House of Commons Hansard #377 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was families.


National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON


That, in the opinion of the House the government should: (a) establish a national suicide prevention action plan, including among its provisions (i) commitment to the actions and resources required to establish culturally appropriate community-based suicide prevention programs as articulated by representative organizations of the Inuit, First Nations, and Métis peoples, (ii) establishment of national guidelines for best practices in suicide prevention based on evidence of effectiveness in a Canadian context, (iii) the creation of a national public health monitoring program for the prevention of suicide and identification of groups at elevated risk, (iv) creation of programs to identify, and to attempt to fill, gaps in knowledge relating to suicide and its prevention, including timely and accurate statistical data, (v) development of tools to promote responsible and safe reporting of suicide and its prevention by media, (vi) establishment of national standards for the training of persons engaged in suicide prevention, whose contact with potentially vulnerable populations provides an opportunity to identify at-risk individuals and direct them to appropriate assessment and treatment, (vii) creation of a national online hub providing essential information and guides to accessing services, in English, French, selected Indigenous languages, and other languages spoken widely in Canada for suicidal individuals, their families and friends, people bereaved by a loved one’s suicide, workplaces and other stakeholders concerned with suicide prevention, (viii) conducting within 18 months comprehensive analyses of high-risk groups of people, and the risk factors specific to each such group, the degree to which child sexual abuse and other forms of childhood abuse and neglect have an impact on suicidal behaviour, the barriers to Canadians accessing appropriate and adequate health, wellness and recovery services, including substance use, addiction and bereavement services, the funding arrangements required to provide the treatment, education, professional training and other supports required to prevent suicide and assist those bereaved by a loved one’s suicide, the use of culturally appropriate suicide prevention activities and best practices, the role that social media plays with respect to suicide and suicide prevention, means to reduce stigma associated with being a consumer of mental health, bereavement and other associated services, and ways in which society can reduce access to means and methods for people to harm themselves; and (b) report to Parliament annually on preparations for and implementation of the national action plan for suicide prevention, including data on progress over the previous year, and a comprehensive statistical overview of suicide in Canada for the same year.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today for my first intervention in the new House to move a motion on the need to establish a national suicide prevention action plan. This motion presents an opportunity for members of Parliament to work together and do what it takes to resolve Canada's suicide crisis.

I want to say at the beginning of my speech how honoured I am to be rising in this new chamber, this new Parliament, that was smudged by Claudette Commanda of the Algonquin nation, the first time in any legislature in any nation. We begin this new Parliament with a sense of hope and commitment to making change. I take very seriously my opportunity to speak on a matter as important as this.

I think back to one of the first debates we had in this 42nd Parliament, not a debate but a common discussion, during the Attawapiskat suicide crisis in 2012. It was a powerful moment for this Parliament because members came together. The problem is that the deaths continue, and good words alone will not change the reality unless we come together to recognize the role that the federal government has to play.

There is an example that shows that it is possible for Canada to find a solution. Twenty years ago, Quebec established a provincial plan to reduce the rate of suicide among Quebeckers, and the outcome was extraordinary. This plan reduced the number of suicides in Quebec by 40%. Imagine the positive impact a similar plan established by the Parliament of Canada could have at the national level.

Suicide touches every one of us. It touches all our communities. It touches across age groups, across race. I come at this issue from the experience I have seen in the communities of the far north, through one horrific crisis after another, and realizing that without the support of a coherent strategy, children have needlessly died, and will continue to die, unless we change.

I was recently at Northern Lights Secondary School in James Bay. I walked into that school, and I saw a school of hope. I saw young people engaged. I saw them playing music. I could feel it in the halls, that sense of determination and of a future. I remember being there 10 years ago in the middle of the suicide crisis. I saw the trauma on the faces of the first responders and the families, because children were dying, not singly but in twos and threes. At that time, there was no one from the federal or provincial governments, no departments, helping out.

Ron Pate, who was the principal, said he would keep the school open all night long, every night. He said he was not going to lose another child on his watch. Those words have stayed with me ever since.

What kind of nation sits back and does nothing while its young people lose hope? What kind of nation chooses to clip the wings of its youth?

What kind of nation sits back as young people are dying and does not send in all the support necessary and learn the lessons so that we can change this? How is it possible that we can have these patterns again and again without putting in place a coherent response?

Again, from my region and the region that I represent, where we have seen some of the highest suicide rates in the world, I have seen the potential of young people to transform this nation. Every time we lose a young person, we are losing the future of our nation.

We have lost Sheridan Hookimaw, Deandra Anderson, Chantel Fox, Jenera Roundsky, Jolynn Winter, Azraya Kokopenace, Emily Ellison, Amy Owen, Kanina Sue Turtle, all in the last few years. I want their names on the record, because those children were loved.

We are here to tell their families and their community that they did not die in vain. We have an obligation to work together for young people like Amy Owen, who wrote on Facebook that life was so hard she could not go on, at age 12. That is not the Canada that I want to be in, and that is not the Canada any of us want to be in. We, as a Parliament, can make a difference.

We have models, but we need to first of all establish a community-based response that is culturally understanding of the various realities in our country. The last thing we need is another Health Canada program with posters. That will not change anything. We need to be empowering and ensure that the grassroots organizations, cultural organizations, indigenous organizations are at the table to say what they need, because they know what works. That would be a big step along the way of making change.

We also need to develop national evidence-based best practices. We do not have to invent rocket science here. There are mental health organizations and indigenous organizations that know what needs to be done, but they need a willing partner.

We need to raise awareness about how coverage of suicide in the media is dealt with. It is said that suicide rates increased 10% in the United States after the death of Robin Williams. We need to talk about media. We also need to talk about bereavement in families who are left on their own and have no one to talk to.

The fundamental difference between suicide and other health crises is that suicide is like a psychic shock wave. It goes through a family, a community, a school, and its lingering effects are for life. We have seen this particularly in the far northern communities when we do not respond with a coherent strategy. That psychic shock wave has echo effects, so we start to see, especially in young people, imitative behaviours that are incredibly destructive.

We need a national online resource hub, in multiple languages, to reach people. That is something that the federal government could do. We need to have a set of national training standards for people who are engaged in suicide prevention work and those who want to know how to help, so that we have better protocols and it is easier to access those protocols.

The other thing is that we need a coherent set of numbers. If I said that 11 people are dying every day in car accidents, we would say that is terrible, that people should drive more safely because 4,000 plus people die every year. We use those numbers about suicide. However, what if we started to point out that we had the evidence that they are not dying at random, that there are pressure points? If we said in a car accident case that a number of people died at one crosswalk, we would go there to find out what was wrong.

Without the statistical evidence and a coherent strategy, we do not know where to put the resources in place. For example, I was shocked in my research that the highest numbers we were coming across were in middle-age men. Why is that? No one was talking about that. I know that when a mill shuts down or a factory shuts down, people anecdotally will say, yes, and then they started to die. If we identified the risk in advance, we could start to reach out to those men and have the programs in place, so that those who are losing their jobs in times of transition are not on their own. This is what evidence gives us. Evidence gives us a focus to move forward, and that is something that the federal government can do.

I have been at this business in Parliament, and honoured to do this, for many years. One thing I have come to realize is that the government members get up, hug us, and say it is a wonderful motion and dear to their hearts and then nothing ever happens. This is why the motion calls on the federal government to do a regular progress report to Parliament.

If we have the progress report on the numbers on issues of identifying factors such as child sexual abuse, if the government is obligated to present to Parliament an annual report, then we can begin to see how we are making a difference and if we are making a difference. Where we are not making a difference, we can start to ask why.

