House of Commons Hansard #308 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

4:35 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to the budget implementation act at third reading. As I think all members of this House know, budgets are really where the government shows its hand, and notwithstanding what it might say, what its real priorities are.

We can look at this budget implementation act and what is in it and compare it to what was in the budget document. There were some things the Liberals said they wanted to move ahead with in the budget document that were laudable. The question then becomes, when the time comes to put them into law and decide what we are going to move ahead with, whether they are here in the budget implementation act. If they are not here, then all Canadians get on those issues are the words in the budget document, which by themselves do not do anything for Canadians and do not change anything.

If the government wants to say, as I believe it did in the budget document, that it is going to get hard on CEOs who are abusing tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, that is all well and good. We say that too. However, if it does not put that in the implementation legislation to change the law that allows those CEOs to do that legally, they are just words.

The Liberals said in the budget document that they were concerned about workers, such as the Sears workers. Of course, we know that workers in many other companies, across many other industries, have faced a similar problem: the company declares bankruptcy and the money in its pension plan is doled out to big banks and investors, or in some cases, to the very same CEOs who were underfunding the pension plan for years by taking holidays or in other ways. It is all well and good for the government to say that it is concerned about that in the budget document, but when it comes down to it, even though what is happening is absolutely wrong, it is legal.

The point of raising the issue and what it means to stand up for those workers is for the government to say that it will change the law so that it is no longer legal. If that is done, those companies can be pursued in court and made to face justice. This budget implementation act does not do that, even though the government talked about the issue in the budget.

The Liberals brag about bringing in a new carbon pricing regime on the one hand. On the other hand, they have told us in question period many times over not to worry, because 85% of Canadians already live under a carbon pricing regime. Which is it? Are they providing leadership on carbon pricing, or are Canadians largely already there? I think there is a real tension in that message.

What is a glaring deficiency in the carbon pricing regime they have proposed in this budget implementation act is that for the fallback carbon price for provinces that do not already have their own systems, the government has not proposed any kind of rebate system. In provinces like B.C. and Alberta, the NDP brought in carbon price rebate programs to ensure that low-income Canadians were not disproportionately affected by a new carbon price. That is something the government could have put into this legislation. It is something we would have been happy to push harder for, although we have mentioned it in the House before.

One of the things we tried to do was take those carbon pricing provisions and break them out into a separate piece of legislation so that we could have a more detailed study of those provisions. That would have provided the opportunity to talk about a meaningful rebate program for low-income Canadians, including seniors who are living on fixed incomes, who will be hit by this in provinces where they do not already have that regime or in provinces that will bring in a carbon pricing regime but will not bring in a rebate program. We think that would have been appropriate and that the federal government could have modelled that in this legislation. However, because it insisted on bringing in that pricing regime in an omnibus budget bill instead of breaking it out, we did not have the time it takes to prepare those kinds of proposals. That is one of the problems with these kinds of bills.

I have said this in the House many times, and I truly believe it. Part of the problem with omnibus bills and using time allocation in the way the current government has, which is setting records with respect to the amount it uses it, and the short period of time it allows after imposing time allocation, is that civil society does not get the opportunity to weigh in on these bills.

It is difficult enough for members of Parliament who have not had a lot of time to appreciate what is in a bill to do their due diligence. However, we are supported. We are supported by the Library of Parliament. We have staff in our offices, and still we struggle. In some cases, due to the time constraints imposed by the government, we are not able to do the kind of study and perform the kind of due diligence I think people expect of members in this place. However, for people in civil society who do not have that kind of time and do not have those resources who are trying to educate themselves about what is happening here in Ottawa after work or between looking after their kids, and all the many other things Canadians do during a day, time allocation in this place makes it even harder for them to engage in discourse about what is happening.

Pensions are a big issue for folks where I am from in Elmwood—Transcona. Therefore, it was a big disappointment to see that there was no legislative follow-through on the discussion of pension theft in the budget document. It was a rather weak discussion, I would say. Nevertheless, if one wanted proof that those words were weak and did not mean anything, the fact that there is nothing here, particularly in light of the fact that my colleague for Hamilton Mountain has already drafted the legislation that would be required to get this done and that the government has taken the good ideas of some other NDP members and incorporated them into government legislation already, shows that the government decided not to move forward with it. I think that is a disappointment to a lot of hard-working people across Canada, particularly in Elmwood—Transcona, some of whom worked at Sears and others who saw what was happening to employees. It was a long-standing institution at Kildonan Place mall. People felt that the workers who worked there for all those years ought to get a fair shake. It is disappointing not to see that.

People in Elmwood—Transcona are disappointed to see that the only thing that came of all the talk on pharmacare by the government was the establishment of a simple committee, and there is actually no money even for that committee to operate. Maybe they will find that money elsewhere. Why they would not put it in the budget, though, in terms of being open and transparent about what the costs for that committee are actually going to be, I do not know.

When we talk about fairness for workers and a budget implementation act being an important opportunity for the government to signal its commitment to a good future for workers, where they can go out and get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, we think of women across this country who have been waiting for a very long time to get pay equity. Again, pay equity was mentioned in the budget document. However, it does not appear anywhere here.

When we talk about pay equity, the debate for decades has centred on the need to bring in legislation. If this was going to happen spontaneously, out of the good will of corporate Canada, presumably it would have happened a long time ago. We know we need legislation. The budget document itself said we needed legislation. The budget document in 2016 said we needed legislation. The Liberals, in the campaign in 2015, said we needed legislation. Here is another opportunity that has gone by to provide that legislation, and people are rightly beginning to wonder if another election is going to go by before we see that legislation presented.

Pay equity is an important component of any real vision for the future in Canada where we manifest real fairness for workers. We cannot ignore over half the workforce and pay them less for doing work of equal value and pretend that we have fairness for workers in the country. That is another example of where this budget implementation act simply does not live up to the kind of vision the Liberals were trying to project in their budget documents.

