Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the fantastic member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, our new agriculture critic, who brings his perspective from Vancouver Island, which is well needed in this House.
I am very pleased to speak to the NDP motion which asks that the government keep its promise to cap the stock option deduction loophole and take aggressive action to combat tax havens, and that the House call on the government to respect that resolution by ensuring that both measures are included in budget 2018.
There is no questioning the fact that all over the world, aside from climate change, poverty is the biggest problem humanity faces today. For over 50 years, New Democrats have consistently warned of the growing inequality in Canada between the haves and the have nots, between the 99% and the 1%.
Sixty-five years ago, people and corporations contributed equal amounts of income tax to the Canadian government. In 2015-16, Canadians paid $145 billion in income tax, while corporations paid $41 billion. We have gone way off track on tax fairness inside our country, and we are not seeing investment. We are not seeing our country grow from the model we currently find ourselves in.
By 11 a.m. on January 2, Canada's top-paid CEOs had already earned what the average Canadian earns in a year. In other words, the top Canadian CEOs earn more in a day and a half than millions of hard-working Canadians will take home in a full year. Canada's top CEOs earn 200 times the average person's salary. It is understood there will be more money being made by those sitting in CEO roles, but this has become extreme. When on the other end there is extreme poverty, we, as a country, have to take measures to address this. The Liberal government needs to take this issue seriously.
There are two Canadian billionaires who possess the same amount of wealth as 11 million Canadians. Eleven million Canadians are struggling. Greater numbers than that are struggling and for two people to be able to live their lives in extreme comfort is unacceptable.
The governing parties in Canada have often tried to portray themselves as fighting for the vulnerable in our society, but they continually pass legislation, create budgets, sign trade deals, or make backroom deals that ensure those who hold the power and wealth in our country, who have always held the power and wealth in our country, keep it and grow.
What have the Liberals been up to instead? They have gone after farmers and small business owners. They have failed to stop Revenue Canada's move to tax employee discounts, something on which we are still getting calls in our constituency offices on a weekly basis. These are people who earn minimum wage or people who receive this benefit as part of their wage package. We have signed trade deals with investor-state dispute settlement provisions that ensure power and profits stay in the hands of the wealthy elite and actually bypass the court system in Canada.
The finance minister, instead of eliminating precarious work, said to Canadians and our youth that they will just have to get used to it, to just accept it, that this is the way it is going to be. That is unacceptable to me and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party. What does it say to taxpayers, constituents, people in our communities when CEOs avoid paying their fair share while ordinary citizens have to play by the rules? It sends a message that the rules of this game are rigged completely against them.
I find it laughable that the Liberal government's two major champions of the middle class have no idea what that actually means. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance certainly have no idea what it means to struggle to pay the bills. They are extremely disconnected from the lives of Canadians. Saying that our country is improving and doing so well does not actually trickle down to Canadians in their everyday lives. That is not the lived experience of Canadians today in our country, regardless of what those numbers say.
New Democrats have always fought for and defended low-income families. As a matter of fact, there are many families in our communities right now who have no wage, who are relying on social safety nets because they are simply unable to find work. There are seniors who are now having to look for and go back to work because they cannot afford to live on what the government is providing them today. As New Democrats we know this inequality is completely unacceptable and we fight against that entitlement.
I want to talk a bit about my riding of Essex in southwestern Ontario and what poverty looks like for the people I know in the five municipalities I represent. My constituents are some of the hardest hit when it comes to poverty. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, Windsor-Essex had the highest percentage of children growing up in low-income families in Canada, at 24%. This means that one in four children under the age of 17 in Essex is living in poverty. Their parents cannot afford to keep the lights on or pay the grocery bills. They are calling or coming to my office every single day. They are in tears, distraught, because they are struggling so badly under the way our current system is working.
The United Way of Windsor-Essex and the University of Windsor's Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research mapped this data. It shows increasing poverty concentrations in my communities, such as Lakeshore, Harrow, and downtown Essex. These are rural communities. These are very small communities. There is an increasing number of seniors in our communities. My constituency office cannot keep up with the need, nor can my provincial counterpart.
Incomes are shrinking. Investors and small businesses are leaving, and services are no longer available. I will not even begin to describe the transportation challenges that exist in rural communities, because they are very significant and quite a barrier to people being able to access their daily needs.
Fifteen to 20 years ago, Windsor had some of the highest per capita income levels, due to the strength of our manufacturing sector. The provision of these good-paying, unionized jobs really sustained our communities. The research that was done shows that 25% to 40% of young people will not be able to pull themselves out of this destructive cycle of growing up in poverty. The one in four children already growing up in poverty will likely not be able to get themselves out of that cycle. I promise that it is not for a lack of trying or wanting something better. It is simply that there are so many barriers in front of them for them to achieve success.
I am proud of the United Way of Windsor-Essex. It has been running a pilot program to help youth who are impoverished to ensure they can make it through high school, because they are dropping out at a large rate in order to support their families. This is incredibly important.
My colleague from Victoria spoke earlier about the concept of identified money versus money actually captured. I think of the money we could capture, money that could go back into ensuring that in my riding of Essex we no longer have children living in poverty.
I implore the Liberals to think back on the motion they supported, where we would end this practice, and to look forward to budget 2018, where we can improve the lives of Canadians with the money we could potentially have.
My colleagues have spoken eloquently about the need for a pharmacare program in our country. It could be funded by the money we could repatriate. If we could get this money, Canadians would no longer have to struggle or decide between buying their medication or paying their hydro bills.
I mentioned seniors. The budget could increase the GIS. The GIS boost that seniors received of $1,000 a year for our most impoverished seniors has not dramatically changed their lives. We need to go further for seniors in our country. Seniors are feeling left out by the Liberal government. There certainly have been moves toward families, but our seniors have been left behind. Although we saw the movement toward improving CPP for my teenage children, which I am appreciative of, we need to improve CPP today for our seniors who are living in poverty.
There are many things we could be doing with this money. New Democrats are big thinkers. We are happy to provide the government with ideas on ways that we think Canadians' lives could benefit by getting this money, but we need the government to act, not just talk about what it is going to do.
We need it to act on this immediately. We heard the Minister of National Revenue talk about her efforts. Her efforts are not returning results, and we have to question that when we look at the moves other countries have made.
New Democrats will continue to fight for tax fairness in our country.