Madam Speaker, I have to come back to the member for Calgary Shepard, because having been one of the only members in the House of Commons who has actually been ankle deep in oil, having worked at one of the closed oil refineries, I have to state, for the record, that the Conservatives are not only incoherent and illiterate on energy policy and renewable energy policy, but the example the member has just given shows how completely out of touch the Conservatives are when it comes to the basic economics of exporting raw bitumen.
The reality is that the Conservatives love to cosy up to foreign-owned oil companies, but the idea that we would ship Canadian jobs overseas and contribute to a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions makes no sense at all. It makes no sense to people right across the country, including the people who are suffering from the record levels of flooding we are seeing in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. In British Columbia, we are already seeing the start of the forest fire season. In the month of May, there are now 15 out-of-control forest fires in British Columbia.
Over the last three years, we have seen our skies covered with smoke in the Lower Mainland and on southern Vancouver Island because of the catastrophic number of forest fires. In the last three years, in the month of August, the air has been unbreathable. Therefore, for Conservatives to say that there is no problem at all, let us just ship raw bitumen overseas, and for the Liberals to support them, shows the degree of irresponsibility we have in the House of Commons. That is something I think Canadians will want to change on October 21.
That being said, I will return to Bill S-6. We support it on this side of the House. We support it because it is the one initiative the Liberals have managed to put forward that does not increase tax havens, money laundering and the legalized tax evasion that is costing this country so much.
There is an idea that this massive tax evasion, started by the Conservatives and continued by the Liberals, with the largest and most profitable Canadian corporations taking their money overseas and not paying taxes on it, is something that is victimless. Somehow it does not hurt Canadians in any way, shape or form. In this corner of the House, we in the NDP caucus can only say that this is simply not true.
We have underfunding of our health care system and the inability of either the former Conservative government or the current Liberal government to bring in pharmacare. One in five Canadians are struggling to pay for their medication. There are Canadians, literally outside the House of Commons, like Jim, whom I have mentioned numerous times, who has to beg on the bridge between the Chateau Laurier and the East Block because of the $580 a month he has to pay for medication that he cannot cover any other way.
The fact is, we have tens of billions of dollars that should be paid as part of the fair share of Canada's largest and most profitable corporations. Tens of billions of dollars simply evaporate away. They are taken to overseas tax havens and sit in corporate bank accounts, because we do not have a fair and just tax system, which is something that hurts so many Canadians. It hurts Canadians who cannot access health care. It hurts younger Canadians who are forced to go into debt on a scale of tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, just to go to college, university or trade school. They have to borrow the money because of the punitive fees that are charged for college and university.
At the same time, Canada's corporate sector is just laughing. I am not talking about Loblaws and the $12 million the Liberals doled out to Canada's richest billionaire, which is unbelievable. It is the fact that so many Canadian corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes because of the very intricate network of overseas tax havens, which the Conservatives started and the Liberals promote. That is what causes so much challenge for the average Canadian family, so much so that the average Canadian family is now the most indebted in the industrialized world and the most indebted in Canadian history. That was on the Liberals' watch during the last four years.
We have seen family debt load skyrocket because people are having to pay for medication and are having to struggle to save money because of college and university, because we simply allow that money to go overseas. Instead of having a fair tax system, Canadians are indebting themselves to a record extent, worse than any other country in the industrialized world. One would think the Liberals would say that it is profoundly unfair, that maybe they should do something about this intricate network of tax havens, that they should do something to force the corporate sector to pay its fair share. However, instead, they double down.
They have signed a number of arrangements with overseas tax havens, some of the most notorious in the country. The ones the Conservatives had not yet signed, the Liberals took up, such as the Cook Islands, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, notorious tax havens where people can put their money, report it and pay zero per cent income tax. Canadian authorities then say that since they paid zero per cent in Antigua, the Cook Islands or Grenada, they do not have to pay a cent in Canada. It is legalized tax evasion to an unbelievable extent. That is why many of the chartered accountancy firms that specialize in tax avoidance, as they would say, though I call it tax evasion, trumpet the fact that Canada now has the lowest effective tax rate in the industrialized world. It is at 9% for the corporate sector, because it can take so much money overseas.
Single parents, fathers or mothers, struggling to raise their children are indebted to an unbelievable extent but are still paying their taxes, because they believe, as most Canadians believe, that Canadians should pay their fair share of taxes, that we all contribute to this project called Canada, that we all contribute to this country. Canadians struggling to make sure that they are keeping up to date and paying their income taxes like good Canadians can take no comfort from what is massive and unbelievable tax evasion. We have the lowest level of corporate tax in the industrialized world and the highest level of family debt. Yes, those two things are related.
It is not just that. A few minutes ago, the finance critic, the member for Sherbrooke, stood to present a bill that should have been presented four years ago, if the Liberals had kept any of their promises, and 10 years ago if the Conservatives had been truthful to their ideology. It would ensure that the massive web giants, corporations like Facebook and Google, outside the country, which suck advertising dollars and revenue out of Canada, should pay some taxes. What a concept. How radical for these massive, multi-billion dollar companies to actually pay some taxes in Canada.
Conservatives said that they did not have to do it. When the Liberals came to power, they talked about a fair tax system but did nothing to address that. Therefore, as usual, as with medicare and in so many other cases, it is the NDP that is putting forward a plan in the House of Commons to ensure that these massive, multi-billion dollar companies, with enormous profits, actually pay some tax in Canada.