Therefore, I forgive Canadians who maybe listened to the news coverage or even the budget debate and thought, wow, there is a lot of great stuff in there for workers. The fact of the matter is that this does not really bring us closer to a fair future for Canadian workers. It ought to. That is why I came to Parliament. I know that is why my colleagues here in the NDP caucus came to Parliament. We will continue to hold the government to account until we replace it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

4:45 p.m.


Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the budget and its implementation act work in concert with the estimates process that actually gives legal authority for expenditures by the crown. I know that the hon. member is a very diligent and concerned member when it comes to government structures around the spending powers of the crown. I would like him to comment on his concerns about the whole budgetary process, of which this budget implementation is a part, and in particular, on whether he has any further words to contribute in the debate on vote 40.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

4:45 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wondered perhaps if I could ask for unanimous consent for 20 or 30 minutes of the House's time, but I will not. I will confine my remarks to the time allotted.

There is something genuinely new about this year's budget and estimates process, which is that the government has decided to seek authority for the spending to implement these initiatives in a genuinely new way. Instead of preparing the programs conceived in the budget document and running them through Treasury Board, where the rigorous costing is done, and making sure that ministers have answers for parliamentarians when they ask about that funding, the government has instead lumped it all into one central vote. It is asking for authority for spending of over $7 billion for all the new budget initiatives in one vote. It has been a real problem for committees, which have not been able to get straight answers.

We know from the PBO, who followed a previous year's budget, that 30% of the items in that budget actually cost significantly more or significantly less than what was forecast in that budget.

Ultimately, I think it will be a problem for Canadians who find that their money has not been well spent because the due diligence was not done. That is why I have been endeavouring to stop it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

4:45 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague in the NDP criticized the government's position on the legislation, insinuating that there were additional measures put in here that should not be in a budget document. At the same time, he was advocating for pay equity and pension legislation.

Would he agree that those are appropriate pieces of legislation to put in a budget document? I think the two of us would come very close to being in the same place in terms of how we feel about those particular pieces of legislation. Would he say that the budget document would be a proper place to put those pieces of legislation?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

4:50 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would be quite happy to see those initiatives come to Parliament in separate bills, so I have no quarrel with the idea that those would come in separate pieces of legislation. I notice that, in fact, they have not. I notice also that the government is bringing an omnibus bill for the budget implementation to this House anyway. If it is going to do it anyway, at least put the good stuff in it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

4:50 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to dive a bit into the carbon debate, because in his comments, the member said that they did not know if there would be a rebate. The way the backstop has been designed by the federal government for Bill C-74 is that there will be a carbon price across the country if provinces do not set up their own plans. I actually think the architecture of this is quite good, and it puts a lie to the constant claim by the Liberals that they needed to give Rachel Notley a pipeline or they could never get a carbon price. A co-operative Alberta is certainly better than a resistant Alberta, but we have a resistant Saskatchewan, and we are plowing ahead. The carbon price will be across the country. It will backstop. It is up to every province if it is revenue neutral or not.

I want to get on the record that I regret that the new government in B.C. has moved away from revenue neutrality. For the first time since our carbon tax was put in place in B.C., it will be entering into the general revenues of the province.

I want to give the hon. member a chance to reflect on that. We need a carbon price. We need a much more vigorous, real carbon plan, which we do not have. However, there is a backstop, and it is up to each province if there is a rebate.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

4:50 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the point I was trying to make in my speech was that I think there could have been a rebate factored into the backstop. What I think is deficient about the plan is that it does not do that. That would have been an excellent way for the federal government to model it for provinces that are initiating their own programs and say that this is how it can be done. For those provinces that do not bring in their own regimes, that would mean that low-income Canadians in those provinces would benefit from a rebate program. That is the real missed opportunity I see in the carbon pricing model.

The secondary point I was trying to make was that if we had been successful in separating that into a separate piece of legislation, we might have had the time to debate that point more fully instead of trying to lump it in with all the other initiatives included in the budget implementation act, although, unfortunately, not in the budget. There are a lot of things in the budget we should be moving ahead on that are not in this bill. If the government wants to introduce separate bills for those things, I actually think that would probably be the more appropriate way of going about it. However, if it is committed to the view, and it seems to be, that one act will implement the budget, then surely it could have put some of the better things from the budget in the act instead of leaving them out.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

4:50 p.m.


Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-74 on behalf of the Government of Canada, as well as our government's planned investments to strengthen the middle class and maintain the strength and sustainable growth of the Canadian economy.

Budget 2018, entitled “Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class”, represents the next stage in our plan to invest in people and the communities where they live in order to provide the best opportunities for success to the middle class and all Canadians.

The bill we are talking about today, budget implementation act, 2018, No. 1, is the next step in the plan that our government launched over two years ago. When we took office, we jumped into action by helping develop a confident middle class that stimulates economic growth and that is currently benefiting from more opportunities for success than ever.

Giving Canadians the opportunity to reach their full potential is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do for our economy. The decision to invest in the middle class is the right decision. Targeted investments combined with the hard work of Canadians across the country have helped create good, well-paying jobs and will continue to strengthen the economy over the long term.

Before I go into some of the measures introduced in Bill C-74, it is always a good thing to step aside and take a holistic approach to what is going on in the Canadian economy. For example, if we look at the first quarter gross domestic product, we see some continuing good signs. As an economist, I love these terms. We had real final domestic demand rise by 2.1%, driven by a 10.9% increase in business investment.

Recently, off those numbers, the Bank of Canada governor, Stephen Poloz, commented on the signs of the economy of exports and business investment continuing to pick up. Despite the uncertainties in the global economy and the continuing NAFTA negotiations, business investments remain strong.

Those are great signs for our economy, but what does that really translate to? Quite simply, it translates to 600,000 new jobs, 600,000 people working today who were not working two and a half years ago. Those Canadians are our neighbours, our friends, our family. Also, 300,000 kids have been lifted out of poverty because of the Canada child benefit, which we introduced and which is arriving monthly, tax-free, to Canadian families, such as the families in my riding, Vaughan—Woodbridge. Those are great things that we are doing.

