House of Commons Hansard #284 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.


Opposition Motion—Illegal Border CrossingsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Illegal Border CrossingsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion—Illegal Border CrossingsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #653

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion defeated.

It being 5:56 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

moved that Bill C-394, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (parenting tax credit), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to begin debate on my private member's bill, the supporting new parents act.

The arrival of a new child, whether the first, second, or fifth, is one of the biggest milestones in life. As a father of five, I can say it is also one of the greatest joys a couple can experience. With every new child, the experience does not get any less joyful and exciting but it is also a great responsibility.

All parents know just how tough those first few years can be. The financial pressures can seem overwhelming. The ever-increasing cost of raising a child can be very high.

It is not cheap to raise a child in Canada. New parents have to make sacrifices to afford the basic necessities for the new baby. It is often surprising how quickly the costs can add up. With diapers, toys, bottles, new clothes every three months, it is not easy.

That is especially true for families where one parent has to take time off to care for the new baby. While Canadian families were hoping for lower taxes and higher benefits in 2015, the fact is that many families are struggling under this government. This government's tax hikes are leaving less money in Canadians' pockets. The Liberals are breaking their promises.

The average family in Canada is already paying over $800 more in taxes every year under the Liberal government, and the costs are going up. Life gets evermore expensive. Groceries, hydro, or power as we call it in Saskatchewan, gas, and with kids in the house, all the extra trips parents are making to care for a newborn, families do not see the costs of these necessities going down anytime soon. Canada's Conservatives understand the importance of supporting young families with children during those important early years.

We also think the best way to support Canadian families is to keep taxes low, foster a positive environment for job creation, and make sure parents are free make their own decisions for their families.

That is my motivation for introducing the supporting new parents act.

The supporting new parents act would create a federal non-refundable income tax credit for any federal income tax paid under EI parental leave programs.

Quebec residents receiving benefits under the provincial parental insurance plan will be eligible for a tax credit for an equivalent amount. I would like to explain to hon. members how that will work.

We are fortunate in Canada to have EI maternity benefits and EI parental programs that benefit so many Canadians. However, every Canadian who receives these benefits has to deal with certain costs associated with them.

When someone goes on maternity or paternity leave, they take a pay cut. Benefits cover only 55% of their salary, but on top of everything, they also have to pay income tax on the benefits they receive.

When parents go on EI parental or maternity leave, they sacrifice up to 45% of their salary. After making that sacrifice, they have to pay tax on the benefits they receive. With tax being withheld from every cheque, it means that families with a parent on leave see their take-home benefits cut down, and many get hit with an extra tax bill afterwards when they file their income taxes.

My proposed bill offers a major tax relief to young families. It will give Canadians on parental leave a break by offering a tax credit for any income earned under the EI maternity and EI parental programs. We want to leave new parents with more money in their pockets. We know the parents know what is best for their child.

The only way the government in Ottawa can help parents of newborns is to leave more money in their pockets and let them spend it as they see fit. Once passed, my bill will tangibly benefit thousands of young Canadian families. For example, a Canadian mom who was earning $50,000 a year before going on benefits would be eligible for a tax credit of about $4,000.

My hope is that once this bill is passed, CRA will support Canadian parents by applying the credit automatically so Service Canada no longer needs to withhold taxes on parental and maternity benefits. This is a limitation I have as a private member's bill, but when we are government, we can ensure the Canada Revenue Agency automatically applies the credit.

At the very least, new parents would not be hit with a surprise tax bill when they file their taxes. I think we can all agree that is not right. At a time in their lives when they need every penny to raise their newborn, parents still get squeezed by the tax collector.

I have already spoken with families across Canada about the supporting new parents act. We want them to know what this bill is about. They tell me they want the supporting new parents act to become law. They can see how they are going to benefit. The new law would put money in the pockets of hard-working families.

I want to share one story with my hon. colleagues.

I spoke with one mom in Ontario who told me that Service Canada withheld 10% of her maternity and parental benefits, and she still got hit with an $1,800 tax bill when she filed. She had to pay on top of all the money that was being withheld. That is a lot of money after a stressful year, with a lot of new costs, to have to write a cheque to the Government of Canada for benefits she received after taking a pay cut of up to 45%.

What else could she have spent this money on? It could have gone toward buying a car seat or a new pair of boots for the baby. One never knows what types of extra costs add up. However, instead, the government handed out these benefits with one hand and then took a cut of it with the other.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

An hon. member

That is what they do.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

That is what the Liberals do.

That is unfair to her and to millions of Canadian families that are having trouble making ends meet. The Conservatives of Canada think that the government should put the interests of Canadians above its own interests. People should come before the government. I think that is what Canadians have always expected of us.

We also think that the government should not tax Canadians' money twice and that it should certainly not tax the time they spend taking care of a new baby.

For any young family, this important tax relief could make a huge difference in the cost of raising a newborn.

When we think about what important tax cuts and benefits have been cancelled by the Liberal government, we can come up with a pretty big list very quickly. The family tax cut is gone, credits for kids' sports and arts programs were taken away, the tax free savings account was been cut back, a carbon tax coming, and higher EI and CPP premiums have cut more and more out of families' weekly paycheques.