It is not just that, as we know. We have also seen reports coming out of British Columbia on the extent to which Liberal policies have contributed to amplifying, to an extraordinary extent, money laundering in Canada. The report, just last week, from the expert panel on money laundering, shows that under Liberal policies, money laundering has reached a critical stage: $47 billion in illegal funds were laundered in Canada last year, according to the expert panel. This is the product of criminal activities. This is the product of illegal activities, yet the government refuses to do anything significant to address the massive extent of money laundering.
This is not a victimless crime. The impact on just one sector, the affordable housing market in the Lower Mainland, the area I represent in the House of Commons, with the escalation in prices, now means that so many families in the Lower Mainland are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, or they have to live on the streets or move away.
I cannot tell the House the extent of suffering that comes from allowing this money laundering to continue without any due regard for cracking down or shutting it down. Honest Canadians, the ones who pay their taxes, are the ones who are most badly hurt by what has now been a couple of decades of complete negligence by Conservative and Liberal governments in this regard.
Last year, $47 billion of illegal money were laundered in Canada. The Liberals do nothing. The Conservatives do not care. However, this has a profound impact on average Canadians, not just on housing prices but on a whole range of activities.
When the finance committee was discussing measures that could have curbed money laundering, the NDP's proposal, which is one of the first recommendations by the expert panel, was to have public accessibility to beneficial ownership registries to ensure we knew how to track the money.
However, the old parties, the parties that have contributed to this system, a system that has been so detrimental for the average Canadian, said no. Members speak with seniors in their ridings. They know how seniors are struggling to make ends meet. Members see young Canadians, who are trying to acquire the skills to contribute to the country, forced to go into debt, in the tens of thousands of dollars. Families are struggling to keep affordable homes over their heads. All Canadians are struggling to pay for their medications. This is all a result of policies that put so much, tens of billions of dollars, in the hands of the very wealthy at the cost of the quality of life of Canadians right across the country.
When we talk about money laundering, the beneficial ownership registry and the NDP's proposal that it be publicly accessible, both of the old parties said no. They did not want to have that. They did not want to have that sunlight that would bring transparency, which Canadians want. It would allow us to combat what has become Canada's black eye around the world. We are now renowned as a haven for money laundering.
The Guardian newspaper talked about Canada being a haven for “snow washing”. It is a now a term that is used around the world to describe the systematic use of money laundering in Canada. It can be done through buying real estate. It can be with a whole range of things. It can be done with impunity because the Liberals have refused to fund the resources that would allow our over-strapped, overworked agencies to combat it. The Liberals and the Conservatives refuse to have a publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry that would allow all of us to track the money.
This is the legacy of the Liberal government.
Let us just take a moment to look at what we have after four years of Liberals in power. They could have done so much to help the quality of life of the average Canadian, to address seniors who eat dog and cat food because that is all they can afford if they want to keep a roof over their head, and often even that is not enough. What about people like Jim who have to beg to get enough money for the medication their doctors have prescribed, medications that are absolutely necessary for their health? What have they done to combat the underfunding of our health care system and the skyrocketing tuition fees that are leading so many families to not even be able to attend university, or college or trade school, at the same time as we have a crisis and shortage of trained and skilled workers in so many sectors?
All of this dysfunction has contributed to the highest level of family debt in the industrialized world. It all comes from the basis of having a profoundly unfair tax system, created by Conservatives and Liberals to benefit their buddies on Bay Street, a system that allows billionaires to get away with not paying taxes. In addition, they get grants that are paid for by those regular taxpayers who do pay their taxes. We saw with the $12 million the Liberal government handed to Loblaws.
It is shocking that we now have created a fossilized unfair tax system that provides us with the lowest effective tax rate in the industrialized world and ensures that some of the largest web giants on the planet do not have to pay a cent of tax in Canada. Even as they are running into bankruptcy, a whole network of community newspapers and local television and radio stations, sucking that advertising out of the country, they do not have to put anything back. It is a legalized tax evasion.
At the same time, we now know that $47 billion, and that is a conservative estimate from the expert panel on money laundering, have been laundered in the country in the past year, contributing to the rise of completely unaffordable housing prices for families that are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and contributing in so many ways to deterioration in the quality of life. Things definitely need to change.
How can we change that?
The NDP has already proposed putting in place a fair and equitable tax system. We are asking that Canadian corporations pay their fair share of taxes. We do not think that is too much to ask. We are not asking that they pay large sums, like 50% or 60% of their profits. However, an effective rate of 9% for corporations is absolutely ridiculous when we consider that the tax rate for individuals is higher than that. Some people do not have the means to be taxed at that rate, but they contribute to our country. We need to have a system that is fair. For that, the effective rate for corporations has to be greater than 9%.
Secondly, web giants have not been paying any tax in Canada for years. They make billions in profits and pay absolutely nothing. These web giants should pay their fair share of tax. If the NDP is elected to government on October 21, our party will get to work immediately. We will not allow this to continue. Instead of giving billions of dollars in gifts to web giants, we will lower tuition for students who want to go to CEGEP, learn a trade or attend university.
With respect to money laundering, our institutions, such as the RCMP, must have the resources required to deal with these crimes. They are not victimless crimes. This is a situation that has rather significant consequences. Eastern Canada is one of the worst regions in the world in terms of money laundering.
All these elements should be considered. All that is needed is the will to do something about it. In recent years, we have seen that the Liberals did not have the will to put in place a fair tax system. This bill is a small gesture made during four years of inaction on this file, which is extremely costly for Canadians.
In a few weeks, the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is going to table a report that sheds light on this situation and all the money that is leaving the country. We are ready to examine it. Canadians will then judge the government.