Madam Speaker, I will start by referencing the opposition day motion from the Conservatives, which starts to talk about deficits and ends up with the commitment that the government should never raise taxes of any kind.
I will start with the issue of deficits. For those who have been following the political debates around the issues of deficits and debt, they could always ask, because every party seems to be raising this issue in the House of Commons, who they can trust when it comes to the issues of deficits and debt. The best way to find out who is credible on this issue is to consult the fiscal period returns of the Department of Finance.
Over the years, every year, the Department of Finance in Canada tracks how governments of all types manage the fiscal pot that is available for investments in Canadians. NDP governments have the reputation of investing in people. New Democrats do not tend to give massive subsidies to business or a lot of giveaways to Bay Street. In fact, it's quite the opposite. We decry this because we think it is bad practice. We make sure that education and health care are taken care of first. We make sure that those investments go to the Canadians who need them most.
With an NDP government, people can trust that seniors are going to have their pensions taken care of, that they are going to go beyond the cost of living. New Democrats do not believe that seniors should be living in poverty in our wealthy land. We take the principle that all Canadians should have a roof over their heads and NDP governments have historically been the best at creating housing and making sure it is affordable.
With those kinds of investments, people would have to ask themselves who has been best at managing deficits. What the Department of Finance's fiscal period returns tell us year after year—we are not talking about a three-year snapshot or a 10-year snapshot, we are talking about the last 40 years—is that Liberal governments historically are not very good at handling deficits. In fact, they have the worst record. The second worst record belongs to Conservative Party administrations. The reality is that even though New Democrats do not put that forward as our number one issue, NDP governments historically, according to Finance Canada, have been the best at balancing budgets and paying down debt.
That is not something New Democrats carry forward because we believe that, primarily, the business of government is to make sure that those investments are made for those who need them and that the education system is accessible to everyone. Our health care system, of course, comes from Tommy Douglas, the father of Canadian medicare, who had the courage to build the modern health care system, the public, single-payer health care system that we enjoy in Canada. The NDP will be relentless in continuing to push for that next stage in Tommy Douglas's dream, which is to have universal single-payer pharmacare in this country so that every Canadian can take the medication that he or she needs. That continues to be a priority.
If we talk about deficits generally, the NDP has the best track record, but we do it by eliminating these massive subsidies and handouts to big business. We do it by eliminating the pet project financing that we see by both Liberal and Conservative governments. We do this by making sure the investments are made in people.
I was very interested to see the member for Carleton stand on behalf of the Conservative Party and point his finger at the Liberal Party, saying the Liberal Party has increased the cost of government 25% over the term of its mandate. We know a lot of that cost of government has gone to Bay Street. There have been massive subsidies to fossil fuel companies, massive subsidies to corporate CEOs and most recently, the $14 billion that was handed out to Bay Street in the fall mini-budget. The priority was not housing or universal single-payer pharmacare. The priority for the government last fall was to give $14 billion to Bay Street. Therefore, it is not surprising to me that we have seen the cost of government increase to 25%.
However, we just ran the figures, because the member for Carleton surely would have also tested what the Conservative Party increase in the cost of government had been. He would not be pointing the finger at the Liberals unless he had done his homework before coming forward with another figure. Surprising to me, and this undermines everything Conservatives members will say for the rest of the day, the cost of government under Stephen Harper went up 34%, worse than the Liberals.
It is incredible to me that the Conservatives did not do their financial homework. They have come forward with a motion in which their key point is that the Liberals increased the cost of government by 25% with handouts to Bay Street and all those giveaways. He is absolutely right, but he did not do the homework to find out what the increase was under the Conservatives. The cost of government went up 34%, again because of these massive subsidies to Bay Street and to the very wealthy and largely foreign-owned fossil fuel sector.
Handing money left, right and centre to banks and corporate CEOs is something the Conservatives and the Liberals love to do, a pox on both their houses. Neither of them know how to manage money effectively. Neither of them seem to understand how to invest in people. Neither of them seem to understand how to run government in the interest of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
As the member for Carleton pointed out, it is true that Canadians are living tough times. They are experiencing some of the toughest times we have seen in a number of generations. I completely disagree with my Liberal colleague's point of view that everything is just fine. The Prime Minister said in the House yesterday that he was getting compliments. Therefore, it does not matter that so many Canadians are struggling with the cost of housing. However, the figure that came out last week is indicative of how poor the approach of the Liberal government has been. Forty-six per cent of Canadians, nearly half of our population, is $200 away from financial insolvency in the course of every month. Half our population is struggling with this.
If this figure does not give a cause for the Liberal government to change what has been the incredibly irresponsible and mean-spirited direction it has taken, I do not know what could. After three years of Liberal government, half the Canadian population is a scant $200 away from financial insolvency every month.
I am going to mention three people I know personally who experience first-hand that desperation that comes from just trying to make it through every month. In question period yesterday, I mentioned the case of Sarah, and I did not get a response from the Prime Minister.
Sarah is indicative of so many other Canadians across the country. She is struggling to find affordable housing for herself and her three children. She works full-time as a nurse. She contributes to our health care system. She is dedicated. She works night and day. In fact, she works night shifts. I have knocked on thousands of doors over the course of the last few months and heard these stories so many times about getting affordable housing in Burnaby, British Columbia. In the case of Sarah and her three children, the only affordable housing she can get will take her entire monthly salary. She will have no money for food. She will have no money for clothes, school, transportation or heat.