All of these measures are harmful to the well-being and financial security of Canadian families. Why did the government do away with the tax break for families? That was a bad decision since this small but very important tax break for parents put up to $2,000 back in the pockets of over 1.5 million families across Canada.

By giving Canadian parents an incentive to sign up their kids for arts classes and sports programs, we make sure that our children grow up healthy and engaged. Engaging in those extracurricular activities helps our children meet new peers, make friends, and learn about the importance of team play. Instead, the current government decided to cancel this benefit for purely political and partisan reasons. Playing politics with Canadian families should never be a motivation for a government policy.

According to a recent Fraser Institute report, Canadian families, as I mentioned, are paying over $800 more in taxes today compared to previous years. This is a big burden for any Canadian family, but especially for families with newborns. By 2022, 90% of Canadian families will be paying higher taxes.

When Canadian families decide to have a baby, they want assurances that their government will support them and that they will have enough money to raise their children. We know that the government should work for young parents and not the other way around.

I am pleased that in the short time since I introduced this bill I have already received the support of hundreds of families all across the country. What I am offering today in this bill is a very simple yet extremely effective way of showing our solidarity and making the lives of Canadian families a bit easier. Young families should not be punished financially for their decision to have children. They should have our help instead.

Conservatives understand that Canadians work hard for their money. That is why, instead of making families pay more taxes, the government should focus on giving more money back to those hard-working families.

We believe in the tax break because we truly believe that Canadians know how to spend their money better than the government. We think that when free people are able to make free decisions about what to buy or where to invest, for example, it creates a better quality of life than when the government takes that money and spends it for them.

There are some fundamental things the government must do, like invest in critical infrastructure, keep our borders safe, and make sure that our armed forces have the tools they need to protect Canada in times of crisis. Beyond that, the government needs to have a very good reason to forcibly take money out of Canadians' pockets and then spend it on their behalf. Our Conservative position is always to start off with the default of leaving money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians in the first place. We are always fighting for lower taxes, not just because it is good for individuals but because it is good for society as a whole.

Now is the time for this House to take action and show our support for hard-working Canadian families. There is no good reason not to prioritize Canadian families and put their interests first. The current government has a choice: to say no to Canadian families for partisan reasons or to support my initiative and say yes to helping young Canadian families.

I hope that all members will unite to support this important bill.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the official opposition has a proposition that I am sure Stephen Harper himself would be happy to vote in favour of. There is no doubt about that. It demonstrates once again that the Conservatives are not open to recognizing what Canadians really and truly want. Let me give an example of that and pose it in the form of a question. We have seen the Conservatives now vote not once, not twice, but on several occasions against the Canada child benefit and the increase. Will he now say, unqualified, that he supports what this government is doing for the very type of individuals he referred to with the Canada child benefit program?

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very confident that many, many Canadians will like this bill I am proposing. There is probably one person I know who will not like a solution that actually helps Canadian families, which is Kathleen Wynne, in Ontario, who hurts Ontario families every time she tables a new budget.

I just want to congratulate the member across the way. He asked me a very specific question about the method by which we support Canadian parents. I remember being in this House and arguing with Liberals for years and years, because they wanted to give support to bureaucrats and build big babysitting bureaucracies. It took the hard work of the Conservative Party to convince the Liberals that the best way to support parents was by providing support directly to them. I am not sure they actually believe it. I think it was a tactical decision they made in the election campaign, but let me be absolutely clear: Canadians know that when it comes to trusting a party to deliver support directly to parents, it has always been the Conservative Party that has fought for that, and it will always be the Conservative Party that fights for that.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, while we applaud the interest of the Leader of the Opposition in standing up for Canadian families, one wonders why his government did not do more for Canadian families when it was in power for 10 years.

While the spirit of this bill may be an honourable one, the priorities are misplaced, and I will speak to that later. My question to the leader is why they did not talk about increasing the income replacement rate so that more parents can get more of their income when they go on parental leave. Why are we not looking at making more parents eligible for EI and the fact that 64% of Canadian mothers are able to access parental leave only? Finally, why do the Leader of the Opposition and his party not stand with us in support of a basic need that so many Canadians have, which is affordable child care? These are critical points. When we talk about standing up for Canadian families, we in the NDP will do that. Will the Conservative Party do that as well?

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. member on the additions to her family. I know it is a challenging time to have a new child as a parliamentarian and to balance both things, so I want to congratulate her on doing that.

I will point out that I have always found it curious in the House of Commons, when it comes to debating private members' business, when the sponsor of the bill is asked all the questions about why there are not other things in it.

This principle addresses a very real gap for thousands of Canadian families, and that is that after sacrificing 45% of their income, they are then hit with a tax bill on the benefits they receive. That is the problem I am trying to address.

Other things the member mentioned worthy of examination often require a royal recommendation and require government action to do. When she talks about the Conservatives' history, though, I have to say that she must not have been watching the same budgets I watched tabled year after year. There was the support for families and parents, the tax cuts for kids, the expansion of EI benefits for self-employed Canadians, and the direct universal child care benefit that went to every family and benefited every child. Those were the steps our government constantly took.

The difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives is that Conservatives wake up every morning looking for taxes to cut, and the Liberals wake up every morning looking for taxes to raise.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario


Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, this is my first opportunity to speak in the House since yesterday's tragic event in Toronto. It has touched all of our families and all of our communities in different ways. I want to assure the people of the city I represent and have the privilege to speak on behalf of in this House that all of Parliament and all of the government is here to help with support. We will make sure that the beauty of Toronto, its diversity and its capacity to help its citizens, is not surrendered to this horrible act we witnessed on its city streets just yesterday. My love and heart go out to those families that have been impacted.

I am pleased to rise in this chamber to speak to Bill C-394. While anytime we talk about the plight of this country's children and families is a good day in the House, I also think it is very important to talk about why costly tax changes really should be implemented as part of a comprehensive budget process and not as a gimmick, stunt, or slogan, as we have just seen presented in this House.

The tax proposal being presented here would not do half of what it promises it would do. It certainly would have very little impact on the most vulnerable families in this country, and it would not provide a firm or comprehensive tradeoff that would allow our government to support it.

Doing a full budget allows the government to consider all the tradeoffs and balance all the priorities and undertake new fiscal commitments in a responsible manner that helps those who have the greatest needs with the most amount of support. It does not, as this proposal would do, target support to people who are doing slightly better than others. I will get into how that works in my comments.

It is critical to understand that as the government works to propose and deliver real change for Canadians, it does so in a way that reflects and respects their real needs. The government does not believe that Canadian families are well served by a maze of boutique tax credits, such as the proposed tax credit we are debating today, which would benefit some while doing nothing for those who need it most.

Let us consider who would actually be helped by what the hon. member is proposing. Under his proposed scheme, the tax credit would only be available to individuals who are receiving maternity or parental leave benefits from an employment insurance program. All the other parents—

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I just want to remind hon. members that someone is speaking, and I think it would be polite if we listened to hear what he has to say.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

Mr. Speaker, under this proposed scheme, the tax credit would be available only to individuals who are receiving maternity or parental leave benefits from an employment insurance program. All other parents, such as same sex partners or parents who are adopting a child, would not benefit with 1¢ of tax relief under the proposed bill that is in front of us.

However, these are not the only people who would be left out as a result of this kind of Tory conjuring. Under the hon. member's proposal, we would also be denying benefits to almost all self-employed people, those who do not pay any federal personal income tax because their income is too low, and those who do not qualify for EI parental benefits because of the hours they work, perhaps in seasonal employment. They would not qualify for the non-refundable tax credit. In short, the proposed tax credit would do very little for those families who need it most, and in particular for the poorest children in this country. It would also not help families who are already working hard to make ends meet.

Let us contrast that with our approach, which is the Canada child benefit. Compared to the old system of child benefits, the CCB now gives low- and middle-income parents more money each month. It is also tax-free. We just heard the Leader of the Opposition say that the government should not give money and then take it back, yet that is exactly what that proposal will seek to do. Our approach would provide more money each month, tax-free, to help with the high costs of raising kids. The CCB is simpler, more generous, and better targeted to give more help to people who need it most.

About 3.3 million families with children are now receiving $23 billion in annual CCB payments. About 65% of the families receiving the maximum CCB amounts are single parents, and about 90% of those are single mothers. A single mom with two children aged five and eight, and a net income of $35,000 in 2016, will have received $11,125 in tax-free Canada child benefits in the 2017-18 benefit year. This amounts to $3,535 more than she would have received under the old system.

This talk about an $800 tax that floats around does not take into consideration one very important thing, which is that the most important benefit a family receives for having children is not part of the Fraser Institute report. The Fraser Institute report likes to do math; it just does not like to do the complete equation, which is a problem.

Therefore, we end up with a situation where low-income families that want to get their kids into sports get the money up front to invest into their kids' opportunities, as opposed to having all the taxes come off it, as it was under the previous regime. Only if the parents had enough money after all of that could they participate, and only after all of that would they get their tax return with the benefit coming back to them, and only if they were in a particular income class would they qualify to put their kids into sports. It was sports for the rich, and nothing for the poor. That is not progressive taxation policy, and it is not good athletic policy. It is Tory policy.

Through budget 2018, we have done even more to help people with the CCB by increasing the benefits each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living. This starts in July, two years earlier than scheduled, because the economy is doing so well. The books are good, and we are moving forward with the growth agenda. The CCB was one of the big contributors to the economic growth and the vitality of the economy last year, which shows that good, strong social investments that help people move forward help the economy move forward simultaneously. That is why our approach is the better approach. It would also continue to ensure that hard-working moms and dads have more money each month to buy the things their families need, with the most help going to those families who need it the most.

Our government is taking action to help ensure that everyone who qualifies for support receives it. To close this gap, the government will expand outreach efforts, in particular to on-reserve, remote, and northern indigenous communities, many of which do not pay income tax and are therefore left out of the scheme proposed by the party opposite. We will also be piloting outreach projects for urban indigenous communities so that indigenous people are better able to access not just this program but the full suite of services offered, including the CCB.

