That, given the Liberal government made a specific campaign promise to Canadians that "government data and information should be open by default, in formats that are modern and easy to use", the House hereby order that all documents be produced in their original and uncensored form indicating how much the federal carbon tax proposed in Budget 2018 will cost Canadian families in order to put an end to the carbon tax cover-up.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Barrie—Innisfil.
As members know, the saga of the carbon tax cover-up has been ongoing now for several years, but today there are new developments. Just moments ago in the finance committee, we were studying Bill C-74, the government's budget implementation act, 200 pages of which are dedicated to the creation of a national carbon tax. Before the committee were officials from the environment and finance departments. I asked specifically whether or not either of those departments had modelled how much that tax would cost the average Canadian family. The assistant deputy minister of finance confirmed that in fact the government has modelled that information. In other words, the government knows the price tag but it is covering it up, and that, in essence, is the carbon tax cover-up.
Now that I have given today's news, I will lay out the chronology of events.
In late 2015, the Liberal government was elected. It had promised to institute a new carbon tax. Soon after that, I filed what is called an access to information request asking the government what such a tax would cost families in varying income groups. What would it cost middle-class people? What would it cost people below the poverty line?
The government came back with a big pile of documents, which the member for Barrie—Innisfil will be mentioning in his speech. One of these documents indicates, “This memo focuses on the potential impact of a carbon price on households' consumption expenditures across the income distribution.” The key findings are blacked out.
I will translate this government-speak into plain English. The memo focused on the potential impact of a carbon price on households' consumption. This means that the memo calculates what the tax will cost people when they buy things. It mentions “across the income distribution”, which means that the table which is blacked out tells us what people would pay based on the incomes they earn.
We know that the share of a family's budget is largely determined by how much the family makes. For example, Statistics Canada has shown that poor families spend about a third more on the goods that the carbon tax will apply to than do rich households, because if one is extremely wealthy, then heat, electricity, groceries, while they still cost the same or even a little more than they do for a low-income household, they are a smaller share of the family's budget. This is why it is important to know how much people in various income levels will pay with this new tax.
We know that taxes of this nature are regressive, because they take a larger share of household income from people who have less money. Those with the least disproportionately pay the most. As a result, such taxes can have the effect of actually widening the gap between rich and poor. The government has claimed that it wants to reduce that gap, but it is imposing a tax which is known to do precisely the opposite.
Then we come to the use of the revenues. What is the government going to use the money for when it collects it?
In Ontario, the Wynne government has given the blueprint. For example, Ontario has used the money to provide $15,000 in rebates to millionaires who buy electric Mercedes and Teslas. This is an example of a tax applied to working-class and low-income people which is then fed to the wealthiest 1% who can afford to drive the most elite vehicles. In that same province, the government has used the revenues to subsidize companies that would otherwise be money losing. They have, for example, increased hydroelectricity rates by paying these companies that offer so-called solar and wind power onto the grid at 90¢ per kilowatt hour when that kilowatt hour is worth about 2.5¢.
The effect of that is to drive up the electricity costs of everyday Ontarians, while bolstering the profits of well-connected Bay Street insiders, who successfully conclude those inflated contracts with the Government of Ontario. In Ontario the inflation of electricity prices is going to constitute a cost of about $170 billion over 25 years, according to the province's auditor general, which will make it the biggest wealth transfer from the working poor to the super rich in Canadian history. That is a form of redistribution that is common among regimes that impose schemes like the one the government has embedded in its budget implementation legislation, all of which reminds us that we should as Canadian parliamentarians know how much this tax will cost every household.
The government says that it cannot reveal that information for two reasons. First, it says that, for example, the table that I referred to earlier, is not relevant because it is a couple of years old and so much has changed.
While the fundamental structure of the Canadian economy has changed, the amount and share that people spend on heating their homes, driving their cars, and feeding their families has not fundamentally changed in two years. That being said, if the government thinks it is so irrelevant, why not just release it? Why not just show the numbers to Canadians and then convince them that those numbers are completely irrelevant? Does the government not trust Canadians to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information? If it is obviously just a bunch of old numbers that have collected cobwebs over many months and years, then surely Canadians will just disregard it.
However, if the information in this table is based on a model of taxation that is in the current budget, then Canadians might, by contrast, say, “Wait a second. This is relevant. It is going to cost me a lot of money.” Then they may judge the government negatively for those costs. Maybe that is the real reason the government does not want to release the numbers.
The second reason the government is giving is it claims that this tax will be revenue neutral, that Canadians will get back the money somehow. It is the old trickle-down economics of socialist governments that it will take the money away from the working class and give it to the politicians. It will trickle down to the bureaucracy, and then it will trickle further down to the companies and interest groups that get the grants funded by those taxes, and eventually a few drops will trickle back down to the people who earned the money in the first place. This is the trickle-down government that we always see when parties of the far left take office.
If this is true, let us pretend for a moment that the government is telling the truth and that it plans to give all the money right back to the people who paid the tax in the first place. How can it prove that is the case if it will not tell us how much those same people will pay? We cannot judge whether the cost has been neutralized for an average family unless we know what that cost is, but the government will not tell us, which suggests that the government has a trick up its sleeve, that it wants this to be a money raiser, a cash grab, an issue of cold, hard cash for politicians to spend.
Canadians have seen this before in every province where this scheme has been implemented. In every single one, the governments have won and the taxpayers have lost. The politicians have had more money to spend and the individual households have had less money left in their pockets. That is the reality we have seen so far.
As Conservatives, we are the voice of the taxpayer, and we will fight every day to ensure that the government is not allowed to bring in another sneaky tax grab targeted at the middle class, and those working hard to join it. Rather, we will fight for transparency to end the carbon tax cover-up, and to leave money in the pockets of the people who earned it.