That was the real beauty of the Quebec model. It began to say it could change things by identifying where the problems were and putting resources there. We are the only G7 country without a national suicide action plan. It astounds me that in some regions of Canada we have the highest suicide rates in the world, yet every time a number of young people die the best we get is a tweet from a minister saying that it is a tragedy. It is not a tragedy; it is preventable.

I saw this in the Attawapiskat crisis. We saw it in Neskantaga and La Loche. We have seen it again and again. A tragedy is when a child walks out and gets hit by a bus. However, when a pattern is repeated again and again, we have to ask ourselves what is causing that pattern. What are the numbers?

For example, in the far north, we did not have the on-the-ground proactive teams that limited and diminished the risks to young people. We did not have access to mental health services. We did not have any understanding or any way to find out whether child sexual abuse was a factor. We needed that in each of these cases.

We have gathered support across this country. The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention has been doing incredible work on this. For years, it has been asking for this strategy. The Canadian Medical Association supports it, as well as the regional Chiefs of Ontario, the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association and the Canadian Nurses Association.

I want to pay special tribute to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, ITK, and its president Natan Obed, who established a plan for the Inuit. ITK is getting really good statistics so it can start to identify the problems.

I want to give a special thanks to Jack Hicks, who has been one of the front-line advocates for getting a strategy for suicide prevention. He approached my office during the horrific suicide crisis in Wapekeka, when we lost Chantel Fox, Jolyn Winter and Jenera Roundsky. The trauma of those deaths led to numerous other young women dying in that far north of Treaty 9. Jack asked us why we were not putting in place this national strategy. We were overwhelmed and dealing reactively, and he said that it was time Parliament acted proactively.

Therefore, I come to my colleagues across the political spectrum saying that as legislators, as adults, as parents, as the people who are supposed to be the voice of Canada, we need to start talking about how we address this horrific crisis that is causing so much pain and devastation. For any person we lose, we are losing the future of our nation. I look into the eyes of young people and ask myself how they can give up. How can they not believe that this nation is there for them? If we are not there for them, we have failed.

This is our opportunity. In the dying days of a Parliament that has been pretty fractious, one that has perhaps not lived up to what Canadians expected of it, we can do something that says that, together, we are going to put people first and start to talk about how to deal with the horrifying crisis of suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I applaud my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for his speech and for his dedication to this sensitive issue that concerns all of us.

I would like to ask him to take a few minutes to tell us more about the progress report based on new figures. What would be the point of that report? I was under the impression that we already have a number of organizations working on those issues. Is that not enough?

Are there not concrete, practical approaches, such as education and sports, that we should be focusing on that would help us achieve better results?

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of respect for my colleague. We are both members of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

His question is an important one, and I do want to make it clear that extraordinary work is being done to reduce suicide risks.

Provincial and territorial authorities are responsible for meeting their citizens' health care needs. The federal government is responsible for the health care needs of indigenous communities, soldiers and veterans. The federal government also has to work with the provinces to create a national plan for things like statistics and to figure out the best way to respond to this crisis.

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay, for bringing the motion forward.

In my riding of Sarnia—Lambton, suicide is occurring at an epidemic rate. As recently as Friday, I was at an eating disorder awareness week kickoff, where a young girl gave testimony that one in five young girls with an eating disorder commits suicide. I would love to see that included in the study.

I am also very interested in those who suffer sexual trauma. I hope that when the member brings this forward, people will look at those who have had sexual trauma in the past and at the penalties that are happening. In my riding, we just heard that another 13-year-old girl was raped and the perpetrator received months in jail, not years. This girl will be high risk for suicide. I hope that is addressed in the member's motion.

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly the point she made about eating disorders is shocking. I had never heard that.

That is why we need to be gathering the statistics to find out where the pressure points are. Once we know that, we can start to look at possible solutions.

In terms of the issue of sexual abuse, I was involved in one horrific suicide crisis. I remember calling in to the police and asking if we had numbers and if we knew whether it was a factor. An officer said he did not have the resources and that he did not know. I was calling the child advocate, asking if we knew. I was told we do not have the resources. Everyone was on the lookout, but we did not know.

We must realize the importance of saying, proactively, that there are communities that have suffered higher levels, especially regarding intergenerational trauma. We have seen the intergenerational trauma of residential schools. We can start to see these factors. Once we start putting that in place, then we will know where the proactive resources should be going.

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his longstanding dedication to these important issues. As members know, he has repeatedly tried to rally us all to this cause.

Does he think it is possible to gather data about what led to such despair, to these fatal acts, and to show that the health care system lacks professionals and family doctors?

Bit by bit, our health care system is becoming a two-tier system, and we do not even realize it. Because of this system, have-not families may not get a diagnosis, and I suspect this problem is even worse in Canada's north.

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, inadequate access to mental health services is a critical issue. The lack of resources must be addressed in order to prevent suicide.

There is a lack of resources in major urban centres, and the situation is brutal in the Far North. When I speak with officials following a suicide crisis, I ask them about the mental health services that exist for young people in those communities. They always tell me that programs and services do exist. That is false. When we look at the causes of a crisis, we routinely find the problem of inadequate access to mental health services. It is unacceptable.

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Ramez Ayoub Liberal Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to discuss suicide prevention in the context of the debate on Motion No. 174 moved by my colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay.

Suicide is a complex issue that affects many Canadians, as well as their families and communities. That is why suicide prevention and improving Canadians' mental health are a priority for our government. I would actually like to take this opportunity to point out that this week is National Suicide Prevention Week in Quebec. This is Quebec's 29th National Suicide Prevention Week, and this year's theme is “Talking About Suicide Saves Lives”. That is what we are doing here today.

I am honoured to speak today about a few initiatives and broader government investments regarding suicide prevention and mental health.

The Government of Canada is working with partners to foster and protect the health of Canadians. To that end, we support programs that improve mental health and well-being and help prevent suicide.

Mental health support is key to suicide prevention. In 2017, our government signed an agreement with the provinces and territories to provide funding for mental health over the next 10 years. This funding includes $5 billion in new targeted investments to help the provinces and territories improve access to mental health and addiction services.

Some provinces and territories have included suicide prevention activities in their agreements. For example, the Northwest Territories are developing a suicide prevention and crisis support network to support suicide prevention activities in communities and provide expert and timely intervention in times of crisis. Saskatchewan will support community-developed strategies to prevent suicide and build clinical capacity to assess and treat mental health concerns in children and youth.

The federal government bases its comprehensive suicide prevention efforts on the 2016 federal framework for suicide prevention, which harmonizes federal suicide prevention activities and complements the important work carried out by our partners. The primary objectives of the federal government framework are to reduce stigma and raise public awareness of suicide prevention; connect Canadians, information and resources; and accelerate the use of research and innovation in suicide prevention.

A nearly $3-million investment in this framework to support the Canadian suicide prevention service will give people across the country 24-hour access to crisis support.

Suicide has been a concern in indigenous communities. The suicide rates are higher than average in some first nations communities and in all Inuit regions.

The parts of the national suicide prevention action plan specific to indigenous peoples are in line with the frameworks guiding our government's approach to mental wellness, such as the first nations mental wellness continuum framework and the national Inuit suicide prevention strategy.

These frameworks speak to the need for a transformative and whole-of-government approach to supporting mental wellness and promoting reconciliation and healing. They present a comprehensive approach to mental wellness services by putting the emphasis on cultural continuity, self-determination by the community, and social determinants of health specific to indigenous peoples.

Every year, our government contributes $350 million in funding for mental wellness community services in first nations and Inuit communities.