The A.T. Kearney foreign direct investment confidence index came out two weeks ago, making comments on what our plan for the economy is doing for Canada. Canada was ranked number two. I would like to read what the A.T. Kearney index said:

Canada moves up three spots to its highest ranking in the history of the Index. An update to the Investment Canada Act, a newly established Invest Canada agency, and new trade agreements [CETA, CPTPP, entering into negotiations with Mercosur] could be boosting investor optimism.

What does a boost in investment translate to? Very simply, it means jobs for middle-class Canadians in my riding, and coast to coast to coast. I am very proud of the measures introduced in Bill C-74.

One of them is the Canada child benefit. We have spoken about it quite a bit, and we should continue to do so. In my riding, Vaughan—Woodbridge, over $59 million was sent via the Canada child benefit to families in a one-year period. It assisted approximately 19,400 children. The number of payments was 10,900, with an average payment of $5,400.

We can throw lots of numbers out there, but behind them are Canadian families like the ones that reside in Vaughan—Woodbridge. These funds are being sent tax-free, not to millionaires but to real Canadian families, families that are working hard to pay their bills every day, assisting them to pay for their kids' sports, lunches, new clothes, and so forth, and maybe save for an RESP for when their children go to university.

I am so proud of the fact that our government indexed the Canada child benefit. What does that mean? Let me simply tell members.

For example, the Canada child benefit is an important government initiative aimed at making a positive change for the millions of Canadian families with children. Close to 3.3 million families with children are receiving more than $23 billion in annual Canada child benefit payments.

A single mom of two children aged five and eight with a net income of $35,000 in 2016 will have received $11,125 in tax-free Canada child benefit payments in the 2017-18 benefit year. Naturally, this $11,125 is absolutely tax free. That is $3,500 more than she would have received under the previous child benefit system.

This means that, for a family making $35,000, once the Canada child benefit is indexed, it would add up to almost $560 more per year. For families in Canada, $500 more a year is a lot of money, to pay for their kids' lunches and school clothes, to bring their son or daughter to a soccer game in the evening or to a soccer practice, and so forth. I am proud that our government has looked at this initiative. I am proud that our government has lifted 300,000 kids out of poverty because of this. I am proud that our government has indexed this. These are real, tangible measures that are assisting families from coast to coast to coast on an everyday basis, and our party should be proud of that.

I am proud to represent a riding, Vaughan—Woodbridge, within the city of Vaughan, that is one of the most entrepreneurial areas of the country. We have approximately 13,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in the city, and I meet with these folks regularly. We are also blessed to have many large organizations. We have Canadian Pacific's busiest intermodal facility in the country, a key barometer of trade and investment. We have Home Depot's eastern Canada distribution centre. We have the FedEx distribution centre for eastern Canada. We have UPS's distribution centre for all of eastern Canada. Again, UPS made that wonderful announcement of investing $500 million in the Canadian economy, creating thousands of additional jobs. We have a furniture maker, Decor-Rest, which employs 700 Canadians, competing globally against furniture makers both here in Canada and in the United States and Mexico, and winning in competing.

I am blessed to have all these entrepreneurs. I am also blessed to have a number of bakeries and great pastry shops, which I have talked about before, especially during Italian Heritage Month. I visit them and we talk about what makes these companies successful.

One big thing we have done, which is contained in Bill C-74, is the reduction in the small-business tax rate from 11% in 2015, which will eventually fall to 9%. We should be proud of that. For small businesses making $500,000 a year in active income, the savings would be $7,500. That can offset other increased input costs they may face. They can use those savings to invest in their businesses, or whatever they choose. That is something we need to applaud.

Looking at our corporate tax system in Canada, the combined federal corporate tax rate in the province of Ontario, roughly 12.9%, is one of the lowest small-business tax rates globally. We have seen that turn up in the job numbers, with 600,000 new jobs, most of them private sector jobs. That is a good barometer for the economy. That is why we have larger companies like CN or CP hiring. However, we also have small companies, because we know that small and medium-sized enterprises and businesses are the backbone of our economy.

That measure, introduced in Bill C-74, is something we should be very proud of. Cumulatively, that measure would result in approximately $3 billion in tax savings due to lower taxes for small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada through the 2022-23 period. This is a substantial reduction in taxes. When we brought in the tax cut for middle-class Canadians, people said, “Whom does it affect?” It affected nine million taxpayers. We brought in a multi-billion dollar tax cut that benefited millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and here we are doing the same thing for small businesses.

We also undertook extensive consultations with small businesses on how we could best work with them to grow their business, because we want to increase jobs and investment and achieve better productivity and a better standard of living for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

We also want to ensure that the businesses that benefit from that low small-business tax rate are the appropriate ones. We undertook a consultation and arrived at a point where we introduced measures where 97% of businesses remain unaffected. If people have an active business, they can continue to invest in it and continue to grow. That is wonderful. These are measures contained in Bill C-74. However, we also have what I think is a very prudent measure. If they have actually accumulated $3 million, $4 million, or $5 million in what is called passive income, which is a little technical to describe, something they can save for retirement or set aside and invest in a separate business, which may not be connected to their own business, that is great. They can continue to do that, and we are not going to change the tax structure within their passive investments. However, at a certain point they will no longer benefit from the small-business tax rate of 12.9%, and we will move them up to the 24% tax rate. It is a fair measure.

Canadians expect fairness and progressivity in their tax system. Canadians expect us to do a thoughtful job. When others take a risk, they should be rewarded, but at the same time they should understand that when they have done very well and have been able to set aside some monies within passive investments, they are also going to move up to the corporate tax rate, which is very competitive globally. Even with the United States' adoption of its recent tax reform, our corporate tax rate is very competitive with the U.S. tax rate, and we need to point that out.

There are a lot of good measures contained in Bill C-74, and I am very proud of them. Another one I would like to talk about is the Canada workers benefit. This is something a lot of low-income working Canadians are going to benefit from. There are a couple of measures that I think are very good and long-lasting, and they will proceed beyond this Parliament and many others.

