal amount, the amount of income that an individual can earn without paying federal personal income tax. As a result of these increases and adjustments for inflation, the basic personal amount one can earn before paying taxes is now $11,327.

We have also reduced the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 16%, and increased the amount of income that individuals can earn before facing higher tax rates by increasing the upper limit of the two lowest personal income tax brackets.

We have introduced an enhanced working income tax benefit, allowing lower income Canadians to keep more of their hard-earned incomes and helping them build toward a more prosperous life. We have increased the amount of income that families can earn before the national child benefit supplement is fully phased out and before the Canada child tax base benefit begins to be phased out. This means that more families will be eligible to receive the Canada child tax benefit.

It does not stop there. We also introduced the tax-free savings account, TFSA, a flexible, registered, general purpose savings vehicle, which allows Canadians to earn tax-free investment income to more easily meet their lifetime savings needs. As of the end of 2013, nearly 11 million Canadians had opened a TFSA.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am sorry to interrupt the debate of my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton.

I know that we are usually flexible in the content of debates on various motions and bills that are presented, but what we are currently discussing is actually very tight. We are supposed to be debating the issue of the removal of the GST from feminine hygiene products. I understand that the member wants to talk about all those tax initiatives the government has undertaken, but I do believe the motion has been tightened in a way that we could actually have a specific debate on the importance of the burden the GST represents on that specific item, which is not supposed to be a luxury item, on the contrary.

I would like to know if the member could speak specifically to the opposition day motion.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Harold Albrecht

I would take your point under advisement. However, I do think the member is speaking about the GST. I would urge her to come to the point of the debate as quickly as possible.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, as far as the intervention goes, we will continue. Part of the motion does refer to the GST and certainly a specific product, but I am pointing out many of the things our government is doing.

The TFSA is a popular means of saving for Canadians at all income levels. Individuals with annual incomes of less than $80,000 accounted for more than 80% of all TFSA holders and about 75% of TFSA assets as of the end of 2013. About half of TFSA holders had annual incomes of less than $42,000. Those who had less than—

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I completely understand your decision, but I would like to point out that we are halfway through the debate. We talked only about the GST at the beginning and now we are hearing about the TFSA limit, which has nothing to do with feminine hygiene products.

I would like the member to focus on the essence of the motion for the rest of her speaking time. The motion is very specific, and I do not think that the member will have any trouble sticking to this particular topic instead of talking about measures that have nothing to do with the debate. I understand that we have some flexibility, but flexibility does not involve talking about a completely different topic for more than half of the debate.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, on the same point, I would point out to my hon. colleague that some of the previous speakers on the NDP benches have been talking of issues not specifically about the removal of GST from feminine hygiene products. I heard comments about income inequality, for example.

If the member wants to suggest that only our side is straying from the topic, he should listen to some of the comments by members of his party. I think the comments by our member are perfectly acceptable. They are framing this debate in context. I would suggest to my hon. friend that if he wants to make a complaint about veering off topic, he talk to some of his own members.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Harold Albrecht

I will take a further point and then we will get on with debate.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard my colleague's comments, but I listened to the two speeches on our side of the House. These speeches had a very specific connection to income inequality and gender inequality in this very specific debate. There was a very clear connection to the content of the motion. However, when a member starts talking about TFSAs or other measures that have nothing to do with this specific debate, it detracts from the topic and I think it detracts from the seriousness of the motion we are debating.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Harold Albrecht

I would point out, as I did earlier, to all members that there is some latitude allowed for debate within the various issues that we deal with here in Parliament. I think the hon. member had started on that, is progressing to that and is pointing out the different ways in which taxes have been reduced. I would urge her to come to the point of the GST specifically to this motion that is currently before the House as early as she can.

The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, many of the people who use feminine hygiene products are those who have young families. I would also like to talk about some of the means that we have introduced to help young families who, again, need to avail themselves of the feminine hygiene products.

We also introduced the children's fitness tax credit and the children's art tax credit to help families with children. We put more money in the pockets of families with children by introducing the universal child care benefit, UCCB. All of these things are making it easier and more palatable for women to be able to afford the feminine hygiene products.

We have also introduced the registered disability savings plan, a tax assisted savings plan that helps individuals with severe disabilities. This helps them and their families save for long-term financial security. Again, this is a group that is affected and uses feminine hygiene products.

We enhanced support for caregivers of infirm dependent family members by introducing the family caregiver tax credit and by removing the $10,000 limit on eligible expenses that caregivers can claim under the medical expense tax credit in respect of a dependent relative. Again, this puts more money back into the pockets of those who need to purchase feminine hygiene products.

We have provided additional support to adoptive parents by enhancing and increasing the adoption expense tax credit to better recognize the costs of adopting a child.

