That, given the average middle class Canadian is already overburdened with taxes, the House call on the government to abandon any plans it may have to in any way tax health and dental care plans.
Mr. Speaker, let me say right away that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen.
We are gathered here today to talk about the state of the public purse. For the 15 months that it has been in power, this government has made it clear that it has lost control of public spending.
The Liberals were elected on a campaign of running a small budget of $10 billion, but in reality the deficits are closer to $30 billion. What is more, they talked about a balanced budget by 2019. That is false. The budget will not be balanced until 2055 and we have not even talked about the debt. If nothing changes within this government, Canada's debt will be $1.5 trillion by 2050. That is utterly irresponsible management.
This government is also known for creating new taxes and fees for workers, and also for businesses. The government should be encouraging businesses to create jobs and wealth. Instead, this government is burdening businesses and workers with even more taxes.
On December 2, a National Post article by John Ivison informed us that the government was considering taxing Canadians' private health and dental care plans.
On December 5, I stood in the House to ask the government what its plan was, and to give it a chance to answer yes or no. At that time, I asked if it would be creating a a new Liberal tax, and whether it would tax those who have that kind of protection. I asked my first question on December 5. The Minister of Finance dodged the issue. He did not answer the question. However, I am used to it, as it was not the first time. It is a trademark of the current government to dodge the issue when it has no answer. It did the same with respect to the zero deficit. I asked the government 15 times in the House when it would get back to a zero deficit. There was no answer. I will soon be asking the question for the 16th time.
We asked the government 10 times when it would decide whether there would be a tax on health and dental benefits. We did not get an answer on any of those 10 occasions. The members for Oshawa and Lac-Saint-Jean, along with the Leader of the Opposition, also asked the government about 10 times whether it was going to move forward with this Liberal tax. The Liberals always avoided the question.
Sometimes a little serendipity happens. Yesterday morning, the government was informed that we were going to debate this issue in the House today. Since it is a supply day, we submitted our motion and informed the House, the parties, and all parliamentarians of the topic that would be discussed. The government learned that there would be a debate today. Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister what his position was, and, at the very end of his answer, the Prime Minister finally said that the government would not impose such a tax.
We need to be careful. Let us remember that, just two weeks ago, the same Prime Minister was saying that the most recent election would be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post system. However, yesterday, he told us that the voting system would not change. That same Prime Minister told us that his government would run small deficits of $10 billion, when now it seems that the deficit will be closer to $30 billion. The same Prime Minister told us that we would return to a balanced budget in 2019, when the budget will not be balanced until 2055.
As a result, when the Prime Minister told the House yesterday that he was not going to tax health and dental benefits, we have good reason to doubt his statement. That is why we are offering all parliamentarians, particularly the Liberal members, the opportunity, pleasure, and privilege of officially voting to confirm that health and dental benefits will not be taxed, as requested by the official opposition, the Conservative Party. Let us be careful.
Why create a tax on health and dental benefits? It is a bad idea. First, it affects a large number of Canadians: 13.5 million Canadian workers currently have health and dental insurance. Also, some people may have family coverage under their health insurance, which means that not just the 13.5 million workers but also their families are affected. We are talking about 24 million Canadians. That is a lot of people.
It is a bad idea because families would have to pay an additional $2,000 on average. For the past two months, many people have been warning the government about the dangers of doing this.
In his January 12 letter addressed to the Minister of Finance, Robert R. Blakely, of Canada's Building Trades Unions said, “In the absence of this benefit, our organizations would be obliged, in the interest of our members, to seek public funding to replace this care, which is vital to the health of Canadians.”
Unfortunately, one province already has this tax, so I know what I am talking about. In 1993, almost 25 years ago, Quebec imposed such a tax.
What can we learn from this exercise? A study by Amy Finkelstein from MIT, published in the Journal of Public Economics in September 2000, states, on page 34:
This represents a decline in workplace coverage of about one-fifth, and corresponds to an elasticity of coverage by employer-provided supplementary health insurance....
When that happened in Quebec, one in five insured workers lost that insurance, and 95% of them did not get it back.
If, God forbid, the government were to go ahead with this plan, millions of Canadians would suffer the same fate. We also need to consider the long-term effect on public health because we are talking about dental care. If people are not insured and do not take care of their teeth, that will lead to problems that will have to be dealt with eventually.
Why are we concerned about the government's interest in taxing Canadians more? Since coming to power, the government has earned a reputation for taking aim at the tax credits that our government introduced, tax credits for the arts, sports, post-secondary education, and textbooks. This Liberal government scrapped the tax credits that we introduced to help families.
In October, the government changed the rules for buying houses, the mortgage rules, without even holding consultations.
Just yesterday, in committee, six different groups directly affected by the move all stated one after the other that the government had never approached them. This directly affects young families and Canadians who want to buy property.
I also want to talk about the current government's disregard for entrepreneurs, the creators of jobs and wealth. What did the government do? It raised Canada pension plan premiums by over $1,000 per employee per business. It cancelled the corporate tax cut that was supposed to bring it down to 9%. It cancelled the employment tax credit. Lastly, of course, this government is introducing its Liberal carbon tax, which will put an additional burden on Canadian families, to the tune of about $2,500 a year.
That is the Liberal way. The government is incapable of managing the country properly. It is creating colossal deficits and debts. Its idea of a solution is to stop helping businesses and families. Instead, it is thinking up new ways to pick taxpayers' pockets.
What is next? The government has decided to review 208 tax credits that are currently in place and generate about $100 billion. Indeed, the Liberal government wants to take another look at each one of these tax credits. We have no problem with that, but we would prefer to know what the government had in mind.
Does it intend to abolish these tax credits altogether, just as it abolished those for arts and culture, textbooks, and those meant to help our families? That is where the danger lies. If, heaven forbid, the government decides to cut tax credits even further, Canadians will have to pay even more.
We have nothing against reviewing these tax credits. What we do have a problem with is the fact that there is a hidden agenda at play here.
Listen to what the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said in an article in the Toronto Sun:
Unfortunately, there are worrying signs that [the Minister of Finance's] real intent is to use “simplification” as political cover to hike taxes by stealth for millions of Canadians.
This is just a terrible proposal, and we are giving the government the opportunity to clearly state its intention to say no to this Liberal tax—