This funding is used to support mental health and suicide prevention programs, substance use prevention and treatment, mental wellness teams, the Hope for Wellness Help Line, and the Indian residential schools resolution health support program.

We also know that suicide affects several other populations receiving federal government help, including members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans.

That is why we released the CAF-VAC joint suicide prevention strategy in 2017. The strategy is a comprehensive approach to preventing suicide among our military members and veterans.

This strategy is consistent with the approach outlined in the federal framework for suicide prevention, which states that suicide is a serious public health issue. It outlines an approach that seeks to reduce risks, build resilience, and prevent suicide among military members and veterans, as detailed in two action plans developed by the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada.

Some of the actions in the Veterans Affairs Canada action plan include a new emergency fund that provides financial support to veterans, their families or their survivors whose well-being is at risk; sustained expansion of the network of operational stress injury clinics; mental health first aid training for veterans; a veteran family program; an education and training benefit; and online support for veteran families and caregivers.

As part of this strategy, the Canadian Armed Forces partnered with the Canadian Psychiatric Association and released the Clinician Handbook on Suicide Prevention. This evidence-based handbook equips health care providers to screen, assess and manage patients at risk for suicide. The Canadian Armed Forces also continue to expand their telemental health resources to reduce wait times and geographic obstacles that would limit access to care.

Our government supports and also establishes partnerships to conduct research on mental health and suicide prevention. From 2013-14 to 2017-18, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR, invested more than $15 million in suicide research.

To address one of the main challenges to suicide prevention, the rapid access to mental health services, CIHR, in partnership with the Graham Boeckh Foundation, supports ACCESS Open Minds. This national initiative is transforming the way in which youth aged 11 to 25 access mental health services by developing and testing evidence-based mental health solutions. This initiative guarantees quick access to mental health assessment services and to appropriate services matching specific needs.

The ACCESS Open Minds network currently has 14 sites in six provinces and one territory. Each site serves the local needs of its respective community. This initiative represents a total investment of $25 million by the federal government and the foundation.

What is more, mental health and suicide constitute one of the priority areas in the government's pathways to health equity for aboriginal peoples initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to promote health equity for aboriginal peoples and apply knowledge to improve health. The research projects funded under this initiative will help develop an evidence base to guide the design, implementation and delivery of programs and policies to prevent suicide and promote the health and well-being of indigenous people.

We are also interested in approaches that decrease the impact of suicide in communities across the country. The Mental Health Commission of Canada launched the roots of hope project, which draws on community expertise to implement relevant, evidence-based suicide prevention interventions in Canadian communities. Experimental research projects are under way in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, and the opening of another site in Alberta has been confirmed.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada also worked with partners to design suicide prevention training for health care professionals and to develop resources for people who have attempted suicided and those who have lost a loved one to suicide.

Going forward, our government will keep working toward suicide prevention together with service providers, our partners, and those with lived experience, including national indigenous organizations and indigenous communities in general.

We know that by working together and collaborating with our partners, we can build a country in which suicide is prevented and hope and resilience become a reality for us all.

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to participate in this important debate on Motion No. 174. I do so not with any particular satisfaction, but I believe that few in this place are better qualified to speak about the hurt and pain that can be caused by someone taking their own life.

I want to say how privileged we all are to be in this new chamber. I would like to echo the comments by the mover of this motion that this is an opportunity for all of us to do what is right.

My remarks today are mine and mine only, and were not prepared by anyone else.

Three days from today, Thursday of this week, will mark one year since I received a phone call at midnight from my wife, saying that our 45-year-old daughter had taken her life. It is a call that no parent should ever have to receive.

Again I would like to thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for raising this important issue in the House. I recognize that with limited time before this session of Parliament ends, this motion might not go much beyond the debate, but the debate itself is important. It is important because suicide is not an easy issue to talk about, but hopefully, if at least one person hears our words today and decides not to act, it will be time well spent.

The member who introduced this motion today focused a great deal on situations in his riding, especially those impacting our first nations communities. I do not for one minute want to downplay those tragic situations, but I want the House and all Canadians to know that this it not a problem experienced strictly by our aboriginal population or by marginal groups, because in the past year I have had countless people either write to me or tell me personally about the loss of a family member or friend by suicide.

It is easy to say that suicide is a mental health issue and if we just spend a little more money, that would be the answer, but I happen to believe differently. There is no question that factors such as depression or mental instability can be directly related to suicide. However, in recent years, several prominent business leaders in Alberta chose to end their lives; suicide can be caused by financial stress or a dependency that was more serious than it appeared. I do not consider that those to be mental illness. I know others will disagree, and that is why it is important to have this discussion and develop an action plan, as suggested in this motion.

If spending more money to deal with mental illness is not the solution, then what is? I have thought a lot about it and I think that education is where we need to start. Learning about suicide should maybe start in grade school, and not be about why suicide is wrong but for students to hear real-life examples of the hurt and pain that is left behind when someone chooses to end their life. I say that because suicide is not an easy subject to talk about, but it does help to get rid of some of the anger. I think if a young person is made aware of that hurt and pain, it may change future decisions. If young people realized that nothing they ever did in their lives made a parent more angry, they might not make that decision.

When I think of my daughter, I think of someone who never wanted to hurt anyone or anything. In fact, she would become very angry when hearing on the news of a person or animal being abused or mistreated, so we have to ask ourselves why she would hurt everyone around her by taking her own life. Obviously, that never occurred to her.

I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker; when I practised this morning, it was much easier.

I ask whether it would have made a difference if in grade school she had heard first-hand about the pain and suffering experienced when a family suicide occurred. Perhaps it would have more impact if it were in junior or senior high, because it is a time in life when young people are easily influenced, but as the member mentioned in his opening remarks, the opposite seems to be occurring today. Young people are following celebrities on social media who choose to commit suicide, so they think it is okay. Unfortunately, that social media focus in on the person taking his or her own life rather than those who are left behind to pick up the pieces.

Last week I followed closely the victim impact statements that were made by families of those killed in the Humboldt bus crash. They were heart-rending but powerful. I ask, what if similar stories were shared with school children by families of suicide victims? It might have lifelong impact.

Also, early in life we teach our children a lot about sharing and not being selfish. Committing suicide may be the most selfish thing one can do. I would say that our daughter was somewhat selfish. However, I doubt that it ever occurred to her that committing suicide was a selfish act, so I think we need to instill in our young people that suicide is a selfish, hurtful act. It is hard to do that, however, if someone feels uncomfortable talking about their situation, so I hope that we can encourage Canadians through this debate to share their stories with others and help prevent similar situations of hurt and pain.

I have heard it said that suicide has almost become an epidemic. It seems as though every day we see in the obituary column that another young person has died suddenly. If all suicides were caused by depression, people could probably be treated, but unfortunately they are not. We must deal with the fact that suicide seems to have become the easy way out. For the individual at that moment in time, it may seem that way, but rest assured that such a decision leaves a lifetime of hurt, pain and anger.

What can we do as political leaders to combat that?

We need to start to have these discussions. We cannot be afraid to open up about our hurt, pain and anger. We cannot think that because our daughter chose this action, it has somehow brought shame on our family. We need to get over the feeling of guilt and anger and help others. Therefore, I urge anyone who experienced suicide by a family member or friend to consider sharing their feelings openly, to be a source of hopefully preventing someone from taking their own life. By being open, they can also be a resource for someone today facing what we experienced last year.

Many in this chamber are fortunate not to have a personal experience with suicide. Standing here one year ago today, actually in the other chamber, that was me. Today, one year less three days later, I look at this issue through an entirely different lens.

Supporting this motion and participating in the debate today is easy for me. Hopefully my remarks, and those of others who speak, will ensure this motion moves forward so we can begin the work of developing a national action plan to combat this epidemic.

