Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to contribute to the debate today on Bill C-26, often referred to as “big CPP” by the many Canadian small business owners who abhor yet another payroll tax being imposed on them by the Liberal government. As a former small business owner, I can speak firsthand of the many reasons I strongly oppose this legislation.
Let us be honest that no matter how we slice or dice it, this legislation would increase the cost to an employer of hiring a worker. It would also increase the cost to employers of the workers they already employ. Let us also be honest and recognize that job numbers coming from Statistics Canada are not encouraging. Likewise, we know that projections from the Bank of Canada are being lowered for economic growth at the same time the Liberal government is imposing a top-down national carbon tax that will drive costs up on employers and small business owners alike. Likewise, we know that the Liberal government has also reneged on its promised small business tax cut.
Let me recap. In a relatively short period of time, small business owners in Canada have had the costs of their existing workers increased by the Liberal government. The government has also increased the cost of hiring new workers. It will be increasing their operating expenses as a result of a national carbon tax, and it has not followed through on its commitment to business tax cuts. It has done all of this at the same time that job numbers are looking bleak and our economic growth is being downgraded.
This may sound like a bleak picture, but the reality is that everything I have just stated is factually accurate and true. It is no wonder that investment has also declined. It is also no wonder that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business strongly opposes this additional payroll tax. It is no wonder that close to 20,000 of the federation's supporters signed a petition opposing these Liberal-imposed increase in costs in general. We must keep in mind that many Canadian small business owners now compete with other small business owners in the United States, where there is no national carbon tax and where the government is not drastically increasing the costs of small business owners.
The Prime Minister looks down on small business owners. He has stated directly that “a large percentage of small businesses are actually just ways for wealthier Canadians to save on their taxes”. As a former small business owner, I can tell the House that this comment by the Prime Minister is, to put it into parliamentary terms, a foul smelling, crusty batch of nature.
The reality is that small business owners are not wealthy Liberal elites and, by and large, these people do not pay $1,500 a plate for private access to the finance minister. The fact is that many small business owners from time to time struggle just to meet their payroll, and some even work a second job. Typically, they do not have the luxurious benefits of the public sector. I mention this final point because we should never forget that it is from the private sector that we take so that we can afford to have the public sector. An expanded CPP would take money out of the private sector.
I just heard an argument that this money would ultimately return to the economy when workers retire. However, let us not overlook the fact that not everyone lives to age 65. For them, their families, and their estates, an expanded CPP would do very little. Likewise, even for those who only live a few years beyond 65, that transportability of CPP to loved ones, kids as an example, would basically be negligible. People could pay these hugely increased costs their entire working career and potentially get very little to no benefit from them whatsoever.
However, that is okay for the big CPP pension board, because the cost to administer CPP has basically gone through the roof. As the national columnist Andrew Coyne has recently pointed out, staffing has increased at the CPP Investment Board from five in 1999 to around 1,200 today. Likewise, operating costs have gone from $3 million in 2000 to $803 million in 2015. External management fees have risen from $36 million in 2006 to $1.25 billion in 2015. These are just a few alarming indicators.
To be clear, I am not being partisan about this. These things have happened under both Liberal and Conservative governments alike. However, under a Liberal government obsessed with consultations and reviews, it is curious that this big CPP is being imposed on Canadians with zero consultation with groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and no review as to how administration and expenses are rising so dramatically for the CPP.
Of course, we have heard the finance minister and the Prime Minister tell us that Canadians are not saving enough for their retirement, which is why they believe having the government do it for them through this big CPP is the answer. When the Liberal government reversed the $10,000 annual maximum contribution to the tax-free savings account, it did so arguing that down the road they were worried Canadians were in fact saving too much.
Now here is the thing with the tax-free savings account. Unlike the CPP, with the tax-free savings accounts, those funds, lifetime savings I might add, are fully transportable. This means that one's kids, spouse, and family all benefit from one's lifetime of savings instead of having that money sucked into the growing administration a of big Canada pension plan. To be clear, a tax-free savings account did not penalize employers who are job creators. Therefore, in reality, we have a Liberal government that one day says it is worried Canadians are saving too much so we better cut back that tax-free savings account, and then a few days later it says that Canadians are not saving enough so we better bring in big CPP.
It is not unlike what the current government has recently done with new mortgage qualification rules. People in Summerland and West Kelowna, in my riding, have phoned me and emailed me and said that this makes home ownership a goal that has been stretched down the line. This is a sad thing, because people work hard. They want to succeed in life, and home ownership is one of the ways we can do that.
Let me be clear. A home is how one can build equity for retirement. If anything, the government should be focused on measures that increase the supply of housing to help increase affordability. More home owners mean more equity for those home owners down the road, and less need for an expensive payroll tax like big CPP.
One final point I would like to raise, going back to the government's argument that people are not saving enough and thus let us impose big CPP to do it for them, is whether it has ever occurred to the Liberals to ask why people are struggling to save. Well, I have an answer, and for a growing number of Canadians, the answer is too much taxation. Governments, at all levels, continue to add more and more taxation, leaving less take-home pay.
In the irony of ironies, the tax-free savings account which, let us not forget, is entirely funded by our net after-tax pay, has now been reduced by the Liberals. It is like the current Liberal government and the Prime Minister have created what I believe is a war on equity. At the same time, let us not forget that it is the same Liberal government that is adding massive amounts of new debt.
Yes, I know the finance minister loves to the use the term “investing”, but regardless of how we wordsmith it, that investing that has created this massive pile of new Liberal debt will down the road have to be paid. Each month we pay interest on our debt. In fact, the amount of the federal government interest on the debt we pay right now is close to what the Canada health transfer is to the provinces. While provinces all squabble for more health care transfers, we can all collectively look the other way, but that interest on debt is rising at alarming levels.
Therefore, down the road, we are going to see a problem, collectively. Either we are going to see more increases in taxes, reduced government services, or possibly a combination of both. That is maybe the real reason that the Liberal government supports big CPP, so that our future retired Canadians will have more capacity to absorb inevitable increased taxation as a result of today's Liberal debt being added to at near record levels.
The bottom line is that I would like to ask all members in this place a simple question. Where exactly will small business owners get the money to pay for these dramatic increases in labour costs?
The reality is that for small business to stay in business, we all know that income has to exceed expenses. In a small business, one's income comes from one's customers. When one's costs rise without a corresponding increase in sales, one goes out of business. That is the message that the government is sending to small business owners across this great country.
I would ask all members in the House to listen to the objections of the CFIB and oppose this damaging measure that would harm employment. Those who are unemployed do not contribute to CPP because they draw down from EI and other government-funded programs. Now is not the time to be expanding big CPP, and that is why I strongly oppose the bill.