Mr. Speaker, I say again in appreciation this morning that I am speaking from the traditional territory of the QayQayt First Nation and the Coast Salish Peoples.
Yesterday, I mentioned that this pandemic had been a tale of two countries: one is a country where billionaires have seen their wealth increase by $78 billion and where banks received $750 billion in liquidity supports, and the other is a country where people are struggling.
That is the fundamental issue we have to think about as we implement the budget through the passage of Bill C‑30.
I spoke yesterday about the impacts of this pandemic. I spoke of businesses closing their doors forever. These are small community businesses, family-run businesses and community businesses that struggled to maintain themselves during the pandemic. I spoke about the front-line workers, health care workers and first responders, all of whom have shown incredible tenacity and courage while going about their jobs of making sure as many lives are preserved as possible through this pandemic. We mourn the 24,000 Canadians who have died so far in this pandemic.
I also spoke yesterday, and want to engage today, on what has happened to the vast majority of Canadians through this pandemic. The government, through Bill C-30, is basically doing a victory lap. It is saying, even as this third wave crashes upon our shores, that we need to scale back on supports that are given to Canadians.
This contrasts vividly with the remarkable speed with which the government stepped in, within four days of the pandemic hitting, and provided the banking sector with $750 billion in liquidity supports. The government's first priority, coming through the pandemic, was to make sure that bank profits were maintained. That is a source of shame that should last for the entire government mandate.
However, to the credit of Canadian democracy, in a minority Parliament the NDP caucus was able to shift the government's priority from banks and billionaires to putting in place programs that would make a difference for people. These included the emergency response benefit, support for students, support for seniors and support for people with disabilities, which I will come back to because it is full of holes and simply inadequate to meet their needs, as are many of the programs that we forced the government to put into place. We also forced the government to ensure sick leave and put in place a wage subsidy to maintain jobs and maintain businesses. We also fought and pushed for rent relief for small businesses.
All of those things came as a result of NDP pressure. In a minority Parliament, thankfully because of the strength of Canadian democracy, we were able to bring that about. The reality is that there are two countries: one of banks and billionaires, and another of everyone else, where we know that the majority of Canadians are within $200 of insolvency in any given month and we continue to see Canadians struggling to make ends meet, to put food on the table and keep roofs over their heads. The growing number of homeless people across our country is a testament to the impact of the pandemic and the inadequacy of the government response.
What does Bill C-30 do? As I mentioned earlier, it basically does a victory lap on all of those supports that the NDP forced the government to put in place. Regarding the response benefit, we see a dramatic cut in July. That is within a few weeks. As this third wave crashes on our shores, we see the government moving to dramatically slash emergency supports. We see that the wage subsidy and rent relief are all going to be phased out over the course of the summer, starting within a few weeks' time, at the very worst time in the pandemic.
We spoke last night about the crisis in Alberta, which is now the worst-hit jurisdiction in all of North America. At this critical time, the government says its job is done, its mission is accomplished and it is going to start withdrawing those supports.
We add to this the impact of government policies, for example CRA going after Canadians who were victims of fraud. We have seen over the past few years numerous cases, including with Desjardins, in which private information was leaked out, and fraudsters used it to apply for CERB in people's names. CRA is demanding repayment from people who never received payments in the first place.
Members will recall that last June the government wanted to go even further. It wanted to put people in jail if somebody else used their private information and defrauded the public. Fraud is a serious issue. The government should have put in place systems to prevent that, but the government overreach of asking people who were victims to pay back moneys they never received is unbelievable. That is how the government is reacting to ordinary people.
What has it done at this unprecedented time? This is the first crisis in Canadian history where the ultra-rich have not been asked to pay their fair share. Through World War II, Canada put in place an excess profits tax and wealth taxes to ensure that, because we were all in this together, everybody had to pay their fair share. Coming out of World War II, after vanquishing Nazism and fascism, we had the wherewithal to make unprecedented investments that led to the most prosperous period in Canadian history. These were investments in housing, education, health care and transportation.