The Liberals say that everything is fine when half the country is just a scant few dollars away from financial insolvency. They need to consider the case of Sarah, who is struggling. The $14 billion for Bay Street that came out in the mini budget in November was simply disrespectful to her situation.
Let me tell members about Heather. I have raised her name in the House before as well. Heather lives with her mother and her disabled daughter. She is trying to get by every month in a one bedroom apartment. It is a family of three. She is struggling every month to get through the month and keep that apartment.
This is not a rare story in any way. Right across the Lower Mainland, in parts of Toronto, in many of the big cities in the country, families are living in one bedroom apartments, sometimes in bachelor suites, just to get through the month. In the north it is even worse and more chronic. We hear about families of a dozen or 15 people living in a one bedroom home because there is simply no affordable accommodation available. Heather's case should give the Liberal government pause and have it change direction as well.
Let me tell the House about Jim, who I have referenced in the House of Commons before. Jim is very indicative of the crisis that so many Canadians are living through while Liberals hand out billions of dollars to Bay Street. Every Liberal MP would pass Jim every day. He is in a wheelchair on the bridge between the Chateau Laurier and the East Block. We can see him as we walk by. If we talk to Jim, he will say that he is there because he needs to get money for my medication. He lives on social assistance. His medication costs him $540 a month. He has to pay $540 a month out of pocket and the only way for him to do that, whether it is -30° or whether it is pouring rain, is to be on that bridge begging so he can take the medication that keeps him alive.
The Liberals say that everything is fine, that everything is great and they hand out more money to Bay Street. Jim is not fine. Heather is not fine. Sarah is not fine. People are suffering, while the out-of-touch Liberals make the worst policy decisions one can imagine, handing out $14 billion to Bay Street, handing out $15 billion for the Trans Mountain pipeline, which not only have they paid twice its asset value, not only is it a money-losing pipeline but the construction costs are escalating. The impact of that project on the possible loss of jobs in the fisheries and tourism industries in British Columbia is unaccounted. That is where Liberal priorities seem to be. They hand out billions of dollars and do not think of the consequences at all.
The question now is how do we fix this. We believe that we need a fair tax system. Our tax system is the most unequal among all industrialized countries. Our effective corporate tax rate is around 9%, which is not at par with the corporate rate in other industrialized countries.
We think the solution is the opposite of the Conservatives' proposal. They are suggesting that we maintain the existing tax system, which is antiquated and unfair. Unfortunately, this tax system does not allow for investments to help people like Sarah, Jim and Heather.
Other countries are currently working on this. Some European countries are taxing web giants. France was upset that web giants were just paying the effective tax rate of 9%, although this is better than what major corporations pay in Canada. France decided to implement a fair tax system. Web giants will be required to pay their fair share of taxes, which will allow for investments to help people like Jim, Sarah and Heather.
Major corporations are often associated with tax havens, which help them pay an effective tax rate of only 9%.
People like Sarah pay an effective rate much higher than the 9% that the Liberals impose on major corporations. Fortunately, our Parliamentary Budget Officer heroically stepped in. His office said that we needed to find out the exact difference between what companies should be paying in Canada and what they are actually paying. Five and a half years ago, the Parliamentary Budget Officer started this process and asked the Harper government to disclose how much the big companies were paying. Ordinary Canadians pay their fair share of taxes, but we needed to know what the corporate tax rate was for big business. The Harper government and the Conservative MPs all said they could not reveal that information because it was confidential. For three years, the Parliamentary Budget Officer relentlessly pursued his mission. The Conservatives refused to allow for any transparency in the tax system, which is disgusting. They wanted to keep Canadians from finding out the real tax rate and the difference between the rich and the regular folks who pay their fair share of taxes.
We got a new government in 2015, but nothing changed. The Liberals blocked the release of that information for two and half years. The Parliamentary Budget Officer finally said that enough was enough and that he was going to take the government to court, so the Liberals gave in and released the information. In a few months, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who is working hard to figure out all those numbers, is going to announce to Canadians the exact discrepancy between the amount that big business should be paying and the amount that they are actually paying as a result of tax havens. That will change things. That was the last argument that I wanted to raise.
Earlier, the member for Carleton said that eliminating a tax credit is effectively a tax hike. That is not what we want. Big oil companies are getting billions and billions of dollars' worth of subsidies. That makes no sense. That sector turns huge profits. Canadians' tax dollars are being used to help those big oil companies, which are primarily foreign-owned corporations. The Conservatives believe that oil companies should continue to receive those billion dollar subsidies, and the Liberals do too. The Liberals say that they do not like it and that they will deal with it later, but how can we possibly count on them do to that?
Climate change is already costing the Canadian economy and Canadians billions of dollars a year, billions of dollars in insurance payouts, billions of dollars as these catastrophic climatic events occur. For the Liberals and the Conservatives to say that they will continue to subsidize wealthy, very profitable fossil fuel companies does not make any sense at all. Effectively, that is what the Conservative motion would do. The tax credit, according to the member for Carleton, is a tax hike. Therefore, Canadians have to continue to subsidize, according to Conservative logic, a sector that makes enormous profits.
My conclusion is this. The Liberals and the Conservatives have been running the country for decades. They have been running the tax system for decades and they have been running it into the ground. They have created a monster, the most unequal, inequitable tax system in the industrialized world.
We in the NDP believe that we need a fair tax system, a tax system that ensures that everybody pays, as we say in French, leur juste part. By creating that system, we can have the resources to make the investments that make a meaningful difference in the lives of regular Canadians..