Madam Speaker, I rise today to talk about tax fairness for the farmers and small business owners in my riding.
My riding of Essex is a rural riding with five municipalities, where towns are filled with small businesses, and the space between them is filled with gorgeous farm fields. We have some of the richest soil in Canada and the largest amount of acreage under glass in our greenhouse sector.
The hard-working people in Essex are very angry and confused by this consultation by the Liberal government, which is now officially closed. These are hard-working people who have now been told that they did something wrong, that they are tax cheats, or that they were intentionally not paying their fair share.
Paying our fair share is something that is deeply important to New Democrats. Fighting for fairness is the foundation of all of our work. Fair share is a phrase that we use with pride about our contribution to our communities. We pay taxes to our government so that we can collectively take care of each other.
Canadians place trust in the government to fairly distribute the wealth of our society so that we all benefit from services that keep our communities healthy and thriving. This is a basic tenet here in Canada. It is one of the things that I love about Canada. I ran to become an MP to protect and fight for our social services and for their equal delivery.
This is why so many people in my riding are also very proud to pay their taxes, to pay their fair share. They work hard for their families, their communities, their family traditions, and their family businesses and farms. They pay their fair share and they work to pay for the health of their community as well.
This summer when the consultations started, there was a lot of rhetoric being thrown around by the Liberal government about tax fairness. People in my riding were being told that they were cheating the system, that they were taking away from the community they love and helped to build, where they were raised and where they raised their children, instead of adding to it. Not only did they feel targeted by this language, but they were using a system that was in fact perfectly legal and one that they had been encouraged to use to grow.
They understand and support tax fairness, but the main question I get is why the Liberals brought in only these proposals in which they they are only looking at small businesses. Where was the consultation on CEO stock option loopholes, or the consultations on how we end offshoring and snow washing? The Panama papers came up quite a bit.
I understand why farmers and small business owners are angry. What I cannot understand is the Liberal government limiting the scope and the time of this debate in Canada. The government has many opportunities to bring forward real and tangible tax fairness.
I believe in tax fairness, but real tax fairness, not this limited version being proposed by the government.
Real tax fairness could have come when New Democrats stood in the House in March and introduced a motion to eliminate tax havens and the CEO stock option loophole. Why should CEOs be able to hide their salaries and stock options to keep from paying their fair share? The NDP proposed the elimination of the tax break on stock options used by rich CEOs, a loophole that costs the government and communities $800 million per year.
The government voted in favour of our motion but has done nothing to address the issue. I heard Liberals talking about the provisions in the budget that they brought forward, but they do not eliminate the loophole, and these are very different things.
Real tax fairness could have been accomplished by the Liberals if they had passed my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-274. This legislation would have helped small business owners, like farm and fishing businesses, transfer between family members. We have a system in Canada where farmers pay less tax if they sell their family farm to a stranger than if they sell it to a family member. How on earth is that fair? Again, the government, which says on a constant basis how much it cares about farmers, voted against the bill, which would have made it fairer to succession plan, something that Canadian farm families are struggling with across the country.
I recently spoke with a farmer in my riding who told me that he and his wife had taken on payments to be able to buy the farm from his parents. They have a 16-year commitment to do this, and now they are very worried that they have made the wrong decision and will pay the price for the government's complete lack of understanding about farm management. This is not a multi-million dollar farmer. This is a family that is teaching its children how to farm and keeping our community in fresh local food.
Now, instead of using viable options to make our tax system fairer to tackle the real and serious problem of inequality, the government has put forward consultations, which are now over.
Income inequality in Canada is a real and serious issue for all. Recently, the census revealed that Canada's level of income inequality has worsened over the past 12 years. Due to past government inaction, the richest one per cent of our population has seen a 14% rise in median income. According to the census data, the richest one per cent now earns 6.8 times more than a worker earning Canada's median wage of $34,204 in 2015. The changes that the government is consulting on would do nothing to alleviate this gap. In the Windsor Essex area, the United Way says that about one-quarter of our youth live in poverty, which means that in 2013, 19,900 children under the age of 17 lived in families where the income was less than $17,000 per year.
We need to address this gap and work hard to close it with a serious effort. That is why this consultation must include all avenues to do that, not just the narrow scope of the measures the government is proposing. In fact, the Liberals' promised to address these inequalities in their platform, but these measures are so limited in scope that people are learning once again that the Liberals say one thing during an election and never follow through.
If the Liberals are serious about helping small businesses, then where is the small business tax reduction, something that all parties in this House committed to during the campaign? We are two years into the government's mandate and have still not seen that proposal come forward, despite the fact it would be so incredibly important to the 98% of businesses in this country that are small- and medium-sized businesses. If the Liberals are serious about helping small business, then when is this helpful proposal coming forward? Where is the legislation to ensure that business owners can see the tax reduction they were promised and, quite honestly, they were moving forward on and basing their future on? Therefore, it is another broken promise to our most important job creators. No one in Canada thinks that the Liberals are standing up for small businesses.
I want to talk about the consultations for a minute. These consultations released a tidal wave of misinformation that has only scared and worried people across the country. The government caught Canadians off-guard, leaving many small business owners in Essex wondering about the vague language and implications of the proposals, and many others are confused by the complexities of the reforms. I heard some Liberals today in the House talking about whether the NDP would vote on this. To my knowledge, there is nothing to vote on at this point. We do not know what will be proposed. We have a vague understanding, but again small business owners and farmers are confused by these proposals.
The Liberals launched the consultations in mid-July and, as of yesterday, the consultations are over. How could the Liberals not have realized that this time of year would be problematic for farmers? This is harvest season, and many farmers will not be able to get to their accountants or tax planners in time to get detailed advice on how the potential changes to the tax system could affect them. When I travel in my riding, I see all the tractors running at full speed. It has been very tough for those farmers to connect because they simply have had to be on their farms during this critical time.
I also do not understand why the government has decided to rush the consultation process. Surely, it makes sense for the Liberals to post their proposals and wait for honest, well-thought-out feedback. Why do they not give everyone the time to study the changes? If the Liberals are serious about tax fairness, then they will expand the scope, extend the deadline, and have a true comprehensive review.
That is why I move, seconded by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, that the motion be amended, (a) by deleting the words, “will have a drastic negative impact on small and medium sized local businesses,” and replacing them with the following, unfairly target small businesses while ignoring the largest abuses of Canada's tax system; and (b) by adding after the word “measures” the following, and to expand the consultations to include measures targeting large corporations, loopholes for CEOs, and tax havens.