Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and to share my time with the member for Windsor West.
Politics is about choices. Regardless of what side of the House members sit on, they come here in part because they feel they have good ideas about what choices the government ought to make that would be in the best interest of their communities. Of course, there can be real disagreements sometimes on the nature of those choices and which path to take in light of the choices we put to the House.
Today the NDP is trying to put a choice to the House that is about looking out for people in Canada who cannot access dental services. Having good oral health is important to one's health overall. We also know, because we heard stories during the campaign last fall, how important it is for people seeking employment and the kind of social stigma attached to not being able to take care of one's oral health.
A woman who lives in St. Michael's Villa in Transcona shared the impact that poor dental health had on her family, as some seniors feel like they cannot go out or socialize because they are embarrassed at the state of their teeth. We heard in caucus stories from across the country of people who would like to get a job but in some cases are ashamed to go to an interview. In other cases, they feel that they were not selected because of the stigma I referred to earlier.
There is often objection to embarking on this kind of project to do something concrete for people. The objection is not to having the government do things for people they cannot otherwise do themselves, but to having government be a vehicle for collective action to help people who on their own do not have a big voice. This is unlike some of the big corporations we see here that get to be the hot topic of question period because they have a lot of money and they have the ability to invest. Most regular Canadians do not get that kind of time and attention. The purpose of this motion today is to get that time and attention and to provide that kind of advocacy for regular Canadians who are struggling just to look after their teeth.
That is the choice that NDP members are bringing forward to the House today. Often the objection is that, although it is a nice thing to do and NDP members are nice people, we do not understand what it costs. We do not understand how it will get done and the government cannot afford to do that for everybody.
For the benefit of those who might be listening at home, I would like to read the motion into the record, which will not be the first time today I am sure. The way the motion reads is exactly to show that we can afford this, because it would be using money the government has already made a choice to do something with, which is to give a tax break that is going to disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Canadians.
The motion reads:
That the House call on the government to change its proposed tax cuts by targeting benefits to those who earn less than $90,000 per year, and use those savings to invest in priorities that give real help to Canadians, including dental coverage for uninsured families making less than $90,000 per year.
It is a down payment on getting to universal coverage with money that is already there and that the government has already told us that it does not need because it is prepared to put it back in people's pockets. Whose pockets will it go into? Overwhelmingly, the money for this cut tax would go back into the pockets of people who earn over $100,000 a year.
The largest benefit that an individual Canadian can get under this cut would be in the neighbourhood of $300 a year, which is not that much. The people for whom $300 a year is a lot are not going to be getting $300. Instead of giving $300 per year to people who are already making at least $113,000 a year, we can ensure that families with the least income in Canada are getting access to a service they do not have access to right now.
Earlier in the House, our leader made reference to the long lineups at free university dental clinics. I think Montreal was the example he used, but it is not unique to Montreal and it is happening across the country. People cannot get access to those services.
It is just not true that we cannot afford to do this. The people who say we cannot afford to invest in our people, we cannot afford to make sure that people have the services they need, together those two parties have been ruling this country for a long time, in fact for the entire history of our country, but particularly in the last 30 years. We have seen massive government deregulation. We have seen massive cuts to social spending by the federal government, starting in the nineties. We have taken that path of deregulation and cutting services and refusing to invest in people. That is the trajectory we have been on for 30 years now and it has not been working. Canadians more and more feel pressure to make ends meet at the end of the month. They feel like they are not getting the same level of service that they used to.
We heard questions in question period today about people calling the Canada Revenue Agency and not being able to reach anyone on the phone. We cannot go into an office to get help to apply for EI or to figure out how to file our taxes. The services that the federal government has been providing have been in steady decline, all in the name of increased prosperity that just has not come.
There is a lot of evidence that shows that when we invest in people and help them get the things they need in order to get back on their feet, like looking after their teeth so that they have the confidence they need to go to a job interview and get that job, or so that in retirement they do not isolate themselves in their apartments because they feel awkward about going out, worrying that people might be laughing at them, or that they will not be understood because their teeth are not what they used to be. It really is no laughing matter. People worry about that and it ends up seriously affecting their lives.
We have had the approach of cutting. We have had the approach of helping out big corporations, giving them massive corporate tax breaks in the hope they will invest back in the economy, which they did not do, and that the wealth would trickle down. That whole way of thinking has been debunked.
Instead of giving another tax break to people who are making over six figures, we should take that money and invest it in something that is going to do something for people who could use the help. They need a government that is willing to coordinate those many voices. They are far more numerous than the people earning the most, but those voices are not loud because they do not have the money to amplify them. They need a government that is willing to coordinate that activity so that for all of those people, who are the majority, they can start getting the things that they need.
That is what the NDP is committed to advocate for in this place. We make no apologies about it. We are going to continue to make proposals. We are not just here to criticize. There is certainly a lot to criticize and we will not hesitate to do that either. A part of real criticism, that is not just part of the cheap political point-scoring that too often goes on in this place, is to come up with real proposals and real alternatives about how we would do it differently. This is how we would do it differently, but it does not have to be just our idea. We would prefer that it not be just our idea, but that parties in this place get on board. The money is there. We can make it work and it is about time that we did.
That is what we are here today to do. That is what we are here today to say. I do not think we need to send it off to committee to study and study. Here is the deal. The Liberals promised pharmacare in 1997. We know what “to study it” means. It is kicking the can down the road so the job does not get done at the end of the day. Liberals said they liked the idea of a parliamentary committee study at one point, then they created their own commission for pharmacare. The fact is we are not missing the information, we are missing the political will. No amount of studying will stand in for political will.
The motion today does not make a change in the budget. It calls on the House to affirm that change. Surely with the resources of government, if we have the political will, we can get this done and get it done quickly. That is what we are calling on the House to do.