Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Skyview.
As the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I welcome this rare opportunity to participate in a parliamentary debate ever since democracy was shut down by the government. The legislation before us today, Bill C-20, consists of several random diversionary payouts and other changes that more properly should have had extensive examination in a parliamentary committee before being passed into law.
I support helping Canadians who are struggling with the unprecedented events of our time, like the COVID-19 pandemic. I do not support the transfer of large amounts of taxpayer dollars to organizations that personally benefit family members of Liberal MPs. The decision to accept an unconfirmed, unsolicited proposal from an unregistered lobbyist representing an organization that had members of the Prime Minister's family, and perhaps others with close association to the Liberal Party, on its payroll in the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars, is a level of corruption beyond the comprehension of most Canadians.
When the Canada student service grant was announced, WE Charity was not in the announcement. Even after sordid detail after sordid detail was revealed, the Prime Minister defended his ethical lapse in the same way he responded to groping a female reporter and dressing up in blackface. He repeatedly lied: deny, deny, deny. He could get away with that in a neutered media. The floor of the House of Commons, however, is another matter.
The amount of money in the WE Charity scandal is staggering: almost $1 billion. What reasonable Canadians fear is that this revelation of payments to individuals directly associated with the Liberal Party is the tip of the iceberg. There is a reason the Prime Minister is hiding from Canadians by not facing Parliament, conveniently taking a so-called vacation day, a “we” day. The Prime Minister likes his daily cuckoo-clock appearances where he can avoid actual questions. Awarding an unsolicited contract with no fair, competitive tendering process should require resignations. The fact that the contract was awarded to an organization with family members of Liberal MPs on the payroll is indefensible.
Let us look at where the millions in administration fees were going until somebody pulled the plug, waiting for the heat to die down. WE Charity has been effectively described as operating like a cult. First was its scheme to pay for volunteer labour and next was the plan to pay students for volunteer labour at below minimum wage. That proposal raised a few eyebrows, except now we have learned this is how the WE organization operated its various companies: with naive, idealistic young people put on a salary and then being required to work 60 to 70 hours a week. The salary was calculated at a normal 37-and-a-half-hour week, so effectively, the WE Charity found a loophole to get around provincial minimum wage laws.
With the backing of the federal government, WE Charity figured it found another loophole to avoid minimum wage laws. If young people complained, they were shamed into accepting workplace conditions by being reminded that the school children who donated their pennies, nickels and dimes to the WE Charity expected all the money to go to help underprivileged children in Africa. Little did those school children know that their pennies were being collected to buy commercial real estate in downtown Toronto and to pay fat speaking fees to family members of Liberal MPs. This is what happens when Parliament is shut down and people with no ethics or scruples are in charge. There is a total lack of accountability.
Let us look more closely at the legislation before us today. Of all of the measures contained in Bill C-20, I am particularly interested in measures that support Canadians living with disabilities. Bill C-20 proposes to direct a payment to individuals who qualify for the disability tax credit.
Seven years ago, I introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-462, restricting the fees charged by promoters of the disability tax credit. My intention for bringing that legislation before Parliament was straightforward. I wanted to see increased protection for disabled Canadians from the predatory practices of certain individuals who referred to themselves as “tax credit promoters”. They see the tax credit as an opportunity to profit on the reduced circumstances of others.
The disability tax credit is a non-refundable tax credit that reduces the amount of income tax that either individuals living with disabilities or their supporting persons have to pay. Parliament voted in this tax credit, with the recognition that Canadians with disabilities faced extra financial challenges. Bill C-20 proposes payments of up to $620 for Canadians living with disabilities.
My constituents question whether the reason for the lump sum payment contained in Bill C-20 can be accepted at face value or whether it is a taxpayer inducement to get Canadians to forget about the WE Charity corruption scandal.
When I found out that some individuals were being charged 20%, 30% or as much as 40% of the tax credit, I thought that Liberal members of Parliament agreed that those kinds of charges were unfair. This is especially true when considering that the purpose of the disability tax credit is to support Canadians living with serious disabilities.
As the member of Parliament that includes Garrison Petawawa, I am acutely aware of the number of Canadians living with disabilities who are in my riding. The soldiers and veterans in my community are at a greater risk for a number of disabilities because of the sacrifices they have made for our country. The tax credit is of special importance to them.
In bringing forward Bill C-462, I also wanted my constituents and all other Canadians to know that they could access their local member of Parliament regarding any federal tax credit, without being charged a percentage of the tax credit. Seven years ago my private member's legislation to help disabled Canadians received unanimous support of that Parliament. Even the current Prime Minister, who at that time was an opposition MP on the WE Charity speaker circuit, voted to support my legislation.
What happened? There was an unfortunate change in government. Canadians are still waiting for the regulations for that legislation to be enacted.
Why the delay? The change of government brought the usual Liberal hangers on, the lobbyists who look for ways to game the system at the expense of other Canadians. Liberal lobbyists derailed protections for disabled Canadians with the full support of the Prime Minister and his party.
Disabled Canadians are some of the most vulnerable in our society. With all the money the federal government is shovelling out the door, like today's legislation and the WE Charity scandal, and without the proper scrutiny of Parliament, money intended to help Canadians goes elsewhere.
These same disability tax consultants saw a big payday when the Canada emergency response benefit, CERB, was introduced. One such consultant started offering a service that charged clients a fee of $160 to assist them with their CERB application. This is what can be read on its website, “We have no upfront fee, you pay us only when you get your CERB payment. Due to these rough times, Canada Tax Reviews has reduced our fee from 33 per cent to an 8 per cent fee for this program.” Every four weeks, those who still have not found jobs have to reapply for CERB. Each time a person uses that tax consultant to apply for CERB, as fees vary, a $160 is charged. That is a payday of almost $1,000 to a tax consultant from somebody who collects the full CERB, someone who could have used that money to pay rent or to put food on the table.
If the government audits a taxpayer and finds that he or she did not qualify for CERB, that taxpayer will be required to pay back the full amount, including any fees paid to tax consultants. If the government had carried through with the will of Parliament and implemented Bill C-462, , an act restricting the fees charged by promoters of the disability tax credit, the abuses happening today would not be happening.
Bill C-20 needs to go before a parliamentary committee the same way the sweetheart $912 million Canadian student service grant contract to a Liberal insider should have. Canadians deserve no less. The last time I looked, Canada was still a democracy. It is time Canada started acting like one.