There is also the EI parental sharing benefit. In budget 2017, we gave families greater choice and flexibility, allowing parents to receive up to 61 weeks of El parental benefits over an extended period of 18 months instead of the usual 12 months, which is critical. As families try to fit together the different choices they have to make in their life, we have created more flexibility. Making El parental benefits more flexible helps working parents navigate the challenges that come with a growing family. It gives them the option of staying at home with their baby longer, if that is the right choice for their family.

In budget 2018, we went a step further, introducing the El parental sharing benefit. This benefit would provide additional weeks of a “use it or lose it” El parental benefits program when both parents agree to share parental leave. With this new benefit, parents in two-parent families who agree to share parental leave could receive an additional five weeks of leave, or an additional eight weeks for parents who choose the extended program. Providing these additional weeks of benefits under the new EI parental sharing benefit would encourage both parents in two-parent families to share equally in the work of raising their children.

It will also provide greater flexibility, particularly for mothers to return to work sooner if they so choose, knowing their family has the support to do just this.

In addition, the government proposes to amend the Canada Labour Code to ensure that workers in federally regulated industries have the job protection they need while receiving federal EI benefits.

Our government is also committed to doing more for Canadian families when it comes to early learning and child care. We listen to the Leader of the Opposition talk about regulated child care as some sort of bureaucratic monster that needs to be slain at every opportunity when we have heard from constituent after constituent about the need for highly regulated, proper day care and having a system that is funded nationally. To have that party say they will walk away from regulated child care is just appalling.

If that is their approach to supporting women in the workforce, supporting families with new kids, and supporting child care needs and early learning opportunities for children in this country, I can only say they should get out more and talk to people who do not vote Conservative, because the rest of the country is demanding action on this file.

This government has taken action on this file with its $7.5-billion investment. The member referenced Kathleen Wynne. Her investment coupled with our investments provided 100,000 new regulated day care spaces in Ontario alone. Half of these are in the GTA, in the riding I represent and close to the riding I represent. That is real help for real people, and it is being delivered not with boutique tax cuts that only help wealthy families, but with good, strong investments that help all families. That is one of the most critical things we are doing to support families, children, and social development in this country.

The other component to our support for families, and in particular families with children, is about to be launched within the year, as the provincial governments have now signed a multilateral agreement. That is the Canada housing benefit. It is yet another investment to support families who have vulnerabilities largely driven through economic circumstance, many of whom are single mother-led families with children in housing that is not affordable.

We are providing these services and rebuilding the social safety net that was not only neglected but in fact cut over the previous 10 years. We are investing in making sure those with the greatest needs get the greatest help, instead of targeting our tax cuts at a voting bloc that is affluent and that we think we can hold onto and win in the next election. We are doing good social work and making good investments in social progress. We are making good investments in day care, housing, and child benefit. We are reforming the EI program and rebuilding the social safety net. As we do all this, we are starting to look at our reforms as a trampoline, something that will not hold people when they fall but bounce them back up and get them—

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to discuss Bill C-394, a private member's bill put forward by the leader of the official opposition.

Whereas we applaud the suggestion of investing resources for new parents, this bill misses the point. It does not address the inadequate parental leave system that exists in this country. It leaves out the fundamental issue of child care and contributes to the growing inequality in Canada. This proposal would not fix the many issues with Canada's parental leave, particularly the systemic barriers that Canadian women face.

Let us talk about inequality. Growing inequality is the result of decades of Conservative and Liberal policies of privatization and deregulation. They are policies that have ravaged our public services and dismantled our welfare state. They are policies that have attacked the foundations of what previous generations have fought for to offer better living conditions to the working class and to people across this country. They are policies that are in the interest of a few and leave the many behind.

We know that inequality in Canada does not affect everyone equally. It is gendered, racialized, indigenous, disabled, and more and more, it is generational. The millennial generation, my generation, faces the prospect of being worse off than their parents. This is the generation we are talking about when talking about new parents. Let us talk about what millennials are facing.

Millennials are facing increasingly precarious work conditions. They have to survive going from one gig to the next. They are being told to get used to the job churn. We are hearing a government telling us to embrace this reality as a new normal. We are seeing an official opposition that does not seem to get that the fundamental challenges we face cannot be fixed with a regressive tax proposal like the one in front of us. When the Conservatives were in government, they did nothing to improve the working conditions that millennials face in our country and did nothing when it came to child care.

The economy we have today is not working for Canadian millennials. A 2015 Abacus survey shows us that 59% of millennials are delaying major life milestones, such as starting a family, because of the financial pressures they face. Beyond this number are the stories of young people who are struggling to get by.

I am reminded of a young woman I met in Windsor who talked about how, given all the challenges she has faced to be able to find secure employment with multiple degrees and student debt, et cetera, the one thing she said she knew well was that she was not going to be able to have kids because she would not be able to afford to give them what her parents gave her.

In the fall of 2016, a CIBC report was published that demonstrated that not only is there a historically high rate of part-time jobs in the economy, a rate that still sits at over 19%, but the share of below average paid jobs is steadily increasing. In Canada, more and more jobs that are being created are insecure ones, and many of those are being done by young people.