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the member for Calgary Signal Hill for his courage to speak about his own life experience. When we take the opportunity to discuss suicide in a public place, we make a difference in the world to families and individuals. We take the stigma and darkness away from them. It is very important for people to talk about their pain. I want to acknowledge my colleague's bravery.

It is an honour to stand here today to speak to the important motion brought forward by my colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay, and to acknowledge all the work he has done on this issue and his leadership.

The motion calls for the federal government and indeed all of us in the House to provide leadership to create and implement a national suicide prevention action plan.

Like my colleagues, I want to acknowledge the family members, friends and our colleagues here today who have been touched by the death of someone they have loved by suicide. I want to also acknowledge the many indigenous communities, including communities in my province, that have been dealing with immense grief and sadness with the suicides of so many young people, and those communities that are struggling to get governments to take notice and invest in much needed services, support and mental health services in their communities.

I would also like to acknowledge Marilyn Irwin from Saskatoon for her fierce advocacy around the importance of investing in mental health services with respect to preventing suicides in our communities.

The motion calls upon us to move to action. Frameworks have been put in place as well as a scattering of programs within different jurisdictions and different departments, but we really need to act beyond those frameworks. Too many people have died and many of those deaths could have been prevented if action had been taken.

I want to make three general comments on the role of the federal government on this issue. To me, there are some similarities to the issue of homelessness.

Where governments fear to tread, or stay back in Ottawa, or create frameworks or talk about policies, communities have had to step in and take the lead. If there were ever a time for governments at all levels to really learn how to work alongside communities, this would be the time. It is time for the federal government to really understand the issue and to do that well.

Prior to becoming a member of Parliament, I spent over 30 years working in the community. It had always been a struggle for communities to work alongside the federal government as true partners. If we were ever going to find a way to do that, and do that well, and build on that capacity within the federal government, this is the action plan that could allow us do that.

I have one final comment with respect to the federal government and this issue, and that is jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is a government issue, not a community issue. People's lives are not divided into jurisdictions. People's bodies are not divided into jurisdictions. Governments need to figure out those issues themselves and find the resources to do that so they truly can sit down with communities and tackle issues in their entirety, as opposed to saying it is not their jurisdiction, which we have heard before. People have died because governments have been unable to figure out their roles.

I also want to commend my colleague for the thoroughness of his motion. It really includes everything we need to create a national action plan, to move the federal government beyond a framework, to move the federal government beyond a sort of patchwork of systems of care, all those kinds of things, to really bring everyone together, all hands on deck, so to speak, and to move forward and have an impact on the lives of people.

My colleague had an opportunity to talk about some of the things that needed to be included in an action plan. We also heard a member from the opposite side, from the government, talk about some of the programs in place.

However, we know from the motion and the work my colleague has done that there are certain things we need to have in an action plan to actually have some impact. The most crucial one is culturally appropriate and, as I mentioned, community-based suicide prevention programs, particularly in indigenous communities. There is nothing wrong with starting an action plan focused on those communities that are most impacted or most vulnerable. We can all benefit from that work.

My colleague and other members have spoken about the need for evidence, such as national evidence-based guidelines on how to intervene in suicide and what the best practices are, which is an excellent role for the federal government; monitoring, such as a national public health monitoring program for prevention and identification for at-risk groups; creation of programs to identify and fill the knowledge and data gaps. This is always important when look at an issue that has had a lot of stigma attached to it. A lot of people have not talked about it, but we really need to know what is going on and the gaps in the data.

We need to develop the tools to promote safe, responsible media reporting of suicide and national suicide prevention training standards. All of this is included in the action plan provided in the motion today.

We need an online hub for suicide prevention resources in multiple languages. My colleague also mentioned the need to have that in indigenous languages.

We need to pool all the resources together and all of our expertise to analyze the risk factors and potential solutions. We have talked about some of those: the impact of childhood experiences; the role of social media; and the best way to reduce stigma around accessing mental health services, which we know will play a key role in addressing the epidemic.

As we have also heard, suicide impacts every community in Canada. We heard a very personal story about what happens, as well what is left behind and the trauma people face from the sudden death of a loved one. It is a sensitive subject, but we have done an important job today in talking about it in the House of Commons so we can move forward on a very important topic. We have an example in Quebec, which created a province-wide action plan that has impacted the suicide rates in the province.

In my province, just last May, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations released a report on the suicides in first nations and brought together some of the things that we needed to do to address that issue. Therefore, groups are leading the way, bringing their work to the national level in order to have a real impact.

I want to acknowledge that leadership from the FSIN. In particular, it looked at the impact of racism and colonialism and how we needed to not just look at suicide individually but look at how communities, governments and systems had played a role in the very large numbers of suicides we had seen in indigenous communities.

I am very proud to stand today. As others have mentioned, if we are to do anything between now and June, before the next election, I sure hope it is through this motion. I want to thank my hon. colleague for bringing it forward and giving me the opportunity to speak on it.

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Calgary Signal Hill for sharing his story with us. It was a very real and surreal moment. I often find that some of the most passionate discussions we have in the House of Commons is when members relay their personal stories.

Although a year has almost passed since the passing of his daughter, I would like to offer my personal condolences. I can only try to appreciate the gravity of the situation my colleague and friend has gone through as a direct result. Education is so critically important. If those individuals, who made the decision to take their life, really understood the pain and suffering caused to others, whether it be family and friends, or the impact it had on the communities, it might have caused them to think twice.

My colleague made reference to the Province of Quebec having a suicide prevention week. I suspect if we were to canvass different provinces and territories, we would find there are different ways we can understand and appreciate the importance of education. When we do that, by having such things as weeks, months or days designated to this issue, it allows governments at different levels to bring this very important issue to the fore of their respective jurisdictions and draw attention to it.

Many years ago, I was the health care critic for the Province of Manitoba. The issue of mental health and not being able to address it in the way we wanted resulted in a higher than acceptable suicide rate. There is no simple answer. However, I know we need to see the different levels of government and the many different stakeholders, because it is not just governments, at the table, advocating from that grassroots position. We know that all of the intentions of Minister of Health, the government and members of the House are good. We are trying to raise the profile of this issue, looking at what we can do as individual members, as an opposition, as a government.

In the past number of years, we have seen hundreds of millions of dollars invested in mental health. Many meetings have taken place, whether it is the Minister of Health, the Minister of Indigenous Services, the parliamentary secretaries or members of the House. All have afforded opportunities to communicate. Some are more formal than others. Maybe ministerial meetings take place with respect to jurisdictions, in which people are afforded the opportunity to talk about mental health. There is a very high correlation between mental health issues and suicide. We need to have a better understanding of some of the tangible things we can do.

A number of weeks back, I had the opportunity to go to the north end of Winnipeg to walk with the Bear Clan Patrol. I understand other members of the chamber have been to the north end as well and have walked with the patrol. In principle, the Bear Clan Patrol is an excellent idea. It is not all about money. The patrol is made up of people who volunteer their time and come together. The most obvious difference is we see a group of people walking in the north end and the inner city, trying to show the citizens that they are improving the community. Those are some of the direct benefits.

The indirect benefits are what I would now like to share with the House. Many might recall Shania Pruden, who is a member of the Bear Clan. She is one of the faces of mental health care. Her sister, just a few years back, committed suicide. I had a wonderful discussion while on a walk with Shania. She is a very inspiring young person of indigenous background. Today she is a mentor and indigenous activist who blogs on a regular basis. She has a story she wants to tell young people. Other people I have walked with have had interesting lives. Some have dealt with issues related to crystal meth and having no hope.