What has happened this time? What has the current government done through this pandemic? It has basically given a free ride to the ultra-rich. Canadian billionaires, who have received over $78 billion in increased wealth, are not being asked to chip in or pay their taxes. There is no wealth tax, even though the PBO estimates that would bring in $10 billion a year. There is no pandemic profits tax, even though the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates it would create $8 billion. That would be enough to eliminate homelessness in our country and ensure the right to housing, a roof over every single Canadian's head, yet the government refuses to do any of that.
The government did put a symbolic luxury tax in place, which is less than 1¢ for every dollar the PBO believes would be raised for the public good if a wealth tax were put into place. Curiously, that is one little symbolic gesture that the Liberals love to wave. They put a tax on yachts, so that means they are taking care of massive inequality, but it is not even in Bill C-30. What we actually see is a shell game. It is smoke and mirrors, with a tiny symbolic luxury tax of less than 1¢ for every dollar that a wealth tax would bring in, and that is not even on the government's radar screen.
It made the commitment and the promise, but as we have seen with so many other promises by the Liberal government, it is simply not worth the paper it is printed on. To reference previous broken promises, we just need to point to public universal pharmacare. Canadians have been waiting on its repeated promises for over 25 years. Regarding child care, we are told this time that the Liberals really mean it, but there are nearly 30 years of broken promises. Regarding boil-water advisories, there is over a decade of broken promises. The government says it really wants to tackle inequality. That is very rich, given that it has not done that either in the budget or in the budget implementation act.
The proposed act includes some curious and somewhat bizarre measures. For example, the budget implementation act acknowledges the increasing poverty of seniors, but says that seniors are only in this crucial poverty over the age of 75. Seniors from 65 to 74 would not get an OAS top-up, but seniors over 75 would. Poverty impacts all seniors, and for the government to discriminate is unacceptable. Also, the government acknowledges that students are having a tough time throughout this pandemic and would waive loan interest payments, but it is still forcing students to pay the principle. Students have to pay their loans back despite having to struggle through the pandemic.
I mentioned earlier the issues for people with disabilities who have struggled unbelievably throughout this pandemic. The NDP fought, not once or twice, but half a dozen times to finally get a one-time payment of $600 for a third of people with disabilities. Of all the fights that I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, it is the one for people with disabilities that the government resisted the most. Contrast this with the $750 billion given to the Bay Street banks in the blink of an eye. In four days, the government weighed in to maintain bank profits. However, of people with disabilities, who are struggling through this pandemic, who are half of the people who line up at food banks every week and who are many of the homeless in this country, one-third were given a one-time $600 payment. What does Bill C-30 reserve for them? The government has decided that it will do a three-year consultation to figure out whether people with disabilities really have any needs to be met. These people are being asked to wait three years, but it took four days for the government to weigh in with a $750 billion liquidity support bailout package. It is unbelievable, unacceptable and irresponsible.
Members might ask if there are any elements in the budget implementation act that I support. This government, which is so tired and so prone to spinning and acting rather than actually doing what comes with being the government, was struggling for inspiration. I gather somebody in the Prime Minister's Office discovered that they could be inspired by the 2015 NDP election platform. Tom Mulcair went to the public with a commitment for universal child care and a commitment to raise the federal minimum wage. Members will recall that the Prime Minister and Liberals at the time mocked the NDP for bringing these things forward. Well, that is the only thing that has inspired this government now. After six years of failure, the Liberals discovered that maybe the NDP election platform for 2015 was good and copied some of its elements. Now, in good faith, we say to the government let us get going on a minimum wage and let us get going on child care. We are here to make sure these things happen. We do not want this to be yet another empty Liberal platitude and another empty Liberal broken promise. We want to work with this government to make those things realities and not just other commitments or promises that it breaks for a quarter of a century, which has been the history of Liberal governments.
My final point is this. We do not see any real response to the crisis in housing affordability. It was Liberals who ended the national housing program, and they have yet to respond in any meaningful way. We also see the tragic, broken commitment to indigenous peoples and dozens of indigenous communities who do not have safe drinking water, and this government is now putting off any commitment to end the dangerous situation of boil-water advisories for another half decade. What message does that send to indigenous people, and what message does that send to indigenous children?
Bill C-30 has elements showing that the Liberals were able to copy the NDP platform from 2015. They should be inspired more from what the NDP is putting forward today, resolve these issues on behalf of Canadians and end the appalling levels of inequality that we are seeing in this country.