Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to the opposition motion. I have been in the House pretty much the entire time, listening to the debate. Hearing what has been exchanged, I do have some concerns.
From time to time, we might be straying from the facts a little. I thought I would try to take this opportunity to outline my position on this, where I am coming from, what my constituents have said to me, and where I see the importance as it reflects to those timelines.
For starters, I think we all believe in fairness and the idea that in Canada we live in country where fairness is afforded to everybody, so everybody can have a fair shot. That is why it is so important to make sure that the tax system we implement and adopt is fair, so that we can grow the entire economy, so that the middle class, who contribute to the economy, who genuinely help it grow, can succeed and continue to further the enhancement and the growth of our economy.
Unfortunately, the reality that we have seen over the last 20 years is a growing divide, a matter of inequality between the haves and the have-nots.
We voted in favour of, and introduced, a tax break for the middle class not that long ago. Unfortunately that was not unanimous in this House. There were members, particularly Conservative and NDP members, who voted against lowering the taxes on the middle class and increasing them on the one per cent. That does not contribute to the fairness.
We can talk about social equities, we can talk about the social elevators, and we can have genuine policy debates about how we should implement and bring about different ideas to lift people up. Those are all good. There are genuine and good ideas that come from all parties.
However, when we talk about fairness, there is a concept that everybody needs to have a fair start. Unfortunately, the reality is that it is not the case. We come to the proposed changes. Will they make it totally fair? Absolutely not, but they are a step towards making it fair. Income sprinkling, which we have been talking about, is the concept that, if individuals have a corporation, they should not be able to take money that they are genuinely making for themselves and split it or sprinkle it amongst their spouses and adult children.
I am not coming at this just as a member of Parliament. I am a shareholder in a corporation. I own half of a corporation. I do not understand how it is fair that, as a corporate owner, I can effectively put my kids through school for cheaper than my employee can. It is just not fair.
Let us move on to passive investments. I will say this is probably the part of the debate that this motion really focuses on, because it is really the only part that is in the consultation period now. If we talk about extending the consultation period, we are talking about extending the consultation on passive investments.
I will say that there have been unintended consequences that have come forward as a result of the discussion around passive investments, but that is exactly why there is a consultation period going on now.
What I have been hearing about passive investments quite clearly is that people are worried about money that they put into a corporation and saved in a legitimate way. They are worried about how they can then take that money out later on, and rightly so. I heard from doctors, Craig and Ruth from my community, who have been saving this way for 20 years now, planning for their retirement. They are about to retire. Should the rug be pulled out from underneath them, because they have been using legitimate ways to save? No, I do not think it should.
That is why the parliamentary secretary made it very clear this morning, when he spoke, that we are focusing on this point and moving forward as it relates to the passive investments.
Then, of course, there is the capital gains aspect of this, which probably has had the least amount of focus, and how different mechanisms are used to transfer for succession planning in a corporation. These are legitimate concerns. I share the concerns of succession planning. As I indicated, I have a corporation that one day I plan to pass on to my children, in whole or in part. I am worried about that.
During the discussion that has been going on, the themes are continuous and they are the same. No new ideas are really coming up. People love to income sprinkle and want to continue to do it, and that is just a matter of policy or principle amongst different individuals in the House.
With respect to passive investing, the government is only consulting on this now so that it can propose legislation, so we can then debate that legislation.
With respect to capital gains, some people have brought forward real concerns about unintended consequences, which I believe the government will look at and will address in the legislation.
I would also note that corporations are quite different now from 40 years ago, the last time that the tax code was changed. Forty years ago, the majority of corporations were manufacturing enterprises, large corporations. A “corporation” 40 years ago was not an individual person or a couple of people. That has significantly changed. The idea that the tax code should change to reflect that is, at least in my opinion, entirely appropriate.
It has been pointed out on a number of occasions in the House today what is an extremely valid point to continue to put on the table, and that is the fact that Canada has the lowest corporate income tax rate of the G7 countries. That continues to give us a competitive advantage, and that continues to drive the incentive for businesses to grow.
I meant to say at the beginning of my comments that I will be splitting my time with the member for Sudbury. I apologize, and I will put that on the table now.
I did have a town hall meeting. I have had a number of opportunities to engage with people from my constituency. I was invited to a town hall where I heard what people had to say. I met with the Ontario Medical Association and local members from my community. I met with a number of people in my office. I continue to hear the same things over and over again. I have identified their problems and I appreciate what they have to say. There are some genuine concerns there.
However, I am not seeing any new information coming forward. I am not sure how extending the time by another four months would generate new concerns. We have to listen to the concerns that we are hearing and see how they can be reflected in the proposed legislation and the new legislation that will come forward in terms of passive investing.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Kingston Advocacy for Small Business. This is a group of tax professionals and accountants who came together on their own without my trying to set them up or feed them any information or anything. They looked at the genuine proposals and they brought their concerns to me. It was not a bashing session about taking shots at the government. This group had genuine concerns that they wanted to bring to my attention, and they helped me deliver them back to the government. A lot of the same concerns have been shared in the House and are starting to come to the surface.
There is opportunity now to take what we have consulted on, to take the draft legislation, to see the new draft legislation that will come forward, so that we can start to have some serious discussions on what that legislation will look like.
I believe in the concept of fairness. As an individual who owns a corporation, I do not think it is fair that I should have advantages over my employees when it comes to saving for my kids' education or saving for retirement. We all need to be on a level playing field. We can talk about the social elevators and how to make things different for particular groups in society, but at the end of the day what is so important is that everybody is on the same playing field. That is not the case when a police officer making $98,000 can effectively pay a higher rate of income tax than somebody making $230,000 and sprinkling that through his or her entire family.