Madam Speaker, recently I was out in my constituency when a woman rushed up to me with an air of urgency. She asked me if I was a member of Parliament, and then came the follow-up. She asked plaintively, “Is there any help out there for a family that can't pay the hydro bill”? Welcome to the middle class experience in Ontario.
So deep is the financial desperation of ordinary families that they are, like that woman, willing to swallow their pride and admit for the first time in their lives that they cannot make it on their own. Energy prices have pushed them to the very edge of economic survival. It is into this environment that the Prime Minister and Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne have charged with their carbon tax to push these desperate, vulnerable families over the edge.
The story I told is just the most recent of many experiences I have had. Families have cried while telling me stories of what it is like to live after their hydro has been cut off or how they have had to shut their small businesses because energy costs have made it pointless to continue.
Consider how the dominoes fall. A dry cleaner/laundry is compelled to raise its prices a bit due to increased hydro rates. A customer already feeling the squeeze from higher hydro and gas bills on the family budget now has a new tax on gasoline that increases his commuting cost by 5% in a single day. He makes a decision. He will wash his shirts at home. After all, they are the no-iron kind, and he can get away with that. He figures that he will save enough each month to make up for this new carbon tax and the most recent rise in his hydro and home heating. A few other people come to the same conclusion. Suddenly, the cleaner finds that the three customers a day who represent his marginal revenue, his profit margin, are not showing up anymore. The cleaner cannot go on running his business without making money. The business closes. This is the new economic cycle in Liberal Ontario.
The new carbon tax championed by the Liberals is a tax that consumes what little is left for hard-pressed families at the margins. How crazy is the system the Prime Minister's advisers, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, pioneered with Kathleen Wynne in Ontario?
The point of the carbon tax, we are told, is to discourage energy consumption. Guess what? Ontarians are actually keen on helping. They have made great strides and have, indeed, reduced their energy consumption by 25% per capita over the past 10 years. How are they rewarded for this reduction in their hydro consumption? Well, last year Ontario actually raised hydro rates, because we saved too much energy. Believe it or not, since conservation reduced energy consumption, hydro rates had to go up to make up for the reduced revenue, because less electricity was sold to consumers.
This is the logic of Liberal energy policy. Raise the cost to consumers so they use less. Consumers use less as a result, but revenue goes down, so the cost to consumers needs to be raised to make up the shortfall. This is the Liberal approach to energy. That is the Liberal approach to taxes and deficits too. Raise taxes, get less revenue, run deficits, decide taxes have to be raised again. Before we know it, we have a carbon tax.
It is not surprising that this is also the Liberals' approach to the carbon tax. They have already built it in for the future. The 5¢ per litre increase my constituents experienced on January 1 on their gasoline is just the first step in the phase-in of the carbon tax. It is already scheduled to go up another 2.5 times when implementation is complete, or about 13¢ per litre in my neighbourhood.
The Liberals say that it will not cost my constituents a thing, because it will be revenue neutral. The Liberals say that because they will spend the tax dollars on things like subsidizing Tesla automobiles. Again, I am not kidding. This is how they define revenue neutrality. It is not a joke. It is for real. The Liberals are proudly subsidizing Tesla automobiles, which cost somewhere between $130,000 and $200,000 or more, with a gift of $15,000 each. It is a big feature. Members just need to go to the Tesla website and they will see it. The Liberals are boasting about this big subsidy. Each of those $15,000 subsidies comes from my hard-pressed constituents paying for it on gas that they can ill afford.
If members have not seen a Tesla and they do not know what one is like, I can tell them where to find them. In Toronto, they just have to go to Rosedale or Post Road. That is where the millionaires have those cars. My poor constituents gassing up in Keswick at the Canadian Tire do not have those Teslas, but they are busy paying for them with every dollar they spend at the pump, funnelling that money down to the millionaires in Toronto. That is what the Liberals call revenue neutrality. That is how this carbon tax is working.
My constituents in York—Simcoe are exactly the kind of people who get hit the most by the carbon tax, people in the middle class and those struggling to get there. They just want the government to get out of the way and give them the freedom to do so. They live in Keswick, because that is how far out they need to go to afford a home. They need a car or a truck for the long commute to their jobs in Toronto or to work self-employed in the trades, and that is also usually a long drive to the south.
They have seen their hydro costs double under the Liberals, even as they have reduced electricity consumption by 25%, and now their gasoline and natural gas costs, already much higher than the average, are escalating ever higher because of a Liberal idea and determination that taxing them more is a good thing for society. That is right. It is because Kathleen Wynne and the Prime Minister believe it is intrinsically a good idea for them to pay even more for their daily commute and more to heat their homes. It is very difficult to grasp that, but think about it. The Liberals have instituted a carbon tax with the deliberate and conscious intent of forcing those hard-pressed families of York—Simcoe to pay an arbitrary tax increase on their heat and on their gasoline to get to work because it is good for those families.
I sometimes talk about the danger of a few smart people who, because they have educations and sit in important jobs, fall into the trap of believing that they know what is best for everyone. That is the process behind this carbon tax. A few smart people, the Prime Minister, Kathleen Wynne, and Gerald Butts, decided that they know what is best for the residents of York—Simcoe. They know how the residents of York—Simcoe should live their lives. Part of that attitude is that those smart people decided that York—Simcoe residents will be better off if they are forced to pay a new tax they can ill afford.
Why can they ill afford these costs? It is simple. Consider those residents of Georgina, the largest municipality in York—Simcoe. The median income in Georgina is $32,414, and the median household income is $63,579. Both are just under the comparable figures for Ontario. These folks are the middle class, and the carbon tax is hitting them hard. The proportion of the family budget they spend to commute to work is higher than it is for most because of the distance of the commute and because they do not have public transit alternatives. There is no subway there. There is no GO train. Their heating costs are higher than those of folks in the Toronto condo towers. The gasoline commuting costs take up a big share of the budget, so they are specifically targeted, more than most, by this Ontario and federal Liberal carbon tax. It hits these middle-class Canadians far more than it hits the wealthy, for whom such commuting costs and heating costs are a tiny part of the household budget.
This brings us to the point of this motion before the House. Middle-class Canadians are being hurt by this carbon tax far more than the wealthy. It is simple. Heating and gasoline costs are a larger share of their household budgets. The rich can afford expensive housing close to their workplaces in Toronto and can enjoy short commutes. Raising a family on a household income of $63,000 means that housing is more modest and is at the periphery of the greater Toronto area. They are trading to achieve housing affordability at the cost of time and the cost of a lengthy commute. The Liberal carbon tax targets exactly those people, the severely middle class. They know that it is hurting them.
The government has an obligation to those it is asking to pay this tax to tell them exactly how much they are asking them to pay. Tell them the truth. Own up to how much it is asking them to pay. That is the point of this resolution.
The Liberal government has asked these people and has decided that it is good for them to pay this tax. The most basic, decent, and simple thing for an honest group of those very smart people in towers in Ottawa to do would be to own up and be truthful about how much it is going to be and how much each Canadian will be asked to pay as a result. They will know how policy is being made and that someone is telling them the truth, which they already feel painfully when they are trying to balance that budget at the end of every month and finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.