Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Vancouver East.
It is a huge honour to speak to the motion as the critic for small business and tourism and as the new critic for veterans affairs, and it is a huge honour to rise under that new portfolio for the first time. There are big steps to follow, certainly with the previous MPs who have led this fight on behalf of veterans. I want to take a moment to thank all our military and RCMP veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice. It is a huge honour to be asked by our leader Jagmeet Singh to take on this important file on behalf of Canada's NDP. I look forward to working with and serving our veterans and their families.
Today we are speaking to a motion that was brought on March 8, 2017, by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby. The motion today recalls that motion adopted March 8, 2017, which was supported by the government, and it asks the government to keep its election promise to cap the stock option deduction loophole and to take aggressive action to combat tax havens, and that the House call on the government to respect that resolution by ensuring both measures are included in budget 2018.
The government has yet to follow through with the motion that was adopted in the House. What we are doing today is again asking the government if it will support the motion in its upcoming budget in March 2018.
Increasingly, we are seeing two worlds in Canada: the world for Canadians that is unaffordable, with people who are struggling with precarious work; and the other world with the elite, the well-connected, the wealthy, the people at the top, and the most powerful. The motion calls on the government to close tax loopholes for the rich. There are tax havens right now that are leaking, the greatest leakage in the Canadian economy, about $11 billion a year. That is a lot of money. Just to put things into perspective, that is about $325 million per riding in Canada.
I will touch on the CEO tax loophole option to start. I was on a plane and I talked to someone from the tech industry, one of the top CEOs of a great company here in Ottawa. I asked him if this incentive was the type that drew CEOs and talent to Canada to make us more competitive, and he said, “Actually, not at all.” He supported my thoughts that when one has success, when one wins, when one's company is thriving and doing well, one does not mind paying a fair share to build this great country we live in. In fact, he talked about ways that would support the tech industry and CEOs in Canada's largest corporations with more investment in programs like SR and ED and economic development to help innovators and people trying to get started. It was great to hear from someone right there at the top, who could confirm with me that it was not going to take away our competitiveness, which has certainly been an argument from the other side.
When it comes to tax havens and tax fairness, the Liberal government says it is chasing tax cheats. In fact, the people who are using tax havens, the CEOs who are using tax loopholes, are using legal tax measures. We are actually asking the government not to go after tax cheats but to close the loopholes and move forward with legislation so that we can make sure everyone is paying their fair share. It is one thing to invest $1 billion chasing people, but we cannot chase people who are using legal tax havens and legal tax loopholes. We are asking the government to follow through with its election promise and change these agreements to close the CEO tax loophole.
Through the Panama papers and the paradise papers, we have seen how many people are using these tax havens through some legal and some illegal measures. Recently, we learned of a Canadian mining company that has avoided paying over $400 million in taxes, money that would go to social infrastructure to build a strong health country. It could help pay for many things we need here at home. In fact, there are a lot of companies that are now being set up by people who do not even live in Canada and are not Canadians. They are directors of companies in Canada doing business throughout the world. They are using tax havens to move their money offshore and are not paying their fair share of taxes in the country where they have set up and are doing business.
We have a lot of concerns about how tax havens are being used and the economic leakage they bring.
We hear the government talking about some of the tax fairness measures it has brought forward. It introduced a middle-class tax break. Earlier, one of the government members said that someone earning $45,000 a year or less does not pay taxes. That is not true. We could talk to people in our country who earn $45,000 a year and tell them that they do not pay taxes and that there are all these tax breaks for them. They would say that this is not true. I hope they talk to their members of Parliament, if that is what they are saying.
When the government introduced its middle-class tax break, we learned that someone who earns about $23 an hour, $45,000 a year or less, got nothing. How is that a middle-class tax break? Someone who earns $50 to $100 an hour benefits the most. It is about a $700 tax break. This is what the government is calling tax fairness, and it really concerns me.
This is not a way to help those who are not in the middle class join the middle class. In fact, it creates a bigger gap, a widening gap, between the wealthy, the well connected, and those who are struggling to make ends meet. People earning $100,000 to $200,000 a year who got that tax break actually do not think it is right either that someone who earns $23 an hour or less got nothing.
Let us talk about tax fairness. The government has now imposed some limits and increased taxes for small business owners of Canadian companies, but it does not apply that to publicly traded companies. I have to ask why. Where is the fairness when the government talks about the small business tax system?
Why did it take two years to reduce taxes for small businesses from 11% to 9%, which was a campaign promise? We know why. It was not going to do it. The government was in quicksand over the rushed tax proposals it was going to impose on Canada's small business owners, and it was caught. The only way the government was going to save itself was by following through on a promise it had delayed for two years.
We see how the government is treating foreign companies doing business in our country, such as Netflix. They do not pay the same taxes Canadian companies pay. Where is the tax fairness?
Last year I asked the Minister of Environment and Climate Change when the government was going to remove subsidies for oil and gas companies, something the Liberals promised in the 2015 election. She said that the government had just started. That is not good enough, not when we have so many options and things we can do.
The government is fighting first nations in court instead of changing legislation to close tax loopholes for CEOs and wealthy individuals. It is not collecting government money when it could be used. As I said, $325 million per riding in this country is leaking through these tax havens and through CEO tax loopholes. It is money that could be going to salmon enhancement, when we have endangered species on the west coast. It is money that could be going to first nations communities that desperately need it. It is money that could be going to environmental protection; to clean energy programs, like the home energy retrofit program; to marine infrastructure; clean water; and return-to-work policies. We have 1.2 million Canadians who are not working who have been injured in the workplace. The government is not putting its time and energy into them. Instead it is protecting CEO stock option loopholes and tax havens and the rich.
The government could be spending that money, that $11 billion a year, fighting climate change through some of the programs I have outlined. The government could be investing in pharmacare and making sure that people who are living on the street have a roof over their head.
The government could be investing in these proposals in communities and regions like mine. My community of Port Alberni has the highest poverty rate in British Columbia. We have been waiting for investments from Ottawa to come to our community to build on economic opportunities that have been presented to government. Instead, those economic opportunities have not been supported. The government is spending money elsewhere, such as on the $8-million skating rink that no one in my riding is going to use.
The government is spending its time protecting CEOs and executives, who do not need a hand, and Canada's largest corporations and wealthiest individuals with tax havens. Like every other hard-working person, they should be paying their fair share of taxes. Instead, the government should be collecting that money and making sure that money is invested in communities like mine.