Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support Bill C-241 to reduce the cost of GST to our local schools in Canada. The federal government already provides a 68% rebate for the GST cost to schools. However, this bill would reduce the impact of the GST for the remaining 32%. All members of the House should be able to agree that the federal government should not be making money off of the back of our education system in Canada.
Canadian families understand how tight resources are at their local schools. For instance, look at the number of fundraisers that parents have to participate in on a yearly basis. In the history of Canada, parents have never been required to pay the number of fees that they are today, whether it is for pencils, craft materials, or surcharges for athletics, music, or shop classes. Parents know that there is simply not enough money to provide the quality of education that they desire for their children.
Using 2014-15 as a benchmark, this bill would save schools across Canada a total of $187 million, which is almost $200 million a year that would be reinvested into Canada's future generation. This works out to tens of thousands of dollars for each and every school across our country, which is why it is so perplexing that the Liberal government would oppose this bill.
Instead of giving hope to parents that the federal government could in some small way help their schools, the Liberals have said that they are in fact opposed. However, wait a minute, would this not mean that the Liberals are opposed to helping the middle class?
I am a little more than confused by the Liberal logic here. According to the parliamentary secretary, the Liberals will not be supporting this bill because it infringes, they say, on provincial jurisdiction, and that it would increase the amount of money available to public education in the provinces. However, what about imposing a carbon tax? If the Liberals were sincere about this new-found principle, they would not be imposing a carbon tax.
Furthermore, if the Liberals believed they should not meddle in provincial jurisdiction, we would not see the standoff between the provincial health ministers and the Minister of Health at the federal level with regard to the next health accord. Clearly, the argument that this is under provincial jurisdiction at this point is one of convenience and not one of principle.
I would submit that since this bill only affects the GST rebate, which in fact is a federal tax, this bill safely stays within the jurisdiction of the federal government. The real reason that the Liberals oppose this bill is that they broke the bank and they cannot afford this tax break to public schools, and hence this tax break to the middle class. It is hard to be a tax-and-spend government when elected on the heels of a Conservative government that cut taxes for families to the lowest rates in 50 years. I understand that.
What we have seen from the Liberals is absolutely unchecked spending. A $10-billion-a-year promised deficit has ballooned to a $30-billion-a-year actual deficit. A tax cut for the middle class that was supposed to be revenue neutral turned out to cost the federal government $1 billion per year, which in turn will be passed on to the taxpayer. The economy, despite budget 2016, continues to sputter, with dismal growth performance and plunging investor confidence.
I am generally a fairly optimistic person, but the Liberals are digging Canada into debt at levels we have not seen before, and it is the next generation who will be forced to repay it. The government is mortgaging the futures of our students, which this bill is attempting to help.
The Liberal government says it would be imprudent to make piecemeal changes to the GST because of their tax review. However, we all know that this review will not be looking to decrease taxes.
The Liberals are so far into the red that it would appear they have no choice but to look for hidden ways to raise taxes to pay for their out-of-control spending. We have already seen this with the increased payroll taxes that the Liberals have recently brought in. The expansion of the CPP will start taxing people at a higher rate in the very near future, but Canadians will not see the benefit of this for at least 40 years.
The Liberals cancelled the legislated tax cut to small businesses, thus breaking their campaign promise, while also promising to bring in a crippling carbon tax that will make small businesses even less competitive against the American market and result in many Canadians losing their jobs.
The government also cancelled a whole host of tax cuts for Canadian families, largely the middle class. These included cutting the children's fitness tax credit, the children's arts tax credit, the textbook tax credit, the education tax credit, and income splitting for families. That is a long list.
Who will pay for this reckless economic approach? Our students will pay for this approach. Our young people will pay. My generation will pay for this reckless spending approach.
Canada's demographic pressures are well understood. As the baby boomers retire and the size of families shrink, the ratio of Canadians who are working versus those who are not is approaching unsustainable levels. To put it simply, there are fewer people working compared to those collecting benefits than at any point in our history as a nation, and the trend is only getting worse. In 1990, there were five working Canadians per senior. In 2011, there were four working Canadians per senior. By 2030, there will be only two working Canadians for every senior. Why is this relevant? It is relevant because it means that the future government will have less ability to pay down debt because the taxes collected each year will be needed to pay rising expenses such as pensions and health care costs.
I support Bill C-241 because I believe that putting money in the pockets of our schools is more important than the wasteful spending we presently see from the Liberal government. Our schools need more funding, not a carbon tax that would increase the costs of our local schools as they are forced to pay more to run their buses, heat their schools, and purchase supplies. Our rural schools will pay the heaviest cost.
Teachers and other front-line educators tell us that students are losing the ability to learn experientially in our school programs, such as shop, band, and fine arts, because these programs are being shelved. In place of these creative programs that develop the skills that young people need to succeed in the skilled trades, these children are directed to study online, because the Internet is cheaper.
Why do we have such a shortage of skilled trades in Canada? It is because we have put our money behind convincing kids to get behind a screen instead of living life in the real world.
Who has the most to lose because of this? It is the vulnerable students among us. It is those who come largely from financially insecure homes. These students are the least likely to be able to afford the secondary fees for supplies to participate in these classes. At the end of the day, that is a national tragedy, because often it is these students who have the most to benefit from acquiring a skilled trade.
It is clear that schools in Canada could use this money that would be granted to them through a GST rebate.
Our students are our future. When parents give their children a hug before they get on the school bus or they get dropped off at school in the morning, those parents want to know that the government is doing everything in its power to benefit the future of their children. This legislation would help provide that support. This legislation is about our future generation. This legislation is about supporting Canada.
I ask all members of Parliament on this side of the House and across the aisle, especially those with kids, to think about their children and to consider the future of this great country. I ask them to support this piece of legislation.