We have enhanced support for workers by introducing the Canada employment credit, which recognizes employees' work expenses for things such as safety gear, uniforms and supplies. Again, this is a group that uses feminine hygiene products.

We further provided support to students and their families, which we heard about from the opposition side, by exempting scholarship income from taxation, introducing the textbook tax credit, making registered education savings plans more responsive to changing needs, and lowering the program duration requirements for the tuition, education and textbook tax credits applying to foreign university programs.

We have assisted first-time homebuyers, who are often in the younger age groups of our residents, by introducing the first-time homebuyers tax credit, and increasing the registered retirement savings plan withdrawal limit under the homebuyers plan.

For Canadian seniors and pensioners who helped build this country, we have provided about $3 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief by increasing the age credit amount by $2,000. We have doubled the pension income credit amount to $2,000, and have raised the age limit for maturing savings in registered pension plans and registered retirement savings plans from 69 to 71. We have also introduced pension income splitting. This benefits over 2.2 million Canadians. The opposition may ask what this has to do with feminine hygiene products, and I would like to state that regardless of age, there are feminine hygiene products that are used by women in every age group in this country.

Building on this tremendous record of tax relief, the Prime Minister announced in October 2014 further tax relief and benefit increases for all families with children. This includes enhancing the UCCB, increasing the maximum dollar amounts claimable under the child care expense deduction, and introducing the family tax cut. The enhanced UCCB will provide an increased benefit of $160 per month for children under the age of six, and a new benefit of $60 per month for children ages six through seventeen, effective January 1, 2015.

The family tax cut allows a higher income spouse or common-law partner to effectively transfer up to $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse or common-law partner up to a maximum benefit of $2,000. Again, this is putting more money back into the hands of those who need it. We have also doubled the amount of expenses that may be claimed under the children's fitness tax credit to $1,000 starting in 2014, and have made the credit refundable starting in 2015.

Most recently, economic action plan 2015 took our government's record of tax relief one step further. It announced an increase in the TFSA annual contribution limit to $10,000, effective for the 2015 and subsequent taxation years. This represents tax savings of about $1.1 billion over the 2015-16 to 2019-20 period. I could spend my entire time today listing off all the ways that we are helping to lower taxes, create tax fairness, and letting Canadians keep more of their own money.

The opposition likes to talk about tax fairness in today's motion, as though this is something they have any experience in achieving. They also like to forget that they voted against every single tax cut that this government has brought forward.

Our government, on the contrary, actually understands that tax fairness means lower taxes for all Canadians in all income levels, and not only do we understand it, we are making it a reality. These tax reductions have helped build a solid foundation for future economic growth, more jobs, and higher living standards for Canadians. This is good for the overall economy and the right thing to do, which is why tax relief has been a commitment by this government since 2006. This commitment starts right at the most fundamental level, the family.

Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from our government's low-tax plan. In fact, more than one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the tax rolls altogether. Measures introduced by our government since 2006 will provide tax relief and benefits of up to about $6,600 for a typical two-earner Canadian family of four in 2015. That is a lot more money left in the pockets of Canadians as a result of our actions to spend as they see fit; all of that, may I add, is while balancing the budget.

One of the most significant ways to ensure the prosperity of Canadians is to keep Canada's books in order and bring the budget to balance. We promised Canadians that we would balance the budget, and we delivered on that promise. However, we did not do it by raising taxes or cutting transfers for education and health care. We focused on controlling operating expenses for federal departments and identifying efficiencies that focused on making government operations leaner. A balanced budget will preserve Canada's low-tax plan and allow for further tax reduction, fostering growth and the creation of jobs for the benefit of all Canadians.

Canadians across the country, including in my riding of Sarnia—Lambton, understand the importance of living within their means and expect government to do the same. This new balanced budget legislation will prevent future governments from running deficits, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech, and I would like to raise this point again.

The motion we are discussing today is very specific. It is about removing the GST from feminine hygiene products. The member did not talk about that except for maybe in the first two minutes of her speech. Now she is talking about the law on balanced budgets, which has nothing at all to do with the specific motion we are discussing today.

She has been talking for at least six or seven minutes but has not addressed the matter before us. I would like to ask my colleague to speak specifically to the content of the motion we are discussing today.

Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene ProductsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I appreciate the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques's comments.

As the Speaker said 15 minutes ago, the subject before the House today is related to the GST. As the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton said, when the subject is related to taxes, quite a few reasons and arguments can be relevant to the subject before the House. I find that the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton has connected the two issues. It is difficult to speak specifically to the subject before the House, particularly when that subject is the GST.

I therefore give the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton two more minutes.