Madam Speaker, I rise in the House often, but this is the second time in a little less than a year that I rise to speak on behalf of the people of Trois-Rivières that I represent, the vast majority of whom are working very hard to make ends meet. Every year, these taxpayers pay their taxes as they should, as they will again very soon, and this helps fund essential public services to promote social justice and build a more inclusive Canada.
Tax fairness is at the heart of the NDP's political action. I would even say that under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh, we are the champions of social justice and tax fairness. That is why we are shining the spotlight on the problem of tax evasion and proposing tangible solutions to try once more to put an end to it.
On March 8, 2018, the House adopted a motion calling on the government to do something about the tax giveaways to the wealthy and keep its promise to cap the stock option loophole. That is just another broken election promise.
I think there are three kinds of people who make promises or three possible outcomes. This first category is people who say “yes” and take action right away. People are remembered for that, because their word means something. Then there are the kind of people who say “yes”, but they drag their feet and need constant reminders, and we have no guarantee that their word will actually result in any action. Finally, there are the lost causes, those who say “yes” to look good, and perhaps they agree with the principle, but are completely incapable of taking action.
Frankly, I reluctantly put the Liberal government somewhere between the second and third category, that is, between those who drag their feet and the lost causes. I will give it a few more weeks to see whether the Liberals actually put their money where their mouth is in budget 2018. If it becomes clear that that is not the case, the only logical conclusion is that the Liberals are all talk and no action.
If Canadians really want a government that listens to workers across the country, regardless of their income, perhaps they should listen to the NDP's proposals the next time. I almost said “a middle-class government”, but I will refrain from using that term because it is hard to define. I will do everything in my power to make sure that these proposals are clear and well defined.
A few months ago, I gave a speech that called on my fellow MPs to support this motion. We were victorious, but only in the sense that the motion was adopted. When it came to taking action, the government did the opposite of what was called for in the motion. The government told us that it would close the loopholes and make sure that everyone pays their share of taxes in the interest of fairness, but the next day, it continued to sign new agreements with tax havens. I would be hard pressed to find a better example of talking out of both sides of one's mouth.
I am therefore rather dismayed to be rising in the House again today to speak in favour of social justice. I hope that this time I will be heard. I almost fear a second victory in the House if it means, again, that nothing will be done.
On this opposition day, I ask my colleagues to support our new motion, which calls upon the government to keep its promise to cap the stock option deduction loophole and to take aggressive action to combat tax havens.
We hope that budget 2018 will include pragmatic measures to deal with tax fraud, particularly with regard to capping the stock option deduction loophole. We are losing $800 million to $1 billion a year.
I wonder if my colleagues can imagine what we could do with $1 billion a year. I certainly can. I have so many ideas, in fact, that $1 billion just might not be enough. It is truly outrageous to be forgoing this revenue.
Why are stock options a crucial issue? For those who might not be familiar with this strategy, under this system, a CEO can buy shares in a company that he is running and then sell those shares at the right time, when he can turn a profit. The benefit he gets from that is considered a capital gain. He will then be taxed at half the rate of ordinary income. When tax season comes around, they usually have only one form, a T4, that states they have one job, one income, and they pay their fair share of income tax. The federal government encourages big businesses to apply this strategy, because CEOs that do pay 50% less tax on gains from the sale of their shares.
Because of this tax loophole, the federal government and the provinces lose $1 billion every year. Instead of giving to wealthy CEOs, the Liberal government should work now, by adding a simple line in the 2018 budget, to ensure that the interests of all taxpayers of this country are respected. For instance, this $1 billion could fund research that would finally, once and for all, establish a standard on pyrrhotite in concrete and allow thousands of local families to get out of the hellish situation they have been in for years. It could quickly fund an overdue announcement by the Liberal government to publicly fund VIA Rail’s high-frequency rail project that would connect Quebec City and Windsor, with a stop in Trois-Rivières. It could also be used to increase health and education transfers.
Speaking of salaries, the riding I have the honour to represent has an unusual characteristic. We have a large number of seniors. My riding's rate is three to four points higher than the average in other regions in Quebec. I have never had a single senior come to tell me that he or she is drowning in money. It is just the opposite. I often hear about seniors having trouble accessing the guaranteed income supplement. These people are living a modest lifestyle, barely above the poverty line, on their meagre pension income, even though they spent years working to develop our society.
In my region, as in others, people are struggling to live decently, and meanwhile, the wealthy are earning even more money. There is a real injustice here that we need to address. I am not saying that everyone should have the same income. We are not communists. We are saying that all Canadians should pay their fair share according to their income. This makes sense. The Liberals talk about their tax cuts and the TFSA contribution limit, and meanwhile, some people in my riding have never even heard of a TFSA or RRSP. When they file their tax returns, they generally do not have enough money to invest in savings that would give them a little more monthly income in retirement. They are light years away from this reality.
When the Liberals brought in their tax cuts, they forgot all about the first tax brackets that are financing the government's deficit. We know that the tax increase on the wealthy is not enough to finance the Liberal government's offer. Studies show that the wealth gap continues to grow year after year. Anyone can see it.
It is time for this government to put its words into action and to follow through on its commitments. When the time comes to vote, it should vote “no” if it opposes the NDP's motion, or vote “yes” and take action.