One is working with CRA and undertaking automatic enrolment. Automatic enrolment means that those in society who do not have the means or access that many of us here enjoy are automatically enrolled to receive these benefits. According to the estimates, just this measure alone is going to lift 70,000 people out of poverty and provide additional benefits. Someone making $15,000, a student or a retiree, can receive up to nearly $500 more with the new Canada workers benefit. It is something I am very proud of. My progressive roots cheer this on. It is something that all Canadians can be very proud of.

We realize that some people, especially indigenous people living in northern and remote communities, have often faced barriers when it comes to accessing essential government services and federal benefits such as the Canada child benefit. With Bill C-74, our government will take steps to ensure that anyone who is eligible for support receives it.

Through Bill C-74, the government proposes to expand outreach efforts to all indigenous communities on reserves and in northern and remote areas, and to conduct pilot outreach projects for urban indigenous communities so that indigenous peoples have better access to a full range of federal social benefits, including the Canada child benefit.

Now I would like to talk about the Canada worker's benefit. Canadians working hard to join the middle class deserve to have their hard work rewarded with greater opportunities for success. We know that these Canadians are working to build a better life for themselves and their families. Low-income Canadians are sometimes working two or three jobs so that they can give themselves and their children a better chance at success.

That is why the government is proposing a new benefit in budget 2018 and in Bill C-74: the Canada workers benefit. This benefit builds on the former working income tax benefit and would put more money into the pockets of low-income workers. It would encourage more people to join and remain in the workforce by letting them take home more money while they work.

Through Bill C-74, the government would increase the overall support provided for the 2019 and subsequent taxation years. In particular, the government proposes to increase maximum benefits under the CWB by up to $170 in 2019, and increase the income level at which the benefit is entirely phased out. As a result, low-income workers earning $15,000 could receive up to almost $500 more from the CWB in 2019 than they could receive this year under the current working income tax benefit. That is $500 to invest in the things that are important to them, and to make ends meet.

The government is also proposing changes to improve access to the Canada workers benefit to allow the Canada Revenue Agency to calculate the CWB for anyone who has not claimed it starting in 2019.

Again, having the CRA automatically register people who are eligible for these programs and others is a large step forward for our tax system.

One thing I would like to comment on is the framework we have introduced for the pricing of carbon. We have done this in a very thoughtful and prudent manner. It is a backstop, and 85% of Canadians are covered by a form of carbon pricing system. The provinces are permitted to do what they wish with the revenues.

However, I agree with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. It was very disappointing that the NDP government in B.C. would move away from a revenue-neutral price on carbon. I am very disappointed. It speaks to fiscal foolishness. We need to allow provinces to do what they wish, but we need the provinces to be transparent. Our carbon pricing system is transparent. The funds flow back to the provinces and the provinces then decide how to allocate those funds, but they should also be transparent about it.

We have an opportunity in this world that we are moving into. Many countries have already adopted this pricing system, and many industries in the private sector, which I am a big champion of, have looked at this. We have companies all over the world, such as Daimler in Germany, FCA, Ford, or any automotive company, looking at adopting electric vehicles, at technology on clean tech, and at renewable energy. We have the system going on. We have this shift going on. We need to be a part of it.

However, this is not, as my Conservative colleagues are saying, scaring away investment. It is not. We saw it in the first quarter GDP numbers. Business investment in Canada is rising. We see that every day, whether it is Samsung announcing its AI facility in downtown Toronto, or Montreal being the gaming sector of North America when it comes to enterprise arts. We see it in Vancouver, with the clustering that is going on, and in the Kitchener—Waterloo area. We see it with many auto parts suppliers in Ontario, and then there is Toyota's announcement. Foreign direct investment in Canada is creating jobs. It created jobs yesterday, it is creating jobs today, and it will create jobs in the future, because we are making those conditions very strong.

Finally, when we talk about Canada's fiscal position, we maintain a AAA credit rating, which we have had for so long. It has been affirmed recently. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is declining. I would argue that we have the best fiscal position of any G7 country on any fiscal measure, and that is something we need to be proud of. It is something our government is proud of.

Therefore, when I hear the banter from the other side, I would love to sit down and chat with them and show them a couple of measures on the economy. These measures that show how well we are doing include the 600,000 new jobs we have created, the 40-year low in the unemployment rate, the increase in wages that Canadians are seeing from coast to coast to coast, and the infrastructure we are building in this country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay, The Environment; the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, International Trade.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:10 p.m.


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague has a background in finance and investment banking, and in his speech he spoke about the importance of supporting the middle class. In particular, he mentioned the Canada child benefit, which has done so much to strengthen the Canadian economy and attack the problem of child poverty.

I wonder if he could compare the CCB with the previous government's approach to child benefits, which was not tax-free, whereas the CCB is. The CCB is also means-tested, unlike what existed under the previous government. I wonder if he could compare and contrast those two different approaches and what they mean for Canadians on a general level.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:10 p.m.


Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is great to work with my hon. colleague from London North Centre and be on the same side of the aisle with him.

The Canada child benefit has had a profound impact on families and our economy, to the point where it actually boosted GDP in a year. The approach we took was to send cheques to the families that need them the most. It is kind of an interesting approach, when one thinks about it. We thought we should the cheques not to millionaires, but to the families that need them the most.

Yes, it is means-tested. For those who make over $200,000, it will be diminished. For someone like myself and my family, we do not receive it any more, but we are fine. It is for Canadian families who are working hard to make combined family incomes of $70,000, $75,000, or $80,000, who have one, two, or three children at home. I have two daughters at home, and I know how much it costs. It will help families. It is going to be tax-free. At the end of the year, those with higher incomes will not get a bunch of tax back, because that does not make sense. That was bad policy under the prior government. We fixed it, and we are proud of that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was awoken by this unbelievable analysis of how child benefits are delivered in Canada. I wonder why the member did not include in his characterization of the child benefit that the universal child care benefit went to everybody. For people with high incomes, it was neutralized by being taxed back.