What makes the Bear Clan unique, from my perspective, is the way it has brought people together who are starting to form a family unit of their own. Everyone needs and wants to feel loved. People want to have a sense of hope. We need to recognize that there is a role for all levels, whether that be government, non-profits, communities or individuals. It does not take much.

When one Googles suicide hotlines, one sees that there are services out there for children, seniors and everyone in between. Suicide occurs far too often, but there are initiatives that can be taken. I encourage our Minister of Health to continue to explore how our national government can show leadership and continue having dialogues, as I know she is, with stakeholders on the issue of suicide and suicide prevention. It goes beyond any one department or level of government.

Back when I was the health critic for the Province of Manitoba, we talked about suicide and suicide prevention. We know that there is no cure in the sense that we will be able to get rid of suicide. It has been happening since the beginning of time. However, there are programs and opportunities. If we take advantage of them and promote education, we can prevent some people from committing suicide. I look to schools, which can have an impact. We can hear the stories like the ones Shania and the member for Calgary Midnapore have to share. We can understand the consequences and have a better appreciation of those individuals who want to help.

There are many in society who are there to help. As I said, if we Googled it, we would see a number of organizations, such as the clinic in Winnipeg that has saved so many lives. Often, if we talk to individuals who have contemplated or attempted suicide, they are very grateful for the conversations they had during a very difficult time of their lives, and they are doing well today as a direct result of that consultation or program that may have prevented them from committing suicide. It is a fight worth having.

I would encourage all members, government and the opposition side, to continue to do what they can to heighten a very important issue that affects all people in all regions of our country.

National Suicide Prevention Action PlanPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON


That, given:

(a) 81% of middle-income Canadians are seeing higher taxes since the government came to power;

(b) the average income tax increase for middle-income families is $840;

(c) the government’s higher Canada Pension Plan premiums could eventually cost up to $2,200 per household;

(d) the government cancelled the Family Tax Cut of up to $2,000 per household;

(e) the government cancelled the Arts and Fitness tax credit of up to $225 per child;

(f) the government cancelled the education and textbook tax credits of up to $560 per student;

(g) the government’s higher Employment Insurance premiums are up to $85 per worker;

(h) the government’s carbon tax could cost up to $1,000 per household and as high as $5,000 in the future;

(i) the government’s intrusive tax measures for small business will raise taxes on thousands of family businesses all across Canada;

(j) this government tried to tax employer-paid health and dental benefits which would have cost up to $2,000 per household; and

(k) this government tried to tax modest food and discount benefits that retail employees receive from employers;

the House call on the Prime Minister to provide written confirmation that the government will not further raise any taxes on Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, before we buy a product, we have to know the price, and elections are no different. That is why politicians should tell Canadians the price tag before Canadians vote. The Prime Minister is not doing that, because he is afraid that voters will have sticker shock. Instead, he is trying to get voters to hand him a blank cheque before the election that he can cash after the election.

He learned this from his two mentors: Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, the former Liberal premiers of Ontario. Their record was to double Ontario's debt; double electricity prices, driving the poor to food banks and our jobs out of the province; and of course, lying before every single of their four election victories about their future plans to raise taxes. This record led to the worst middle-class income growth of any province in the country and the highest poverty rate of any province in the country.

These consequences and these costs, unfortunately, were not known until after the elections were over, because these two mentors of our current Prime Minister would lie blatantly about their real plans and the true cost until it was too late for voters to do anything about it.

Who was the architect of this dishonest tax hiking strategy? It was Gerald Butts, the principal secretary to the current Prime Minister. He was the one who, behind the scenes, drafted the talking points and spun the media to trick everyone into believing that all the pre-election goodies promised would come for free. However, after the election was over, Ontarians again and again were hit with heavy bills that they had no reason to expect, and as a result, they were stuck paying for a product they would not have otherwise purchased.

How do we know that the Prime Minister will repeat the strategy of his two Ontario Liberal mentors? First, he has already started. He has begun raising taxes on middle-class Canadians, who are paying, on average, $800 more per family of four. These tax increases have targeted families where one spouse earns more than the other by cancelling income-splitting. They have taken away tax credits for kids' sports and arts, for university students' textbooks and some of their tuition costs, and for transit users, who lost their bus pass tax cred. Small businesses now face new penalties for saving within their companies or sharing the work and earnings with their family members. These same small businesses are paying higher payroll taxes for each employee and higher carbon taxes on their energy use, a cost that will not be compensated for with any form of rebate.

The government is fond of claiming that it will only tax rich people. Let us examine that very carefully. To believe that, we have to accept that soccer moms who put their kids in sports are all rich. They are the ones who lost the children's fitness tax credit. We have to believe that students who buy textbooks or pay tuition are rich, because that was the justification the Prime Minister used to take away their education and textbook tax credits.

We have to also believe that anyone on a bus is rich. According to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, that is the case. He claimed that only rich people were claiming the transit tax credit. I do not know when the last time was he was on a bus anywhere in Canada, but there are not a lot of millionaires and billionaires rolling around on public transit. I understand that the Prime Minister does not know that. He has probably never taken a bus. He has always had a driver, but it has never been a transit driver.

Our leader, of course, grew up in a family without a car, and he therefore took a bus everywhere he went as a kid. He would be able to tell the Prime Minister, as would most Canadians, that millionaires and billionaires do not typically ride around on public transit. It is not believable to suggest that only the rich paid more when the government cancelled the tax credit for public transit fees.

It is interesting, though, that Liberals talk about taxing the rich, because when they designed their tax policy, they specifically ensured that those with large family fortunes, like the Prime Minister, or those with billion-dollar companies, like the finance minister, would not face any new taxes. They were sheltered from the changes. That means higher taxes for those who take the bus, buy textbooks and put their kids in soccer, but those with a trust fund, a family fortune or a billion-dollar company are protected under the government's policies. When the government engages in class warfare, I think we can all agree that it is just a little bit rich.

This is even more true if we look at the actual data. CRA published data in the aftermath of the government's tax changes to ascertain how much people in various income groups are paying in taxes. This data, which was published in a front page Globe and Mail news article, found that the wealthiest 1% is paying $4.6 billion less in income tax after the tax changes that the government brought into play. In other words, those in the middle class are paying $800 more, while those who are part of the elite 1%, with trust funds, family fortunes or billion-dollar companies, are part of a group paying $4.6 billion less. The result of that broken promise is that everyone else has to pay more to make up for the hole left behind by the rich, who are getting breaks from the government.

The second way the Prime Minister is seeking a blank cheque is with respect to tax increases that he attempted to implement, but on which he was caught and therefore forced to put on hold. He attempted a 73% tax on the passive investments that small businesses make within their companies. Prior to the changes proposed, those businesses already paid an automatic in-year tax of 50.7% on all income they earned from investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other passive instruments in which they set aside money for retirement, maternity leave, a rainy day or future active investments. They are already paying half of those gains in taxes, but the government wanted to tax them twice for the same dollar, bringing the full tax burden to 73%. Of course, I caught the Liberals. We caught them. Small businesses caught them, and as a result of the backlash, they put that change on hold.

They also considered taxing health and dental benefits and got caught. They put that proposal on hold. They attempted to take away the disability tax credit from diabetics, even though the law says that anyone who needs 14 hours of life-sustaining treatment and has diabetes is entitled to receive that tax credit. They even attempted to tax employee discounts so that the waitress who takes a 10-minute break at midnight and has a free chicken salad sandwich at the restaurant would have to pay income tax on that sandwich at the end of the year.

