Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the member who brought this private member's bill forward. I sit on the human resources committee with him, and as we have heard on the floor of the House tonight, we are working on a poverty-reduction strategy as we speak.
We all want to eliminate poverty, if possible. That is something we can all agree on. We are certainly concerned about families that are affected by poverty and cannot put food on the table or heat their homes. We have heard a lot of heartbreaking stories about poverty in Canada. However, I am concerned that this bill will create another level of bureaucracy instead of dealing with the issues of poverty.
As Conservatives, we had a good record to this effect. In 2004, poverty was at a record low, at 8.8%, which was dramatically down from 11.4% in 2004. What really affects Jane and Joe Taxpayer is lower taxes, because we are able to leave more money in their pockets and they can afford more at home. It is a Conservative principle that we like to leave more in taxpayers' pockets.
Some interesting testimony has come before us at committee. One that dramatically affected the committee, on all sides, was the testimony given by Mark Wafer. I do not know if the chamber has heard his story, but he has several Tim Hortons stores. One thing he has done that has really set the bar high for a lot of establishments is hire disabled persons at wages equal to those of the everyday people who work for him. There is no disparity between the disabled versus non-disabled people in his workplace. It is a great story. There have been hundreds employed, hundreds who essentially were taken out of poverty. They were sitting at home with no place to work and no place to go, and he gave them jobs. I asked him the number one way a person can get out of poverty. His answer was that the number one way to get a person out of poverty is a paycheque.
It seems like a very simple concept that a paycheque would help someone out of poverty, but that is as simple as it gets. It is more than just a paycheque. It is a way of life. It is hope, and it is a future. He gave an example of a person he hired who had a disability who had not had an opportunity before. After getting a job at Tim Hortons, he went on to work for a major accounting firm in Canada. We look at solutions like that as real solutions to poverty, not just another bureaucracy.
A Conservative principle that needs to be understood is that Conservatives care about people in poverty. The analogy I use is the old one we all know: Give a person a fish and you feed that person for a day; teach a person to fish and you feed that person for a lifetime. My concern is that this particular bill will establish a bureaucracy that attempts to study how to give a person a fish.
We want to look at real solutions to get people out of poverty. Mark Wafer is an example of someone who creates real change for people in poverty.
What concerns me about the different political parties' views on the way to get people out of poverty is that it is about larger bureaucracies and money through programs to help people out of poverty. What we on this side of the aisle are concerned about are Jane and Joe Taxpayer, regular people who are possibly watching tonight who are just home after a hard day's work. I was a former carpenter. Maybe Joe is a carpenter who is sitting at home trying to have a meal with his family, maybe Kraft Dinner again. It is the end of the month. Maybe they are stuck and that is all they have to eat, or maybe they have nothing at all. We are asking that same family to now pay for another program that will cost millions of dollars and will add more of a burden.
If we are talking about taxes, again the contrast is between the Conservatives reducing taxes as the true way for poor people to change and get out of poverty, and the reverse, which can also happen.
What I am going to refer to is more of a burden to Jane and Joe Taxpayer, but we seem to talk around it in this place. Indeed, I have not heard it mentioned tonight that much, and here I mean the carbon tax.
The government talks a good game. It talks about wanting to see people come out of poverty. I absolutely believe that the NDP as well as the Liberals want people to get out of poverty, but when we continually ask people to pay more, we know that people who are already close to poverty or in poverty will be disproportionately affected by these taxes, and the lower the income the greater the effect. If we put in place a carbon tax, the person who is at or below the poverty line would be much more dramatically impacted than someone who is not.
Taking a simple look at the carbon tax, guestimates have been made of its impact: $1,000 on individuals and $2,600 and upward on families. Of course, we have not factored in the inflationary effects on food prices, and the extra cost of clothing and absolutely everything. I think a fulsome conversation about carbon reduction has to consider taxation and the reverse effects of pushing people into poverty.
It is always assumed that Jane and Joe Taxpayer can always bear more. The effective tax rates of individuals is 50% in some cases. For some people, half of their paycheques are going to tax, whether provincial, municipal, or federal taxes. Now we will be asking them to pay some more for another governmental program.
We Conservatives want to see poverty eliminated in Canada if at all possible, but we also want to acknowledge the things that work.
Another witness who came to the human resource committee this week was a man named Kory Wood. He is from a little town about two hours away from my hometown in Chetwynd, B.C. He was a young guy who grew up in poverty. He did not even see himself as growing up in poverty, but just in a difficult situation. He now runs a energy company called Kikanaw that has a yearly balance sheet of $10 million.
This guy says he is not in it for the money, but to make a difference. He is a guy who gives people hope, gives people jobs, but he also sees himself and a lot of those employees he is hiring, and without having a program to tell Kory what to do, he is helping people out of poverty by establishing a business.
He is an aboriginal person, but he does not want to be known for just that. He wants to be known as a businessman, but he gives people, especially in aboriginal communities close to his own, a way out of poverty. He gives them hope for the future.
I used to teach some of these kids in high school. When people do not have job and all they can see in the future is high unemployment, with no opportunities in sight, poverty becomes a destiny rather than something that is optional. Kory gives a person like that a way out of these circumstances, much more along the lines of a Conservative real-life approach, a real way out of poverty.
To summarize, bureaucracies are fine and bills like this are fine and sound great. They establish things that sound great to people, but I am concerned about poor people being really affected by this, and I see it as a limited thing. Just having another policy will have very limited success.
However, I am really concerned about Jane and Joe Taxpayer who bear the burden of one more governmental programs, one more tax that pushes them closer and closer to poverty.
Although I acknowledge the hon. member's best intentions in putting the bill forward, and I think we all agree that we want to see people come out of poverty, we just do not think this is the right direction. We want to see actions that really take effect and really do provide a pathway out of poverty.