He did not mention the arts credit that the Liberals removed. He did not mention the sports tax credit that the Liberals removed. He did not mention the transit tax credit that Liberals removed, which most families enjoyed. Amazingly, he did not mention income splitting for lower-income families, so that they could enjoy that as well.

All of this profoundly diminishes this current child benefit and puts families way behind where they were, including a family I know very well in Winnipeg, a stay-at-home mom with two kids. This family pays $1,500 more in tax because of this crazy policy.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe my hon. colleague is reading information from the Fraser Institute, so I will leave it at that and put that aside.

In terms of how tax credits work, some can be refundable, and some can be non-refundable. You need taxes owing or taxes payable. A lot of the tax credits that were introduced by the prior government were for families that would not benefit from them because they did not have taxes payable. It is unfortunate. The CCB goes to all families that need it, up to $200,000, and it is something we are proud of.

The member brought up income splitting. If we look at the evidence, that benefited more well-to-do families than anything else. It is something I have read about extensively and something I do not support as an economist. There are other policy measures that would have been much more effective, which could have been but were not adopted by the prior government. Conservatives were actually warned not to adopt income splitting by their prior finance minister, God rest his soul.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not know my colleague from Vaughan—Woodbridge was an economist, so I will ask him a question. I am not an economist but I have two daughters and I am fully aware of the cost of prescription drugs. I am a Quebecker and I live in a society which made the effort of setting up a pharmacare program. Even then, it is complex. When someone has a pharmacare plan as part of employment benefits, they have to join it, but when you do not have such a plan, you are covered by the public system, and managing income tax becomes all the more complicated as you have to file two tax returns.

However, the logic behind it has often been explained and it is clearly beneficial for Canada to have a pharmacare program for all Canadians. Why not do it, then? What a disappointment to see nothing in the budget implementation bill when such a program was mentioned in the budget plan.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the province of Ontario, and I have to give credit where credit is due to the Ontario government and the provincial Liberals, we have OHIP+. All children are covered up to the age of 25. It is universal. It was introduced last year. I am very proud to say that. It is going to be a legacy measure.

Federally, we have indicated that Dr. Eric Hoskins, a former Liberal cabinet minister from Ontario, is leading a task force on this. Frankly, 80% of Canadians are covered with some form of pharmacare coverage, but there is a gap.

We need to sit down with all the provinces to come up with a pan-Canadian solution. We are looking at taking measures to lower drug prices all around. We recognize that, and that has been ongoing. We need to sit down with all stakeholders to have a substantive, prudent, consultative process on how we can reach the point where no Canadian family is impacted by the cost of prescription drugs.

That is something we can all come to an agreement on in this House. There are different ways of getting there, but the ultimate goal is that no Canadian family should go to bed at night worrying about the cost of prescription drugs or how they will be covered.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my distinguished colleague's speech and comments earlier. He was talking about some of the measures the previous government had taken that would in fact benefit the wealthiest. One of these measures was doubling the TFSA limit.

We know that the original thinker who came up with the idea of a TFSA said at the time that this would put the state in a fiscal straitjacket. When the former finance minister, Joe Oliver, was asked what kind of situation it would put the state into, in terms of deprived revenues, he said that is a problem for Stephen Harper's granddaughter to solve.

We have taken a different approach and brought the limit back to what it formerly was. When they say they are working for working-class Canadians, I always smile and wonder who the working-class Canadians are that they have in mind, who have $11,000 at the end of the year to put in a TFSA account. Their constituents might be very different from mine.

I am just wondering if the member has any comments on the kinds of policies we saw from the previous government, as opposed to the ones we have adopted, where we try to give more to those who need it most instead of having an approach that is focused on the wealthiest.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.


Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, looking back at the 10 years when the Conservatives were in power and TFSAs were at $5,500, they allowed a lot of Canadians to save and to put away something for their retirement.

Retirement savings are important. However, the $11,000 limit was foolish, to be frank. I do not know many Canadians who could set aside $11,000 of after-tax income a year to be saved for their TFSA. We reversed it, and left it at $5,500. It will gradually increase as inflation increases.

We put in place a number of measures. If we wanted to look at the marginal propensity to consume or spend, it is where Canadians need it the most, and those who need it the most are benefiting. That is showing up in our 3% economic growth rate last year. It is showing up in the 2% above-trend growth rate this year, as commented by the Governor of the Bank of Canada.

It is something we are proud of, whether it is the Canada workers' benefit, the Canada child benefit, or how those programs have been designed. They have been designed to give to Canadians who need it the most.

If I could just add, we have done more than that when it comes to skills training. We also need to get Canadians trained for those jobs of the next century and the next decade, so we can ensure their success. That is something that is big. It was big in our fundamental research within the budget. It is big within our government. It has been in the last three budgets, including this one. Skills training and fundamental research are things we can be proud of. We know the world economy is changing very rapidly, and we need to make sure that all Canadians have the skill set to enable them to maximize opportunities for themselves and their families.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate, I would like to inform the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable that he has about five and a half minutes left to go before private members' business. The member will certainly have time to wrap up his speech when the House next resumes debate on this motion.

The hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will listen with rapt attention when private members' bills are introduced, as today's subject is truly worthwhile. This period will surely be of interest to a lot of people, as there are sometimes excellent proposals in these bills.

This is not the first time that I have had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-74. I have had the opportunity to do so on several occasions. As the member for Mégantic—L'Érable, I have spoken of the effects of the bill in my riding. As shadow minister for agriculture and agri-food, I have risen to say how few measures there were for agriculture and agri-food in the last budget.

When Bill C-74 was introduced, I did not expect the government to once again exercise its prerogative to prevent members from speaking, as they are entitled to do in the House, on the budget and its consequences in their ridings and their various portfolios.

I greatly enjoyed the speech by one of my colleagues today. Several times, he referred to the government’s adoption of a process for tracking mandate letters in order to deliver results to Canadians. In the way that the Liberals have of congratulating themselves for deciding whether they are keeping their promises, he said something that made quite the impression on me. Indeed, under the heading of a fair and open government, there is mention of ending “the improper use of omnibus bills and prorogation”. On that front, the Liberals gave themselves a mark of “completed - fully met”. Can we request a recount? Can we change the mark that the Liberals give themselves for the use of omnibus bills?