Do members want to know something else about all of these attempted tax increases that the Prime Minister has put on hold? He has not once stood in this place or anywhere else and said it was a mistake, that they were wrong and that he never should have contemplated them. He simply backed away temporarily because he knew the voter backlash would threaten his chances of re-election. However, with that election behind him, when he no longer needs voters but still needs their money, we can be sure he will bring every single one of those unjust and exorbitant tax increases right back, because he still believes they are the right thing to do.

Then we have the carbon tax cover-up. The government has released documents containing the true cost of the present carbon tax proposal. There is only one problem: It blacked out all of the numbers. Why would the government do that if it has nothing to hide? If Canadians are really going to get back in rebates what they pay in taxes, the government should be thrilled to have everyone know the exact cost of the tax, rather than just having some numbers published in government press releases. However, those numbers are still blocked out, and this government is under investigation by the Information Commissioner for its refusal to release that data.

That is just at the current rate of the carbon tax. The government currently admits that it would impose a $50-a-tonne carbon tax. However, that tax rate would lead this country to fall 79 million tonnes short of reaching its Paris accord commitments.

How do we make up the difference? According to a February 27, 2017, briefing to the finance minister, the carbon tax will have to increase in “severity” in order to reach the government's targets. That is right. The carbon tax is so ineffective at reducing emissions, it has to be significantly higher than the government admits in order to have its intended effect. That is why Conservatives are suspicious about the true post-election carbon tax rate, and there is more reason that we should be.

A 2015 Environment Canada briefing document said that the tax would have to rise to $300 a tonne, not $50 a tonne but six times higher at $300 a tonne. That is not only six times higher than the planned carbon tax, but 15 times higher than the rate that would be in place this year. Based on the government's own figures, a $300-a-tonne carbon tax would lead to a cost for the average family of $3,000 per year in Ontario and $5,000 a year in Saskatchewan. These higher costs would come in the form of increased gas, heat and grocery bills. Basically, anything that needs to be moved, heated or cooled would become significantly more expensive.

Herein lies the trick. Liberals will send people a few hundred dollars in rebates before the election and then give them $5,000 in higher costs after the election. Does that not remind everyone of the Kathleen Wynne-Dalton McGuinty scam I described at the beginning of my speech?

I will move to the next reason why we should expect higher taxes from the government if it is re-elected, and that is the runaway deficit. The reason Liberals raise taxes is that they have an insatiable appetite to spend other people's money. We have seen that so far. Government expenses are up by 25% in just three years and while the Prime Minister promised that the budget will balance itself in the year 2019, here we are and this year the deficit will be $20 billion and growing. Far from balancing the budget this year, Finance Canada now says that will not happen until the year 2040, two decades from now, when the national debt will be $1 trillion.

In fact, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, we will be spending two-thirds more on interest for the national debt within just four years. Forty billion dollars in interest to wealthy bondholders and bankers is good news if one is a rich guy that lends the government money, but bad news if one is the taxpayer paying for it and getting nothing in return. Forty billion dollars is a hard number to comprehend. To put it into perspective, that is what we spend on transfers to the provinces for health care, an absolutely astronomical sum of money vanishing from working-class taxpayers into the hands of wealthy bondholders.

We know what Canadians know, and that is that the Prime Minister broke his promise on deficits and he will break his promise on taxes. That is what Liberals do. The only way to pay for the exorbitant increase in debt will be with an increase in Liberal taxes after the election when they no longer need voters. This tax increase will cost Canadians a fortune and the current Prime Minister knows something about fortunes. He inherited one.

The Prime Minister's family wealth originated with his grandfather's petroleum empire, which is a great irony now that the Prime Minister is putting oil workers out of jobs and has blocked three pipelines. Three of the biggest worldwide pipeline companies were ready to put shovels in the ground when the Prime Minister took office and all three of them have left and taken their money and jobs with them down to Dallas and Houston. All of our exes are in Texas, and back here in Canada, we are unable to get our own product to market. The Prime Minister, ironically the same Prime Minister who has caused that heartache for petroleum sector workers, continues to live off of the fruits of his grandfather's petroleum empire.

Nobody should fault the Prime Minister's grandfather. He was evidently a brilliant entrepreneur who created wealth and opportunity for many of his peers in his time, which is all Canadians are asking for today. However, the one unfortunate consequence is that his grandson has no idea what it is like to live in the financial real world with everybody else. He believes budgets balance themselves because that is how it has always worked for him. He has never had to balance a household budget, so he believes budgets balance themselves. He has never had to worry about costs because he has always made others pay for his mistakes. He inherited a fortune and now he is costing Canadians a fortune.

Before one buys the brand name, one should know the real cost and also know that cost will not fully be understood until after the election. Also, there is no money-back guarantee. Instead of giving this Prime Minister a blank cheque, Canadians should elect a government with an affordable plan, one which forces itself to live within its means and make life more affordable so that Canadians can get ahead.

As Conservatives, we understand the cost of government leads to a higher cost of living. This is why we will run a government that lives within its means and according to the budgets of everyday Canadians, who work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules. We will grow spending only at sustainable rates equal to or lower than inflation and population growth so that Canadians can keep more of what they earn and we can return to a balanced budget in a reasonable time frame.

That is how we make space for families and entrepreneurs to build their own dreams and ambitions. On this side of the House of Commons, we believe in a country based on meritocracy, not aristocracy; where small businesses and entrepreneurs get ahead by having the best product, not the best lobbyist; where businesses make a profit when they obsess over customers, not when they obsess over pleasing politicians; and where every Canadian can achieve his or her own ambitions without politicians standing in the way, but rather with a government standing by their side.

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Jennifer O'Connell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance (Youth Economic Opportunity), Lib.

Mr. Speaker, given the member for Carleton's speech, the Conservatives sound pretty nervous about the next election. Out of their fear, they are resorting to making up complete falsehoods to try to scare Canadians into voting for them. That is quite the political stance, “Please vote for us or we will scare you into it.”

Getting back to the member's speech, Conservatives will not listen to the IMF, the OECD or the Government of Canada's independent statistics. They have been forced to rely on the phony Fraser Institute, where they cherry-pick the numbers. The fact is that Canadians are paying less under our government, and two-earner families are paying less.

In fact, the only group that taxes were raised on was the middle—sorry, the top 1%. The top 1% was the only group that taxes were increased on. Will the members opposite and the Conservatives finally acknowledge it is the richest 1% they are really standing up for?

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary almost made the mistake of telling the truth. She was in the process of saying that middle-class taxpayers are paying more, and she would have been absolutely right. Had she completed the sentence, it would have been her only accurate statement in that entire intervention.

I am relying on CRA data. That data shows that in the year 2016, the wealthiest 1% paid $4.6 billion less. As for the middle class, anybody who believes soccer moms, transit users and university students are middle class has to acknowledge the tax burden has gone up because all of them have lost their tax credits and have had no tax reduction to compensate for the full cost of those increased taxes. That is the opposite of what the government promised, but it is precisely what it delivered. If people are worried their taxes have gone up too much, “you ain't seen nothing yet”. The worst is yet to come if Liberals are re-elected.

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the motion from the member for Carleton. He was part of a government that brought in the HST. In fact, he has mentioned Dalton McGuinty, who was a participant with Harper in bringing that in. There was $4.3 billion then transferred from the federal coffers, at the time of a deficit, which we are still in to this day. It was used to basically bribe the Ontario Liberals under McGuinty into this arrangement. In fact, the Liberals under Ignatieff needed the then minister of public safety to get this passed in the chamber, because it was a minority parliament. Therefore, it is pretty rich to come here with a lecture on taxation.