Reversing growing inequality must be front and centre for us as parliamentarians. This is where the proposal put forward by the leader of the official opposition falls short.

The measure proposes an investment of $850 million annually according to some estimates. This number will be looked at by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. As it stands, an investment of this size needs to address some of the most pressing issues related to the deficient parental leave system that exists in our country.

We know that we can do better. An example within our own federation has shown us the way. Quebec has implemented measures that should be supported by the federal government. Quebec has generous and accessible parental leave and a much larger number of women and their families who can benefit from it. Women who earn minimum wage in Quebec have to work only 178 hours to have access to the Quebec parental insurance plan, or earn only $2,000 through insurable employment. That number climbs to 600 hours for other Canadians. Once they have their child, Quebec families can count on a network of affordable day care throughout Quebec. Elsewhere in Canada, day care is often too expensive. Families and often mothers have to make a tough choice: postpone starting a family, not return to work, or face financial hardship in order to pay for child care.

This is unacceptable. We can and must do better. If Quebec can do it, so can the rest of Canada. It is a matter of priority.

Therefore, what can we do?

First, we have to talk about the fact that too many Canadian parents are not eligible for parental leave. Excluding Quebec, only 64% of Canadian women can take their leave benefits after having a child. This means that more than one-third of new mothers do not qualify to take that leave.

David MacDonald from the CCPA indicated that Bill C-394's tax credit proposal will not help alleviate inequalities in Canada and in some ways will even contribute to them, and that the tax credit proposal is more likely to benefit higher-income and middle-income earners, and is less likely to benefit new parents earning lower incomes.

Barriers to access El, notably in the number of insurable hours that are required, are too high for many young women in precarious work. That reality is very much the case where I come from. Many people up north do not have access to parental leave, because of the high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Also, I hear from my neighbours and friends, and I know from my own reality as a new parent, that there is a lack of access to affordable child care, and that proves to be a major financial burden for many families where I come from.

Second, instead of providing a tax credit, we need to increase the income replacement rate. We agree that we need to put more money in the pockets of new parents because they need it. However, with this proposal, since the proposed tax credit is not refundable, new parents that earn low incomes would not benefit nearly as much as middle-income or high-income earners, since many low-income families earn only 55% of their salary when on leave.

The income replacement rate of 55% is simply too low, especially when families are dealing with many new expenses. A higher income replacement rate would benefit all levels of income earners, and would therefore not participate in increasing the already alarming growing inequality that exists in Canada.

Finally, we must address the issue of child care. For Canadian women, and for new parents to have more income available to them, we must as a country find a way to offer child care services that are affordable across Canada. In all our major cities outside of Quebec, costs for child care are making life unaffordable, and are proving to be very challenging when families are deciding their priorities. I will list off some of the numbers of the median costs of child care by city in our country: Toronto, $1,212 per month per child; Ottawa, $1,009 per month per child; and Vancouver, $950 per month per child. Canadian parents know this reality and this is the kind of priority that they want to see addressed.

We want to be clear that the NDP supports the idea that we need to invest in Canadian families and in new parents, but we disagree with the proposal that has been put forward by the Conservative leader, a proposal that will increase inequality as it will do nothing to help lower-income families. It is a proposal that will not help new parents finally access the benefits they need and deserve, by making parental leave more accessible. It is a proposal that for all of the public resources it aims to invest will not create a single affordable day care space, something that is urgently needed across our communities.

I am proud to say that, along with our colleagues, we believe that Canadian parents deserve much better.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am so proud to stand in the House and support the private member's bill put forward by Canada's Conservative leader and the leader of the official opposition that supports new parents. Bill C-394, the supporting new parents act, is a policy that works in the best interest of families, in the best of interest of children, and in the best interests of Canadians.

Canadians have seen many changes in the employment insurance program, specifically to maternity and parental benefits. This specific change provides support to families by providing tax relief on their employment insurance benefits. Currently, employment insurance is taxable under each and every program. This new refundable tax credit would benefit Canadian families at a time when it would be truly needed by the families.

Let us have some fun with this, and I will let everyone take part in this. As a parent, I understand how much it costs to purchase diapers. I went on to my little app, and currently at Walmart, a case of Huggies Little Snugglers diapers for newborns costs $29.97 and provides 88 diapers. According to the New Kids-Center, a site where one can find out how to parent, a newborn uses, on average, 10 to 12 diapers per day, per month. Sometimes I fell asleep, so I am sure I used less. Still, at 35¢ a unit, the cost is $4.20 a day. The total cost per month for diapers alone for a newborn is $130. Although the number of diapers used per month may go down as the child grows up, the cost per unit goes up. Regardless, we are looking at an average cost of about $130 a month just for diapers. This is just some basic parenting 101.

The supporting new parents act is a plan proposed by a parent in the House who knows a lot about diapers and children. When we have a leader of the opposition, our Conservative leader, bring forward legislation like this, he does it because he understands family. He understands what it is like to raise children and the cost of that He and Jill have had many children, as he discussed, so he understands what it is like.

If we were to add his family to my family we could field an entire baseball team, with one substitute. I do not think there are a lot of people in the House who could do that. This is coming from two parents who have spent a lot of money on diapers, so I understand this. There is a personal feel to it.