Bill C-74 is definitely in the line of an omnibus bill. That is why the government is again using a time allocation motion. They want to limit debate. When an omnibus bill is introduced that impacts so many areas, it is normal for members of all political stripes to have things to say and for them to want to use the time available to them. Unfortunately, the government is in panic mode as the session ends. We saw it last week: in three days, they used motions five times to silence members, to end debate or to say that only five hours remained to debate a certain bill. Since the start of the parliamentary session, the government has used that type of motion 38 times.

In this brief summary of very Liberal commitment, I am sure that they mentioned what the parliamentary secretary said in the last Parliament. I did not find the exact quote as there are so many promises that were not kept. The parliamentary secretary told anyone who would listen that these time allocation motions could not be used, that they were undemocratic and that the use of this type of motion was a lack of respect for Canadians.

Each time the Liberals propose a time allocation motion, I will read the words of my colleague across the way. I must say that I am not at a loss for things to say. Certainly, my colleague speaks a lot and leaves a record. When we leave records, they are quoted back to us in the House.

As the parliamentary secretary said at the time, it is not about how you go about it, especially when you promise to no longer do it. That is the difference. We understand that governments must sometimes use these motions to move debate along. However, the Liberals committed to not use this type of method to restrict democracy in the House.

Unfortunately, at their current pace, believe it or not, they will greatly exceed the record of the former Conservative government. They are panicking and they think that they will not have time to pass the limited legislative agenda that they have already tabled.

After consideration of private members’ bills, it will be my pleasure to come back to speak about Bill C-74 and all that it does not contain.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable will have 14 and a half minutes to wrap up his comments on the motion when the House resumes debate on the bill.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from April 24 consideration of the motion 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.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

When the House last took up debate on the question, the hon. member for Calgary Midnapore had seven minutes remaining in her time. Therefore, we will go to her now.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Calgary Midnapore.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise again today to discuss Bill C-394, the Supporting New Parents Act, brought forward by our leader. I do know one thing to be true. I mentioned this before and it bears repeating, as I continue my final seven minutes to discuss this piece of legislation. As I mentioned, I am a mother myself. I am very proud to be a mother. When we were discussing this piece of legislation before, one theme was just how incredibly expensive it is to welcome a child into the world.

It is a wonderful thing being a mother. It is the most marvellous thing, and among the most, if not the most satisfying thing I have ever experienced. However, there is certainly a cost to becoming a new parent, without question.

I think all of the speakers previously agreed that welcoming a child into the world is very much an expensive proposition. However, I will say this: Babies are expensive but the government is more expensive. That is why we need to consider the different costs associated with babies to start. When people have a child, they prepare, and purchase the things that are necessary. There is an endless list, such a stroller, the car seat, the crib, and the high chair. I recall my colleague previously doing a calculation for things like diapers and formula. Really, the costs are absolutely astounding.

Of course, as a responsible Conservative, I also considered the other financial implications. I know that my husband and I considered additional life insurance for my family. We took the time to have a will made, because it was something very important to us now that we had a future stake in the world. As well, we were very fortunate to begin an RESP contribution for our son.

Despite the the costs, it is a great joy for new parents to spend time with their child. I am sure that many, if not all, parents would say that it is probably the greatest joy of all. I was very fortunate when I had my son. I was, at that time, the deputy consul general in Dallas, Texas. Therefore, just like many Canadian women, I had a good job and a solid career. I had my child and was able to re-enter the workforce somewhat quickly. This has been done before. It will be done again in the future. It is something that mothers do all the time.

However, I was especially fortunate because my husband at the time was able to take two years from his career to care for our son. In fact, he credits this experience with the position he has today, in that his skills as a parent were recognized by his present employer. Therefore, this bill allows parents to spend more time with their children, which is something very important.

In addition, I mentioned before that we were able to have not only a happy child, but a healthy child. This is, indeed, not something that every family has the blessing of. I mentioned someone who is very close to me who had a child with hemolytic uremic syndrome, which resulted in many hours in the hospital. This experience with this child of theirs, this sick child, was certainly a testament to their strength and their will, and something that I cannot possibly imagine. However, the point is that this bill would, in fact, ease the burden of a family from a tragedy or something like that. It would allow them to be a greater ease in regard to their finances as they deal with their sick child.

In addition to the goodwill that is required to take care of a child, I just want to take a minute to discuss how the government talks about supporting and sticking up for the middle class. Supporting this bill was actually mentioned at the status of women committee, the very committee on which I sit, yet a recommendation in support of this bill was not included in a recent study of theirs. That is shameful. To me, it just shows spite on the government's part, that it is not willing to even consider a piece of legislation, even if it would be helpful to parents and to all Canadians.

Let us take a look at what has been destroyed by the government since it took office in regard to children.

First is the universal child care benefit. Every Canadian parent benefited from this and looked forward to receiving it every month. I know that $160 a month for my son certainly made a difference in my family budget.

Second is the children's fitness tax credit. My little guy plays hockey and that is not an inexpensive undertaking. All Canadian parents can certainly benefit from such a tax credit. It is a shame the Liberal government disposed of it.

As I said, babies are expensive, but the Liberal government is more expensive.

My son would never think about being the owner of a $4.5 billion pipeline, something I did not account for when I created my will. I am not sure if my son has any expectation of is ahead for him with respect to the carbon tax and its cost for my family as well as for future generations.

Babies are expensive, but the Liberal government is more expensive.

What concerns me the most for my son is the generational debt. This is the reason we should support the bill. It is about easing the financial burden on families. There is a deficit this year of $18 billion, a total debt of $669 billion. I daresay my son will be 32 years old when this debt is scheduled to be paid off.

Babies are expensive; the Liberal government is more expensive.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, the member said that her son played hockey, which is not inexpensive, and that she benefited from the tax credit. As a kid, I did not play hockey because it was too expensive and my mother's revenue did not qualify for a non-refundable tax credit.