Does the member for Carleton know how much the borrowing cost was for the HST expenditure that we had for Ontario? It has been about 10 years and we have had to pay interest on that. I have the information on the numbers if he wants it, but since he was at the decision table, does the member at least admit we have increased costs from bringing in a new tax from him and his government?

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has his facts wrong. His memory has played a trick on him, as is a common phenomenon over there in the corner with the NDP. The New Democrats have worked themselves up into such a frenzy in their efforts to support the Venezuelan Maduro dictatorship that they have forgotten to look at the real numbers. If they had, they would realize that what the Conservative government did under Harper with respect to consumption taxes was to cut the GST. We cut the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. We promised it and we delivered it, actually three years ahead of schedule. That has resulted in massive savings for Canadian taxpayers every single time they make a purchase. Canadians have saved money ever since as a result of that tax reduction.

They want all the money to go to the government. We believe in leaving it in the hands of consumers.

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Carleton for his speech. I would hope that in future debates we do not stoop this low to attacking the Prime Minister, or attacking any members because of their inheritance. I would challenge him to ask any farmer in his area whether it was wrong that they inherited the farm from their fathers or their grandfathers or grandmothers.

I will also point out that regarding any leader of the official opposition who wants to be Prime Minister, when a 35-year-old like me has more private-sector experience than the leader of the officical opposition, I would not go there.

However, to get back to the real debate, does the member for Carleton know that line 39 is the tax rate of 20.5%, and does he plan on increasing that back to 22% if he wants to form government?

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the answer, of course, is no. Conservatives never raise taxes. The member never needs to ask that question, because he knows that when people are dealing with Conservatives, taxes always go down, period. That is our record.

As for the Prime Minister's family fortune, I have heard a lot of defences, but this is an interesting one. The member is now comparing the Prime Minister to a farmer. The only thing that the Prime Minister has ever farmed is a trust fund.

It is also ironic that his government, only just over a year ago, attempted, through the Liberals' small-business tax changes, to double the tax that farm families would pay when transferring the farm from father to son or mother to daughter. Also, it would have created a tax advantage for transferring that farm to a foreign-owned holding company instead of to the farm family. If we had not stood up and fought back, his government, under the leadership of this Prime Minister, would have turned our young farmers into tenants on their ancestral farmlands. Thank God the Liberals put that on hold. We know they will bring that proposal back if they are re-elected, and that is why Canadians, especially farmers, will ensure that does not happen.

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would note that the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell did not mention his experience in the office of former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty, but I digress.

Listening to the comments from the member for Carleton, it is exceptional to hear the number of Liberal tax increases over the past three years raising taxes on middle-class families. I am almost led to believe that Canadians are stuck paying for the mistakes of this Liberal Prime Minister. I am going to give the member for Carleton the opportunity to expand on the real concern that average Canadians, especially young Canadians, are now paying for the mistakes of the current Liberal government.

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, first let me thank the member for pointing out a detail that I missed in my response to the Liberal member.

He worked for Dalton McGuinty, and he told me, by yelling across the floor, that the year 2004 was the year when Dalton McGuinty's lie became known. He won the election in 2003, saying, “I will not raise your taxes.” In 2004, he brought in a $1,000 per family tax increase called “the health premium”. None of it went to health care, of course. It was a regressive tax; it was a flat $1,000 tax that targeted the most vulnerable people and pushed people into poverty. People who were just on the end of being able to pay their bills were hit with a $1,000 tax increase that his boss had lied about in the foregoing provincial election.

Now, that member who was there and who helped drive the getaway car is here again. It is the same group, the same gang, with Gerald Butts, the strategist for Dalton McGuinty, who orchestrated all of these tax increases on unknowing Ontarians to whom the Liberals had lied. They are back at it again, and they are trying the same trick that they did so many times in Ontario.

Ontarians are too smart. Canadians are too smart. We will not fall for it.

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Jennifer O'Connell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance (Youth Economic Opportunity), Lib.

Mr. Speaker, it seems that the hon. member for Carleton has a mixture of cherry-picked statistics that obscure more than they reveal. His speech reminded me of a saying by a former councillor from when I was on Pickering council. The Conservatives have their minds made up. They don't want to be confused by the facts. Let me go over in the chamber those important facts that the Conservatives do not want to be confused by.

First, we have a growing economy, and Canadians are benefiting from that growth. During the past three years, hard-working Canadians have created more than 800,000 new jobs, pushing the unemployment rate to its lowest level in 40 years. Wages are rising, and this year Canada is expected to remain among the fastest-growing economies in the G7. In fact, the work our government is doing is attracting praise from around the world. Recently, the U.S. News & World Report's ranking of 2019 best countries put Canada at number one for quality of life. This tells us that our plan to invest in people and communities is working.

From the beginning, our government has put people at the heart of its plan for economic growth. Our government is building a strong Canada, a better Canada, and we will continue to ensure that our fiscal plan is sustainable by maintaining our fiscal anchors. As part of that, our government will continue to reduce the federal debt-to-GDP ratio.

We began our mandate determined to help hard-working Canadians have more opportunities to share in the benefits that come from a strong and growing economy, and that is exactly what we have done. We have taken decisive and effective action based on the shared values that define us as a country to make the priorities of Canadians a reality. We asked the wealthiest 1% of Canadians to pay a little more so that we could cut taxes for the middle class. That middle-class tax cut is benefiting over nine million Canadians, who now have more in their pockets.

We also created the Canada child benefit. Compared to the previous system of child benefits, the CCB is simpler, more generous and better targeted to those families who need it most. It is also entirely tax free. Rather than offering boutique tax credits to millionaire families, we decided to help Canadians who need it the most. With the CCB, nine out of 10 Canadian families are getting more in benefits than they did under the previous system, and Canadian children are better off as a result. The CCB has already helped to lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. The extra support it gives makes a big difference for those working hard to make ends meet. This additional support from the CCB helps pay for the things that can make a real difference in a child's future, like nutritious food, sports activities or music lessons.

Thanks to the middle-class tax cut and the Canada child benefit, a typical middle-class family of four will receive, on average, about $2,000 more each year to help with the costs of raising their children, save for their future and help grow the economy for the benefit of everyone. With our middle-class tax cut and the Canada child benefit, a two-earner couple, one earning the average wage and the other earning two-thirds of that wage, with two children, now keeps nearly 85% of their income. For a single parent of two children earning the average wage, or for families with two children where only one parent is working at the average wage, the benefits are even more significant.

According to the OECD, when the CCB and other benefits are added to family income, those families effectively pay personal tax rates of just 1.8% and 1.2% respectively. That means they keep more than 98% of what they earn. The fact is, a majority of Canadians are paying a lower effective tax rate under our government. Individuals are paying less, single-earner families are paying less, two-earner families are paying less and single mothers are paying a lot less. The only Canadians who are paying more are the top 1%, so we can lower taxes on the middle class.

We have gone even further to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are widely shared. We will continue to stand up for the middle class while Conservatives continue to advocate on behalf of their wealthy friends.

I would like to point to the Canada workers benefit, the CWB, as a good example of what our government has done to help those people working hard to join the middle class.

Beginning this year, the CWB replaces the working income tax benefit. It will provide a benefit that is more generous and more accessible. The CWB will put more money in the pockets of low-income workers, encouraging more people to join and stay in the workforce and offering real help to more than two million Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class.

To give members a sense of what this will mean for Canadians, a low-income worker earning $15,000 could receive up to almost $500 more from the Canada workers benefit in 2019 than under the old working income tax benefit in 2018. That money can be used to support their priorities and help them get ahead, making a real difference for Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class.