Currently parents of newborns receive anywhere between 33% and 55% of their income, whether they are taking extended benefits that now go to the 18-month period. As the chair of the status of women committee, we talk a lot about women and equality. As was brought forward in committee, one of the biggest things parents who are stay home with their child look at is loss of income. Who is going to choose to stay at home with the child? They may be looking at the opportunity to stay beyond the six-month parental leave, to be taken by the mother or the father. A lot of times that decision comes down to who is making the most money. Therefore, that person will continue to earn their benefits and the other person will stay home. The bill would help make the decision easier though.

At the end of the day, the bill would put more money back in the pockets of parents. The benefit to an average Canadian whose salary is $50,000 would be $4,000. We have heard from witnesses across Canada that choices on EI are based on the impact of the family's income. Therefore, an important bill like this provides that ability for parents to actually choose. There is going to be a choice. When parents know they can make x number of dollars and keep that in their pockets, it will be their choice.

Many times we have discussed why fathers do not take parental leave. One reason is because sometimes the breadwinner is the father. This would give them an option. In some families, the breadwinner may be the mother. This also would provide them additional income. It is that simple.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes in the family unit, and this is all about that. We believe in supporting families and developing reasonable, responsible programs and legislation. We believe that the way to help families is to lower taxes and have good policies. Strong families raise strong individuals, which in turn create strong communities and a stronger country.

Bill C-394, the supporting new parents act, is a policy that would work for families. It would work to help offset some of the costs of parenting. With five children of my own, I know the cost of raising children truly never goes away. I have a 22-year-old son who is still learning how to budget, so I give Garrett a budget. We are working on that. Working with our children and trying to ensure they have the best opportunities does not stop at a particular age.

Canadian families have so much to think about, including what school their child is going to. Do they take sports or piano lessons, or perhaps both? We do not get a tax credit on that, but it is an option. There are friends and curfews. However, the beginning of a child's life is a very special experience. Providing any opportunity for a parent to stay home with a child and help raise that child is a key to building a stronger child-mother, child-father bond, and I think that is really important.

This bill would put families first by providing a tax credit for income earned under EI maternity and EI parental benefits. According to reports, the average family right now, under the current government, is paying $800 a year more in taxes, and we know that is going to continue to grow. Yesterday in the House, we were discussing budget 2018 and the government's historic investments. These historic investments, of course, are the ones the Liberals are going to see on the backs of these children we are currently going to try to diaper, so let us give them a break now.

Let me provide a little insight. When I was talking about diapers, I was talking about the average cost. We can look at other things parents have to pay for. There are baby wipes, $7.99; a box of Q-tips, $3.99; two jars of baby food, three dollars; baby formula, anywhere from $9.98 to $52; baby cream and soaps, an average of five dollars to $10. We can add on the car seat, the crib, blankets, strollers, bottles, and swings. When we add all of those things, parenting does cost money. Being a parent is not cheap, and we know that at one time, one or two parents reduce their income to become parents and raise their children.

Bill C-394, the supporting new parents act, is a policy that would work in the best interest of families, children, and Canadians. The bill would assist new families by removing the federal tax on EI maternity and parental benefits for parents who choose to take time off to raise families, a newborn, or an adopted child. As a party, we believe that the family is essential for the well-being of individuals and society as a whole.

Raising children in Canada can be challenging. Canada's Conservatives recognize the sacrifice of Canadian parents who have to make these choices when having children, including taking leave from work and losing almost half of a regular income. This compassionate policy would help families when they need it most. It would give them more freedom and flexibility to raise their families. For any young family, this important proposed tax relief could make a huge difference in the cost of raising newborn children.

Canadian parents should be able to focus on providing for a new child. They deserve our support. This is especially important when the cost of living continues to rise for parents under this government.

This is the first major economic policy put forward by our leader. We look forward to proposing many other initiatives as we carry forward. As a Conservative team, we are working together to develop social and economic policies that make sense for all Canadians.

I hope I have not scared off anyone who is currently considering having a child when I say how expensive it is. Having a child is one of the greatest joys. It sometimes causes the greatest amount of tears, a lot of late nights, disagreements, and perhaps some time outs. Any time we can give a break to parents so they can raise their families, that is what the government should be doing. Our children are worth it, and supporting today's families is worth it.

I urge this government and members of the opposition party to support this bill.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I beg your indulgence to just give me some indication of the time. I am not accustomed to speaking ad hoc, but I feel compelled to rise today to speak against the private member's bill being proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, Bill C-394.

I do so knowing that the hon. member is a member of the party of the late Jim Flaherty, so I am very disappointed that a basic principle of taxation has been thoroughly ignored in presenting this private member's bill, which is that there is a difference between a benefit that is offered through the federal government and a program that a citizen pays into.

A program such as the Canada pension plan or the employment insurance program is one that a person, not necessarily a taxpayer—we do not know yet—who qualifies for that program pays into, and the person is then entitled to derive certain monies from that program, depending on whether they meet the criteria.

That is very different from a social benefit, which is awarded based on other criteria. It could be universal or means-based.