That is the difference in approach between the previous government and our government. The Conservative government focused on boutique tax credits that would help some but not all and often not those who needed it the most, like my mother when she was raising me. That is the starting point where there is a difference in approach between the Conservatives and our party and our government.

It is with pleasure that I rise in this debate to speak to Bill C-394, which will amend the Income Tax Act by providing a non-refundable tax credit of 15% on income earned from the employment insurance maternity and parental benefits program. The proposed amendments would also make it possible to carry forward the credit or any unused part of the credit for a period of one year, and to claim it in the following taxation year.

We understand the good intentions behind this bill and share most if its values. However, Canadians must be able to count on a government that will help create good, well-paid jobs that support a strong economy and that offer families opportunities to prosper. It is important to note that Bill C-394 misses the mark in that regard.

The proposed tax credit is not an effective means of achieving the objective set out in the bill, which is to offer help to all parents who take leave to care for a newborn or adopted child. That is one of my many concerns regarding this proposal.

We believe in supporting parents who need help with the high cost of raising kids, and helping kids have the best start in life. The member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, through his PMB, wants to continue the Harper practice of boutique tax credits that benefit some but not all, while we are helping everyone by providing more to the middle class and to those who need it most. In fact, under Bill C-394, the following groups would not even qualify for the non-refundable tax credit: almost all of those who are self-employed; those who do not pay federal personal income tax; those who do not qualify for EI maternity or parental benefits. Our approach, however, puts more money every month directly into the pockets of nine out of 10 Canadian families, helping lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.

Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has voiced some reservations, mentioning that given the tax credit is non-refundable, not all families would have sufficient income to claim their total eligible amount in 2018-19. The PBO also estimates that this tax credit would result in forgone revenues of $607 million in 2018-19 and a future fiscal liability of $261 million that could be claimed in future years.

On this side of the House, we have taken action to strengthen the EI system to better support new parents. Mothers can now access maternity benefits up to 12 weeks prior to their expected due date. In addition, parents can now choose to receive parental benefits over a longer period at a lower benefit rate.

In budget 2018, we have also announced a new employment insurance parental sharing benefit that would give greater flexibility to parents by providing an additional five weeks of EI parental benefits when both parents agree to share parental leave. Taken together with our government's investments in early learning and child care, we have a plan that is working for Canadian families.

Here is another concern I would like to highlight.

It is best to amend the Income Tax Act as part of the budget process. Doing so enables the government to consider all the options, to balance priorities, and to make new fiscal commitments, but only if they are affordable. This means we can continue to offer the programs and services Canadians need while keeping taxes low for middle-class families.

That goal is especially relevant in the case of Bill C-394, which could be a $1-billion line item according to the Department of Finance. That cost will probably go up, plus the tax credit is for just one aspect of the employment insurance benefit system.

Bill C-394 has many more shortcomings that could result in much more paperwork and compliance issues. For example, unless the provinces choose to bring in parallel measures, all income earned in a given province will still be taxed on those amounts.

Once again, we see a major flaw in this bill. Although it aims to help parents who receive EI parental or maternity benefits, it offers nothing to parents who do not receive such benefits when they take leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. Self-employed workers, people with no insurable earnings and people whose income is too low to be taxable would receive no tax relief under the proposed credit.

The government does not believe that Canadian families would be well-served by a wide range of highly targeted tax credits that benefit certain people, but that do nothing for those who may be most in need. That is why, over the last few years, we have eliminated poorly targeted and ineffective tax expenditures. The proposed parental tax credit falls squarely into that category.

The government wants to ensure that the federal tax system and the benefits that are part of it are fair and effective, and that the system works for all Canadians, but that is not the case with the proposal before us.

The government has implemented a plan that helps the most people through, among other things, the Canada child benefit and the strengthening of the EI system to better support new parents.

Since 2016, Canadian families have received additional support through the Canada child benefit. Not only has that benefited Canadian families, but it has also lifted hundreds of thousands of Canadian children out of poverty by giving more money each month to low- or moderate-income parents to help them cover the high costs of educating children.

As well, the Canada child benefit is entirely tax-free, unlike the former child benefit system. The Canada child benefit is also simpler, more generous, better targeted and gives more help to the people who need it the most.

Approximately 3.3 million families with children receive more than $23 billion per year under the Canada child benefit. Approximately 54% of families who receive the maximum benefit amount are single-parent families and, in 90% of cases, are single mothers.

For example, a single mom of two children aged five and eight with a net income of $35,000 in 2016 will have received $11,125 in tax-free Canada child benefit payments in the 2017-18 benefit year. That is $3,500 more than she would have received under the previous child benefit system. That is important to mention. That amount makes a big difference in the lives of many families, single-parent and others, across the country, which the measure proposed today does not do.

Under the bill accompanying budget 2018, our government is strengthening the Canada child benefit by indexing the benefits each year to follow the increase in the cost of living, as of July 2018, two years earlier than planned.

The Canada child benefit helps families invest in the things that give kids a good start in life, like a safe living environment, healthy food, music lessons or sports camps. As well, to support greater gender equality at home and in the workplace, budget 2018 proposes to create a new employment insurance parental sharing benefit. Such a measure has been in place for years in Quebec and has had very conclusive results: 83% of fathers take parental leave. That benefit will result in additional take-it-or-leave-it weeks of EI parental benefits when both parents agree to share parental leave. This measure should be in place by June 2019.

At a time when Canada has a strong and growing economy, the government is making smart and necessary investments to ensure that the middle class, including all parents, continues to benefit from that growth. We want growth and prosperity to be inclusive.

The Canadian economy has been booming for two years. Canada has the strongest growth in the G7, 600,000 jobs have been created and the unemployment rate is at its lowest in 40 years. It is important for that prosperity and that growth to benefit the most people and for the social elevator to work in Canada.

Supporting New Parents ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madame Speaker, we are dealing with a very important issue raised by the leader of the official opposition in his bill, the issue of parental benefits. However, the tool that he proposes is not at all adequate.