Our government has also taken action to ensure that all Canadians benefit from the opportunities we are creating and will continue to benefit from our actions in their retirement years. We have worked in collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners to enhance the Canada pension plan, the CPP, so that Canadians can enjoy a secure and dignified retirement.

We also reversed the Harper government's disastrous changes to the guaranteed income supplement and to old age security, which would have plunged 100,000 seniors into poverty each year.

The CPP enhancement will be phased in starting this month. It means more money for Canadians when they retire, so that they can worry less about their savings and focus more on enjoying time with their families.

Over time this enhancement will raise the maximum CPP retirement benefit by up to 50%. This translates into an increase in the current maximum retirement benefit of nearly $7,300, from $13,855 to more than $21,100 in today's dollar terms.

With the action taken by Quebec to enhance the Quebec pension plan along similar lines, all Canadian workers can now look forward to a safer and more secure retirement.

On their side, the Conservatives planned to push back the age of retirement and take money away from our seniors. They even called for the CPP to be scrapped.

Second, Canada has a favourable investment climate. Our government recognizes the importance of a beneficial tax environment for small businesses. That is why we reduced the small business tax rate, first to 10% as of January 1, 2018, and then to 9%, effective January 1, 2019.

The combined federal-provincial-territorial average income tax rate for small businesses is 12.2% in 2019, the lowest in the G7 and the fourth-lowest among members of the OECD.

Even with this good news, we cannot take Canada's economic strength for granted. The year 2018 was challenging, especially with regard to the recent tax changes in the U.S. and concerns about what ongoing global trade disputes might mean for Canadian businesses.

Last summer our government heard from a number of business leaders that there is strong interest in making investments, the kind that can position businesses for long-term growth and create good, well-paying jobs for Canadian workers. We heard from many businesses that welcomed our new trade deal with the United States and Mexico, because securing that deal really does help when it comes to being able to confidently invest for the future. We welcome this new modernized trade agreement because it will help support good, well-paying middle-class jobs right across this country.

In total, Canada has signed free trade agreements with our neighbours to the south, the United States and Mexico; with our partners with whom we share the Atlantic Ocean, the European Union; and with Asia-Pacific countries, with whom we share access to the Pacific Ocean.

Today Canada is the only G7 country to have trade agreements with all other G7 countries. In all, we have 14 trade agreements covering 51 countries. These agreements in total give Canadian businesses privileged access to 1.5 billion consumers worldwide. These trade agreements lead to business confidence, which leads to business investing in middle-class jobs.

In the 2018 fall economic statement, our government took forward action to strengthen Canada's already competitive position. This includes allowing businesses to immediately write off the full cost of machinery and equipment used for the manufacturing and processing of goods and the full cost of specified clean-energy equipment to spur new investment and the adoption of advanced clean technology in the Canadian economy.

We also introduced the accelerated investment incentive, which will allow businesses of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy to write off a larger share of the cost of newly acquired assets in the year the investment is made.

Under the accelerated investment incentive, capital investments will generally be eligible for a first-year deduction for depreciation equal to up to three times the amount that would otherwise apply in the year the asset is put into use. Tripling the current first-year rate will allow businesses to recover the initial cost of their investment more quickly. This means reduced risk and a better incentive for businesses in Canada to make investments. The accelerated investment incentive applies to all tangible assets, including long-lived investments like buildings. It also applies to intangible capital assets, such as patents and other intellectual property.

With these two measures, the average overall tax rate on new business investment in Canada, as measured by the marginal effective tax rate, or METR, will fall from 17% to 13.8%. This means that Canada will have the lowest rate in the G7, one that is significantly below the United States. The METR is important because it provides a good representation of the overall effect of many of the tax factors affecting businesses in any given location.

However, that is not all. We also took steps to do more to modernize regulations so that it is easier for businesses to grow.

We believe that concrete, comprehensive and systematic measures such as the ones I have mentioned are more effective than the piecemeal and ineffective boutique tax credits mentioned by the hon. member.

Our government has also made it clear that gender equality is very important for Canada's economic growth. Canadian women are among the best educated in the world, yet they are less likely to participate in the labour market then men and are more likely to work part time. This under-representation continues in positions of leadership, and businesses in Canada are overwhelmingly owned by men. It reflects a number of factors, including the fact that Canadian women often have greater demands from unpaid work, preventing them from pursuing opportunities to reach their full potential.

Our economy is not working to capacity when women who wish to participate cannot do so, and the evidence is clear. RBC Economics estimates that adding more women to the workforce could boost Canada's GDP by as much as 4%. Our economy is strengthened when women and girls have opportunities to contribute to economic growth and to benefit equally from it. The time is now to ensure that all Canadians, and women in particular, are provided with an opportunity to succeed and lead. That is why we took several actions to move Canada toward gender equality.

Budget 2018 legislation provided help for new parents to care for their children during those critical early months through the new employment insurance parental sharing benefit. It encourages a more equal sharing of child care responsibilities within the home and allows for more flexibility to go back to work earlier, especially for mothers, if that is their choice, feeling reassured that their family has the support they need.

We also took steps to address the gender gap in federally regulated workplaces by requiring equal pay for equal work of equal value. About 1.2 million employed Canadians fall under the scope of this legislation.

In conclusion, our government is committed to growing the economy by helping all Canadians. We maintain that a strong economy is the result of a strong middle class, and our policies and results reflect this. Over the past three years, our government has invested in Canadians and in the things that matter most to them. These investments reflect the choice to reject austerity policies and instead invest wisely in strengthening the middle class and growing the economy.

That is what we have done, and middle-class Canadians are now better off. I can assure hon. members that we will continue to build on our good work in budget 2019.

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to pick and choose which of the rhetorical tools the member used to refute first. I will begin with my favourite one.

The member claimed that the middle class somehow had a tax cut, which is not true. Every single member in this House received a bigger tax cut than the middle class because of the way tax system works. It is progressive. Every member in this House received an $820 tax cut. If we take in the 20.5%, that is maybe closer to $600, but every single Canadian who earns $45,000 or less got nothing. In fact, they got a bill for every single mistake the Prime Minister has made, including promising a $1-billion surplus this year and instead delivering tens of billions of dollars in deficits and new debt, as well as deficits and new debt well into the future going into 2040.

Can the member answer me this? If she claims the middle class is better off today when we have record high deficits and debt going into the future, and we know that today's taxes are not offsetting the higher deficit so today's deficits and debts will be tomorrow's taxes, how can she claim the middle class is better off? How can she claim our children will be better off paying for the current Prime Minister's mistakes?

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance (Youth Economic Opportunity), Lib.

Jennifer O'Connell

Mr. Speaker, it is quite simple. Today a typical middle-class Canadian family is $2,000 better off than under the Harper Conservatives. We cannot take any lessons from the Conservatives, who believe in trickle-down economics. It has never worked. It does not work. We know that boutique tax credits do not help the families that need it most, but our investments do. We have made investments so that 800,000 new jobs have been created for Canadians. We have lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.

Our investments are to ensure that the economy is growing for everyone, not just for those at the top, those the Conservatives are so focused on defending.

Opposition Motion—TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Pickering—Uxbridge, in whom we often see a youthful exuberance. It is important to have our young MPs take the floor.

However, I cannot ignore the fact that she is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, and I expect her to provide an explanation, since I believe she is objective and intelligent. Can she explain why her boss, the Minister of Finance, steadfastly refuses to have Netflix collect the GST? It is outrageous. Everyone is laughing at us. Television producers, cable companies and Internet service providers around the world are laughing at us.

I hope that my colleague will give me something other than the usual answer that there is a lot of discussion about corporate taxes within the G20. We are talking about a consumption rather than a destination tax. I would like a clear answer.