Again I must reiterate how disappointed I am that this bill has been put forward to the House, especially in light of the terrific work that our government did in the very first few months of our mandate in bringing in not only a bona fide and increased universal Canada child benefit but one that was tax-free, that was needs-based for those who needed the money more, and that was automatically deposited to people's accounts. They did not have to apply for it. They did not have to worry about whether it would be taxed back when it came time to do their personal income taxes 12 or 14 months later.

It was worry free, and it has lifted, as we know, more than 300 children out of poverty. That is where the money needs to go: toward lifting those families that have the most need out of poverty. Again, that is my disappointment on the tax side.

As a woman, as a feminist, as a mother, as a daughter, I am someone who saw my own mother opening up that envelope in the kitchen. I think it was when the eighth child was born in our family that the family allowance originally came in, in the 1960s. That was money in her hands. She had worked briefly as a teacher prior to having my oldest brother. She had decided to stay home, of course, as many women did, to look after us. We came one after the other. When the twins came, she said, “That is just next year's baby come this year.” Next year's baby came anyway. They just kept coming.

We ended up being nine in the family. Having that money in her hands meant she could use it for the very important things that she wanted to spend the money on—not that my father was not doing his part; he definitely was. He was working and bringing home money, but it was so important for her to have that income and to feel that she could make decisions for the family.

Fast-forward 25 years to myself as a single mom. It was the early 1980s. It still was not quite the thing to do, but I had a very supportive family around me. I was able to benefit from a number of programs at that time that allowed me to not only have my child and to feel secure in looking after her on my own, but also to go back to school. In doing so, I earned my master's degree in business administration and learned about financial matters. By this time, as members can imagine, it was very important to me.

It was at that time that I realized I had so many opportunities. Again, because I lived in Montreal, Quebec, I was able to get an excellent education for a very low price, but that is not free. There is a cost to society.

There were taxpayers before me who had paid into the general pool so that education could be available to people like me. When I got a terrific job at a bank three years later and I was finally making the big bucks, I paid my fair share of taxes and I was happy to do so, because then I could feel that I was helping another young mother like me to get her chance in life. That is what our tax system is about, that when we are in need, money is available and public support is available to us, but when we have more money, we are able to help other families who are in need.

I just wanted to come to that very basic principle. I had enormous respect for the late Jim Flaherty because as minister of finance, he brought in so many terrific initiatives to help people do better in life. Again, I would ask the hon. member opposite to think a bit more about this proposition that he is bringing forward.

I want to get back to families. Yes, it is expensive, and yes, it is complicated, but it is what makes life so rewarding. When people talk about cost, it always kind of bothers me because it really depends on how we value our children. Having my daughter completely changed my life. Having my daughter made me into the person, I would like to say, that people see here today. I hope that I am doing her proud. She is an artist today. She lives and works in New York City with her husband and they too are paying their taxes. If there is one thing I taught my daughter, even as an artist she did her bookkeeping and her accounting, and when she sold her work, she paid her taxes. I would certainly encourage all young people to think about how important it is to be that contributing member of society so that when they need the money, it is there for them, but when it is time for them to give back, they are able to do so.

We do not have to make it complicated. I am happy to report that I did get married. When my daughter was six years old, I met a wonderful man. We had twin boys, and it was not long before they were into sports, hockey and this and that. That sports credit was around and chasing after receipts from volunteer organizations was a pain in the neck. The arts credit was too late for my daughter, but she took art anyway. We did not wait for a tax credit to put my daughter into art school. It was complicated, and life is already complicated enough. Then we had that bus transit pass thing, and people should try looking for receipts for the monthly bus pass at the bottom of their kids' knapsacks at the end of every month. They have to have that receipt because at the end of the year when they want to claim it, CRA is going to come looking for those receipts. Please, let us simplify the lives of today's families. That is what our government has done. We are putting money into the accounts of families on a daily basis.

In my riding alone this represents $6 million a month. That is money that goes into our local economy. When I knock on doors in my riding, my constituents are very pleased to know that they are getting this money without having to apply for it or worrying that it will be taken out of their bank account.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Calgary Midnapore. I would like to remind the hon. member that she has about three minutes.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss Bill C-394, the supporting new parents act, brought forward by our leader.

I know one thing to be true, since I am a mother myself. I am very proud to be a mother. We have heard this repeated several times today, but I will reiterate it. It is that babies are expensive, but this government is more expensive.

This is why we need to consider the different costs associated with babies. When people have a child, they prepare and purchase all the things that are required, such as the stroller, the car seat, the crib, and the high chair. My previous colleague talked about the costs of diapers and formula.

As a responsible Conservative, I also considered the financial implications, so I considered things like additional life insurance for my family. My husband and I took the time to have a will made, now that we had an entity to pass something on to, and also opened an RESP, which I will get back to.

Certainly one of the great joys of having a child is the time spent with the child. That has actually the greatest value of all. I was very fortunate when I had my son. I was the deputy consul general in Dallas, Texas, and my husband took two years from his career to care for our son. He credits this experience with the position he has today, in that his skills as a parent were recognized by his present employer. This bill allows parents to spend more time with their children.