The main problem is not the refund of costs through a tax credit, but the issue of access to those benefits. This issue not only affects Canada, but also other countries.

Parental leave is the result of a long fight that began in the early 20th century. One of the first protections voted by the International Labour Organization in 1919 was the Maternity Protection Convention.

That standard was revised in 1952, providing for a minimum of 12 weeks, while recommending that the length be extended to 14 weeks. In 1998, 120 countries granted maternity leave. In under 20 years, such leave has been extended to fathers and same-sex partners. If we look south of the border, the United States does not offer parental leave, which forces many young families to make enormous sacrifices. They choose to return to work just a few days after the birth or adoption of their child because they do not have the means to pay for leave. That is a model that we should stay as far away from as possible. I am proud to be in a country, or in a province, actually, that offers parental leave.

If, in the United States, only rich families can afford to have one parent stay at home to take care of their baby, in Canada we also have a corresponding problem: accessibility. The main problem with parental leave benefits is that they are difficult to access. The priority if we want to fix the parental leave system should be to improve accessibility by lowering the minimum number of hours parents need to work to qualify for benefits.

This becomes clear when we compare the ratio of people in Quebec and in Canada who have access to parental leave benefits. In Quebec, 84% of new mothers benefit from parental leave. In Canada, that number is only 64%. One-third of Canadian women cannot access parental leave. That is why making the system more inclusive should be a priority.

In every province and territory, including Quebec until 2006, parents must accumulate 600 hours of paid work, regardless of what their salary is, to qualify for paid leave to take care of their child. These benefits are paid monthly and cover 55% of the salary.

Think of how that compares with Quebec, where any parent who earns $2,000 or more qualifies for paid leave. If a man or woman earns minimum wage, he or she is eligible for parental leave after 178 hours of work. In other words, Quebec requires less than one-third of the hours required in the rest of Canada. In Quebec, parental benefits make the lives of parents a little bit easier financially speaking, since they can count on monthly payments of between 55% and 75% of their income, depending on the number of weeks requested, with the maximum insurable earnings being $74,000.

As my colleagues have already said, unfortunately, this bill will help the members of our society who need it least. The tax credit will help those in the upper tax brackets and high-income earners, while low-income parents who have difficulty making ends meet will not stand to benefit hardly at all.

The provincial law helps less fortunate families and the effect is noticeable, since there is a considerable gap between Quebec and the other provinces when it comes to the use of parental leave.

Let us look at the case of mothers with a total household income of less than $30,000. A lot more of them take paid leave in Quebec than in the other provinces and territories.

Based on the 2013 data, researchers Sophie Mathieu, Lindsey McKay, and Andrea Doucet found that 85% of low-income women in Quebec had access to paid maternity leave compared to 44% of women in the rest of Canada.

The riding of Salaberry—Suroît, which I proudly represent, is poorer than the Canadian average. The average household employment income in my riding is $35,000 compared to the Canadian average of $46,000. If we look at women's income alone, 57% of women live on less than $30,000 a year. I do not think that my riding is unique in this regard. What good is a tax credit when you earn less than $30,000?

Many of these women, whether they live in Beauharnois or the Prairies, do not earn enough money to benefit from the Conservatives' proposed tax credit.

I will wrap up this point by sharing another quote from those researchers in Le Devoir, to show, once again, that the Conservatives should have used the Quebec method as a model.

The QPIP is fairer, since there is just a 10-percentage-point difference in the use of maternity leave among women whose family income is below $30,000 [which corresponds to 85%] and those whose income is higher than $60,000...This gap is more than 30 percentage points in the nine other Canadian provinces (44% of low-income Canadian mothers had access to maternity leave...).

This is why the NDP is proposing that we increase the benefits from 55% to 60%, which would help more Canadian families.

Another point we should look at is the federal system, which goes up to 61 weeks at 33% of the person's pay. The number of weeks is very generous. Would there be a potential for a gradual return to work, during which wages would be topped up and we could ensure a smooth transition to day care for our little babies?

Generally speaking, under the federal system, if an individual works while receiving EI parental benefits, he or she could earn the greater of up to $50 a week or 25% of their weekly benefits. After that, any amount earned is deducted in full from the amount of benefits. It is impossible to live on 33% of one's salary if the claimant has an average income. Furthermore, if the income allowed is 25% of benefits, which represents 33% of earnings, this really hinders a gradual return to work.

In closing, this tax credit will be very costly and will not help the families who really need it the most. A conservative estimate of the cost is $850 million, or about 20% of the cost of buying a pipeline to British Columbia. Why spend so much money on a tax credit that completely misses the mark? If the government wants to improve the parental leave plan, the allocation of resources should address income inequality and improve access to benefits for those who need them most.

In conclusion, the NDP has presented historic measures that would help parents much more than a tax credit for EI benefits. A better way to help new parents on parental leave would be, for example, to increase the income replacement rate.

The NDP is proposing to raise the rate from 55% to 60%. This measure would benefit all parents on leave, not just those who earn enough to pay taxes. This would be a much easier way to fix the situation described by the Conservatives, the solution being to increase the available income of new parents on leave.

Parents returning to work desperately need affordable child care. If we want to allocate substantial public resources to new parents, it is imperative that child care be part of the conversation. Affordable child care is an extremely important issue to Canadian families, so making a tax credit the priority makes no sense.

By lowering the threshold for eligibility for parental leave, we would also be helping more young parents, people in precarious jobs, and part-time workers to qualify for parental leave. The current threshold of 600 hours makes it very hard to qualify. Lowering the threshold would allow more parents to access the system.

If we consider that it is in children's best interest to spend quality time with their parents, especially in the early years, if we call children the apple of our eye, if we say we want to give our children every chance of receiving love and attention and of developing strong bonds with their parents, then I think we need to make it easier for new parents to take parental leave, instead of giving additional resources to people who do not need them. We must not be unfair to people of more modest means who are struggling to make ends meet. In closing, I hope the Conservatives will change their mind and offer solutions that are a little fairer for all Canadians.