Mr. Speaker, it is always tough to follow the member for Essex. She is a very passionate defender of her people, and it is an honour to serve with her in the House.
I congratulate my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby, our new finance critic, for bringing forth this debate. It seems that, once again, we on this side of the House are calling on the government to honour a promise. I am starting to lose count of how many times we have had to do this.
The motion that was adopted by the House happened almost an entire year ago. It is because we have seen failure by the Liberals to act on these proposals that we have to again bring forward this motion. We are very glad to be doing so, but we want Canadians to know that, on this side of the House, we are doing our job to hold the government to account.
We will make sure that Canadians know we are fighting for tax fairness on this side of the House. I hope to see budget 2018 reflect some of the promises and hopes that Canadians have in seeing the power that we wield in the House actually used for some good, because we do collectively wield a lot of power in the House of Commons, and we can have that ability to make a real difference in Canadians' lives.
Our motion last year and again today is asking the government to address tax loopholes that primarily benefit the wealthy, including keeping the Liberal campaign promise of closing the stock option deduction loophole. The second part is that we want the Liberal government to crack down on the use of tax havens. We want to see the tightening of the rules for shell companies, renegotiating tax treaties that let companies repatriate profits from tax havens to Canada tax free, as well as ending penalty-free amnesty for deals with individuals who are suspected of tax evasion.
I got into politics because of the availability given to me in the previous seven years, before 2015, where I worked as a constituency assistant. I was primarily responsible for case work. In that seven years, I really got to see up close and personal the financial details in meeting with my constituents. I really got to see that there were a lot of families out there who were playing by the rules, working extremely hard, but the system was kind of gamed against them because of low incomes.
The tax system really exists in two worlds, and they just needed a little more help. However, I saw that the policies and legislation enacted in Ottawa were increasingly not looking after those who needed it the most. Therefore, when the opportunity came for me, I decided to enter politics, because I was not quite ready to say goodbye. I felt compelled to come to this place to continue on the fight for what so many of my constituents and so many Canadians deserve. We really do have an opportunity before us to do the right thing.
In Canada, we are increasingly seeing two worlds, and the world for most Canadians is increasingly unaffordable. It involves more precarious work, and it is a harder place in which to get by. The second world is an exclusive club for the wealthy and the well-connected who get that special access, and are exempt from rules the rest of Canadians play by.
We live in a Canada where by 11 a.m., on January 2, Canada's top-paid CEOs had already earned what the average Canadian earns in a year. They earned approximately 200 times the average person's salary. The top 20% of Canadians in 2015 owned 67% of all the net worth in Canada. Therefore, we live in a Canada where wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few.
I salute people who are successful and able to generate wealth for themselves, because we have to salute those people. However, it is increasingly a sign of instability for our society when we have the top 1% accumulating massive amounts of wealth, and the rest of us are not seeing any noticeable increase in our standard of living. This is an unstable situation, and if we allow it to continue, we cannot survive as a country. Something must be done to address this.
Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have given up billions of dollars in tax revenue over the past three decades due to the loopholes that exist, by invoking trickle-down theories to defend a loophole that benefits mostly the ultra-rich. We all know about trickle-down economics, how wealth will magically trickle down to the people who need it. If we just allow the people at the top to earn all the money they can, they will in turn allow that money to trickle down. There is no evidence out there to show that this has actually worked. That is not sound economics.
Increasingly, we are seeing that wealth continues to accumulate at the top. Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in this world, but that is an opinion that has never been confirmed by the facts. Indeed, even the International Monetary Fund recognizes that trickle-down economic theories are absolute bunk.
Tax avoidance and evasion by the rich undermine our democracy by starving the social programs and public services that many of us depend upon. When we are not collecting that money, we are actually losing the availability of that revenue to fund social programs that we could very much use. It significantly undermines the government's ability to provide funding for urgent priorities, such as affordable housing, public transit, health care, green infrastructure, education, and other public services.
It is estimated that the use of offshore tax havens, which is at its highest in history, is costing Canadians $10 billion every year. Canadian corporations stashed almost $40 billion in 2015 in the top 10 tax haven destinations for Canadian capital, which brings the total since 1990 to $270 billion. These are places like the Cayman Islands, Barbados, and other jurisdictions. In fact, the top five tax havens are Barbados, Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, and Bermuda.
Liberals did vote in favour of the motion last year, but since then they not only have failed to act upon it but have also gone on to sign other tax haven treaties with the Cook Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, and Grenada. With the budget fast approaching in 2018, we really need the government to live up to its promise and address these loopholes.
The flip-flop on the stock option loophole and on tax havens shows the influence that powerful insider lobbyists have on the government's policies. My constituents do not have access to high-priced Bay Street lobbyists. They do not have that inside track with the Liberal cabinet. I just wish that the voices of ordinary Canadians would actually make it into tax policy. This is an area where the government can clearly make a difference, and the Liberals will find support from the New Democrats on this issue. We will gladly support them. In fact, I encourage the finance minister to consider putting these measures in budget 2018.
It is going to take a strong political will to reverse the trend of rising income inequality, which began decades ago and has continued under both Conservative and Liberal governments. There are a number of things we could do. We need to change the corporate tax rules that allow for the use of shell companies. We need to review the tax treaties that let companies declare profits in tax haven countries and then repatriate them back to Canada absolutely tax-free. We absolutely need to end penalty-free amnesty deals for individuals.
We have to show that people engaging in this kind of practice are going to have the book thrown at them. Absolutely no ands, ifs, or buts, we have to stand by our word. When a parent starts bending the rules, kids always look for a way to continue going after it. It is the same with people who avoid paying tax. If they realize that the government is willing to negotiate, they will simply use that to continue the same kind of behaviour.
In conclusion, there are so many areas where we could do some good with this money. We could have a national pharmacare plan or a national child care plan, or end boil water advisories for first nations reserves. I really hope that these measures make it into the budget. The government has willing partners on this side of the House to actually see these measures adopted. Let us use our collective power as members of Parliament to finally get these measures passed, do a good job for Canadians, and make this a fairer country. Ultimately, every single Canadian who voted in the last election would like us to live up to that ideal.