In addition, we were very fortunate to have not only a happy child, but a healthy child, and this is not something every family or every parent gets to experience. Someone who is very close to me had a child with hemolytic-uremic syndrome, which resulted in many hours in the hospital. This experience with this sick child was a testament to the parent's will and strength, and is something I cannot possibly imagine.

What I am most concerned about for my son is the generational debt. It is an $18-billion deficit this year, with a $669-billion debt. My son will be 32 years old when the debt is scheduled to be paid off. In closing, I repeat that babies are expensive, but this government is more expensive.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

April 24th, 2018 / 6:55 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, negotiations begin at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow between the Coast Guard and Davie shipyard, because we need icebreakers. Who said that? The Prime Minister himself did, on January 19, while on a tour. He even added that Davie is first in line for contracts to build the four icebreakers.

We know that the Coast Guard has significant needs. Its fleet is more than 40 years old. Even though Irving and Seaspan have contracts to replace the ships of the Coast Guard and National Defence, they are struggling to replace the fleet. There have been delays and major cost overruns.

Unfortunately, whereas the Prime Minister promised four ships, the people at the shipyard now tell us that there will be no more than three. The promise of four ships has therefore been broken, but there is also a matter of deadlines. The workers at Davie delivered the Asterix, the only ship they have built for the Canadian government to date, right on time, and their reward is to be told to go on EI and wait until they are called.

They are still waiting for this call. They waited on January 17, 18, and 19. And then February, March, and April passed. Spring has now arrived and there is no news. The government is dithering, and no one knows what is going on, but we know that the coast guard does not have the icebreakers it needs.

Can the minister's representative tell us that the government has stopped wasting time and that it will award the contracts? That would be a start, because not only does the coast guard have needs, but the Royal Canadian Navy does as well. We are not just talking about three icebreakers. We are also talking about the second supply ship, Obelix, the first ship that to be converted at the shipyard. It went very well, and a second ship is wanted.

Can the parliamentary secretary confirm this evening that the ships will be built? The Liberal government has a buddy-buddy relationship with Irving and Seaspan, but we want it to work in the best interests of taxpayers. This means that it must award contracts to top-performing businesses that meet deadlines. This is exactly what the Davie shipyard did for the government and for the private sector. It built the Cecon Pride.

Workers are anxiously awaiting results. It is not complicated. All they want is for the government's negotiations to conclude and for it to award the icebreaker contracts to the shipyard, since there is work to be done and the shipyard has the capacity to do it.

I have another question for the parliamentary secretary, but she is not required to answer this evening. When will the government update the naval strategy? There are cost overruns, and taxpayers are footing the bill.

My question is simple. When will the Liberal government keep its word and award the icebreaker contracts to the Davie shipyard?

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Brampton West Ontario


Kamal Khera LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, before I respond to the hon. member, on behalf of all the constituents of Brampton West, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to the families of the victims who were killed in the tragic incident that took place in Toronto yesterday. To all the injured, we wish for their speedy recovery. This hits really close to home, and my heart aches alongside those of many Canadians for all affected by this incident. I thank the Toronto Police Service and all the first responders for their courage, bravery, and professionalism. I thank them for all they do every day to keep us and our communities safe. In the face of this tragedy we, as neighbours and a community, pull together and stand united with Toronto.

I am now pleased to respond to my colleague's remarks. The national shipbuilding strategy is charting a new course for shipbuilders across Canada. It is based on the fundamental premise that the future fleets of the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy will be built in Canada by Canadians.

As a minister in the previous government, my hon. colleague understands probably better than any of us the procurement process for selecting the shipyards that are now building the large combat and non-combat ships needed by the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy. The government of the day announced the successful bids in October 2012.

It is important to note that Chantier Davie competed in this process. Ultimately, Seaspan was contracted to build the non-combat vessels. An umbrella agreement was subsequently signed with its Vancouver Shipyards. A separate agreement for combat ships was signed with Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax.

I also appreciate this opportunity to remind my colleague that there is more, indeed much more, to the national shipbuilding strategy than just building large ships. In fact, the shipyards in Vancouver and Halifax are not allowed to compete for any projects for building small ships, such as search and rescue lifeboats, channel survey and sounding vessels, or hydrographic survey vessels.

The national shipbuilding strategy sets aside $2 billion for building these ships, which provides significant opportunities and benefits for Chantier Davie and other Canadian shipyards. Of course, they also compete for conversion work, as well as repair, refit, and maintenance contracts.

My hon. colleague also knows that Chantier Davie has received a considerable amount of work as a result of the national shipbuilding strategy. Since the launch of the national shipbuilding strategy, Quebec shipyards have been awarded more than $760 million in contracts. Since 2014, Chantier Davie alone has been awarded six contracts for ship repair, refit, and maintenance. This includes the $587-million contract awarded to Federal Fleet Services in November 2015.

As we know, the Canadian Coast Guard needs an interim icebreaking capability pending the delivery of new ships under the national shipbuilding strategy. That is why we reached out to the marine industry and invited them to provide potential options. Our government is now in active discussions with Chantier Davie to fulfill the Coast Guard's requirements for an interim icebreaking capability. We look forward to providing additional information once these discussions are completed.